What can I use on Linux for a Shapeoko Pro?

I know this is an often asked question. I’ve searched and seen threads from back in 2016 and discussions of this on Reddit and other places. I originally bought my Shapeoko over a year ago and was going to set it up when other issues came up, like flooding that wiped out the road to our barn (where my workshop is) and other issues. So now it’s a year later, I’m trying to get back into this, and I’ve run into some issues.

I was originally going to use Carbide’s software on an iMac I was going to set up in my workshop, but, for a number of reasons, that won’t work now. I’m going to have to run my Shapeoko from Linux, maybe even from a Raspberry Pi. I’m using Blender to create STL files, so the Linux stage is going from importing an STL file to controlling the system for output. Also, one issue I have is that we’re on rural internet. Systems that depend on the cloud or a guaranteed connection to the internet can be a problem here!

I’d prefer, at this point, something that’s open source or at least free (as in beer) for now. Since I’m a newbie, I basically want to start with a program that will let me do basic things while I’m learning how to use the system. I figure once I’ve gained experience, I’ll have the experience to make my own decisions on what software to use as I move up and find out what I want to do that my first program won’t do.

Once I’ve reached that point, I won’t mind paying for software, but I won’t be using something like Fusion360, which is more for rental than purchase, and which requires a cloud connection. I’m interested in software I pay for once (or at each upgrade), or is free, and which does not require the internet to work. (I know - you need the network to upgrade, but I don’t want to be trying to make something and be forced to stop because our internet is down.)

Wow, you’re a tough customer.

You’re going to need two things:

  • A CAM package. This is the bit that turns the STL into a list of instructions for the machine. “Turn on the spindle, move here, then there, then there again, then up, then right, then down” etc.
  • A G-Code sender. This is how your computer takes the instructions you generated in CAM and gives them to the Shapeoko.

Two popular options for the G-code sender are cncjs and UGS. Personally, I prefer CNCjs of the two, because you can access it from a browser on another computer (e.g. a tablet/iPad).

The hard part here is CAM. Frankly, there isn’t a good CAM package for Linux. I think the closest you can get is FreeCAD’s Path workbench but this is very new and IMO FreeCAD is a pain to use.

I’d strongly recommend you give up this idea on Linux. I’m not saying this because I hate Linux or OSS or anything. Linux is my day-to-day OS and it has some great free software like Blender, Darktable and various video and audio tools. It doesn’t, however, have a good CAM package.

If you go down this path, rather than learn how to use CAM, you’re going to be learning how to work around the many flaws of CAM on Linux.

You can use Fusion 360 offline for 2 weeks at a time, so you’re not going to be stuck because your internet connection is down. The free version, though it has much-criticised limitations, is still the best free CAM package around.

I’d really recommend you start learning with Fusion 360 on a Windows machine and then think about whether you want to try another CAM package. Fusion 360 has basically everything you could want from a basic CAD/CAM package, so you’ll be making a more educated decision when you look at your “forever” CAM package.

I had forgotten just how the stages worked - still “reloading” everything I learned when I was researching which CNC to get. More thoughts on this later in the post.

Great! I kept researching after I finished writing the post and I found my old bookmarks (I had mis-categorized the folder!). I found both of those and was looking into them. Hearing from someone with experience is a big help!

I think I have that part solved - although it takes some travelling. My barn is a 500’ walk from the house. That’s not much, but my iMac is in my study, in the house. I was going to upgrade and put the older iMac in the workshop, but now I’m not going to upgrade until the new M1 27" iMacs are out. (Not wasting money on an interim machine.)

For the shorter term, until I can upgrade the iMac, I can do the first 2 stages (design and generating instructions - that’s in grbl, isn’t it?) on the iMac. I mention the travelling because I’m hoping there aren’t many cases where I’d design an object, generate the code for it, walk it down to the barn, then find errors I have to fix back up in the house. So I can probably do most of the work in the house, then send the files to the barn computer and use that to control the Shapeoko.

Also, and I had forgotten this, I think there’s a path generation plug-in that people are using on Blender for this. I have to check on that.

