Looking at bringing a new Z axis to market

Good morning all

I spent quite a bit of time designing and building the upgraded Z axis, but feel it’s such an improvement I’d like others in the community to benefit. Following on from my designs I’m now comfortable with the idea of doing some small production runs and wanted to see if people would actually want them?

Personally I’d like to keep them as affordable as possible so would sway towards the original design (the component cost of the 2nd variation was significantly more) but people need a choice.

I’d look to incorporate the easy tram mechanism into either design. At this stage I’m just trying to gauge interest so would appreciate any feedback.

In my head these are the possible options.

  • Option 1 - the original upgraded Z - around $300 shipped to the US
  • Option 2 - the linear slider Z - around $450 shipped to the US

0 voters

So why would you buy one of these from me over cnc newbie?

  • Direct fit - removing your original X carriage plate with minimal hardware swap over (just v wheels, spindle mount, motors and X motor stays.
  • Includes easy tram guide
  • Beefier than the cnc newbie version
  • Larger ball screw

With these you will get increased travel, less chatter and be able to use larger routers.

Keen to get some your thoughts and feedback. Regardless the plans will remain free for anyone who wants them.



Hi Luke,
I would like to upgrade my shapeoko xxl. I’m not in the market yet. My plan is to replace the belts with lead screws (I think that’s what they are called) using the existing stepper motors. A swap in replacement kit with minimal fuss would be the most interesting to me.
I can manage changing the settings, but that should be well documented too. I don’t want to search a bunch of websites to make the needed modifications either.

Hi Tem

I looked at doing this as a project - even went through some designs and chopped up some beams. I could not achieve good results with bolt on parts - it made the machine bigger but didn’t add rigidity. The shapeoko is built around belt and v wheels - it is likely cheaper and easier to start from scratch and build a whole new machine…

The Z differs as your actually replacing a whole axis.

I will re-visit the project but I don’t know if it would be worth the cost.

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I’m pretty new to all this. But as long as if came with good instructions I’d definitely be in.

I have been following your z-axis upgrade and other projects in these forums. I find them interesting.
Replacing the z-axis related hardware, plate and all is a good isolated upgrade without mucking up the X and Y axis. From what I remember, while I still remember it, the z-travel becomes smoother and more powerful with your design while offering potential alternative spindle options, all the while while maintaining the existing X-axis and Y-axis elements.
My thoughts were to gradually upgrade the XXL components to increase precision, rigidity, and possibly durability over the long run. So far, the XXL came out of the box with some misaligned holes in the sheet metal, which meant that either I don’t put that bolt through the MDF washboard or modify the washboard to fit. There were a few other issues the make the x gantry not fit flush on the front left rail stop location that are not yet deal breakers.

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Luke, glad you decided to commercialize this most excellent design.

I’m quite happy with mine, which I built wth your plans and help. I can attest it is a strong, rigid piece of work. At present I am using a Makita router but it’s good to know I can easily change this out for a more powerful spindle if I want to.

Good Luck!


I would be interested!!

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I would be interested in this. If you’re setting up a notification list of potential buyers please add me to it.

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Wow! Thanks for all the votes and feedback!

It looks like revision 2 is far more popular so the first production run will be rev 2 - with some interesting modifications I’ve been considering. Don’t worry these will only make it better and more of a bolt right on modification.

I’m now sourcing quotes for bulk supplies - items like the ball screws/linear slides are not the cheapest and a large part of the production cost, it would help me out greatly if people were willing to place a deposit or even the full amount. Those who were willing to commit would be the first to receive their sliders.

  • I’m not ready to put down a deposit
  • I’d put down a small deposit between $50-100
  • To secure a order I’d pay a $150 deposit to help cover the initial costs
  • I’m feeling flush, I’d be willing to pay the full amount now to get one of the first ones.

0 voters

Thanks guys,


Good morning guys!

Excellent news! I’ve been crazy busy over the last 24 hour, but I have some significant updates.

  • I’ve started to get quotes back from my Chinese suppliers for the stock parts, I’ve also started sourcing parts from the UK where I can.
  • I’ve made contact with a machine shop who be assisting in the production - meaning even more precise parts.
  • I’ve reduced the number of machined parts needed by 25% - which means simpler design and quicker assembly.
  • In line with that I’ve made some BIG improvements to the design!

I have 5 people who are willing to commit to development and bringing this to market. Ideally I’d like to do a first production run of 20 units, but to do so I need 10 pre-orders. Is anyone else keen? I will need final numbers by the end of next week :smiley:

If it helps, I’m willing to to pony up more of a deposit to get you in to production, say $300.

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I’m in for the deposit on the the more expensive option

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Interested in more information with full payment waiting.

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Morning all, thank you for move votes and those people willing to put down deposits. I will be in contact shortly to get email addresses.

Everything is looking very promising - I’m now committing to a batch of 20 units with suppliers for parts and refining the design for a few extra tweaks.

Another quick poll, this time around dust boots - keen to add support for this if I can.

  • I don’t use any kind of dustboot
  • I have a suckit
  • I have a diy or other option that mounts to the router
  • Other - post a note below

0 voters

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I worked up a design which ought to be universal/router agnostic which is posted to the wiki — it’s pretty easy to cut, (though there’s a new version I posted somewhere which can be flipped to add some additional features).


