vCarve Desktop and S3XXL (post processor?)

I’m about to pull the trigger on vcarve desktop for use with my s3 xxl. Two big questions before I do:
The post-processors of ‘GRBL (gcode)’ and 'Shapeoko (gcode). Which works better and are there any gotchas or “manual” post processing of the gcode required?
Second, I’m not fluent enough in gcode to read the output intelligently, if I push three toolpaths out as a single gcode file, is vCarve using a gcode param for “pause for tool change” that most gcode senders will understand?

Fine, one more Q; Is anybody using CM for sending the gcode from vcarve to their S3? I use CM and GRBL Panel mostly, but try to stay with CM when possible. I’d love my workflow to consist of only two bits :slight_smile:


I use the Shapeoko (mm) PP in VCP, you can combine toolpaths with the same tool in one file. I create separate tool paths for each tool. I use Intelli g-code for the sender, as I have large files that I run and use WCS and it makes it easy to use.

Intelli g-code sender?

Intelligcode by software redefined.

1 Like

There’s been a bunch of discussion of this, and there are various post-processors listed at:

I believe that auto-tool change is a feature of some of them (insofar as the G-code will have a command for it, Carbide Motion will see it and then stop and prompt for the tool change).

@Lewscrew did you buy the full version of intelligcode, or does the hobbled version work well enough?

I guess the core tool-change question is, does CM support “standard” grbl tool-change commands? I believe it does…

I use CM3 to send VCP to grbl1 with no issues, other than it takes a minute to upload large files.
I dont update to new stuff until it’s old and stable :slight_smile:


FYI, VCarve Desktop will not produce toolpaths which take advantage of the full size of the XXL. You have to buy the Pro version to get an unlimited stock size.

VCP is really great software for 2.5D design, and CAM (toolpath generation) for 2.5D and 3D. It is my personal favorite CNC software hands down. I use Openscad (free and open source) for 3D design.

CM is fine for machine control (I also use UGS, which is free and open source, because CM doesn’t support touch plates). But I recommend against a “one big file with tool changes” workflow no matter what machine control software you use. Separate files per tool is much more flexible, less frustrating, and makes for easier error recovery. Unless you are running really short jobs the workflow difference is trivial. IMO tool changes in the gcode start to become useful as opposed to a problem once your machine has an automatic tool changer. And if you find a reasonable and cheap one of those for these machines you’ll be my hero.


There have been a couple of efforts in the automatic tool changer space:

@mpfreivald wise words all around, thank you! I’m aware of the 24x24" limit of VCD, but adding those extra ~6 inches would cost me another $300 - unless you can spot me? :slight_smile:

You make some really great points regarding the monolithic job, error recovery being the one that struck me most. I’ll stick with individual jobs for each tool for now. In fact, as I type this, I’ve got the VCD “trial” Grocery Board going.

My CM alternative has been GRBL Panel, which has really been excellent, mainly due to it’s “power”. It exposes EVERYTHING to you about GRBL. However for a sorta-newbie, this has occasionally led to bumps and bangs, so to speak. I’m still in search of that goldie zone machine control, somewhere between grbl panel and CM.

I have an XXL and VCarve Desktop. Honestly once I made my secondary waste board and trammed it flat there’s only a little over 30"x30" of usable space on the XXL not counting the overhang at the front, and so far the biggest thing I’ve cut was about 19" around. It was tempting to just throw down and buy Pro, but finally decided that until I have a project where I need all of the space and I can’t do it in CC I’ll just hold off. It doesn’t cost “extra” to upgrade at a later date other than the difference in price, but if it had been a $150 difference all at once, or $300 later I would have done it. I would say unless you have a specific project right now then save your money.



also tiling is an option vcarve desktop if you ever need to go bigger than 24"x24"


Awesome video, thanks for sharing that! I’ve got to wonder… why does vectric include the titling functionality in Desktop, if they tout 24" as a ‘limitation’? O_o

1 Like

In V Carve Desktop your workpiece can be any size, however it will only generate toolpaths 25"x25", which will accommodate many Desktop CNCs, thus the need for toolpath tiling.

I used Desktop for two years before upgrading to VCP, one year standard SO3, one year on XXL.

1 Like

So its not clear to me anybody actually answered the question that was asked (love that Interweb) but I would be interested in the answer as well. In my case I have been using the generic grbl output for a couple of reasons but mostly because I am impatient and never scrolled to the bottom of the list :wink: I am using V9 Desktop but started with 8.5.

Lately I have had a lot of trouble carving some smallish letters in wood for a project for my daughter’s company so I think I may try the Shapeoko generator even though I just have a regular sized S3 and the Sparkfun ed (i.e. non-Carbide controller). I will post if I notice any difference.

1 Like

For smaller letters in wood, the problem more likely is the wood grain — things to try:

  • sharper bit angle — there’s a chart offering guidelines here:
  • leave a roughing clearance and spray the wood with lacquer or some other fixative, then make the finishing pass
  • use wood w/ a tighter grain
  • use the end grain instead
1 Like

I’ll answer my own question: I ran through the full demo of vcarve desktop, made one of the example project using the Shapeoko Inch post processor, run from CM. Flawless result. My only complaint is that NO tool change commands are in the gcode. When you hit “Run” there is no prompt for a tool change, it just Goes. But no issue there. I’ll make a more detailed post on my vcarve/cm thoughts here in a bit.

1 Like

I use VCarve Desktop on my XXL using the S03 millimeters post and it works well. One thing I do for tool changes is I name every tool path with toolpath name, bit used, and RPMs. So a tool path name might be something like, “1_Pocket1_125ball_24505”, then maybe my next toolpath would be named,"2_Profile1_250square_23948. Then I save each individual toolpath and load/run in sequence. This does a couple things 1) Tool changes are just like starting a new job, I have all of the bit data and RPMs to set my router to and 2) If a toolpath fails or freezes, I can run JUST that toolpath over again without editing GCode.



One thing I do for tool changes is I name every tool path with toolpath name, bit used, and RPMs.

I do the same thing, regardless of CAM program (I use VCarve Pro and Meshcam, mostly the former these days). I also sometimes put in the material in the filename, since the feeds and speeds are based off of that, and even the stock dimensions now and then. It can be a lot of metadata but my machine is two floors away from where I do CAD/CAM. Metadata could be put into the gcode as a comment probably, but the filename is right there.

Instead of starting a new thread I will resurrect this one: So I bought VCarve Desktop v9 this past weekend and designed something quickly, set all the toolpaths, and they previewed correctly. I use the Shapeoko (inches) Post-processor that’s included and it was a disaster. It almost broke my Suckit boot (thank god for me being smart enough to have an E-stop button), so I removed it. Then it would only go about 1.5% in the code before stalling. It did not stall on the same line each time (even if it did, I still would be unhappy as I don’t want to have to edit G-code every time) and it is not due to EM interference because I’ve been successfully using CC and Fusion to do CAD / CAM and CM to load the code without these kind of issues.

Kind of annoying for software that I paid a few hundred bucks for. Next steps to try I guess would be the built in Shapeoko (mm) processor and one of the ones from the wiki if that doesn’t work? Maybe the generic GRBL one?

Suggestions appreciated, even though I’m mainly just venting and pissed off right now.