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Thread: Shapeoko and CNC questions

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    GTA Ontario Canada

    Shapeoko and CNC questions

    After watching what Bill and Dan have managed to put out with a $1000 machine I have been amazed. I honestly never thought it would be able to get the level of quality of cut that is being obtained. Obviously there has been a learning curve for all getting into it and adapting to learning the various elements of this type of machining.

    Now i have been watching on and off mostly off, the progress of the next version of the Shapeoko the Shapeoko 3 and it seems to me a good next level for the same kind of cost. But i dont get it these guys started taking orders in January yet are only just (from their blog) getting round to finishing shipping of orders received in what the call batch 1 and starting on batch 2. What appeals to me in the 3 is the fact that it uses a standard router as a spindle and has some ugraded features like rails and the controller and motors.

    Now if the guys that have pioneered this learning here and i include Gary, Leo, Carol, Darren and any others that have CNC like Brents latest foray, can offer some summarized stages to the process of getting to the point of being able to actually do what you want I would seriously appreciate it.

    What i would like to examine is the cost from start to the point where you have a working setup. I remember suckering myself into the Spinny world with a lathe that cost me relatively peanuts at the time by comparison to the chuck, tools etc that came after. We all know this path in anything we touch, the basic kit costs say a $1000 like the Shapeoko but then when we done with the "right software" thats not free and really works to dumbdown the process and make it more fool proof and efficient then its turns in to what?

    The Shapeoko 3 is very attractive in this sense from a cost point of view, but learning curve aside on the whole process what have you guys been through on software side to get to where you can say ok this design that material load or design image in this package then pipe to that and generate code and then dump to this and run cut.

    I thought i would be reading about Dan and Bill going through hundreds of dollars worth of cutting bits as they break them. I mean 1/8" inch bit with then some sort of cutting edge is not what i would call robust but it seems i am totally mistaken and overthinking it again.

    I am also wondering if adoption of the Shapeoko 3 is just not happening due to the following of the intial version. Dont seem to be that many you tube videos really showing it off other than first cuts and very basic cutting. By now i was expecting to see way more.

    I also note that on Shapeoko 3 side they doing the R &D now on their longer rails and i am wondering to what extent this issue has been holding back some guys from getting into the water. Anyone of you Shapeoko guys have any skinny on what the issues are, I mean 6 months from launch.

    If we get some good summarised responses I will make it the thread into a collated PDF for us to have in Tips and Tutorials , I am sure i am not the first person looking to understand the full path of getting into CNC.

    I know i could find a thread on the web explaining it but this brings one back to the issue of who you trust. I would rather hear from guys i have known from the forum for years and seen put their honest steps mistakes and all out there than some slick operator being funded by who knows who with an agenda.

    Thanks for any and all replies.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    East Freeetown, Massachusetts

    I need to preface this with:

    First - I am not a hobby CNC person.

    I am now but in reality I have a full 30 years as a professional CNC engineer. I have worked in CNC programming, setup, operation, training, buying and installing machines, replacing manual machines with CNC, and training manual operators and machinists in CNC as well as training engineers in CNC. I have worked with CNC every day 5 days a week 8 hours a day for 30 years. But not on a hobby level.

    I am currently integrating a high end $420,000 Studer S33 CNC grinder that works to 10 millionths of an in accuracy. I have 4-5 people that I am training to get that million dollar project operational.

    I have also been a CAD/CAM user for about 25 years - again professionally and with Top End systems in the dozens of tens of thousands of dollars.

    I have work with dozens and dozens of brands of machines of all configurations, 2 axis to 12 axis. I helped a company get off the ground with a $350,000 twin 25 Hp spindles, twin table, 5 axis router with two tool changers and 4 load up load stations. That was programmed with what I call an intelligent CNC family of parts g-code program.

    I program with CAM and also long hand g-code. I have created many family of parts programs including programming logic to have the CNC programs make internal decisions based on operator inputs.

    On a hobby level I bought my machine for $250 in 2007. It was in a factory where they did not know how to use CNC and right from brand new they were never able to get it to do the job they wanted to do. It was lightly damaged after a year on non use and them trying to make it work. In 2007 they asked me if I could make it work and I said yes but I would need to spend about 100 hours on it to get it productive. At that point they decided to scrap it - I bought it.

