Carbide Motion & PCB for other machines

I used to have a Shapeoko 3XL, and then a 4XL. I moved on to Avid, but I waited five months for delivery and the machine has been sitting around now for a few months without a controller because I have discovered that they are all science projects with criminally bad UI design. Some are better than others but it seems like they all fail even the most basic human machine interface tests.

In this regard I genuinely liked Carbide Motion. I’d like to know if it’s possible to run non-Carbide3D machines with the Carbide Motion PCB & Carbide Motion, with Clearpath SDSK servos, Pepperl+Fuchs inductive sensors & a Huanyang VFD. I still have the BitZero v2.

Are there technical limitations? I know the Carbide Motion PCB has integrated stepper drivers, so I would obviously not need that functionality - is it possible to just get step and direction from these outputs? What else would make this not work?


Carbide Motion is made by C3D for exclusive use on their machines. Because CM is more than a gcode sender I doubt you will ever get it to work with another OEM machine. Now you question about will it work with a C3D controller it likely would. Because CM would think it is a Shapeoko. You would have to figure out the specifications of the machine to send a configuration. CM is also configured when you send the configuration to the Shapeoko so you will need to write down your X Y and Z settings so if you ever need to resend the configuration you have them ready. When you upgrade CM you need to send the configuration not to set up the machine but to let CM know what machine it is attaching to.

The last time I priced the c3d controller it was $149.00. The c3d controller will be expecting the homing switches. If you use the C3d BitSetter and/or BitZero it might work but using the Avid devices would likely not work because the are likely different sizes and the BitZero is sensitive to the height of the device.

If you look at Open Builds they have a controller called Black box which comes with their own application similar to CM.

Have a look at the Masso. Considerable more dollars but a joy to use. No PC needed. Great support group too.

1 Like

Not easily, the Carbide Motion PCB doesn’t make them easy to get at. You’d have to solder tiny jumper wires to the feet of the stepper driver IC, or desolder the stepper driver IC and solder to the solder pads underneath.

I’d really recommend finding another controller. You won’t get the out of the box experience you get with Carbide Motion, but once you’ve set them up, most controllers are pretty okay to work with.

1 Like

Masso is solidly in the category of almost there. I have decided against it.

Most controllers are train wrecks. Carbide Motion isn’t, and it’s weird that it’s free because it’s very well integrated unlike virtually every single other example of software motion controller I’ve seen.

None of the hobby motion controllers I have seen display surface speed or feed per tooth, which are far more relevant than RPM or feedrate. Heck, few hobby motion controllers even have tool tables that store diameter, much less number of flutes.

Most hobby motion controllers include a giant graphic that has little to no use. I like that Carbide Motion is totally bare, and just focuses on sending the code. Of course there are things I would want to see, but I prefer nothing at all over useless information.

1 Like

I think you’re being unfair. It’s great that you like Carbide Motion but you have some odd preferences that most users don’t really care much abut.

The rest of the things I’m writing here are mostly not trying to tell you you’re wrong but to explain why the software might not be a “train wreck” to other people.

Carbide Motion isn’t a software motion controller. The motion control is done in GRBL, the microcontroller embedded in the machine. The Carbide Motion desktop software is just a G-code sender.

Most humans don’t like doing unnecessary work and there’s not much use for structured data about tool diameter aside from in-machine tool radius compensation (G40, G41, G42), which isn’t supported by low-end controllers like GRBL. Higher-end controllers like LinuxCNC/PathPilot, Mach4 (maybe 3 too?) and the like have it because they support radius compensation and tool diameter probing.

As for flute count, I don’t believe there’s any functional reason for the machine to have that unless it also has some simple CAM built in.

I don’t agree with you on this. Surface speed and feed per tooth are relevant when determining the feeds and speeds, so they’re important when you’re setting up your toolpaths in CAM.

Once you’re out of CAM though, everything works in RPM and mm/min (or in/min):

  • Spindle speed in G-code is set in RPM
  • The VFD displays RPM
  • The spindle physically spins in RPM
  • The feed rate in G-code is set in mm/min
  • The axes physically move in mm/min
  • The machine’s limits are specified in mm/min and RPM

When it comes to setting up the toolpath, I agree that surface speed and feed rate are the most important factors but when it comes to operating the machine, RPM and feed rate are far more relevant.

Did you get this idea from somewhere? Is it a feature on the more “big boy” CNCs like Haas and the like? Carbide Motion doesn’t have it as far as I know.

Do you mean the toolpath display? I can’t tell you how many times that’s saved my ass. It’s invaluable for making sure your offsets are all where you expect them to be.

You might want to take a look at a controller that has a customizable UI, like Mach4 or LinuxCNC. You should be able to strip it down to the bare essentials you’re after.


I’m being objective.

I disagree with just about everything you wrote, but I don’t want to make this personal.

I am a professional machinist. I do this for a living. I work in multi-axis milling. I just want to do 3-axis home projects and feel like I’m using a smaller, more practical less-featured home version of what I use at work. The bar is not that high, but literally every single hobby CNC controller software I have seen must have been designed by someone who has no concept of manufacturing. I would rather see nothing on screen than useless fluff. Mach 3 is the worst offender, but a country mile.

Again, I genuinely liked Carbide Motion for this reason. It doesn’t try to be something it isn’t, and it looks nice too.

The single solitary hobby CNC controller I have seen that might be okay for me is Acorn & CNC12 from Centroid, but they totally miffed on their implementation of their touch screen panel. They made the most important part of the screen uneditable for some reason, and it is currently populated with useless buttons that are somehow different in every video I’ve seen of it. It doesn’t give me confidence.

Mach 4 requires a commercial license to edit the UI, and the price is kind of absurd.

