Review: Shopbot Desktop Max Gives Pro CNC Router Quality — For a Price

CNC & Machining Digital Fabrication Woodworking Workshop
Review: Shopbot Desktop Max Gives Pro CNC Router Quality — For a Price

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.

The ShopBot Desktop MAX retains the precision and software package that made its smaller cousin, the ShopBot Desktop, a great entry-level machine while doubling the cutting area. Although you can fit a ¼ sheet of plywood (48” x 24”) on the bed, the MAX only cuts into the first 36” of the work piece. However, a clever layout of parts means you can flip the sheet end-to-end and use the whole sheet in two steps.

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Powerful Software

Like ShopBot’s (@ShopBotTools) other mills, the MAX uses VCarve Pro to generate toolpaths. It’s expensive, but a license is included with the machine. It’s easy enough for beginners and powerful enough for most CNC tasks. The MAX’s control software is Shopbot3, which is free to download and ran perfectly on our 10-year-old netbook computer.

A Good Value

If you can afford its $9,000+ price tag, the ShopBot Desktop MAX is a worthwhile upgrade from the smaller Desktop and Buddy 32 models without breaking into five figures.


Manufacturer ShopBot

Base Price $9,340

Price as Tested $9,285 (including the Mini Enclosure)

Accessories Included at Base Price 1/4″ and 1/2″ collets, collet wrenches, wasteboard, and Z-zero assembly

Additional Accessories Provided for Testing Mini Enclosure

Build Volume 965×635×140mm

Materials Handled Wood, plastic (ABS, acrylic, Delrin, HDPE), foam, possibly soft sheet metals such as aluminum

Work Untethered? No

Onboard Controls? E-stop and spindle speed control

Design Software VCarve Pro from Vectric can be used for some designing and generating the needed G-code. Compatible with numerous other pieces of design software.

Cutting Software ShopBot Control Software

OS Windows

Firmware Proprietary

Open Software? No

Open Hardware? No

Pro Tips

The waste-board that comes with the machine can shift during shipping. Make sure it is centered on the bed before running the surfacing and rabbet scripts prescribed by the user manual.

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Kurt Hamel is a classically trained mechanical engineer working to bring digital manufacturing and the innovative spirit of the Maker culture to the otherwise conservative shipbuilding industry.

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