I would love to have more control over the situation. The problem is I have several tools (including the CNC) that will be generating a lot of sawdust, so I’ve been able to set a corner aside for the computer that includes plastic curtains to keep sawdust away. The only place I could put the Shapeoko is too far away for a reliable signal with a USB cable. I considered using converters to send it over ethernet, but that’s seriously problematical.

I think I’m going to have to set up a Raspberry Pi close to the Shapeoko and use VNC or something from the workstation to control the CNC system. I’m also looking into something called USB/IP that lets me control a USB port through IP on my LAN. If that works, when I finally get the iMac moved down there, it’ll mean I can do it all from the Mac.

I get what you’re saying about dealing with CAM on Linux. I love using Linux, but there are things you just can’t do on there - unless you want to write your own software. Can’t do Windows, though, unless I buy a box just for this. I haven’t used Windows since around 2000. If Fusion360 works on a Mac, I can look into that for the sample period, which would help me figure out where to go from there.

Technically that will work fine but at first especially, there will be a lot of cases where you’ll need to make little tweaks to get things right. Maybe you can work around that by generating a bunch of G-code with different feeds and speeds ahead of time or something but if possible, I’d consider whether you can connect to the Mac from the barn, or take a laptop with you or something.

If you’re open to networking the barn, 500ft of direct-burial ethernet cable is $70, or point-to-point wireless looks to be $120 per end. You’d still need another computer to remotely access the Mac but that computer doesn’t need any special hardware, something like a Raspberry Pi (e.g. the one you connect to the Shapeoko) would work just fine. That way you can remotely connect to CAM, make your changes, then copy the file over to the barn.

In your situation, what I’d recommend is:

  • Connect a Raspberry Pi to the Shapeoko
  • Set up a nicer computer elsewhere in the barn
  • Connect the Raspberry Pi to the nicer computer using Ethernet or Wifi (the Raspberry Pi can act as a Wifi router if you want)
  • Generate G-code on the nicer computer and dump it on the Raspberry Pi using a network share
  • Run the G-code on the Raspberry Pi, either with a touchscreen at the Shapeoko (I’d recommend that, see this thread) or with cncjs or VNC from the nicer computer

Your idea about using VNC or something when you move the Mac will work but you really want all the CNC controls to be within reach of the Shapeoko so that you can move it around while you watch it (e.g. touching off the side of some stock).

I’d recommend against USB/IP or anything other than a direct USB connection for the thing sending the G-code. You want G-code sending to be failure-proof as much as possible. If you use USB/IP and someone trips over a network cable or something, it could ruin several hours of work.

It does work on a Mac, though it needs to be running a relatively recent MacOS.

And the basic version is free forever, not just a trial. You only need to pay if you want some of the nicer features, which are definitely worth it in my opinion but you can live without them.

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CAD/CAM options for Linux are few in number:

  • FreeCAD
  • Blender w/ BlenderCAD and BlenderCAM
  • anything which will make an STL and pyCAM
  • LibreCAD and dxf2gcode
  • SolveSpace works for 3D mechanical CAD and has limited CAM options

and the various online options such as OnShape, Kiri:Moto, &c. will work.

There were lists on the Shapeoko wiki — if you wish, you can check them on the Wayback Machine:

For Communication/Control there’s CM on an rPi:


or you can use one of the other programs — the Grbl folks have a list:

I repurposed an old iMac that could not be updated to the current macOS versions required by Carbide Motion or Carbide Create.

I downloaded the Windows 10 install media from Microsoft, put it on a DVD, put the DVD into the iMac, then booted the iMac and did a clean install of Windows 10 (removing OSX).

If this is palatable, it will give you a system that can run Carbide Create or VCarve.

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I’m doing a multi-reply instead of replying to each post. Is that okay in this forum, or are separate posts for each response preferred?

Okay, again, the kind of thing an experienced person can tell me that I don’t know about, so thanks!

I get so used to remote access for my Linux systems (several Pis and a couple servers or workstations) I forget I can use remote access to reach my Mac as well.

Networking between the house and barn is in place and works well. The short version is it’s fiber optic and we’ve had problems with lightning in this area. (I’m guessing I never had that issue in my old house because it was in the suburbs. Maybe the nearby powerlines work as lightning rods?) I’ve added details about that at the end of the post. It’s a longer story, but some of the points in there actually have made a difference, one way or the other in any networking setup I’m doing.

