FNG. Lost...stupid and ready to turn it all into a doorstop

I sit here looking at *.stl, *.tap, *.dxf, *.c2d filetypes in my folders. In addition, I have TWO programs for the machine…Carbide Create, and Carbide Motion. Completely unable to open ANY files in Carbide Create except for a file that looks like it carves “Carbide Create”.

Please tell me that there is a flow chart, SOMEWHERE, with step-by-step instructions (with filetypes)…?

Hi Bob, All will be well. Just take a big deep breath :slight_smile: Try going to this page, then to the Carbide Create and Carbide Motion docs. Read thru those then come back if these don’t at least give you some insight.

Have you also tried the “Hello World” as a first project?


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Under the ‘gear’ icon theres a button to clear the screen. It’s annoying as hell that the software doesn’t have a simple ‘New’ button at the top to do this, but once you know it’s there you’re fine.

What kind of files are you trying to open? The most common is likely going to be SVG, a fairly standard file format that a vector based art package can export. Inkscape is popular and free, but that said you can do a lot of designs right in Carbide Create.

If using CC you’d want to create your layout lines first on the Drawing tab using the tools they provide. On the gear/settings tab you can set some important options such as stock thickness and type (softwood, hardwood, etc).

On the Toolpath tab you can create your actual cuts. Select an element on the screen and click Contour and you can choose what size tool you’re using (the fewer tools, ideally just one, that you use the easier the whole thing is especially on your first few projects, and the depth and type of the cut. There’s pictures that make it clear what it’s doing, for example do you want to cut on the line, outside the line, inside the line, a pocket (clear all the space between the lines). When you’re done with that you can then generate and save some gcode.

Turn on your machine and start Carbide Motion. Go to Jog and do the homing operation if you have limit switches installed. Once that’s done or if you don’t have homing enabled, you can use the arrow keys on your keyboard (and the speed options on the screen) to position the cutter over your material, on the bottom left, which of course is well held down by clamps, screws, an appropriate amount of double sided tape, etc. If you’re cutting all the way through the stock you might want a thin piece of plywood or something under it in case the bit comes through, saves your wasteboard. Carefully bring the cutter down until it just barely touches your stock. What I’ve seen some people do which works well is get it close then put a piece of paper between the bit and the stock, then bring it down slowly just until the paper doesn’t slide anymore, lift it up one increment, remove the paper, put it back down. Now click Zero and Zero All, your machine now knows where the lower left corner is.

Run your program, should ask you to insert the right tool (but it likely was in there from when you zeroed it) and turn on your spindle. Do a safety check (and a safety dance if so inclined), look for anything that would impede the machine’s movement, make sure your collet is tight, make sure you know where the off switch is, and that the material is secure. Turn on the spindle and run your program.


Oh a note, the above is an overview based on my very limited experience with the machine, definately listen to others and read the documentation (which I know, is a nightmare of poorly-documented-up-to-date information and extensively-documented-out-of-date-information) and safety information, and keep your first cuts simple.

I spent all day yesterday just trying to do the Hello World because I had an issue with the way Carbide assembled the gantry, but it was a good learning experience.

Don’t forget to watch the training videos located at the Carbide3D website. I’m mobile right now so I don’t have the link.

Relax we are here to help you.

Edit (added link)

Carbide3D Training videos

You may find the wiki of interest


EDIT: also the checklist: http://docs.carbide3d.com/article/41-machine-operating-checklist

Capitol Fountain - Editable

Okay, maybe this will finally get through my concrete cranium. I have 2 programs, Carbine Create and Carbide Motion. I have an .stl file that I would like use to create a lithophane of the Capitol Fountain. With that file, and those two programs, can I do this, or do I need an additional program?

Like in algebra class in 7th grade, please show your work so that I can understand the steps. You know…the “give a man a fish, and feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and feed him a lifetime” thing. I want to fish! :grin:

.stl files are not readable with the Carbide 2.5D “Create” software. You’re need another CAM package that can read those 3D files and render the appropriate CNC control. There are a lot of folks here that run higher end software that can do this (VCarve, ArtCAM, etc…)


Start out with something easy. Make a coaster. 2nd project, make a coaster and engrave single letter on it. Etc… Working with an STL file is months away.

Okay, that helps and explains why nothing opens. There are conversion programs that convert *.stl files. What do I need to convert them to in order for them to work in CC?

99% of what I will be doing is lithophanes (with a bit of crazy inventor sh*t thrown in).

I REALLY need to find out how to beat these *.stl files into utter submission.

As far as I know you cannot do full 3D with CC. CC is a 2.5D design and CAM program. I tried it early on but don’t use it now – I sprung for Vcarve Pro which is excellent and well established but expensive compared to various “free” options or cheaper options.

Meshcam is the software for 3D CAM (generating gcode toolpaths for a 3D model like an .stl) which comes with Nomad. It is not free with the Shapeoko (I own a Nomad Pro and a Shapeoko XXL, and an Othermill for that matter which was my first cnc) and it is not perfect, but it can create toolpaths for 3D objects (.stl files, for one). It is CAM only (generates toolpaths), it is not for 3D design. I use Openscad (free) for 3D design mostly – it is like writing HTML web pages except that the result is a 3D model instead of a web page. Very cool for parametric design, and I’ve used it to project photos as depths onto a 3D design.

You don’t need to use CM as your machine control software. I’ve used Universal Gcode Sender and several other GRBL compatible packages, all free, and all pretty good (though each with quirks) for just sending files to the machine, jogging, homing, zeroing, etc.


Bingo! Information uploaded! This is progress. I’ve downloaded Inkscape and I’ll try to see if that works. I figure that by using the shotgun method, sooner or later something will work.

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Discussion of file formats here: http://www.shapeoko.com/wiki/index.php/File_formats

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A full 3D CAD & CAM program you might want to try is Autodesk’s Fusion 360. It is free to use provided your company doesn’t make over $100k per year. I have yet to master the CAM end of it, but having about 20k hours of various 3D CAD use, it’s pretty decent.

Chris, it suggests that it’s “as low as $25/mo” but free for students and educators, are you sure it’s free for low-volume companies? I have an old version of Solidworks that I like for doing design but it’s getting ever more dated, and I’ll never afford to upgrade it, so “free” would be rather enticing to switch over and learn something new, especially if it has the CAM stuff built in. I’ve been trying HSMXpress and it seems to work well but I haven’t tried it’s gcode on the shapeoko yet.

Absolutely certain, refer to attached screenshot from their site.


That’s awesome, thanks!

Maybe I finally have a grip on all of this… (?)
(And, I can not thank you all enough for your VAST patience with this old FNG)

        • Carbide Create is 2.5D
      • -I need to have 3D
        • Shapeoko XL doesn’t care what software creates the work
        • Meshcam is 3D and will work with Shapeoko XL

Now…if all of that is correct, do I need to send to Carbide Motion in a specific format? If not, what else would I need to FINALLY be able to use my CNC?

CAM programs build G-Code, that is their purpose. The Carbide Motion is simply a “Sender” program. It sends commands to the machine from your g-code file. You can use Carbide Create, Fusion 360, EstlCam, MeshCam, V-Carve, Aspire, etc.etc. to generate your g-code files. Then you can use Carbide motion to send them. Or you can use an array of other sender type programs as well like bCNC, universal g code sender, and many others.

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