Convince me to buy a Carbide3D XXL

I am on the fence about buying an CNC machine. I have spent months looking at all the different machines available, with my particular favorite being the Carbide3D XXL. I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for my new workshop, so now I’ll have room for one. I’ve played around with Fusion360, Carbide Create, but I’m most experienced with Sketchup, having designed several woodworking projects with it. I don’t want to waste a free trial of VCarve Pro without having a machine.

I’d love to do 2.5D carvings, 2D projects, V-bit signs, so many things… but I’m afraid of buying a machine only to have it collect dust instead of generate dust due to my limited software knowledge, lack of artistic talent, and a lack of pre-done designs. I’m half afraid I won’t be able to translate the ideas in my head to a design on the computer.

So… to get to the point of this post: Please tell me about your experience with your machine!

  • Did you have much experience with CNC/CAD/CAM before buying your machine?
  • Which software do you use, and why?
  • Does the software you use have an active community generating projects you can use?
  • Do you generate your own designs from scratch, give your own flair to pre-done design elements, or find projects created by others?

Thanks in advance for your input.


For me:

  • no experience, but I started w/ a Shapeoko 1
  • I’ve used MakerCAM, pyCAM, F-Engrave (and Fontforge), Inkscape, Macromedia Freehand, Carbide Create, MeshCAM, and Vectric Vcarve Desktop — I try to pick the software which makes sense for a given project.
  • working on projects for Carbide Create
  • but I pretty much always just design stuff myself

My suggestion would be to create projects, then preview them using GrblGru or some other G-Code previewer. Repeat that until you feel good about the idea of using the machine — I’ll admit that I often just find it easier to do things w/ hand tools, but trying to use the machine more often.


Here are free projects for Vectric, to get you going.


Did you have much experience with CNC/CAD/CAM before buying your machine?

  • Very little CAD, none of the others

Which software do you use, and why?

  • Have used many. But currently use Aspire

Does the software you use have an active community generating projects you can use?

  • Vectric has an awesome community with alot of free projects as well as use projects posted

Do you generate your own designs from scratch, give your own flair to pre-done design elements, or find projects created by others?

  • Yes, Yes and Yes. It all depends on what I am trying to accomplish. I have used pre-done designs including my latest project posted here, done custom designs and used projects others have designed and edited them to my liking.

For an entry level machine, the Shapeoko 3 is an awesome machine and will do most if not all what a hobbiest wants to do with it. For bigger projects you may find it is not as rigid as you may wish it was but overall it is a great machine for the money. You won’t find a better one for the price.


Search through the forum, you won’t need convincing. There is No better combination of machine, company, and support. Compare what you find here to what you will find anywhere else. You will find a consistency and singleness of purpose-not to sell a machine, but to make sure a buyer is successful with it! I looked at everything available and chose the Shapeoko 3XXL because it was simply the most rigid and adaptable machine I found at anywhere near its price. Then I looked at the company-and their support-outstanding isn’t nearly a strong enough descriptor-they don’t run from or hide issues, they solve them-out in the open for all to see. Then I looked at the price. They weren’t the cheapest, but I didn’t want to buy a cheap box of parts. I wanted to buy an evolving solution that moved with me as I grew into (rather than out of) the machine. I could not be happier with what I bought. Don’t task someone else with your decision, own it. My bet is you will find the best value in a SO3XXL like everyone who has bought one and actually put it to use.


That is your first most important challenge. If you can’t create you’re own designs will cutting something someone else designed satisfy your creative desires which are causing you to want a CNC machine.
I draw exclusively with Sketchup and includes engineering drawings except 3d modeling (I have Make not Pro version). Sketchup is also the most annoying program for an experienced (formerly) AutoCad expert like myself because it is not really user friendly. IT’s free and requires many run around routines for complicated procedures. But it’s free.
Anything I can imagine, I can draw so it fits my needs and budget fine. YMMV.
My advice is to start drawing anything you can imagine into working prototype drawings, no matter if they are plausable or not. Any CNC system you buy will be fine. I absolutely suggest the Shapeoko 3 because it is amazing in versatility and wonderfully designed. If you keep with Sketchup, draw draw draw, if you go with other drawing programs… draw draw draw. Once you have the visualzation abilities down pat than implementing creative ideas into CNC is easy.
Before you buy, decide what you realy want to do , type of projects, material preferences and size of projects both physically and time wise.
Years ago I would be talking with a housewife friend who wanted a computer to keep her recipes in, I asked if she habitually wrote down her recipes, she said she did not keep them anywhere, I told her you don’t need a computer to do something that you don’t do anyways. My Shapeoko3 is my apprentice, it helps me create, I create, it cuts. It simply does what I normally do, it will not make you into a marvelously creative person, it can make you into a marvelous copycat. I personally redesign every project according to my own “flair” and design requirements. Copying projects for educational and personal use it good and advisable. You can learn much like that. If you are creative in nature than you will have no problem except time. Good luck.