I think what’ll work is using screen sharing on my iMac and VNC on the Linux system. I’ll do the main work in the house, then when it comes to experimenting, I’ll connect from the barn to the iMac to do the CAD on the Mac. Since I use Blender, that works on both the Mac and Linux, so the only thing that has to run on the Mac is a good CAM program.

I’ve been warned about using any USB cable longer than about 12-15’ due to signal loss. I’ve also been worried about the hazard of cables on the floor. I have a networking line (in the wall and ceiling) running from the workstation to a box I’ve made on the ceiling above where the Shapeoko is, so tripping or disconnecting lines by accident won’t be an issue. (Again, info on that in the networking addition at the bottom - it works for ethernet, but I can’t do USB-over-ethernet on that line.) The distance from the workstation to the Shapeoko is not too far, but the distance through the wall, for cables, is about 25-30’.

Okay - I ran into issues trying to use Autocad for a demo period back when we were building the house. (The architect and I would send plans back and forth while working things out. I ended up using LibreCAD and, later Q-CAD on my end.) Because of that, I’ve had a bit of a trust issue with that company, but this sounds good!

I was seriously looking at the BlenderCAM plugin. Do you know anything about that or have you heard anything about how well it works? I like the idea of being able to use Blender (which I’m already using for 3D printing design and other work I’m doing) for both design and the CAM stage.

Just curious - is there any reason for not including Q-CAD among the CAD programs? I started on LibreCAD and moved to Q-CAD, which is only about $45US. (And it’s the base for LibreCAD.) (Oh - I bet it’s because I asked about free programs. Okay.)

I had forgotten about checking the Wayback Machine. I had seen several posts with links to the wiki and they were, of course, dead. (Anyone know why Carbide removed it?)

Great! CM on a Pi is a good choice, since I likely have to put the Pi in my ceiling box above the Shapeoko anyway. Also appreciate the links to the Grbl wiki!

Any idea how old a Mac that can be done with? I was running a software business in the timeframe from 2000-2010. At that time, one thing a lot of us loved about Linux was that we could take systems too old for Windows and use Linux on them and they’d work great. I guess that’s had me thinking of Windows as needing more than other OSes. I do have an old MacMini, but it’s from 2009!

What’s the cost for a copy of Windows 10 if I get it like that?

I’ve also seen a few comments in forums about people not wanting to use Windows for actual CNC control due to real time control issues. I don’t know if that’s a legitimate concern or a bias. Any thoughts on that?

Networking for our house and barn: I’ve added this as separate because there’s a fair amount here and I felt I should include it, since some of this can impact what I’m doing with the Shapeoko.

Short version: House and barn are connected. The workstation and the Shapeoko can be connected by ethernet easily, but not via a USB extender.

Detailed version: When we bought this lot, it had an old pig barn (unused for decades) on it. We built the house and renovated the barn and I had to run a 500’ trench from the house to the barn for water, power, and for sewage to be pumped back to the house’s septic system. When I did that, I also put in a conduit to use for fiber optic cable. The barn had two trenches that run the length of the floor, both 2x2’. We had to cover the floor with a new concrete floor and that turned the trenches into tunnels. The fiber came in the same service entrance as the water, power, and sewage lines. I connected it to a fiber/ethernet converter and had about 50’ of cable, 35’ in the tunnel, running to an ethernet switch.

(I briefly considered a wireless connection between the buildings, but there’s no way that’d work reliably during leaf out times.)

The fiber works great, but we have had issues with lightning strikes blowing out ethernet lines and equipment, both in the barn and house. That includes the switch in the barn that was connected to that 50’ cable from the fiber/ethernet converter. That’s been blown out and replaced multiple times. My electrician and I finally decided that was from nearby lightning strikes and as it discharged through the ground in that area. (Which makes me very thankful to my cousin for recommending we run fiber underground instead of CAT5 or CAT6!) I replaced that 50’ cable with fiber this summer. We haven’t had enough time after I did that to verify it won’t blow out again, but I seriously doubt it will!

