Is it possible to do this with a Shapeoko Pro?

Hi everyone! I’m thinking of buying a CNC router and looking at the different options, the one that convinces me the most is the Shapeoko Pro (due to specifications, shipping to Europe, etc.).

But I have two key questions related to the decision.

Could you do something like that with a Shapeoko Pro in aluminium? In my case it would be with a Makita RT0700C router (similar to RT0701C) since I need the European voltage. It is an example of topography made with a Bantam:

And if the answer is yes, what would be the maximum distances of the red and blue lines? In theory, the cutting area is 4 ‘’ but I don’t know exactly what it means.

Thank you very much to all.

I don’t have a Pro, but the red is as you say, approx 4 inches. The blue, that will depend on the length of the bit you chose. If your bit extends say 1.5" from your router collet nut, then you can go at least as deep as that without any danger of hitting any other features. If the other features are set back from your deepest points such that collet nut won’t collide, then you can go deeper still, but that will depend on an examination of your design. Going 2 inches or so is probably fairly common with fairly standard bits. Anything longer you’ll have to seek out specific long shank bits.


I should clarify that the vertical motion is approximately 4 inches, but the maximum height of the workpiece is not limited to 4 inches per say. For instance, you can round off the top of a fence post if you align the fence post with the vertical axis.

But to cut out / contour a piece of aluminum 4 inches thick using the Shapeoko is not recommended. If you cut out a piece of stock 1.5" x 1.5" x 4" by laying it on its long side, that’s okay. Trying to cut out a 1.5" square from a 4" thick slab of aluminum is pretty insane, but I won’t say impossible.


Thank you very much for your help Kelaa. The thing about the measurements, understood perfectly.

As for the aluminum part, I understand that the exact material will also have a lot to do with it. In this case, the Bantam makes use of a 7075 aluminum. I am afraid to invest in a Shapeoko Pro and that it falls short in that regard … Thanks again Kelaa.

There has been a fair bit of discussion and cutting of 7075:

Is this a business venture? I don’t think cutting 7075 will be a problem per say for a one-off, but for businesses of course the throughput will be a consideration. A more capable machine can cut out a 12x12 contour map faster, or faster doing say multiple 4x4 pieces at the same time. If you have the volume to justify it, don’t let the machine hold you back. The Pro eliminates one weak point which is the polymer V-wheels. But it still has belts. Notice the HDM model eliminates those as well in place of screw drive.

The SOPro will not be any less capable than the Bantham, and in fact has a lot more power. If you’re looking to go full-depth at 4"…then you need a lot more of an industrial machine. :smiley: Endmills that go deeper that 3 times the diameter are considered specialty tools as well. Thus they get more expensive and from fewer suppliers.

Looking at Bantham’s example, their material is not 4" thick, most likely in the 2" range. Looking at the sides of their material, it was actually cut to dimension on another machine before they did the topographical work on the Bantham. The sides have the tooling marks of being surfaced with a larger insert cutter or fly cutter and thus an industrial machine, then had the topographical work done on the Bantham. So they are only machining maybe 1" deep on the Bantham.

If the material is already cut to size, then you only really cut the features on top.


Hi Kelaa. The idea is to mass produce but not very large quantities. Therefore, you are right that a more powerful machine will help. Of course, I don’t know how successful the product will be, therefore, I don’t want to make too big an investment.

As for the HDM, I have shuffled it yes, but unlike the Shapeoko Pro, they do not send it to Europe :frowning:

Thank you very much for your answer SLCJedi. The idea would be to do it with smaller pieces, 4 ‘’ would be too much. My question about the 4 ‘’ was more for other types of pieces such as wood or HDU for example.

As for the aluminum piece, it seems that they have done it with the Bantam. You can see it in this youtube video: Bantam Tools CNC: Aluminum Glacier National Park Topography Map - YouTube

But it is also true that it is very small, more than I thought. But I also understand that if I double the time, it could make a bigger piece right?

