Quantifying Modifications

I’m about to start a gallery topic about improvements and modifications to my Shapeoko 3 XXL; I’ve found that my work has gravitated towards aluminum, and there’s some improvements I’d like to make.

In this process, I want to do meaningful research to help people achieve maximal “bang for the buck”, and to avoid modifications that have minimal impact or degrade the capabilities of the machine. So I’d like to keep things quantitative. Looking for some guidance and ideas.

Stiffness/rigidity/deflection: I’m intending to test as-is, then upgrade to an aluminum bed, and eventually move to linear rail for the Z carriage’s mount to the X axis. An HDZ is also a thought. Ballscrews down the line??

I purchased a fish scale and dial indicator, and would like to do some deflection quantification, at different locations on the bed. I’m thinking dead center and the SE portion, corresponding with the two areas I work in most (also, I have a pet theory that it’s stiffer in the corners). Is there a standard height above bed that people measure deflection at? Is there a standard endmill and protrusion from collet? Standard deflection force? If there’s not a standard, I’m inclined to measure half an inch above bed with a one inch protrusion from a 1/4" endmill (which?? or just solid shaft?), mirroring a lot of my work. 5 pounds (~20N?) looks like a common figure (is there a better number?) Maybe force generated at the cutter makes more sense?

Harmonic/Resonance suppression: I get a LOT of vibration from the machine. I also often get terrible surface finish on the edges of my parts. Are these related? I don’t know. I aim to fill the ways with either sand, shot, dynamat, or granite epoxy. I also intend to brace the bottom of my board and maybe dynamat it, as well.

I’d like to take baseline and modified figures, but I don’t quite know how to measure/quantify. Maybe set up a standard cut, and measure resonant frequency with something like a reed frequency meter? Maybe if I get an unbalanced motor and run monte carlo sweeps? (but then how do I measure resonance?) Which axes are the ones that matter? Maybe X and Y at the center of the table? Does Z matter?

Belt stretch: Sounds like steel core belts are where it’s at for aluminum. Is it because of belt stretch? I feel like I should measure the stock polyester belts under some elongation weight; maybe a week at room temp? Then see what happens at freezing and 100F? Or maybe just do some tracking accuracy tests with a drag bit over time.

Side question: Is there an optimal belt tension, in terms of force? We could use a torque wrench measurement to dial this in, instead of the ol “guitar string tight” guidance.

What other measurements should I be considering?


@gmack this is right up your alley

I know a bunch of the usual suspects will chime in as well.


@julien has done a number of measurements for accuracy, he even built a jig to measure. Don’t forget, in order to get accurate measurements, that you need an order of magnitude better in your measuring instrument than what you are trying to measure, so if you want to measure to 1/100in, you need something accurate to 1/1000in


bookmarked! :+1:
It’s not every day someone even geekier than me shows up and embarks on such an ambitious measurement campaign on the Shapeoko :slight_smile:
It will definitely be very helpful if you can quantify the benefits of each mod individually, but there are so many variables at play that I am really curious to see what you will come up with, in any case I’m looking forward to fascinating discussions in this thread !


Interesting. I am not really a metrology guy, but I was always given the opposite guidance: that one can interpolate to about 1/10th of the smallest graduation. (I worry about our ability to measure millimeters with standard rulers otherwise.)

This is surprisingly hard to google for.

Similar to @luc.onthego’s guidance, the rule of thumb we have used in medical instrument manufacturing is a minimum 4-to-1 ratio for resolution of your measuring equipment vs. the accuracy of the measurement you are trying to make. Maybe not as extreme as luc’s order-of-magnitude rule, but it still means your measuring equipment needs to have accuracy significantly better than the measurement.


I’ve started working on a project to map the motion of the carriage using a mouse attached to the spindle and a RPI. Not very far along. My intention is to use it to “automagically calibrate” the machine for belt stretch in a gross sense the way we typically do it by hand - move along an axis a known amount and compare what the machine thinks it did vs what we measure with the mouse. I think I can also detect out of square x vs y with a little math. One of the things that will come out of that is a map of uneven belt stretch, which could potentially be used to adjust a project in X and Y like you would for an uneven bed in Z (not so common in CNC circles, but pretty common for 3d print and circuit board work). Not sure it’s worth it to do that, just saying you potentially could. @Julien did something very similar: DRO-based X/Y calibration jig (wannabee)


IMO, other than non-cutting positioning accuracy, that’s really the only thing that makes sense since the deflection forces originate there. :wink:

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Resonance analysis is feeling more like a stretch goal at this point, but here’s what I got so far…

Preface: I’m a very out-of-practice electrical engineer by training, and resonance analysis in the mechanical world isn’t quite as painless as doing frequency response plots for circuits… so someone please put me in my place if I’m getting off-track…

That said, I think this accelerometer might be the cheapest sorta-workable solution I’ve come across. The downside is that a max 400Hz sample rate constrains our highest detectable frequency to 200Hz (Nyquist–Shannon sampling theorem! I remembered something!). This is problematic, because a spindle spinning at 30krpm is generating a 500Hz signal all by itself. Multiflute cutters might multiply this?

I’m kinda ok with this, because most of my work is at 10-15krpm (166-250Hz) and people say single flutes are fantastic. Also, the frequency of the vibration that maybe portents doom in my rig seems to be below 200Hz. In my hope-it-works best-case, the generated signal barely peeks out of the sampling capability. But. Someone out there’s running 30krpm with a 4-flute, so maybe it’d be nice to get to 4kHz sampling… if that’s not a pipe dream…

So then once I have that figured out… Thinking to run FFT analysis after I hook up an unbalanced motor and do frequency sweeps, or just whack-a-router (with hammer), or let 'er rip with a standard cut and see what shows up.

