This machine was reviewed as part of our 2017 Desktop Fabrication Shootout. See more machines in our 3D Printer Guide and non-3D printer reviews here.


Carbide 3D is super-sizing the Shapeoko line of CNC carvers with the Shapeoko XL and XXL. This open source big boy is available exclusively as a kit with everything that you need to begin carving except for your favorite stock material. Our testing unit was supplied with a DeWalt DWP611 compact router; however, Carbide 3D offers kits without the router if you want to bring your own DeWalt or Makita to the party. You can even upgrade your current Shapeoko 3 with either an XL or XXL expansion pack.

Go Big or Go Home

Make no mistake – this thing is huge. As compared to the Shapeoko 3, the XL offers twice the cutting area while the XXL kicks it up to four times. With a nearly 12-½ foot square footprint, this gargantuan is going to require a dedicated space in your shop. If you dabbled with the Shapeoko 3, then the custom 85mm x 55mm aluminum extrusion rails will look familiar. The main exception is that they will be much, much longer. The 10 gauge steel frame complements the railing for a stiff and durable machine.

Capable of carving wood, plastic, and soft metals with ease, the Shapeoko XXL allows you to up your game and tackle large scale digital fabrication projects. Small furniture is now within reach, and I can happily report that my Shapeoko XXL created a brand new stool faster than I could have driven to the local hardware store to buy one. However, just because this machine is big, it does not mean it cannot handle smaller projects that require more finesse. Swap out that larger end mill for something smaller and you can take advantage of the Shapeoko’s precision and produce something like a printed circuit board.

Some Assembly Required

Our experience building the XXL was a tad difficult due to limited documentation. The supplied 25-page build document was a bit raw in a few places, so we worked our way through the assembly process by mis-assembling, disassembling, and reassembling. Annotated photos of the build process (especially from multiple angles) would have made things significantly easier.

Thankfully, some parts came pre-assembled and organized, and were bagged with related parts so as to make the build process easier. That was super helpful. In the past, Carbide3D has figured out how to make the difficult task of assembling their machines easier, so it was a disappointment to see them falter here. However, I anticipate that more detailed documentation of the build process will release soon.

Power and Control Where You Need it Most

The 1-¼ horsepower Dewalt DWP611 or Makita RT0700C combined with four NEMA 23 stepper motors glide that ¼-inch end mill through stock material like a hot knife through butter. As opposed to last year’s Shapeoko 3, the XXL ships with Carbide 3D Create. It simplifies the workflow by translating vector imagery into G-code for Carbide 3D Motion. This software is what ultimately controls the toolhead for carving up your project, and makes the milling experience similar to the workflow of a 3D printer.

Final Verdict

The Shapeoko XXL is the largest offering in the Shapeoko family. There are few innovations to write home about in comparison to the vanilla Shapeoko 3 other than sheer cutting area. However, if you are looking to push into large format CNC machining at a decent price, then the XXL is going to be a fantastic purchase. It lacks the nuances of pricier large format machines, like custom spoil boards with threaded holes for clamps, dust boots for reigning in debris, or a free standing base, but the proof is in the pudding when you see the quality of the Shapokeo’s output. The XXL is simply a tremendous value for the capability and usable cutting area. Just make sure that you have a large horizontal surface in your shop ready for it.

Details

Manufacturer: Carbide 3D

Base Price: $1,699

Price as Tested: $1,730

Accessories Included at Base Price: One ¼” carbide end mill

Additional Accessories Provided for Testing: None

Build Volume: 838×838×76mm

Materials Handled: Wood, plastic (ABS, acrylic, Delrin, HDPE), PCBs, soft metals up to ¼” (aluminum, brass, etc)

Work Untethered? No

Onboard Controls? Power switch only

Design Software: Carbide Create for beginners/easy design, MeshCAM for advanced design/3D capabilities (both written in house)

Cutting Software: Carbide Motion

OS: Mac OS X, Windows

Firmware: Grbl board, Grbl is open, customized version for them

Open Software? No, desktop software developed in house. Grbl itself is open and proceeds fund Grbl development.

Open Hardware? Yes

Pro Tips

Take advantage of your keyboard’s arrow keys for the subtle jogging movements required when aligning the tool to the cutting origin. Have that shop vacuum ready with an extension attachment to keep your hands out of harm’s way.

Why to Buy

The one, two combo of Carbide Create and Carbide Motion will take you from machine assembly to routing within minutes. Because of the simplicity of the software interfaces, you can easily go from Shapeoko to Nomad.