The lighting blow-outs have been to devices connected to cables either in that tunnel or above the 2nd floor roof in both buildings. (There’s an attic in the house, but very little space between the ceiling and roof in the barn.) I never had this issue living in the suburbs, which makes me wonder if power lines act as lightning rods and attract lightning.

In the workshop, I ran fiber from an outlet near the workstation computer, through the wall, up, between the roof and ceiling, to a spot over where the Shapeoko and my table saw go, in the middle of the floor. (That makes handling larger wood for either easier and makes it possible for me to tile designs with the Shapeoko.) There are also power outlets in the ceiling near that spot and a box on the ceiling where I can put a Raspberry Pi or a few other things.

My original idea was to use a USB converter/extender that changes the USB to ethernet and later, converts back to a USB output. I tested the extender/converter system and it works. I’ve also tested the fiber line from the computer to the ceiling box and it works. The problem is the USB converter uses ethernet lines, but does not send an ethernet signal, so I can’t use the USB extender to run from the workstation to the Shapeoko. However, ethernet between the two is no problem, whether I run it through the main LAN or just a direct workstation to Pi connection.

I’m not about to run any ethernet cables alongside the fiber. 4 1/2 years of dealing with the serious storms we get out here and having equipment blown out makes me want to avoid running any ethernet in the 2nd floor area or near the roof that I don’t have to run. I’m tired of equipment blow-outs!

So the house and barn are connected and on the same LAN. (Wifi SSIDs are different.) The LAN has a connection in the ceiling above the Shapeoko, but since it’s not just ethernet cable, but is fiber, USB extenders won’t work over it.

Personally I’d say one for everything is preferred.

FWIW you can buy a Windows 10 Pro key for ~$10 and use the official Microsoft tools to create the installation media. I did this a couple months ago for a new computer that came with spyware telemetry-laden Windows Home.

Not an issue for Carbide 3D machines because GRBL is handling the real-time aspects. Windows just needs to feed GRBL G-code, which isn’t hard and has no real-time requirements. I think these people are probably talking about systems where you use a parallel port and have the PC itself generate step pulses.

Damn, you were thinking ahead! I’m about to have 25Gbps internet installed at home and I don’t even have fibre between the two rooms!

To be clear, I just suggested the Ethernet cable and wireless because I assumed you didn’t have networking yet. Honestly I felt a bit silly saying “network your barn”, I never would have suspected you already had fibre.

It sounds like you’re against putting the Raspberry Pi near the Shapeoko. Is that just because you don’t want it getting covered in sawdust or something? How about putting it in a sealed case, like a repurposed cable junction box or something? Then you could run a short Ethernet cable from a media converter in the ceiling to the Raspberry Pi for connectivity to elsewhere.

It’s free. It turns off some features like the ability to change the background, and it puts up a reminder for you to buy a copy, but it keeps working.

The iMac I used was a mid 2007 model.

We’ve had a couple of customers mention that they use BlenderCAD/CAM successfully — it’s one of the options I’ve been meaning to look into, thought it’s not quite exactly what I want (next effort is on Ryven and PythonOCC once I’ve finished up my current BlockSCAD/OpenSCAD/Carbide Create technique).

Assumed for Linux you wanted opensource — yes, Q-CAD should work well w/ dxf2gcode or some other CAM tool which will accept DXFs.

Big question is what sort of work do you wish to do and how do you wish to approach it?

The wiki and old Shapeoko forums went down because Tim Foreman who was hosting it moved, and his new home doesn’t allow for the previous setup of him physically having the server in his home. As to why it hasn’t been brought back up, @edwardrford would have to speak to that — I’d guess it’s because I abused it by using it as my personal notebook, and it got too large to easily keep up-to-date. Not sure what, if anything will be done for the future. If folks want to re-home the content, that should be fine, so long as it’s done w/in the parameters of the CC-SA license which was used for the wiki.

Good - easier for me, but different forums have different preferences.

I’m keeping the Windows option open. It might work as a short term option until the new M1 27" iMacs come out. When that happens, I upgrade my study system (where I also do video editing and other video work that makes a 27" monitor quite useful!), and I move my current iMac down to the workshop. It looks like as long as I’m using a Win or Mac system, I have a good choice of software. Taking an old box and putting Windows on it may give me a good option until I upgrade and move the iMac down there.

