Shapeoko 3


Featured at the 10th annual Maker Faire Bay Area.

Back in 2012 I wrote a piece on Shapeoko, Edward Ford, and his CNC community. At the time he was on the verge of bringing the first good quality, affordable CNC to market. Now in 2015 he’s releasing Shapeoko 3 and by all evidence his guiding principles haven’t changed. With the release of Shapeoko 3, he’s delivering an even better CNC for under $1,000.

The original Shapeoko made news for the value proposition it offered. With input from the Shapeoko community, a wide range of improvements were developed and then bundled as standard features in Shapeoko 2. With the Shapeoko 3 the improvements continue while maintaining the price point.

Contrast the extrusion used in Shapeoko 3 (left) and Shapeoko 2 (right).

Contrast the extrusion used in Shapeoko 3 (left) and Shapeoko 2 (right).

As an owner of the original Shapeoko there are a few things I particularly like about the Shapeoko 3. First, the beam-and-rail aluminum extrusion has been massively beefed-up, providing more structural strength for faster cutting. Second, the Z-axis is no longer a threaded rod or ACME screw but a belt-driven cam which greatly increases the speed of vertical movement while holding precision. Third, it comes with the option of a DeWALT router which is much preferred over the original Dremel-clone that came with mine. You can learn many more details on the Shapeoko blog.

New Z-axis Control of Shapeoko 3.

New Z-axis Control System

While some things have remained the same, such as Ford’s commitment to affordable quality and the Shapeoko community’s support, some things have changed. Shapeoko has joined with Carbide 3D, which makes CNC mills with a similar philosophy. The Carbide 3D team developed Carbide Motion which is now available as the Shapeoko controller. Most significantly to me, Ford is now working full time on Shapeoko. Given what he was doing in 2012, this is perhaps the most dramatic change.

Smart tools keep getting better and cheaper thanks in part to leaders like Ford.