Mastercam X9

Mastercam is the current leader in CAM seats by nearly 2:1. Why?

In the world of CAM, no software is as dominant as Mastercam. According to CIMdata’s 2013 data, Mastercam had 187,000 seats, dwarfing its next closest competitor, Siemens’ NX CAM, with about 100,000 seats.

Mastercam offers both modeling tools as well as CAM tools for creating, milling and turning paths for CNC manufacturing. However, Mastercam’s 3D modeling cannot be expected to compare to programs that exist primarily for 3D modeling, such as SOLIDWORKS, Inventor, Creo, NX or the like.

Major Features

Mastercam is a milling and turning program. The program interface and the way it sets up a milling program is straightforward and progresses in a logical order. Mastercam lets a user highlight a piece of already-created geometry, click a few buttons, type in a few numbers and then finalize the machining commands.

Not too long ago, Mastercam updated its software package, releasing version X9. Though X9 includes dozens of enhancements, we’ll focus on the most dramatic improvement to the software’s abilities. First off, X9 introduces support for universal radial chip thinning. Once a milling process has been selected, users can choose feeds and speeds while maintaining ideal chip thickness. This expanded control is meant to let machinists and programmers ensure that their tools last longer and their milling operations are most efficient.

X9 enhances Mastercam’s Dynamic Motion technology engine. Users now have the option to define a “conventional cut feed rate” for tool paths driven by the Dynamic Motion engine. With this new tool, milling operations such as zig-zag paths can be made to use two separate speeds, one for the climb cuts (tool page feed rate) and another (conventional feed rate) for conventional cuts.

X9 has revamped the “toolpath preview” option so users no longer have to complete a command and exit the toolpath’s creation window to view the resulting program. Now, users can click a button during toolpath creation and view the proposed cut.

When it comes to multi-axis enhancements, X9 includes a bevy of new features. First up is X9’s new “Multi-axis Link” command that allows users to define a safety zone to compensate for both part and tool position in a milling operation. Once enabled, Multi-axis Link gives the user the ability to ensure that catastrophic collisions won’t occur regardless of the number of axes your milling scheme requires.

Moving forward, X9 also includes a greater ability to output select multi-axis toolpaths by processing the individual paths simultaneously in the “Multi-Threading Manager.” Although previous versions of Mastercam included the ability to process numerous two- and three-axis operations at the same time, X9 expands that capability to all five axes, improving user workflows.

To round out X9’s multi-axis improvements, the company has also honed its “Port Expert” command for milling out complex engine port shapes. In X9, consideration has been given to the amount of play that a port-milling path has around the cutter’s central axis, and a “minimize tilt” option has been included in the Port Export command. With minimize tilt enabled, smoother, more even ports can be hollowed out in slightly less time.

While the NC underpinnings of Mastercam have been given a significant boost in X9, Mastercam’s designers have also made sure to add support for new tools as well. In the X9 barrel and threadmill, tools have been included as options for milling.

With the addition of barrel tools, steep and deep multi-axis cuts become much quicker and easier to make. For users operating in the aerospace industry where complex, uni-body components are required, this new tool configuration (and configurator) will be an added bonus.

Although barrel tools are a bit specialized, X9 also includes support for a more generalized set of instruments, namely threadmills. With threadmills added to its toolkit, Mastercam users no longer have to manually program helical thread paths, making cutting thread patterns far more simple and accurate.

With X9, all Mastercam licenses will include a free SOLIDWORKS plugin. A Mastercam menu is added to the SOLIDWORKS user interface, letting SOLIDWORKS users create machine paths similar to Mastercam’s stand-alone app.

Quick Facts

Maker: Mastercam
Version: X9
Number of Axes Supported: 2.5 – 5
Modeling Capabilities: Yes, though Mastercam’s modeling capabilities fall short of what would generally be deemed acceptable by designers. To remedy this issue, Mastercam has tightly linked itself with SOLDWORKS via a plug-in to integrate its superior milling capabilities with SOLDWORKS’s modeling prowess.
Software Price: Depending on the options a user chooses, Mastercam can cost anywhere between $4,000 and $40,000 per seat.


Mastercam CAM software is used in many industries, including automotive, aerospace, tooling, etc., as well as in schools. It comes with a large tool library and supports up to five-axis milling, allowing it to cut almost any shapes.


For those looking to experiment with CNC milling or turning on the hobbyist level, Mastercam’s price tag might be a bit too steep (though student editions are available for around $300).