Thank you for noticing! I did MAJOR planning for the house and barn. I used CAT5e or CAT6 whenever and wherever possible and RG11 instead of RG6, but you have to be careful with that because some devices are made for the smaller core wire in RG6, so using RG11 can lead to wear on the connector. I had no idea that lightning could be an issue for cables in the ground, but I’m lucky my cousin knew that! I included all the other info because I’ve found I never can be sure what about my setup can be important to those trying to help me.

Yeah, I didn’t realize it sounded that way, but you did pick up on something. I’m VERY frustrated that the USB extender to let me run a USB connection from my workstation to the ceiling box didn’t work. I’m also lucky I have that cable there, since I can put a Pi there. I think, at this point, that’s going to have to happen. At least a Pi is easy to protect - doesn’t take much to put a box with screen around it to keep out sawdust.

I will be trying the USB/IP solution. It may or may not work. I’m still stuck, for the moment, with only Linux in the shop - but it’s clear there are other ways to deal with the lack of CAM software for Linux at this point (until I get the iMac down there).

Good - even older than mine! :wink:

Glad to hear that people like the BlenderCAM plugin! As I’ve mentioned, I’m using Blender for others stuff. For instance, since my workshop is on the 2nd floor, I need a deck to make bringing up plywood and other large items into the shop. I did the deck design and blueprints on Blender - using a plugin of my own to add notes and stuff. I want to write another plugin to make blueprints easier to do from Blender. I like the idea I can use Blender for STL files for my printer, for making blueprints of large things, AND for doing CNC design - including using the plugin for the CAM work. (My understanding, last I checked, was there are limits on the versions that plugin works within for Blender.)

No problem. I like open source - really do - but it sometimes has drawbacks. But thanks for noticing what I was trying to work with.

I’m still learning. I’m probably going to start with printing signs to pay for the device, but there are other things I want to do in terms of prototyping and creating my own products. I think, between the Shapeoko and Creality 3D printer, there is a lot I can do, for both making just simple things and making cases for other projects, like a nice case for a remote control I’m thinking of making. I’m sure, as I get used to what I’m doing, I’ll want to do more. I’m also thinking eventually I would buy a laser attachment for it, as well.

@WillAdams, while you’re here, another question - USB is the only way to communicate with the Shapeoko, right? (Just verifying!)

The other CAM option for Blender is to export an STL which you can then use as an input for some traditional CAM option — pyCAM might work, or MeshCAM, or FreeCAD, or possibly Kiri:Moto.

The projects you describe should work well w/ Carbide Create (some folks have gotten it to run in WINE) or you could look into F-Engrave.

The Carbide Motion board only talks over USB, but you could attach a Raspberry Pi, then communicate w/ the RPi over a network connection.

I have seen pyCAM in my bookmarks - I haven’t had time to look it over. The advantage to BlenderCAM is that I could use that in Blender on Linux without issue. Again, the Linux workstation is a short-term solution. (And I’m betting pyCAM is OS agnostic, too.)

Having it work with WINE would be nice. Just for my education, what kind of thing would not work well with Carbide Create? I probably should look this up, but isn’t that for the design work? Or does it do the CAM work, too, then I take the output and use UGS or the Pi version of Carbide Motion?

You mention a board. Do you mean in the Shapeoko or is there a board I can get for that to put in a computer? (I’m assuming you mean the Shapeoko logic board.) When you talk about using a Pi and communicating with the Pi over network, do you mean just using something like VNC to control a g-code sender, or is there some other way to do this, with the sender on a workstation, sending information to a program on the Pi that talks directly to the CNC?

Not to speak for Will but I can answer and I figure he wouldn’t mind you getting feedback sooner rather than later.

Carbide Create does both CAM.

Carbide Create’s biggest limitation is that it operates in 2D. If your design can be expressed by stacking 2D cuts, it’ll work. If it can’t, it won’t.

Whether that’ll be a problem for you will depend on what you’re making. For example this box for Valentine’s day should be totally doable in Carbide Create (he may have done so, I wasn’t sure though). Stuff like this and this can be made by cutting multiple 2D pieces then joining them together.

