Hello one and all. I am delighted to report that my Shapeoko SO3 has finally arrived. It was delivered at around 12:50 this afternoon. The weather was lashing with rain and the package left by a gentleman who was much smaller than the box. He said his goodbyes and shouted “it’s heavy mate”. I brought the box inside my home and set about uncovering the contents and putting them into the place they would eventually reside.
First impressions are what a really nice piece of engineering the Shapeoko SO3 is. I set to work by laying out and arranging parts in the order they would be required, while taking some time out to admire the quality of the workmanship. Eating some home made banana cake and drinking a hot 500ml mug of tea, I set to work. Pictures usually help to tell a story so I have some pix for you to look at. First, that package. I am sure that many people will remember having to haul one of these packages into their home.
I transferred everything from the box to the (workshop) shed and laid out the individual boxes and printed the Shapeoko assembly guide.
The first job was to unpack the frame and the baseboard and put them together. It was a relatively easy task to line up the screws with the holes in the baseboard and then loosely screw the items together for later adjustment. I figured the task would be dropping the screws through the pre-drilled holes and lining up the screw holes with the holes in the baseboard. I managed that well enough but some of the screws were difficult to turn.
I took the metal frames apart from the baseboard and on inspection, I noticed that some holes had paint on the thread of the screw holes. Out of 12 screw threads, 3 were as expected, 9 offered some resistance to the screw and out of that 9 threads which resisted the screw turning, 4 were able to stop the screw turning after it had been started.
I was a little surprised but I could understand how the issue arose. I selected an intermediate tap and cleaned each of the threads. Once the paint was removed, there was no difficulty in inserting the screws and turning them. Pix follow… in the first image, the highlighted area depicts a thread which is painted.
The next image shows one of the holes with an intermediate tap in a tap wrench, just sitting in the hole after cleaning the paint from it.
This image shows the paint removed from a hole by the tap. The removed paint is resting on a cardboard box that Carbide 3D pack their goods in. You will see that some of the fragments are quite large and the fragment at the bottom left of the frame has adopted the shape of the thread.
Another issue which I discovered early on in the assembly process was the electrical plug. I cannot be certain but I believe it is an American pattern of plug for wall sockets. I had to find a UK standard plug to fit the power supply. The fitting on the power brick is commonly issued here too. We refer to that as a three pin ‘kettle’ lead fitting.
The UK plug is fused and earthed and the line and neutral pins are also insulated in a way that prevents an unintentional contact with the pins. Finally, the wall socket has a sprung plastic shield keeping the socket closed until the longer earth pin is inserted.
The image is of the plug which was supplied in the Carbide 3D box. It cannot be used here in the UK because it is not fused and the pin configuration and shape will not fit UK wall socket outlets.
The next images show the standard UK plug from the front and top. These are clear images of theplug and its fuse compartment and standard approved UK pin configuration.
Pin configuration and fuse.
Insulated pins and long earth pin to open the wall socket.
Once the frame was assembled, it was time to move on to the axes carriages starting with the Z/X axis. Here there was a need to attach a tram plate, stepper motor, the router mount and open the V wheels. I felt that it was a simple task because the illustrated assembly guide was a great step by step set of instructions and I found it very helpful.
Trying to find the smallest hole in the tram plate was not quite as easy a task as it should have been. I was reasonably sure that I had the tram plate oriented correctly (semicircular cutout at the bottom) to match the same shape in the carriage. The plate was a different design to the illustration in the assembly guide and could usefully point to the cutout for orientation.
The small hole to be placed on the left top of the tram plate was a different matter. A choice of two should be an easy task (a 50% chance of being wrong). Both holes were roughly the same size. I used the unthreaded portion of the 55mm long screw to try and see how much play there was. I eventually settled on one and taped it so I would know how to position the tram plate later.
I would suggest that all of the holes except the top left fixed normal sized hole, are created similar to an oval fishplate on a railway line. The very small movements currently offered for tramming correction may not be sufficient to permit easy adjustment. (just a thought…) Failing that idea, it should be possible to nick the corner of the hole which was intended to be non adjustable. The nick would be covered by the head of the fixing screw. This would eliminate searching for the correct orientation.
Fitting the four tram plate retaining screws was problematic but I just retapped the holes and the screws went in easily. The image shows the swarf that came from the tram plate fixation holes, after tapping.It appeared to be metal to my eyes.
The Z/X axis carriage was not done with me yet. I was about to add the stepper motor and found that the 30mm stand-off hollow pins were all loose. A slot cut across the top of each stand-off cylinder would have allowed them to be tightened. As it was, I applied a screw to the thread and tightened both the stand-off and the screw. I was careful not to jam the screw into the stand-off and the items have stayed put. the stepper motor was added. It reminds me to mention that the illustration in the assembly guide might well have been used to confirm the orientation of the stepper motor.
Attaching the router mounting and opening the V wheels was completed without fault. Time to move on and open the V wheels on the two Y axes. Once again, this proved to be an easy and faultless operation. Both Y axes had two screw holes drilled in the outside aspect. The assembly guide had suggested that only Y1 required two screw holes. I understood that Y2 would be left undrilled.
Assembling the rails was the next task. There was a warning note about pre-screwing into the extrusions because of the possibility of swarf in the screw thread, making cross-threading easy. This was the most frustrating part of assembly thus far… The extrusions have a thread on the inside of a tunnel that is not a complete 360 degrees in shape. This probably gives the inserted screw an opportunity to move outside the boundaries of the metal which are described by the thread.
My curiosity has been raised. I would like to ask a question out of my technical curiosity (providing the answer is not commercially sensitive) about why the threaded material of the extrusions is not complete. It is likely that the female thread is not as efficient as a holding device for the male thread, when 10% or more of the female thread is missing. The extrusions are well made with a substantial 5mm wall thickness. The next image clearly shows swarf in the threaded section on the upper left of the image.
What was the technical rationale behind the decision to not offer a fully threaded section to join each of the extrusions to the other components? My supplementary question is the natural corollary to any assessment of the technical rationality for not using a complete threaded section in the extrusions. Would some cross threading be prevented by the addition of a significant chamfer and lead-in to the thread?
Final images are the assembly showing the free running gantry. All that remains is applying the belts, squaring again, tramming and tightening all loose screws. Additionally, there will be the installation of the electrics and the trim router. Once I am happy that everything is working as it should, I will add the JTech laser to the mix.
The bed was evelled in 9 different places in a cartesian X-Y pattern and then a further 6 places in an isometric pattern including the centre from each direction. Spirit level was reading level at all 15 points.
A work in progress…
Well, that’s my day’s work for now and I will start again tomorrow. Please do not think I am complaining. I have really enjoyed assembling my Shapeoko SO3 and I am glad I made the choice to buy some great engineering and fantastic support.
One final question for the science buffs. I have placed the Shapeoko on a very dense 12mm thick rubber mat. I was hoping to dampen or remove any resonant frequencies and have a quieter and more stable machine. I wondered if using a seismographic phone app will detect much in the way of difference between measurements made with the feet included and measurements made with the whole frame resting on the rubber mat, which is incredibly dense and weighs almost 40lbs. Thanks for any assistance. Goodnight all.