EdingCNC actually sent me their hardware to test, all the way from the Netherlands, and if they would make the UI editable I might consider actually using it. As of today, it isn’t.

If I’ve misunderstood you, I apologize, but I don’t think you’re being objective - the things you’re expressing are preferences (“the UI should be basic”, “there should be a surface speed/chip load display”, “there should be a tool table with diameter and flute count”), not facts.

Not saying this is a fantastic option but how about using an industrial controller instead of a hobby one? You might be able to find some used stuff on eBay.

It actually does support some degree of customization but it’s nothing amazing. Their software also has an API that could be used to build a custom UI on top of. For a UI as basic as you’re asking for it would be difficult but it wouldn’t be a mountainous task.

If you want more flexibility, LinuxCNC has one hell of a learning curve but you can build your own UI from scratch with as little as you want.

There are also a variety of G-code senders that support customization:

All of these support standard low-end GRBL controllers.

This is not true. I have the hobby license and I can build a UI from scratch or edit anything I want on any existing UI.

1 Like

I am not a software developer.

Good to know! That’s not the impression I got from their website.

The reason hobby grade machines and software only cost hobby grade money is because the companies or groups put in less resources than industrial stuff in order to hit a price point. Hobby stuff tends to be focused on only providing the minimum stuff most people need to use it. If you want more or different features than what most hobby users want you will need to build them yourself. This is why there are a bunch customizable gcode sender/controller softwares. Each has it’s pro’s and con’s. The more flexibility, the more work you need to put in generally. If you want something you don’t see, build it yourself. You don’t need to be a software developer to do it. Mach4 for example has a UI builder and is Lua script based in the background. Anyone can learn how to customize it if you put in the time.

Addressing your original question:
Frankensteining a Carbide Motion board into another machine with different drivers or servos and size of work area so you can still use the Carbide Motion software is a bad idea in my opinion. It sounds like a recipe for unreliability. I would highly encourage you to use another controller and software setup. Low effort and cost is GRBL with CNCJS, gSender or similar. If you can’t get over their interfaces or make them the way you want with their customization options, Go the LinuxCNC or Mach4 route. There is significanly more time and money involved in those but you get almost limitless customization.

1 Like

While I am a machinist, I understand that I am only a small part of the life of a component. People much smarter than me made the machine, and designed the part I am making, and those parts will support science and life in space and on other celestial bodies. I can only hope that my small contribution was important.

At home, I just want to not wince when I look at the obvious UI defects that seem to pervade non-commercial CNC software. This is low-hanging fruit, like putting the feed hold soft button in the absolute most prominent place on the screen. Literally 100% of all software-based CNC controllers have failed this test. Why?

I came here to ask if it’s technically possible for the Carbide Motion PCB and Carbide Motion to work with other machines, and that’s all I really care about right now. If not, then cool! I’ll move on.

Theoretically, it is all possible. I bet I could also come up with a way to use the Carbide Motion controller to run my thermostat via gcode. @Moded1952, @gdon_2003 and I were just trying to save you some headache down the line. Seems silly to stick a $150 controller with a free relatively limited gcode sender on a machine where just one servo motor starts at about double that price.

Not sure if there is an upper limit to what you can set your travel to be in CM’s settings. You will likely need to build some sort of adapter to make other homing sensors work on the Carbide Motion controller because the voltages required to power them will likely be different. De-soldering the existing drivers to get at the step and direction signals is also technically possible. You could theoretically also set up some sort of circuit to make use of the HLFB on the clearpath servos to the feed hold pins or some sort of e-stop. It will be a bunch of work for a maybe working CNC machine at the end. Good luck.


Dang, I always thought Avid was a major CNC manufacturer. They supply electronic control systems that seem to be designed for production with powerful motors and several options. They also supply the software to drive these electronic options, including Mach4.

I don’t see any way that electronic motion control and software designed for a Shapeoko would come anywhere close to operating the Avid system. If it would, I’m sure C3D would have been offering that setup, and I haven’t seen that, yet.

Did I misunderstand your original post, or did you buy a kit without all the components necessary to operate it out of the box?

I have one of the 60x120 Pro machines at my business. I don’t know that I would call them major or a truly production CNC manufacturer. I would classify them as the top end of hobby grade or very entry level production. You get what you pay for. It was our first foray into the CNC world in the woodworking industry and it was worth it for us. I got the confidence to get my Avid from using my Shapeoko 3 . You can get much more features, speed, accuracy, reliability and ease of use if you look at the bigger manufacturers like C.R. Onsrud, Homag and others. Those typically start at about $80k though. All in, we are at about $40k after complete install with our customized Avid with a 4th axis, ATC and vacuum table. You can get into an Avid machine for a bunch less if you go a little smaller and stick with what you can get directly from them rather than add all your own custom bits like we did.

1 Like

I got the Benchtop Pro 2x3, bones only - with the intention of finding a good control for it. My frustration comes from doing a million Google searches that led nowhere, as it seems like any tribal knowledge on this topic lives in enthusiast forums.

I am keenly aware that plenty of happy CNC router enthusiasts are totally confused why I would consider the current options to be bad UI, but it doesn’t take long to find examples of people saying the same thing. The Physics Anonymous YouTube channel has two episodes dedicated to Mach; in the end they they didn’t really say HOW they edited the UI, and they didn’t even do it at all with Mach 4 - it was with Mach 3, the undisputed king of fugly.

Sorry, but IMO Mach 3 is still more capable, and more versatile than carbide motion. Fugly is when you get prompted to do an unnecessary tool measurement, or not being able to resume running a gcode file without having to edit the original file. Fugly is not having an extra drive to hook up a fourth axis.

More capable and more versatile wasn’t my requirement for the purposes of this post.

On your other points, you’re not wrong.