Carbide 3D vs SparkFun Shapeoko 3

I couldn’t find a current version of the differences between the SparkFun and Carbide3D versions of the Shapeoko (aside from the color). Currently SparkFun has theirs on sale for $900, and the Dewalt 611 is on sale for $100, but I wonder if I’m missing out on anything!

The first thing I noticed was SparkFun doesn’t mention the Summer 2016 upgrades, specifically the homing switches. I’d rather save the $100 and get the Dewalt router over the Makita, but not if I’m missing out on things I’m unaware of!

I’m a complete CNC newbie, this would be my first machine.

The Red Sparkfun S3 Machine is:

A The full “kit” version requiring Stepper mounting and v wheel mounting,etc.
B It has the v1 flat z plate
C 6mm belts and pulleys
D No homing switches
E Different Motion controller board.

Heres a video:

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Thanks for the quick response! Can you elaborate on the difference in motion controller boards? All the other items sound like straightforward upgrades. Would either unit be better to learn on, more industry standard, more expandable/hackable, etc?

Just my two cents on the above differences:

The newer Z plate is a must. Only a $20 upgrade (although currently sold out), but you’ll want your z-stage as rigid as possible.

I also wouldn’t pass up the homing switches, either. Being able to return to a known position is incredibly useful, especially if you want to restart a job and had to power cycle the machine (it’ll happen, trust me :wink: ) But you’ll need the home switches to determine a known origin.


The Carbide 3D board has a dedicated second Y driver, and better USB isolation.
Its a better board.

FYI: If you want you can buy the “stepoko” board.

One further difference is that the Stepoko board is available under an opensource license.

Differences between Carbide 3D and Sparkfun kits: SO3: SparkFun vs Carbide 3D
Two people on the Shapeoko forum posted their analysis of the differences:

  1. The Sparkfun unit just has one y-axis motor controller (3 total controllers, not 4). The two y-axis motors are wired to this in parallel. 2) The Sparkfun unit has more versatile stepper motor configuration hardware: Microstepping increment options are 1, ½, ¼, and 1/8 (4-position switch instead of just 2). Stepper motor current is continuously variable from 1A to 2A using a rotary pot (instead of 2-position switch presetting current for NEMA 17 or 23 stepper coils)
    The first is obviously a cost/space saver. The second is to better accommodate DIY builds with odd motors. Neither would really seem to matter if you are going to use a stock S3.[/quote]

Looks like they us a FTDI rs232 serial-USB which I suspect will be a more reliable connection than the carbide board.

And of course, one is red, the other black.
Also, the CM board uses plug-in connectors, while the Sparkfun uses terminal blocks and the Stepoko board is opensource.

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Thanks for all the information everyone! I went ahead and ordered the Carbide 3D version so I have all the latest upgrades.

I have to admit, the red parts were tempting though. That’s like +1000 RPM spindle speed, right? I’ll just put a racing stripe on mine to make up the difference.

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I agree with JohnE, the homing switches are a must. It took me a while after I had the machine setup to finally start using them, but not they are active, they are amazing. I was working on a project last night making 6 identical V-Carves. I setup a simple placement jig and with the Rapid Position option, I did not have to keep repeating the setup, much faster and more accurate.

Re: homing/limit switches, my experience with them is mixed. For homing they are great, because my router and dust collector are turned off and therefore are not generating electrical interference. For hard limit they are squirrelly, and seem to trigger randomly when the noisy electrical gear is running. Before I figured out what was happening I had quite a few jobs just stop – after spending a lot of time. After many randomly stopped jobs that I had to start over, and after trying all sorts of cable re-routing, power separation, and the like, I just turned off hard limits.

Nomad is a much more turnkey CNC for a newbie than any Shapeoko IMO; I don’t know how I would have gotten along if I didn’t have Nomad experience first, because in comparison the Shapeoko is an endless fiddle-fest. Of course Nomad’s work area is far smaller, and it mills much slower.

YMMV, but for me the homing switches that came with my XXL cannot reliably double as hard limit switches.