    Since then - I have repaired and upgraded the machine and I have acquired a small MAXnc CNC machine. I have 2 machines.

    To me a CNC router - whether 3 or 4 or 5 axis is a simplistic thing to do. To me - there is little to no challenge - it is no more that a toy to have fun with. I do not mean toy in the sense that is is a child's toy - no - on the contrary - it is a real tool.

    Reason I say that is so that is so that you can appreciate my perspective on CNC in the hobby shop. I know my take is a bit different than MOST new CNC users on YouTube and forums.


    1) Machine
    There are a LOT of ways to get into CNC - Shapeko is only one way. There is also mechmate, CNC router parts and a myriad of options. This is certainly of Due Diligence. I would only recommend giving some thought to what you want to do and machine up for the most stingent project. For me - that is going to be a machine far more robust than most hobby level machines - Carol is taking a similar approach.

    2) Software
    Programming software is as important as the machine. I would suggest thinking of the software as a line item on the budget for the machine. Like I said - I also do Project management for capital projects, typically spending about 500 to 750 thousand dollars per year in my company. I will always recommend Vectric. They go from $150 - to $2500. I have the highest level and have had every option they offer. I think V-Carve Pro or V-Carve Pro desktop is the best entry level bang for the buck. If you are trying to go low cost or close to free - then I will recommend Cut-2D desktop for $150 That does NOT mean it is not powerful - you would be amazed what you CAN do with it. Also Vectorart Machinist is a FREE 3D software, but you can only use VectorArt3D models.

    3) Tooling
    As a capital project I will ALWAYS include tooling (perishable). I would consider at least 2 each of the following
    All Solid Micro Grain Carbide
    A) 1/32 Tapered Ball End Mill - 1/4 shank 1" cut length
    B) 1/16 Tapered Ball End Mill - 1/4 shank 1" cut length
    C) 1/8 Tapered Ball End Mill - 1/4 shank 1" cut length
    D) 1/8 2 flute Ball End Mill - 1/4 shank
    E) 1/4 2 flute Ball End Mill - 1/4 shank
    D) 1/8 2 flute End Mill - 1/4 shank
    F) 1/4 2 flute End Mill - 1/4 shank
    The Cutters DO get dull

    4) Installation
    There is ALWAYS something needed for installation

    5) Accessories
    Storage cabinet - small drawers for cutters
    You should seriously consider a hand held controller ( I love the Vista IMach controller) There are many to choose from.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Thomasville, GA

    I have only a few months of experience with my SO2 machine but sure have learned a lot with it. I'm not disappointed with it at all, but my purpose is mostly hobby related. Now, saying that, there's no reason I can't do production work with small projects. Your intent for a CNC will determine the amount of your investment, of course.

    You mentioned the SO3. I haven't followed its progress at all. Having purchased my SO2 from Inventables, I've tracked their X-Carve from being on their forum. X-Carve is a beefier SO2, so is similar to SO3. Overall, X-Carve has good reviews; the biggest issue is people who have no clue what these machines are for blaming the machine for everything that goes wrong. They aren't using any common sense in their setups and that leads to issues. The standard X-Carve package ships with a 300W spindle, but they have optional mounts for the DeWalt and Bosch small routers.

    As to breaking bits, I lost a few in the beginning as part of the learning curve. Most of my breakage was not checking depth of cut and feed rate carefully. It's far better to start with slow feed rates and shallow cuts until you see and hear how the bit and spindle behave. With the quiet spindle I have, the only noise I hear is from the bit, so I get the message very quickly if I try a setup that's too aggressive.

    On the software side of the equation, I was staying with free stuff until I got to a point that it no longer would do what I wanted with reasonable effort. Since purchasing VCarve Desktop, I don't even consider using the free software any more. Well, one exception to that is using UGS to send gcode to the Arduino.
    Bill Arnold
    Citizen of Texas residing in Georgia.
    NRA Life Member and Member of Mensa
    My Weather Underground station

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    GTA Ontario Canada
    Thanks Leo Thanks Bill i appreciate your input very much.
    Hope we get a few more inputs.

