Aluminum work - Spindle vs Router vs AMB or Mafell milling motor

I’m trying to get my S3 XL ready for a lot of aluminum (sheet mostly) work.

After reading so many posts on choosing among the drive options, here is my conclusion. Please chime in if you feel otherwise, and why.

Water Cooled Chinese Spindles:


  • Lower tool noise, however, the noise of cutting material is the same. Spindle owners consider it a substantial difference.
  • Speed controlled via software.
  • Precision mounts.
  • Higher torque, but not really relevant due to the overall limitations of the S3 machine. No-one is using 1/2" shaft endmills.
  • Spindle mount included in the purchase. Some can use the Carbide3D one.
  • Able to use the overhang cutting area


  • Size might impact enclousure and/or hose routing.
  • Heavy to very heavy. HDZ or similar recommended.
  • Lower speed RPM than a router. Max 24k RPM.
  • Complex set-up due to added bulk for the coolant tank + VFD.
  • Hit and miss Chinese QA
  • Some need 220V.
  • Heavy to very heavy. HDZ or similar recommended.

Carbide3D (Makita) clone


  • Highest RPM (~30kRPM)
  • Ability to add software speed control via SuperPID.
  • No added cost out-of-the-box.
  • Able to use the overhang cutting area


  • Additional cost for precision collars
  • Air-cooled = very noisy
  • Additional cost for Super-PID + hardware mod required for the router

AMB / Mafell Trim Motors


  • High-quality machinery.
  • Availability of bit quick-change
  • Precision collets (albeit less than ideal spindle specs).
  • Slim body
  • Higher torque, but not really relevant due to the overall limitations of the S3 machine.
  • Marginally higher RPM than a spindle.
  • The narrower body reduces lever effects.


  • Lower max RPM (25kRPM)
  • Cost
  • Need for tool mounting collar. Non-standard size.
  • Some need 220V
  • Air-cooled = very noisy
  • Loses some (~11mm) of the overhang cutting area

So my conclusion: for Aluminum work, where High RPM is king, the Carbide3D (or Makita/Dewalt) with precision collars, is the best choice based on my criteria:

  1. Best at doing the job (milling Aluminum) - Winner: Router
  2. Do it quietly - Winner: Spindle
  3. Nice to have features (speed control, quick bit change) - Winner: Tie Spindle/Milling motor

Do you agree?


Go big or go home? :wink:

I have wariness with the C3D Router, been seeing quality issues with it on the social communities, but of course don’t know how many that is out of that aren’t having problems.


Need to sell a kid(dney) and still only 24kRPM

Oh it does make the overall noise much more bearable, believe me. The sounds add up, so not having the trim router screaming on top of the cutting sound makes a world of difference (to my ears)

Not really, see @Vince.Fab gallery of higher RPM spindles

Once you have had a taste of automatic speed control, you won’t consider it as a nice to have feature :slight_smile:



Haven’t see that addressed but can Carbide Motion control Spindle RPM via a Shapeoko controller? Didn’t know that was possible regardless of the spindle.


What @Julien said re water cooled spindles and noise – only thing I regret when I upgraded was that I didn’t get one earlier. Your neighbours will thank you :slight_smile:

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Yes it can;


I guess I need to dive deeper into the shapeoko controller and software. I mean if there is an aux PWM connector on the board, its extremely simple to controll any router speed, I’ve been toying with adding an encoder to a router anyway to output rpm, swapping the potentiometer for digital control is simple…well simple for me, others mileage may vary. The superpid is probably $20 in parts…maybe less, and a custom PCB (not really needed another $15 in low volume). Glad I saw this

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FYI PWM output is at #18 on this pic of the controller

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Thanks. I’m assuming my search skills of the forum would probably turned up others who have converted their routers to be controlled via Carbide Motion doing just this.

I have not seen any custom trim router speed control being reported here on the forum, I have only seen mentions of SuperPID setups with trim routers, or VFDs with spindles.

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Well I guess I’ll just have to whip one up and post it. Fun little weekend project.


Looking forward to hearing about it ! (and back to the OP’s questions)

Great overview!

One thing I’d add would be the diameter considerations:

  • spindle / trim router — able to use the overhang cutting area
  • milling motor — narrower, reduces lever effects, but also loses some (~11mm) of the overhang cutting area
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@Vince.Fab, and several others on this forum, are magicians - I’m merely a mortal. Haven’t seen any posts with spindles running higher than 24k.

Thanks. I’ve added your and other’s inputs as well.

Id get the Makita cause its a proven little work horse

Eventually you may venture towards bigger/better spindles, but theres nothing like a drop in unit and making parts.

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The (insane) thread thread that @Vince.Fab started has multiple references to his 60K spindle

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Here’s another thread about this. Did @Vince.Fab ever get his 60,000 RPM spindle working properly? Can someone please explain why software control of speed is so important - especially if it disables important spindle current display from the HY VFD’s?

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It’s not important, it’s just very convenient (to not have to care about setting the RPM manually, and to not have to turn the router on and off between jobs). It’s one of those things that once you get a taste of them, it’s hard to go back, even though it’s just a little thing.

I could imagine other possibilities like having the CAM software generate varying RPMs for different parts of a cut, but that does not exist as far as I know (nor would it be useful in 99% of cases)