Posing a question about things to come

I finally have the funds to enter the CNC realm of woodworking. I have been waiting a while to investigate what machine to buy. What I see is an awesome machine with usable software in the form of the Pro 5. But over several years I have seen folks here asking about rotary cnc and laser capability. Despite this, historically, it seems the C3D focus has been on improving the base machine, upgrading software and adding a spindle option as well as bitsetter etc, without much in the way of developing accessories to enhance the CNC experience: Rotary cnc, capability, native laser support, ATC et al. Apparently GRBL is the blame. So, as I sit here wavering, as I hover over the submit button for the order, I find something else to ponder. it is always something else of course.

Longmill MK2, made by seinci labs in Canada, has a machine that appears to be a 4 pro and pro 5 hybrid, kind of. Enough of the stuff I really don’t want in a machine since it seems old tech to make me waver but enough new stuff to make it interesting. For example, They still use V wheels but do not use belts. It apears to be a more flimsy frame and drive despite the lack of belts. It sits on a table that I would need to make, backlash blocks that seem kinda smallish on the drives etc. But, it boasts a rotary cnc and laser that are plug and play to the machine which are available now, can support a spindle but that is not offered by the company, with a published eye towards the future for ATC and perhaps 5th axis. (no date on when these will be available but they are on the radar).

It is a grbl machine but they have re-enginerred the board, or so the propaganda says, to make the additions reality in HAL/grbl. It is a machine that will function but, again, appears inferior in some aspects. the cost is much less than a pro 5 by about half. for the base model. $1800 or so. the Rotary drive is $400 and change. the laser is $300 and change. The upgraded board is about $180 with a resident computer to drive the system $100 bucks if you already have a computer. Still much less than the pro 5 but admittedly a lesser stout machine, I think. It is the featured mchine on the IDC woodcraft youtube channel.

I am new to the game. So I am asking for input from some who are not so new. In your opinion, will C3D be addressing their lack of expanding the offerings for hardware, or will they be “resting on their laurels” of having great customer service and stout machines with the limitations of the current machines, but not keeping an eye on the up and coming competition. I am not trying to being critical, I admit my desire for a pro 5 and a rotary device and a laser etc may be “having my cake and eating it too”. But, I have been saving a long time. making the right purchase is important. Expandability is important if I wish to make a retirement business out of this endevor.

So, for the more experienced that I, what do you think?

(Note that I am no involved in product development (except for the occasional testing of prototypes) and am not authorized to speak about unreleased products.)

A laser add-on for the Shapeoko 5 Pro by an approved vendor is in development — no idea on release date, check in with the folks in Sales for further information.

Some folks have done rotary axes, and it’s possible to do add-ons which translate for example Y-axis movement into rotation. While it’s easy to say “4th axis”, it complicates CAM and work–holding a lot, and imposes rather severe limits on stock size (diameter).

Most of our customers find that two-sided “flip” jobs work well, and there is at least one prototype for four-sided work:

and there are various other techniques — what sort of work do you believe would benefit from this sort of thing?


Fair set of questions, having made a few changes to my old SO3 and analysed the limiting factors of those machines, here’s my two pence.

Everyone is going to have their own priority order, I’d say a supported spindle option (instead of homebrew) and beefier linear motion system for faster, cleaner cuts were not bad choices.

C3D has done a pretty decent job of making a low cost integrated controller, this helps keep the overall cost of the machine down, however, the GRBL based controllers have their limits. It can get expensive quite quickly to start going to dedicated controllers (that are any better than the C3D), separate power supplies, motor drivers etc.
You can always buy the C3D machine and then replace the controller when it finally winds you up once too often, nothing on the Shapeoko machines stops you doing that, but the C3D controller is a good place to start and easy to learn.
I’ve got a whole list of things I don’t like about the C3D controller, but being cheap and just working whilst I learnt about the machine aren’t on that list.

I just followed your link at looked at the Longmill, I’m trying not to be rude now. It looks like a 3D printer to me, not a CNC. The first few things that jump out at me are

  1. Narrow cross-section extrusions will lead to lots of deflection and vibration, the stiffness goes up with approx the square of the cross section, also decreases non-linearly with length
  2. The lead screws are, well, let’s just say I’ll take GT2 belts over that any day, the lead screws appear to rely on the stepper motor bearings for longitudinal alignment, that will be weak alignment and likely wear the motor bearings pretty quickly, also the small diameter presents a hard upper limit to speed before they start to whip, leadscrews also have inherent backlash and wear issues when presented with mechanical load and dust. They are OK on a 3D printer when backlash is compensated for (such as the Prusa)
  3. V Wheels, hmm, let’s just say that the most satisfying thing I did to my SO3 was remove V Wheels and add nice Hiwin linear rails

So, nope, I wouldn’t spend my money on a Longmill, if I was only going to spend that money, I’d buy a secondhand SO3 / SO4 and use that.

As for the rotary axis, yep, I’d love one of those, but to make them useful for parts with a sensible radius you need a lot of Z clearance under the gantry and quite a bit of Z travel. People who’ve made them work well seem to have embedded them into the baseboard so that half the part sticks down.
The main thing that’s stopped me making a 4th axis for the Shapeoko isn’t the Shapeoko or the Gerbil, it’s the horrendous amount of money that Autodesk wants from me annually to ‘unlock’ those extra axes. I know there’s other CAM out there, but I’ve learnt Fusion, am mostly ‘happy’ with it and can’t be arsed to learn something else right now.

HTH, tried to be honest and keep it simple, responding to the areas you seem to be most interested in, never used a laser on my machine so nothing to say there.


Thoughtful and honest.

Thank you for your input and time.

Some of what you brought up is what lead to bringing this up to folks who know more than me.

It seemed a bit interesting when the setup for the LM includes using a 3/4 inch sheet of mdf as the structural support / table upon which to mount the machine. I lnow there are other components under that but using wood screws in mdf to hold 3D printed structural supports for alignment and machine square seems less than durable.

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I think the LM is about producing a large machineable area for minimum cost. It’s probably OK for machining light plastics & foams, doing engraving etc. If you’re into model making it’s probably OK. If you want to machine heavier woods or metals though, nope, not what it’s designed to do.

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Thank you for your reply.

I too have seen some amazing workcompleted on an early model shapeoko machines using fixture devices. Dennis van Hoof is a very talented youtube channel content provider. There are a few projects on his youtube channel, all of which are amazing. They are all 3D in nature and quite well thought out. He has a indexable 3D jig to emulate a rotary drive; it is quite a piece of machinery in its own right. The table of the shapeoko is very modified to use it. His Shapeoko skills are more like engineering put to cnc art. His last video was a year ago or so. It seems his channel is still functioning but videos are older. I am not sure why. I suppose life gets too busy for art?

Some of the projects I have thought of trying, when I get the machine
that is, would do well with 2 sided cnc. But, I have a few specific projects in mind that would require a rotary drive. I really would like to stick with C3D. It would seem customer support is awesome and the machines they make are good quality.

The Canadian machine itself is not a true 4th axis as it uses the Y axis communication from tthe standard board to turn the rotary. Y axis functionality is split between the flat and rotary cnc on a switch. They also state that the hardware MAY work for other machines by connecting the rotary to the Y axis of “other cnc machines” but it is a definite maybe with a dose of “unsupported” activity in their notes. So, spend the $400 bucks understanding that it likely will not work and there is nobody to ask for help when it dosen’t. That level of tinkering is well out of my wheelhouse.

Thanks again for your input. I appreciate your time.

Very much would like to see an authorized provider list

Hint: J Tech Photonics should be on the short list…

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