    Sent from my SGH-I337M using Tapatalk

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Topeka KS
    also look at the Inventables X-Carve

    it is basically the shapeoko 2.5

    inventables was the maker of the shapeoko and shapeoko 2 until the company split with the shapeokos inventor who then joined carbide3d to release the shapeoko3. the Xcarve was an updated and rebranded shapeoko2. while the shapeoko3 has some nice beefy rails i dont feel that its really any better than the X carve for most applications.

    i have an Xcarve 1000mmx1000mm kit which i have added a dewalt dwp611 router and i love it.

    i will also agree with the others, vectric software is the beesknees! i was able to get a copy of aspire and its awesome but vcarve desktop will do almost everything you need but 3dmodeling and there are some free programs out there for that (blender, fusion360). also the inventables Easel web based program is pretty cool for what it is and they are constantly adding new features as well

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Escondido, CA
    I started with the purpose for having the machine. And I was thinking from the beginning of producing a stream of revenue. That meant I wanted something more robust but not crazy expensive. And having had a ShopBot 15 years ago taught me a few things. One is that nothing lasts forever. So resale value was and is a consideration. The CRP machine is fully capable of being the heart of a small job shop at a reasonable cost.

    The areas I considered were converting a drawing to machine code. Basically that will be a Vector product and Mach 3 to run the machine. Then products and size of them. First the market place and the most likely to be salable. Then a size that fits flat rate boxes for shipping. That determines the bed of the machine. Mine will be slightly larger than 2'x4'. But it is expandable able by the simple expediency of installing longer rails. Speaks to the resalability factor as well.

    The size of the machine relates to shop floor real estate. Space also is needed for the computer side, and storage of raw materials, partially finished parts and finally completed products. The CNC is not strong in the area of one offs. Its strength is in reproduction. Mine needs to pay for itself and generate cash flow. That's where reproduction comes in.

    Don't forget, you will need machines and space to break down raw materials. My ShopBot had a 4'x8' bed. In reality it took 3 more feet on either side, 8' on one end, and 3' on the other. That is a space of 10'x19', A whole shop for some folks! That's why my new machine has a lot smaller bed. It is also why it will be on lockable wheels and brakes. When the house is done I should have around 550 square feet for tools. It will fill up fast.

    CNC's are fun and fascinating to play with. But they are not Harbor Freight priced. At 4 figures and up, we are talking serious money.

    My advise would be know what you what to do with it and why. Then choose the robustness and size of the machine. Consider the value upon resale. That should put you in a reasonable and defensible price range. Choose accordingly.

    Decide kit or ready made and go for it. If you go kit, research the support forums and their activity and company support. CNCzone is good place to start.

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    East Freeetown, Massachusetts
    Quote Originally Posted by Carol Reed View Post
    The CNC is not strong in the area of one offs. Its strength is in reproduction.
    Not a really big deal - but I do a TON of one offs on my CNC machine. Really - just about everything I do is a one off.

    It's really a matter of how well you get adjusted to the machine and the programming software.

    I can go cut an oval on my machine WAY faster and easier than I can on my bandsaw - a whole lot more accurately also.

    Cutting a square on the table saw would be faster than the CNC machine.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Reno NV
    I'm probably way on the other end. I'm starting small just because I like playing around with electronics as another one of my hobbies.

    If I get into a full fledged CNC, I'll most likely go the DIY route, building it on my own from components.
    Last edited by Brent Dowell; 08-19-2015 at 02:21 PM.
    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
    If all your friends are exactly like you, What an un-interesting life it must be.
    "A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of" Ogden Nash

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    GTA Ontario Canada
    Carol I think both you and Leo are right when it comes to one off versus mass produced it all depends on project need and what margin the product can take.
    I think Leos use speaks to the exact issue with ordinary custom woodworking that many setup to do with ordinary woodworking machines.
    Then they find the design / setup jig making and sample piece making result in a cost structure that the market for their item are unwilling to pay for.
    Then they try making more than one and remove the one thing they having going for the piece and that is uniqueness.

    The Cnc to me is just the tool and process method to get the result needed with more control that what can be achieved by hand.
    consider cnc carving versus hand carving.
    one could probably hand carve one of Leos signs but just how long would it take then.

    Sent from my SGH-I337M using Tapatalk

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    East Freeetown, Massachusetts
    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Keeble View Post
    The Cnc to me is just the tool and process method to get the result needed with more control that what can be achieved by hand.

    This is EXACTLY the entire point. It is just a tool. A multi-purpose tool.

    We could hold the same conversation and same conclusions about a band saw - or miter saw, or about anything else.

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