I purchased my XXL specifically because the advertised cutting area was listed as 33" x 33". When I got the machine set up, and tried to make my stock size 33" x 33", Carbide Create told me that was too big for my machine. It then defaulted to 32" x 32", so I figured that was it. When my spindle ran into the front rail and ripped the Z-plate from the XZ plate (breaking v-wheels in the process), I was told that the actual cutting area is 31" x 31". What am I missing here? When you advertise a cutting area of 33" x 33", but deliver almost a square foot less, I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth. How is that not just plain false advertising?
The cutting area includes the overhang area at the front of the machine. The 33" x 33" is a total travel specification which doesn’t take workholding and endmill diameter into account. The 32" x 32" in Carbide Create is a compromise figure which leaves room for both and margin to spare — the stock size is a previewing limit only — you can make arbitrarily large geometry and toolpaths and they will be exported to G-Code.
Some folks have made spoilboards which extend past the front of the machine so as to have the entire working area supported. A few folks have reversed the gantry so as to increase the area which is on the wasteboard — there’s a post on that here: Alternative S3 construction to move usable space
One thing you can do to set your mind at ease, is to measure the full travel of your unit. Slide the carriage all the way left, make a mark at the center of the router bit, slide it all the way right, make another mark, repeat for forward/backwards of the gantry.
I think you’ll find the unit can move the distances claimed.
When you’re working at that size, however, you’re working right at the margins. So you do need to be careful and precise with your stock alignment and determining that you can reach everything with your bit. Otherwise you’ll experience a “crash.” And don’t let the word “crash” scare you, nothing terrible will happen (you might screw-up a piece). But the machine will be okay.
If some of your plans need to be changed feel free to post-back more details and the folks here will help you chart a path forward.
I think once you have some time with it, you’ll realize it is a pretty amazing machine but like any CNC (and this is my 3rd), there is a learning curve.
To add to what @cgallery said, you can actually cut things significantly larger than the bed through a process called tiling as well.
I had the same experience with my XL, the “effective” area is also smaller than the specs and what I expected as the overhang is also included. I think this should be a bit clearer in the marketing.
Unfortunately, tiling is also not supported in Carbon Create.
While it’s not directly supported, one can do tiling manually:
Thanks for your responses, everyone. Please don’t get me wrong— I love my Shapeoko. This thing is totally badass! Once assembled, I was able to do some pretty cool smaller projects immediately. I’m not giving up, and I’m still looking forward to doing some amazing things.
I’m also aware of the various hacks that will allow me to do larger work, but when the advertised “cutting area” is 33" x 33", I expect that to happen out of the box. My point is, if I buy a table saw that advertises a capacity of 33" from blade to fence, then find out that my fence only reaches out 31", somebody’s getting an earful.
If the “as-assembled” cutting envelope is 31", then that information would have been supremely useful, and would have avoided a crash and unnecessary down-time/repairs.
That said, Brandon at Carbide 3D was extremely helpful in talking me through this, and immediately shipped the parts necessary to get me back up and running. I’m eager to get back to work.
I felt the same way as you when I purchased my first CNC router. But with time I saw it was just the convention everyone seems to use.
Looking forward to future posts with some kewl stuff.
Lots of things aren’t supported in carbide create, you can still do them with other tools.
That’s the thing…it doesn’t say X inches from blade to fence, it says “this is the cutting envelope” - which is true. It also doesn’t tell you that it does this so you can cut long material from the end (vertically) but that’s why it is set up that way.
I think the point is that this information should be published as a diagram on the website so buyers clearly know what they are getting. No-one said that it was not factual but if you plan is to use the machine to produce something of a size close to the max, you may have to use workaround (e.g.: tiling) to do it and that may require additional software and time to produce. Usually not an issue for one of but could make a difference for someone producing commercially. For example, I ruined two wasteboards and a fair bit of time trying to drill pocket holes for T nuts near the perimeter and had to contact support to get this information. I would have planned the work differently if the documentation had been clear from the start.
The problem boils down to inexperience among new owners.
There is nothing you can do to eliminate learning curves. You could print a comprehensive guide including the answers to every single question someone might have, and it would be so long that nobody would read it.
The solution is, as a community, to help people expressing frustration in as helpful and compassionate (being a newbie is frustrating) manner as possible.
Get them up to speed, and they can help the next round of newbies.
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