X-Carve, The Logical Upgrade To A Shapeoko

When it comes to small CNC carving machines for hackerspaces and extremely well-equipped garages, the Shapeoko, or something like it, has been the default machine. It’s dead simple – a Dremel attached to linear rails – and is useful for everything from milling PCBs to routing complex woodworking project to plotting designs with a pen. Now, [Bart Dring], the guy behind the Buildlog.net lasers and Inventables have teamed up to create the next generation of carving machines. It’s called the X-Carve, and while it’s fully compatible with the Shapeoko 2, it adds a few improvements that make for a much better machine.

The X-Carve does away with the Dremel-based spindle and replaces it with something that can produce torque. There’s a 24VDC spindle in the stock arrangement that will give you speed control through Gcode. There is, of course, adapters to fit the Dewalt and Bosch routers most commonly used in these types of machines.

As far as the gantry goes, the X and Y axes are makerslide; no change there. The Z axis leadscrew has an optional upgrade to Acme threaded rod, an improvement over the M8 threaded rod found in just about every other DIY machine kit. The entire machine is basically all the upgrades a Shapeoko should have, with stronger corners, NEMA 23 motors, and increased rigidity.

There are a few versions of the X-Carve, ranging from an upgrade kit to the Shapeoko 2 to a fully loaded kit with a square meter of machine space. The big, high-end kit ships for around $1250, but a smaller kit with 500mm rails, NEMA 17s, and threaded rod lead screw is available for around $800.

[Bart] and [Zach], the founder of Inventables sat down and shot a video going over all the features of the X-Carve. You can check that out below.

33 thoughts on “X-Carve, The Logical Upgrade To A Shapeoko

  1. Does the firmware work in steps per mm like 3D printers? If so I’d go for Trapezoidal over acme, as having a metric pitch for calculations can reduce rounding errors.

    1. Don’t think you’ll run into the rounding errors of the 0.00001mm range problems somewhere. As your machine isn’t that accurate by a long shot. (unless you use relative positioning, as then rounding error could add up, but nobody does relative positioning)

      1. The rounding errors do happen with absolute positioning. They come from not having a whole number of steps to move a distance e.g 0.25mm. So if you draw many 0.25mm lines one above the other with some different sized gap between them, they would not all measure the same.

        As I said below perhaps not as important for a Y axis on a CNC.

        1. They would be off mostly by 1 step size. Which is 1/80 of a mm (if they are using standard GT2 belts and pulleys). Well beyond the accuracy of the rest of the system with ease.

  2. It works in steps which are smaller than millimeters by typically 40x or more.
    The trapazoidal thread is imperial and the all thread is metric, but that does not matter because we are working in steps.
    The controller keeps track of steps and rounding does not accumulate. You are always within a fraction of one step of the requested value.

    1. Trapezoidal lead screw is metric. The imperial equivalent is acme.

      3D printer gcode units are typically mm, so the firmware turns these into steps (or microsteps), which can result in rounding errors with imperial lead screws and Z ribbing appearing on the print.

      Are the CNC firmware gcode units number of steps then? And the Gcode generator software needs to know the number of steps to move 1mm?

      I suppose for the CNC Y axis any rounding error wouldn’t be as obvious as when 3D printer layers are slightly different sizes. So as long as the XY lead screws are metric it should be fine.

    1. Well the first comparrison I can make right now before either even launch. The Shapeoko 3 doesn’t come with a spindle. Last time I checked the spindle is not an option at all. Not really a huge issue hardware wise because it uses a standard router that you can buy in probably any hardware store but it will tack anotehr $70-100 onto whatever you paid for it.

      Which is why I’ve realy been seriously mulling over just going with an upgraded Shapeoko 2. Course I have sorta been trying to wait for them to show some video of the 3 in action. Course this definitely gives me some pause.

      1. The Shapeoko 3 no longer uses the makerslide and now uses much beefier rails to make the system much more solid. They could have added the common DWP611 to the package, but then would have had to add extra shipping. I purchased the DWP611 at Lowes for under $90 shipped.

        With the larger extrusion, I can see the Shapeoko 3 easily being sized up without any additional strengthening of the rails.

  3. I want to see how ridged it is when they cut stuff with it.. Then I want to see them push it as hard as possible. That’s how I could see if it’s a flimsy machine or not, as most of these things can really do much medium to heavy duty work to speak of.

    1. I would think it would be at the very least as stable as the Shapeoko 2. Unless someone got some measurements very wrong the extruded construction should make it more stable but I too would certainly like to see it actually cutting something.

      Preferably something delicate/intricate like milling a some SMT PCB work. As well as something brutish like milling something interesting into some aluminum, A generic demo in wood really doesn’t visually convey all that much to me since just about every desktop mill can demo itself well in that medium.

    1. As someone who owns a 6040, I will say that product seen above looks like a piece of junk. What I have probably weighs 10 times as much, and is very rigid, and has a very powerful spindle. Even so, it should be made more rigid.

      Also, the newer electronics are much better than they used to be.

  4. For those wanting to check the price out including shipping. Shipping is about $500 to Europe for the largest one. Making it $1800 instead of $1300 (Gets shipped in 3 packages, and most likely customs will hit you 3 times because of this)

      1. It was great news to hear that there would be an EU-vendor.
        Because a shipping cost of 40% of it’s value sounded a little bit ridiculous.
        But here’s the catch: at inventor.com I simulated a fully loaded package + shipping to Belgium,
        which made a total of $1.762,26 or at this moment €1.573,99
        Then I checked Robosavvy.comm and came up with a total of €1.640,96 for the same fully loaded package.

        This of course is without the cost of custom services…
        But if you where to lose some parts like the waste board and Arduino, you might end up cheaper at inventables themselves.

        Other ideas for buying within Europe?

  5. I would rather have a dremel then those “spindles”. I have said it once and I will say it again, throwing a ER chuck on the end of a cheap DC motor does not make a spindle.

  6. I bought an ORDBot kit a few years and the design of it is complete crap…it’s like the frame joints were designed to shift all the time!

    I will NEVER trust another Bart Dring product.

  7. Is it just me or does anyone else think the cable chain is the wrong way round? It looks like its floating and could easily by snapped off. Normally cable chain runs along hugging the axis.

  8. I kinda dig the horizontal chain, if it was swapped with wider chain, the dipping issue would be reduced. I love my shapeoko, I upped it to the 100 mm rails, and probably disassembled/reassembled it a dozen times. the nema17s dont slouch when running 1/4 inch cuts in mdf. The weak spot on all of the designs isnt the railing or the leadscrew; its the delrin wheels flexing in the rails. I get more deflection from the Z due to the wheel flex than any other form of backlash on the machine. Just looking at the OX builds, the solid wheels plus wider than 40mm extrusions makes it more attractive at pretty much the same price, I’m looking to upgrade to something that takes a full sheet, and leave the smaller machine for soft plastic and sheet metals.

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