However stuff with 3D geometry that has slopes and curves like this or this can’t really be done in the standard version of Carbide Create. It can however be done in the upgraded Carbide Create Pro, though you need to figure out how to turn your STL into a heightmap so you can import it.

Carbide 3D also supplies MeshCAM, I believe. That program operates in 3D.

“Carbide Motion” refers to two things:

  • The PC software that talks to your Shapeoko or Nomad.
  • The circuit board that runs GRBL, hidden away in a box on your machine.

Will’s referring to the latter here.

The “program that talks directly to the CNC” is the G-code sender. I suspect Will’s talking about accessing Carbide Motion over VNC here.

But I’ll again point to CNCjs:

  • The CNCjs server runs on the Raspberry Pi, which talks directly to the CNC.
  • The CNCjs interface runs in any web browser that has access to the same network.

So your latter ask is basically satisfied by CNCjs: your workstation can access CNCjs through a browser, upload G-code to it, tell it to run the G-code, move the machine around, or anything else a G-code sender on the Pi could ask the Pi to do.

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@Moded1952 got it right. Thanks!

To expand on the Carbide Create limitations — the 3D stuff requires either:

  • getting Pro — this is best suited to decorative work though
  • a judicious use of V carving and contour toolpaths w/ V endmills if the angle match up w/ a V endmill which you have

I’ve been trying to do various sorts of joinery, and I’ve got a couple of ideas for joints which are simply impossible to reasonably represent in CC (and one which I have yet to find a CAD/CAM tool which will allow me to design and make G-Code for — the math is hard).

MeshCAM requires a file from a 3D CAD program.

Did boxes such as the Valentine’s Day box at:


Need to revisit that technique, but stymied by the programming of it (really in love w/ Blockly and so forth) — maybe if I could work up some way to do Literate Programming using visual designs — anyone else a fan of Herman Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game?

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So Carbide Create is limited to 2D. I can make what I understand are 2 1/2 D designs, but not true 3D.

I take it that’s just a software limit? In other words, if I use Blender and BlenderCAM or pyCAM or various other CAM packages (and I’ve figured I need to run my CAM software on my iMac), then I won’t have the same limits?

I thought so, but I asked, just in case there was something else I could do. While I’ve used VNC, X, and ssh heavily over the years to access remote systems, my experience is that the GUI remote connections can have a lag that irritates me. (Even now, with multiple Raspberry Pis in the house and barn, I often use ssh or VNC to work on a computer across the room - easier than going back and forth sometimes!)

As of now, I’m thinking this will be my setup:

Design: Blender, both on the Mac (in the house) and Linux (in the barn).

CAM: Not sure yet, considering BlenderCAM, have to look into pyCAM, or others, but whatever it is, it will likely run on my Mac and I’ll often be using it via VNC from my Linux workstation. (Until I upgrade to a new Mac in the study and can move the current one to the workshop.)

GCode Sending: No matter what, I’ll need a Pi in my ceiling box, with a USB cable dropping down to the Shapeoko. I can use CNCjs or UGS on the Pi. If USB/IP works fine, I could even use UGS or something else on the Linux workstation and connect to the USB line remotely. I can connect the Pi to the main LAN or, if latency is an issue with something like USP/IP, I can use an ethernet connection directly from the workstation to the Pi.

In all honesty, I’m hoping USB/IP works well and I can just run everything on the Mac or workstation and the Pi basically serves as a relay. I have a 3D printer that doesn’t need USB control, but I want to be able to use that and I have a few other devices that will likely be connected to the Pi. In this case, with just the Shapeoko, you can see how much discussion it’s taken to get to this point. I admit a lot of that is because of my lack of experience, but I don’t want to go through this with other devices as well - if it can be avoided.

I’m hoping to test USB/IP today on several devices. I’m thinking of testing it on a USB drive and a game controller to see how well it works. I’ll report back what I find.

Carbide Create is a 2.5D CAD/CAM app:


which has an optional Pro mode which adds 3D modeling and toolpaths and an engraving toolpath:


Not sure why you’d need USB/IP — just connect the RPi to the machine and run Carbide Motion on it, then connect to the RPi over the network connection and control it using VNC or something similar.