Aside: I think some thinking needs done, too. Everyone seems to think lowering the resonant frequency of a machine is desirable, but I’m not so sure. I think amplitude reduction is the bigger issue. A fish whacking me in the face with its tail is lower frequency than a butterfly fluttering its wings at my nose, but I know which I’d prefer. It is probably a combination. I don’t remember enough of my EE stuff to guess.

Anyway, instrumentation shoppers unite?

Edit: This looks like a better choice. Also cheaper. Anyone know a better choice?
Edit: This looks like a good example workflow for FFT analysis with the previous device
Edit: Cheaper than the polish choice above.
Edit: Maybe a better choice if things are getting crazy. The ADXL345 device only does 16g. This does 200g, but is limited to 1.3KHz in X and Y, and 1kHz in Z.


My question wasn’t worded clearly. Have you seen any figures around the magnitude of the force at the cutter? Maximum/typical stepper exertion, x/y/z? The spindle I’m sure also has some torque/torsion effect that translates to cutter force, but let’s maybe keep things manageable.

I mean, ultimately, I’m trying to do a comparative study of before-and-after mods figures, so I can arbitrarily pick, but I’ve seen dudes do 5 lbs, and then this guy does 10 lbs and got some scary looking deflection figures (0.040" in the y direction at full extension! vs 0.015" in the X at any Z height… legit 1.7-2.7x flexier in the Y than the X… maybe I need to get a move on with those linear rails)


The stepper motors slip at around 18 lbf, so that’s what limits the maximum cutting force the machine can counteract. You might want to check those limits on your machine. When cutting properly, virtually all of the force on the machine is produced by the cutter’s interaction with the workpiece, so those forces are dependent on the cutting parameters. This calculator will estimate cutting forces for you, or you can use the formulas provided there to do it yourself. You can also estimate force by measuring router/spindle power input while cutting as described here.

Most of stock Shapeoko deflection is likely caused by the Delrin V-Wheels and how they’re adjusted. Good linear rails should have much less deflection. :slightly_smiling_face:


I’d be inclined to use (and have used) microphones and piezo-electric transducers with TrueRTA Audio Spectrum Analyzer software for real time analysis and/or Audacity for recording and post analysis. :slightly_smiling_face:


I was thinking about this, too. Maybe a later round idea. It’s hard to do better than the better grades of Delrin in the land of unreinforced plastics, when it comes to Young’s modulus (between 1-3GPa at room temp), and we’re worried about rail wear when it comes to aluminum or steel v-wheels. But… crazy idea… how about Lead (16 GPa), Bismuth (32 GPa), Paper Micarta (6ish GPa) or, shit-crazy, how about Lignum Vitae (14GPa)?

I have access to a CNC lathe…


I suspect that all V-Wheels are fundamentally inferior to good linear rails because they have much less contact area with the guide rails.

Yep, I read this guys blog and ran some tests myself.

Based on this feeds and speeds calculator (http://brturn.github.io/feeds-and-speeds/beta.html
) that I found I enjoy using and get pretty accurate results with, I get the best results when I limit my radial loads to ~3lbs and axial loads to ~5lbs. I don’t have a stock Shapeoko but that frames cutting forces to that realm generally without too much deflection.


I’ve been meaning to add an accelerometer to my HDZero for a while, but still haven’t got around to it. I keep alternating between doing something with an ADXL345 and looking at more expensive options that need less implementation work and can handle higher frequencies.

One paper on the topic: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/45dd/92afee1154e5329549eb73db255df392800d.pdf

I’ve had people suggest trying accelerometer apps on Androids or iPhones to see if they produce useful results, since pretty much every modern phone has a 3-axis accelerometer in it, along with more than enough CPU power to analyze the results in real time. It sounds like most phones do a lot of filtering on the data, so it may not produce useful results, but it’s basically free to try. Failing that, doing audio analysis (probably also on the phone) will be able to identify some types of vibration, but it’s hard to see how it’d notice a whole lot when it’s running next to a 25k RPM router.


Be aware that resolution goes way down with the higher g rating. Be sure you actually need a higher rating before you use it that way.

Another way to do this is with a strain guage and a known mass (which is pretty much how the accelerometers work…but at a lot smaller scale/micromachined in the silicon)

What do you have then?

"Based on this feeds and speeds calculator (http://brturn.github.io/feeds-and-speeds/beta.html
) that I found I enjoy using and get pretty accurate results with,"

How do you know your accuracy results? For what materials and cutting conditions?

Good paper! It says: “Instead (in addition) of accelerometer, also [inexpensive] piezoelectric sensor could be used for detecting vibration values. Piezoelectric sensors can measure with higher frequency, but only in one direction. Measuring with higher frequency can bring out more distinct value structure and help in analysing section.” Even “sound cards” in modern computers can provide 24 bit floating point A-D conversions on at least 2 audio “microphone” channels at sample rates of 48 kHz (22 kHz bandwidth) for free! Or, you could just feel the vibrations with your hand. :wink:


I have a:

Shapeoko 3 standard

  • CNC4Newbie z-axis
  • Steel GT2 belts
  • X-axis linear rail brace
  • @wmoy sticker on it (+3% extra rigidity)

I tested milling parameters with multiple materials (e.g aluminum, maple, HDPE), asked that feeds and speeds calculator what I should do given assumed constraints about radial and axial max forces and it gave me calculated parameters similar to what I found testing empirically. I have since tested new endmills on new materials with the previously assumed constraints with successful results. Perhaps I am not using your spreadsheet properly (most likely) but I enjoyed with this guys that it computes my parameters for me instead of with a guess-and-check approach.