Belts affect rigidity?

Curious, have a friend who has graciously shared time with me on his shapeoko2 that has been upgraded to an x-carve. I’ve mentioned my plan to purchase a S03 and he’d like to sell me his machine. Since I’m primarily cutting Aluminum I told him I wanted the more rigid machine. He argued that the belts are the primary limitation and there is no rigidity gained in the S03 b/c of this. I have trouble believing it but am curious to what extent it might be correct. At what point do the belts begin to matter?

Just curious, still plan to get the S03…new and shiny!

Wow, what is he smoking?

My machine came with the smaller belts (6mm) and I cut a LOT of aluminum, I was offered the 9mm belts as an upgrade test, and didn’t notice ANY improvement. Granted the 9mm belts are stronger, but since my machine was already set up to cut aluminum (tight, square, flat, etc), there was no improvement (fit, finish, etc.)

The rigidity of the machine does come from the overall construction, but the thickness of the new aluminum extrusions is MANY times thicker then the Shapeoko 2.

Today’s fun useless project


The belts are amazingly strong in tension — but have zero effect on compression.

Load bearing data for MakerSlide:

We had an entire category of upgrades related to rigidity back in the SO2 days: — thus far, the only changes made to the Shapeoko 3 are:

  • 6–> 9mm belts
  • upgraded Z-axis plate (some folks were reinforcing theirs before it was available)
  • arguably the aluminum table increases rigidity, but not for the rails, I believe it eliminates the MDF flexing underneath a part

and we don’t spend much time here discussing coping with the machine’s lack of rigidity, or doing stuff such as “Wide Makerslide”


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Thanks for the replies, kind of figured as much. At this point it’s more of trying to understand the load on the belts vs the rails etc. I can’t imagine carbide would go to the trouble for custom extrusions (assuming they are) over makerslide for the appearance of an improvement.

Curious how much difference I’ll notice between his x-carve and a S03. Thanks!

@RichCournoyer nice turners cube!