Here are some screenshots of the Bantam:

Doubling the time will let you cut a bigger piece, but only slightly bigger. For example, an 8cm cube is eight times bigger than a 4cm cube, rather than just twice as big.

As an aside, these shapes seem to be perfect candidates for casting in aluminium from a mold you perhaps carve with the CNC.


If you can wait for the HDM, I’d recommend doing so.

The Shapeoko Pro can cut Aluminium for sure, especially if you put a powerful spindle on it, but the HDM is really made for it.

If you’re in Europe, you might also want to consider looking at more local alternatives. It’ll be easier for you to get support and accessories and whatnot from a local seller.

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As an aside, these shapes seem to be perfect candidates for casting in aluminium from a mold you perhaps carve with the CNC.

What you say is a very good idea. But in what material could you make a mold to cast aluminum on a Shapeoko Pro? I remember that the usual thing is to make sand molds … Could you make high-density urethane (HDU) molds for example?

I would like to do it myself as the topography will vary, it will never be the same.

I understand you perfectly Moded1952. But, searching and searching, I am having a hard time finding European alternatives with benefits, price and community (important to me) as great as Shapeoko’s.

I am an industrial design engineer and although I have used CNC machines, I have not followed this industry in a long time. That is why my knowledge of alternatives is limited. Sorry for the audacity to ask in a Carbide community, but do you know European alternatives that fight face to face with a Shapeoko Pro or an HDM?

On the other hand, do you know when HDM will be available for the European market?

Thank you very much everyone for the help.

I am not 100 sure, but if not - you could make the first positive with a readily machined material, and then make the mold from that positive.

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Lost wax casting would be my choice — machine an original, then put it into a green sand mold.

If you’re doing quantities which justify a re-usable mold, graphite is the usual choice — just make sure your dust handling is up to the safety needs of that material.

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If you’re going for casting, I’d skip the Shapeoko for the mold and instead use a 3D printer and do lost-PLA casting. Basically, you print your object in PLA, bury it in sand, put the mold in a furnace to burn out all the PLA, then pour in the metal.

Since you use a 3D printer, you don’t have to do any CAM work at all.

This will leave a bit of a rough surface finish so you might want to use a Shapeoko or something to finish it though. Maybe some kind of chemical treatment or epoxy or something could accomplish it as well.

Some options:

  • Sorotec sells a wide variety of machines. They’re a bit more DIY but fairly solidly built. I think their “Instant Milling” line of machines is probably the closest to a Shapeoko in terms of basic out-of-the-box capability but it looks like it doesn’t have the same options for spindles as a Shapeoko. Might need to look at one of the others for that.
  • Stepcraft is a fairly polished offering but I’m not totally sure how suited they are for Aluminium. Technically it should be doable but I don’t know how rigid their frames are.
  • ISEL makes CNC machines but I’m not sure how much they cost. They’re one of those “contact us” kind of groups, even though they have some entry-level machines.

You’d have to reach out to Carbide 3D sales for any new information.

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Other options:
CNC-Step, a German company, priced more or less in the HDM ballpark: High-Z S400T | Small CNC router with ball screws 400x300x110mm

Onefinity CNC, a Canadian company, but relatively new to the market, as in one year now. I understand there were some teething troubles for the first customers. Priced in the Shapeoko 4 / Pro ballpark.

Thank you all very much for your contributions. As for the aluminum casting, I will analyze the options that you comment. The only concern is the oven, to put the aluminum at + 700Cº, etc. But everything you comment is interesting and logical.

As for the proposals of other CNC machines, I did not know any. I will look at each one in detail in case they can be options to consider.

Finally, as the last question regarding the Shapeoko Pro, I understand leaving aside the aluminum, it will be able to work perfectly with wood or any plastic including high density urethane (up to 100 lb / ft3) right?

Of course. The Shapeoko is a beast for woods and plastics. It’s a CNC router, that’s what they’re for.

I very recently picked up a Isel machine, I thought I’d scrap it for parts, but decided to keep it around to play with. Lighter duty due to its heavy aluminum biased construction, but excellent quality of components and construction.