Enclosures for the Shapeoko

Enclosures - I am posting on behalf of Carbide 3D. I wanted to discuss the idea of enclosures and air flow. Earlier this year I had a few calls reporting premature death of routers ranging in months to less then an hour. I will return to the main topic in a moment. A hand trim router is designed with a impeller fan that was designed as the name suggests to be held in your hand, used in plain view. The Manufacture probably never enclosed it in a small box and tried to operate to see what would happen. It’s not in it’s design"use case", so it expects plenty of free air to pull in.

Let me reiterate we are neither for or against enclosures. I often ask if an enclosure is being used and there is often resistance to sharing the information. The more I know the better I am able to help you. We are not the enclosure police.

After gathering information on 3 different short life issues in row with users in enclosures, I started asking the question, are you using an enclosure? I then had a guy reach out and tell me his router was dead. We suggested he change out the brushes and that we are seeing this with enclosures. He wrote back, " I changed the brushes and it is working again. I also opened the enclosure and added a 12 inch fan. It’s been a week and not one problem. I’ll write back if I have any problems." It has been months.

I wanted to put out this PSA. I’ve spoken to several people that have made enclosures and tell me "I have a dust collector I don’t need a fan." Here is my message, a vacuum is a counter pressure that induces air and debris to flow to a port of differing pressure. It causes airflow at the waste board, this will not necessarily induce air to move where it is needed to properly cool the router motor.

The successful enclosures I’ve encountered have fans in addition that cause airflow to the entire enclosure. I write this in hopes of helping new builders to avoid the pain of a router motor burning out brushes extremely quickly. I leave the discussion open for you to share among the community, what has or hasn’t worked for you.

Thank you


I would just route my shop vac exhaust back into the enclosure (with a baffle, of course) to keep air moving. Lots of units have an exhaust that you can attach a hose to, and thats where the air is moving.

I’d imagine you’d just be cycling hot air, that would continue to rise as both the router/spindle motor and the vacuum motor dissipates heat into the [closed loop] air flow being no heat exchanger in the system :thinking:


Given how poor air is at moving heat, I dont think warm air in this case is going to be harmful. You could run a section of aluminum tube if you really wanted to test, but we arent supercharging a car here.

Thank you for posting this Brandon. I am currently designing an enclosure while I wait for my XXL. I am curious if you have any ideas for improving air flow within an enclosure?
Would it be feasible to add a lightweight fan above the spindle mount, to constantly introduce new air directly into the impeller of the spindle? Something small enough that it wouldn’t disrupt the effectiveness of dust collection via a dust boot?

Stepcraft’s DC spindle comes with a compressor to force air through the spindle. I wonder if it would be possible/make sense to 3D print a shroud for the air intake and pipe fresh air through an opening (with the benefit of keeping sawdust/debris out).

Will let you know if I try this as I’m planning to build an enclosure (and appreciate the warning!).

My son uses enclosures with a dust shoe and dust extraction on each. He has air intake filters on each enclosure. Both SO3s are in production use and have the same brush life expectancy without an enclosure, approximately 150 hours. He can run them until the router stops and brushes are totally worn out which is roughly 180 hours, but typically involves damage to the work piece.

Ambient temperature in the enclosures rarely exceeds 105 degrees, the dust extractors generate more heat than the SO3, controller and router.

Using DW611P routers with Super PID controllers. SOP is to change brushes at 150 hour intervals, the PID has a cumulative run time indicator on the display. Cheap insurance. Each brush is approximately $4 at the DeWalt Service Center.

As far as router life, the original DWP611P router purchased with the first batch of SO3 finally quit on him last month, bearings gave out with the last set of brushes so he just replaced it.

No experience with Makita or Chinese Spindles.


I use a router table and the router is fully enclosed and plumbed w dust collection fittings. I ALWAYS run the dust collector to keep the router cool. On the rare occasions that I did not run it the router got very hot. I know that heat is not desirable as it will shorten tool life. I believe dust collection is most effective if some air is allowed into the system as it aids evacuation of the dust. The air flow also serves to keep the router cool. I would imagine that the smaller the enclosure (and cnc) the quicker it would heat up.
I haven’t built an enclosure for my XXL yet but was planning to install a fan (that would pull air from the outside) on one side and the main dust collection port on the other side to both move chips and cool the system.

Ed M.

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