Computer requirements

I can’t find any computer requirements for the Shapeoko XL besides the required operation systems. What connection does this use? USB? Can I use my Windows 10 Pro Quad Core I2.9 16gb ram Nvidia 960M 2gb dedicated ram 500gb HD Laptop?

Thank you.

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Pretty much anything will work. Official notes (for Carbide Motion which is the official software: http://docs.carbide3d.com/article/26-carbide-motion-min-requirements ) — I’ll edit that page to note that it requires a USB port as well.

The community has collected notes at: http://www.shapeoko.com/wiki/index.php/Carbide_Motion_Machine_Control_Software#System_Requirements

If you choose to use opensource, one can use a very low-end computer, even a Raspberry Pi: http://www.shapeoko.com/wiki/index.php/Communication_/_Control#Raspberry_Pi

There are few components here. Will hits the highlights, but so you don’t need to go chase things…

Design: This is mostly up to you. You need enough futzpah to be able to either run decent CAD software to generate models, or be satisfied with Carbide Create, or Inkscape, or other vector software if you’re happy with 2D/2.5D models, or Aspire. Will lists a bunch of tools for this in the wiki. I do this on a Mac and a PC. I use “free” Fusion360 for design. The hardware you describe sounds like more than enough. The key here is being able to use vector design software that will output svg, dxf, STL, or another vector format your toolpath/gcode generator can use.

Generating GCODE: This is the actual instructions for the machine, and they are generated from software with some human guidance. I do this in Fusion360 or using Meshcam, depending on how much hassle I’m willing to tolerate (meshcam is a lot less hassle). Meshcam runs on windows or mac. Lots of people use Aspire (or one of it’s close family members) for this. There are other tools to do this on linux. This requires some compute to pull off rapidly, but it’s not beyond anything reasonably modern (last 5 years). I think this part of the process takes the most learning if you haven’t done it before.

Sending GCODE: This is really just streaming the commands to the machine from a text file with a special seding tool. The Carbide3D tool for this (Carbide Motion) works pretty well, runs on mac or windows, and has pretty minimal requirements. It uses a direct USB connection to the machine. I run this on a cheap “kangaroo pc” I bought second hand that stays connected to the machine all the time and I run via remote desktop. As will says, there are other ways to do this too, like a little raspberry pi box, pretty much anything with usb and a network. The -easiest- way is to use the same machine you use for the other tasks. When I started, I used my laptop for design, generating gcode, and sending directly to the machine, but the sender needs to stay connected to the machine through the whole job, so that can be a little inconvenient depending on where you have your machine. There are other “gcode sender” tools for various OS’s, but the compute/graphics requirement here is minimal.

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To add to @mikep’s excellent answer, there is a page describing File formats on the wiki: http://www.shapeoko.com/wiki/index.php/File_formats which may be of help — if there are any other formats you’re curious about which aren’t listed, please let us know.

Thank you both for all of that info!

Is the Carbide software available for a trial run before I purchase the machine? I’d like to try it out before I commit, incase it’s just too beyond my technological scope. And if not, is there a free gcode design software you recommend playing around in to get a feel for 3D design?

Thanks so much!

Yes, Carbide Create/Motion are freely available (they are closely coupled to each other and the latter uses the machine as a copy-protection dongle) and available for download.

Please note that the only files which Carbide Create will save / export to are it’s own .c2d format, and .egc (encrypted G-code) — the latter can only be read by Carbide Motion, but if CM is attached to a machine, one could then extract the plain text G-code. In theory it’s possible to use a tool to convert from G-code to Bezier curves — I believe one of the graphic conversion utility suites has a facility for this.

To be strictly pedantic, there isn’t a G-code editor / drawing program — which is a shame, 'cause it would offer a lot of neat features (and these are things which we all need to ask for in Carbide Create: ability to assign a path to a different plane, ability to assign the bottom of a pocketing operation to move along a diagonal, &c.).

The typical thing which is done is one uses a vector drawing program such as

  • Inkscape (free/opensource)
  • Adobe Illustrator (commercial) — an interface only a mother could love (I’ve been using it since v3.2 and it still makes me angry)
  • Affinity Serif Designer (commercial) — modeled on Macromedia Freehand which was the first successful vector graphic app for the Mac and which later made the jump to being re-written for NeXTstep as Altsys Virtuoso and was then ported back to the Mac and Windows — I still use Freehand for most drawing tasks and have since v1 or 2
  • Corel Draw (commercial) — app now limited to Windows — used it an awful lot since v1, interface still isn’t all that great compared to Freehand, but apparently it’s more reliable with slightly better text handling
  • Flash (commercial) — started out as Futurewave Smartsketch on PenPoint and is excellent if using a graphics tablet / stylus. Nice notebook interface which it inherited from PenPoint
  • Cenon (opensource for Mac OS X or Linux) — CAD/CAM app for NeXTstep which made the jump to opensource — there’s a commercial CAM module which is probably quite good (and a free astronomy module which is bizarre to me, but might be useful if one finds a market which could use it)

Once one draws things up, then one has to process things in a CAM app (though some CAM apps have primitive / rudimentary drawing features). Only listing free/opensource

  • MakerCAM — what I used before Carbide Create — formerly PartKAM and works quite well for being written in Flash. You can d/l the .swf and run it locally without using a browser which seems to be more reliable.
  • gcodetools — Inkscape plug-in from Russia — quite powerful, but strange interface

More options / information at:

All the commercial options are listed at: http://www.shapeoko.com/wiki/index.php/Commercial_Software

If there’s anything I missed on the wiki, or any corrections, please let me know.

I like affinity designer a lot. If it only had a trace function… It’s got it’s share of weird, but for all it’s capability it’s really inexpensive compared to Illustrator.

These are covered in the wiki as Will points out, but I think these are pretty notable.

You can also go all in, and use something like Autodesk Fusion 360 (free for hobbyists), or Solidworks (expensive)

Easel works ok for simple stuff, and is super simple to try.
https://www.inventables.com/technologies/easel

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I have also setup a solution on Raspberry Pi 3+ using a couple of tools (ExaGaer Desktop & WineHQ) to actually install & run Carbide Motion on a Pi. Took some work but no custom coding, just persistence. Seems to be a great opportunity.

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