I did an in-depth study on the cnc of the market and came to the conclusion of Shapeoko 3, I saw the previous ones. I also have many years of 3D software and today use without any problem Rhino, Illustrator, Carbide Motion and Carbide Create is more experience in velocity , cutting depth and placement of the material if it presicion parts. This tool has a great future and the technical assistance has been excellent.


The support from the C3D team is one of the reasons to get the machine, period.
In addition to that, I think for what you get (hardware-wise), it’s a steal. The next step up is into a machine that costs $4,000. CM and CC are fine, honestly. If you have previous CAD experience you may get impatient with them pretty quickly. But they do get the job done and to C3D’s credit they are getting better with every release.
My primary workflow is Vectric vCarve Desktop -> GRBL-Panel. Though I sometimes use Carbide Motion too.

I got an XXL and honestly… wish I’d saved some money and SPACE and gone with an XL. Once you put a table under it and enclose it (like some, and I, do) it’s basically a 5’x5’x5’ cube in the workshop :expressionless:


I may not fit in here as a Nomad user, but the Shapoko can use the same software I use for Nomad, so maybe this will still be relevant!

Did you have much experience with CNC/CAD/CAM before buying your machine?
Absolutely NONE. I do have a lot of manual machining experience, and that has helped with feeds, speeds, and tool choices.
Which software do you use, and why?
I use my machines (I have two Nomads) at work, so I have the benefit of a art department to make my dies. She uses Adobe Illustrator. I use MeshCam and Carbide motion on the machines, and after a lot of trial and error, I can produce perfect designs every time.
Does the software you use have an active community generating projects you can use?
I haven’t seen anyone posting Illustrator files, but I just use .SVG’s anyway, so I can grab stuff from practically anywhere.
Do you generate your own designs from scratch, give your own flair to pre-done design elements, or find projects created by others?
I have made a few things with carbide Create, but it’s fairly incomprehensible to me, so I usually just have my artist make stuff for me :slight_smile:


Thank to everyone who has replied so far. I’m getting closer to feeling more comfortable in placing an order… at least once a week I fill the cart with stuff I want, I just can’t pull the trigger yet. I’m hoping for another free shipping promo with the Christmas season. The Can-US exchange rate is better than it’s been in a while, but it’s still a big hit to the total cost. In addition, I’m also hoping to see the probe come online before I order so I can get it at the same time.


Others have covered most of the important parts, but I’ll add my 2 cents:

A bit of background: I had no CAD experience, but I was pretty good at Photoshop, and had a little Sketchup experience. I use VCarve and love it - it is very easy to use, and the video tutorials on their website are great. It has some limitations when it comes to complex parts that would benefit from Rest machining, (requires Aspire) but overall it is a fantastic piece of software and a good value. For a creative person, it’s an essential part of the CNC package. As good as CC and MeshCAM are, they aren’t the same as VCarve (for various reasons). With your creative inklings, I suggest that you plan to buy /some/ creative-oriented CNC software, like VCarve.

I tend to watch these forums and the Vectric forums for inspiration, but I usually re-design everything from scratch because that’s the part that I find really enjoyable, and it’s relatively easy. Remember that I had zero experience doing this before getting my S3. I realized that I love designing after I bought one.

The big question here is: how much time do you have to spend on your CNC hobby? Everything you are worried about is easy to learn, you’ll do fine, if you have time. Hobby CNC is exactly that, a hobby, and it takes time (and a bit of money) to do things right, but it’s so much fun you won’t notice either. It is a fantastic hobby, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to get a S3.

Also, the Vectric trials only let you output gcode for their sample files… you can’t cut your own designs with the trials. (You can design things as much as you want, they just can’t be cut with the trial.) For that reason, it’s not really a waste to trial it before you have a machine. I think if you trial it now, it will be about 3 hours before your fears of design being hard are laid to rest.


Just because there always needs to be one more opinion: I don’t consider I have a CNC hobby. To me, it’s just another tool in my shop that I use to do things it can do better than any other tool I have. So I don’t care if it sits for weeks unused because when it’s time to use it, it will save me time and do a better job. Here’s a small example. With each gameboard I sell, I provide a scoretrack (like a cribbage board) that has 42 5mm holes drilled in it. I used to spend hours at the drill press drilling them by hand; now the CNC does it for me, and it has probably already paid for itself in the time it saved me because I can do something else while it’s drilling holes (more accurately, by the way, that I can manually).


Sounds like you have a very good apprentice Carl, I also like “Mr. Shapeoko’s” work ethics and obedience plus he never talks back or is late to work. Once C3D completes their voice command software they’ll have the first android apprentice, I’m sure that they are probing that option as we speak…