Milling on Curved Surface

I have a Nomad 883 Pro and I’ve been machining and engraving on small aluminium stock of different shapes but mainly onto a flat surface, however I’d like to be able to use some curved stock without having to draw the stock first.
I have done it once or twice but I’ve had to obtain detailed measurements of the stock and then draw it in 3d in AutoCAD before adding an engraving to it, which as you can imagine is getting very complicated and time consuming and it doesn’t always work!!.
Am I missing a trick? Is there a much easier way to achieve this or is there some software or maybe scanning software which will save me having to draw the original stock?

You want:

  • a touch probe
  • software which will probe the surface

Links to a couple of different instructions for building the former at: — mostly oriented towards the Shapeoko, but designs should either be usable on the Nomad or adaptable.

For software, bCNC is supposed to have an auto-leveling function. Other options are listed at: — mostly oriented towards PCB manufacture, but the concept is the same.

You may also want to look into a 3D scanner — some files / notes / links at:

Carbide 3D announced a touch plate/probe (hazy on the specifics, I don’t do product development) — not sure how it would relate / compare to the above. Might want to ask someone who knows.

Thanks Will - I will have a look into those.

Help, anyone?
I’ve found a digitising probe that is on eBay and have asked the manufacturer if he thinks it’s compatible with the Nomad 883 pro. His response was;


I’ve looked general description of this machine, photos, bit of spec. You should be able to use such sensor, at least I’ve seen this machine has built-in sensor for the length of the instrument. So, technically it should be possible.
Practically, I don’t have schematics or description of its connectors to see if there is spare input port which could be used for this probe or it can be connected to the same input with tool length sensor.
From other hand, I see that the code G43 is “Accepted but ignored” - so, it is not clear how they implemented tool length compensation.

I would strongly advise you to ask the manufacturer about ability to work with probe, if they have any support for probing in software or maybe ability to write some scripts/code to control it - like G38.2 move and sens commands in mach3.

Unfortunately, I cannot help you better."

Does anyone have the technical expertise to tell me if this will be compatible and if so what other software I may need to enable the digitiser to map irregular shapes?

I know that Estlcam will do this but may require you to use their controller software. See this YouTube link to verify this is what you need.

The Carbide Motion uses G38.2 to probe the tool length. I imagine any modifications like this can’t be supported by the Carbide3D, but since the tool length measurement works, it should be “possible” to wire in a different sensor for someone with moderate tech savvy to mod this in.

Also, some folks have modded their machine to work with the Triquetra (@patofoto in Probing with the Nomad) and Rob mentioned that it would be possible to hack in the forthcoming Carbide3D Z probe. Your kind of mod will be easier after that comes out and folks have hacked it into their Nomad because you can piggy back off of the instructions for that thing.

@patofoto might be able to tell you how he modded in the Triquetra and it may work for the probe you are looking at. Then you’ll need software that can generate the gcode for the map you want and then consume the result. For that, I’m no help,

First trick will be to figure out whether the tool measure switch is Normally Open or Normally Closed and if the probe you are looking at matches. If they’re both Normally Open (NO) then you can just wire them in parallel. If they’re both Normally Closed (NC) then you need to wire them in series. More difficult will be if they either don’t match or if Carbide’s switch is of the always active kind (connected to ground or to positive voltage and switches between them). That last kind is the best for being resilient to electrical noise.

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Thank you for your replies, really appreciated.
I was most intrigued by the Estlcam Youtube video as this does exactly what I want however on contacting the developer of Estlcam, they said that the current board isn’t supported so I may have to consider swapping out the electronics which I’d rather not do. I went back to Estlcam with this and they came back with a potential alternative route;

** If you’re willing to take a little risk try the following:**
- Select the “Shapeoko 3” preset.
- There should be a very little, white “PROG” button at the left side of the carbide motion controller board just above the limit switch headers.
- Keep it pressed and then click “Program Arduino” – Estlcam should now be able to program the board and control the machine.
Risk: it may be difficult to get it back to factory settings if it does not work as intended - Estlcam has a backup and restore function but it is untested with the new board version.

Can anyone with the knowledge, maybe even one of the manufacturing team let me know that if I follow this process and it doesn’t work, can I get the machine back to factory settings as I’m willing to give this a try?

Not sure if it works to fully efface EstlCAM, and I can’t speak to how this affects warranty, but we have the instructions for re-flashing Grbl 0.9 after trying Grbl 1.1 at:

Hi Stephen -

I see this is an old thread, but I recently posted a similar question of my own and have not yet arrived at solid & straightforward solution, although I have gotten good input from a number of knowledgeable people. It still seems like a pretty substantial science project. Simply put, I want to be able to probe a curved surface and then engrave and or mill an image onto/into it. Did you ever arrive at a solution you’re pleased with for this? It seems to me there are some low-profile touch probes available now that probably weren’t available back in 2017 when you posted your question. They seem like they’d fit in the Shapeoko’s (or Nomad’s) tight Z-axis envelope. The question though is how to connect them to the machine, and then which software to use 1) to drive the probe and record the information it generates, and 2) to create the G-code to drive the cutting operation.

Here’s a link to a low-profile touch probe that looks promising.

The probe input.


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Thanks, Neil. I’m confused about using the probe input though, as my machine (Shapeoko Pro XXL) came with the BitSetter. Isn’t it already using the probe input? Is there more than one probe input? Or maybe I need to add a toggle switch to go between the two different signal sources. Like, flip it one way when I want to use the BitSetter and the other way when I want to use a probe that I have chucked up in my spindle?

As for the software, I’ve now had bCNC recommended by a few people, including Will Adams. I had a short look at it over the weekend and now a little more tonight. The installation process looks pretty grueling. Lots of frustration in the forums by people trying to do it. Sigh…

There are a few videos of people using bCNC in the way I want to, but they’re terrible - with techno music instead of narration and blurry screens to boot. Maybe I’ll just have to beat my way through it all and then make a video myself for all the other poor souls out there trying to figure this out!

Estlcam was also recommended, as was Candle. Any opinion on those?


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@Gearhead I sent you a PM