I am interested in “Option 2” and I am willing to throw starter money at you, but unfortunately I will not be able to help with testing it. I want to put it on my SO3 XXL, but I do not yet have the room to pull my XXL out of its shipping box where it has been for the last 2+ years. I have been using my SO3 and slowly working towards making space for my XXL (and I am only 3-4 months away from having the space for it).

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Morning Team

Mini update and poll time.

Update: I’ve started ordering parts, at this stage just stock bits and bobs, bearings, bolts, housings, spacers etc.

As a small thank you I’m planning on including V wheels and eccentric nuts so you guys don’t have to pull them off your old axis, this means you will have spares. I’m also adding limit switches to Z and keeping the standard shapeoko 3 X placement so it should be very similar.

I’m also planning on adding a few extra threaded holes here and there which might be useful for accessories later on too.

Now time for one more poll, this one is important.

In my version I used linear rails called HGH20 - now in my design I had an ulterior motive for using them - I used them on my industrial monster. However on this Z I’m considering using the stepped down version of the rail/block system - the HGH15 - its an identical style of block rail system but is slightly smaller and lighter.

Now don’t get me wrong I’m usually all for bigger is better, but there are advantages to using the HGH15 and in this use case I’m not sure the added weight will benefit anyone.

  • They are narrower - this will mean the Z will be around 40mm narrower - meaning more X travel and more cutting space
  • They are lighter. The combined weight saving is almost 1.4kg on the hardware alone! Not to mention the aluminium.
  • They have a shorter lead time - quicker production, Z faster hopefully.
  • I’ve been rather clever (at-least I think so) and found a way to reduce the height but INCREASE the amount of travel to 151mm!!!

Now a few properties of the proposed rails - they are still 15mmx15mm of hardened steel bar bolted to a 15mm plate of aluminium. They are hundreds of times stronger than a V wheel. They are twice the thickness of a cnc newbie round rail. They will support my weight (around 70kg) of load with ease.

It’s my preference to run with these.

  • Crack on with the HGH15 rails - they sound great and I trust your judgment
  • I still need convincing, I’d like to stick with the HGH20

0 voters

where would I find out more about what you are building

Drop me a message and we can chat through it. If your based in the states happy to skype.


Right guys. Thanks for the voting on the rails. With the majority heading towards the HGH15 I’m running with this design. I appreciate not everyone will have had time to vote but trust me when I tell you the impact is all positive.

Now it’s time for an big update!

Bad news comes first. I cannot make the design accommodate a suckit dust boot. I’m really disappointed in this but there are 2 reasons for this.

  • The suckit was designed for a Z where the linear slider is quite week - thats why it’s mounted to the X carriage and slides up/down separate rails. This Z is not weak which is why it doesn’t need a top X support.
  • The suckit is designed around the shapeoko travel distance - whilst I might have been able to work around the first point, one of the main reasons people upgrade the Z if for additional travel. Now whilst 8/9cm is the norm, this one has 151mm… if I made it fit the suckit I’d have to remove the travel and make the axis smaller. I don’t think anyone wants that…

With that in mind and if you want to bail, please bail now. However I hope you will stick with me on this journey.

No one to let a setback, I also have a solution…

I actually had a dustboot design sat on the back burner for my own machine - it’s pretty clever with a 2 part design. One part clamps to your router. The other is magnetic base thats fully removable for tool changes. It’s locked in with high power magnets N52 magnets and pins. If I remember correctly the magnets have a combined holding power of 15kg or something silly.

Now the build cost for this should be pretty low - I’m hoping between $10 and $20. It just needs some 20mm Acrylic/perspex, magnets, couple of screws and some trim. If I can include this within the build cost I will throw it in for free! If I can’t cover it, I will offer it for nominal cost. Here is a quick snap of the design.

Now for the main update. This is going on a bit, but it’s getting good.

I’m in the final stages of the design - this is something like revision 20 - each time I’m tweaking and optimising.

The main changes:

  • The Z/X is now 2cm shorter, but offers 1cm more travel! Yep I broke mathematics. There is 151mm of travel
  • It’s now 40mm narrower - you can now cut further on your X!
  • I’ve integrated an adjustable Z limit switch
  • Your existing X limit switch can be used
  • I’ve added easy access to the coupling - weird one but actually it’s very useful (trust me)
  • I’ve removed the Princes Charles ears (a joke for the Brits) - no more funny out crops
  • Lowered the Spindle bracket to accommodate a lower Z height
  • V wheels are better protected
  • Updated to use the HGR15 rails and blocks - the 1605 ball screw remains
  • Motor support and bearing block is now one piece
  • Removed all nuts! Except the Eccentric.
  • Much tighter tollerances

At this point I’m sure you all want to see this creation…

Items in yellow reflect those that will come from your existing Z - Motors, spindle bracket and some spacers. A few screws will also come from your existing Z to hold the X motor, limit switch and X pulley. Any other you need will be fitted prior to dispatch - It should be 95% built and ready to fit.

Now - if you have voted in the past and willing to commit a deposit, please PM me with your Name, Location and deposit amount you are willing to commit along with your email address. The forum stops me messaging everyone in a short time frame :smiley: I don’t want a probe situation on my back…

The main parts are going to be ordered this weekend and early next week.

If you have any questions - now’s the time to ask them - happy to skype or google hangouts with people if they want. PM me or post your questions here.