But that’s just CC, right? Other CAM apps will be able to handle true 3D from something like an STL file, right?

3 reasons:

  1. The lag I often see on VNC drives me crazy. True, it’s functional and I can do what I need, but often there’s a lag. (I’m also looking at forwarding X, as I’ve done before, and seeing if that goes faster.)

  2. I’m doing this, now, with the Shapeoko. I’m also using a 3D printer and there are a few other devices that, in the long run, will be hooked up. If I can use USB/IP, then, after upgrade time, I can run everything on the Mac I’ll have in the shop, eliminating the issue of VNC or another remote desktop.

  3. It’s hard to find support on all 3 OSes (Windows, Mac, Linux). some support Linux and not Mac, but those are few. Most support Mac and not Linux. So if I can use USB/IP, I can run everything on the Mac and not have to worry about finding Linux supported software for every tool I hook up to the Pi.

Remember, my original design was to run USB-over-ethernet-cable to the ceiling connector, but I found out that won’t work since I used fiber for that line. So, in the long run, if the Pi can basically act as a USB hub and I can connect to everything on it with USB/IP from my Mac, that lets me go with my original plans.

(Note: USB/IP, in the original form, is for Windows and Linux, but there are a number of people who have extended this to support Mac and add features to it.)

I think you’ve got the point, yes.

However I’d think of Carbide Create as a 2D CAM package more than 2.5D, as it’s mostly just able to repeat 2D toolpaths at different depths. You’re still limited to 2D features.

If you look at a more complete package like Fusion 360, it’s able to make much better use of 2.5D toolpaths: it will automatically generate different toolpaths at different depths.

Each depth is still a 2D toolpath but since you have a different toolpath at each level, you can generate more flexible geometry. Think of topological contour lines. They’re all 2D but they’re at different heights. Combine them and you can model terrain.

Yes, it’s a limitation of Carbide Create, not the machine.

Usually, yes. If you were remoting to a Windows machine, I’d strongly recommend Parsec and if you were remoting to a Linux machine I’d recommend Xpra. Both of those options are basically zero perceptible lag for me.

Apparently Parsec has a Mac preview so maybe worth a look.

If you’re mainly making cosmetic objects with no tolerances, fits or assembly, like statutes or something, that might be fine. If you’re going to do anything mechanical though, I’d strongly recommend you move both your CAD and CAM to Fusion 360.

Blender is a fantastic tool for artists but it’s neither intended nor suited for mechanical design or manufacturing.

If you’re not aware of the difference, the short of it is: Blender is a tool for making your artistic vision come to life. It’s about allowing you to make things that look the way you want. A CAD package is a tool for designing mechanical objects that meet the design requirements.

If you need a part that has even a single important measurement associated with it (e.g. the distance between two holes or the size of a PCB that will be held inside your object), you probably want CAD, not Blender.

I’d still recommend sticking the Pi on the Shapeoko rather than relying on a long USB cable. The shorter, the less prone to interference and therefore the better.

+1. I think at this point USB/IP might just be lodged in your head @Tango. With cncjs or Carbide Create + VNC, you should be set already.

And actually, on further thought, I see a problem here that I assumed was clear but maybe wasn’t: You need an interface next to the Shapeoko.

It’s essential to be able to interact with the machine controller while you’re standing at the machine. It’s not good enough to have the computer running the controller running on the other side of the room, unless you have some way of interacting with it while you’re standing next to the Shapeoko.

This is essential for tons of reasons:

  • You want to be actively supervising the machine from the very instant it starts a job. If the spindle doesn’t start or the machine starts plunging where it shouldn’t, you need to be able to react quickly and shut it down.

  • You want to be able to move the machine manually while you move stuff around or use your eyes. For example for touching off stock or aligning stuff.

  • So you can play with feed override while you watch the cut.

There are more but I can’t think of more off the top of my head.

For much the same reasons, you want the machine controlling the Shapeoko to be directly connected to it with a USB cable.

I’d really very strongly recommend that for your setup, you get a screen of some kind for the Raspberry Pi and directly wire it to the Shapeoko with USB. There are cheap touchscreens which work well and are super convenient, or you can use an old monitor (or the cheapest shittiest one you can find).

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