What's better than ONE CM controller? Two of course

This project has been forever on my to-do list, and this weekend I finally had the opportunity to start on my “dual controller” Shapeoko3 XXL. I really like the Carbide tool chain and workflow, and I also really like the Estlcam CNC Controller and it’s cool collection of controls. Hence I’ve decided to combine the 2 controllers into a single box, allowing me the on demand choice of either of these great controls. I’ve decided to leave the homing switches on the GRBL controller and run the ESTL CNC controller without.

My next step is to layout, implement, and integrate the controller board selector controls, so for now I’m simply connecting one board or the other (GRBL or ESTL controller) as the project demands. In addition, I’ll be adding a collection of extended manual operators that both GRBL and ESTL support.


Finally, the next installment in my dual-controller saga…

I’ve been manually connecting/disconnecting power, steppers, and USB for awhile, but since we’re out of the deep freeze now I can actually get back to work in the shop. I’ve since added a USB hub so both boards are connected in with a single cable to my laptop. In addition I finally have completed the “switching” control PCB:

This control will switch the (4) stepper connections and the 24V power switching to the GRBL or ESTL controllers (which get “series’d” thru my E-Stop switch). There’s also a 12V linear regulator to power up the wireless AC remote controls that run my dust collection vac and router. I’ll snap some additional pics when this is populated up with the components and connectors.

The PCB was designed using Eagle (using just a board design, no schematic) . The CAM was generated using the PCB-GCODE ULP and was cut with 0.03125" and 0.0625" end mills. The drill file was a 2-tool job, and the secret I found was to set both Z heights to 1.5" above the work surface so Carbide Motion would pause retracted high enough to swap bits (the CAM didn’t seem to pay attention to the tool-change height). I gauged the first tool against the work surface with a fixed tool protrusion length, and when tool #2 went in, I set it at the same exposed length as tool #1. With slight overdrill depths, this method worked well with Carbide Motion employing multiple tool changes in a single job.


wow @jimidi great work,cant wait to see it in action :slight_smile:

1 Like

Thanks, Mark!

Not bad for a Shapeoko, and I coaxed into running a 2-tool / single job CAM operations. I’ll have this assembled over the weekend and post another update.

Next on design list is the actuator for this switch monstrosity.


Looks really cool Jim, looking forward to seeing the finished product!


1 Like

Switcher board, part deux:

After closer inspection of the prior attempt, I had a couple pad bridges I failed to notice during the CAM preview and the final product around the regulator pads. I also flubbed on the adjacent molex connector placement (a ‘cut and pastry’ mistake as well call them). With that, I reworked the layout shaving a good 5/8" inches of overall width:

Underside traces:

With top-side components:

I’ll start assembly and cable attachment later this evening, and begin the “ring-out” of all the connections. When that’s finalized I can start on the monster operator to switch controllers “on demand”.


Update on my switcher project:

I have completed all the interconnecting cables that originate from my board. This required a whole bunch of fiddly hand-work, and without the Molex crimping tool this would have been even more onerous than it already was. All in all happy with my results, so it’s onto the next stage (there are still too many “to-do” stages at this stage).


The latest update… talk about a “hydra” of a contraption?

I finally got all the cabling wired up and soldered in. I had an inkling as to the rats nest of wiring, however I still believe this is manageable. Now that the selector board is ready to install I can focus on the layout and integration of all the indicators and controls on the electrical enclosure. In hindsight, I’m questioning all this fiddling to alleviate what’s otherwise a 2 minute procedure to manually connect up one CM controller board or the other, but it’s all about the journey and the end product will be nice.

The board provides fully independent switching of the (4) stepper motors between my (2) CM controllers along with +24V switching from the Shapeoko power supply. I have added an interposing +24V connection (yellow wires) for master power and my NC E-STOP switches, and a 12 VDC linear regulator on the unswitched +24V side to power all the wireless remote 120 VAC controls (for shop vac and router power).

I’m going to machine an “operator” for the 3 selector switches from HDPE such that I can have a single “push-to-select” function to switch between GRBL and ESTL CNC operations.


Almost looks like you know what your doing :wink: … Looking great Jim.Bet you are getting excited to try it out.

Closing in on the completion of this project…(finally)
With any luck I can tie a bow on it (for now) this weekend:


OK, now onto mechanical stuffz (yay!, I get to use the Shapeoko).

Overall I’m pretty happy with the build. While this seems to be a lot of work to create a box and switcher controls that could otherwise be facilitated by plugging/unplugging wires or with flashing/reflashing, but that’s not how I roll. Additionally, I got to expand my fabrication and tool-chain experience by making a PCB with my machine.

I need to engrave some nameplates, create a base/stand for the box, and also create some selector-switch operators (these will insert/protrude thru the 3 holes on the bottom edge of the cover). I originally had the notion to create a single ganged-switch operator such that I could actuate all 3 switches at once. After playing with a few mock-ups, I ditched that idea in lieu of individual push/push controls. No matter how I tried, invariably I’d have an outside switch that would not transition with the other two.

I vacillated quite a bit over how I wanted to control my AC motor devices (router/vac/etc…). I know I didn’t want any AC near my DC controls, so I ended up hacking a couple 433 MHz remote control AC modules and mounted On/Off switches on the box to control these. I have a dedicated 12V linear regulator on my switcher board to power these (no more N cell 12V batteries!)

My E-Stop circuit is wired in the classic sense using the NC side of the push button to series-interrupt +24V to the CM controller boards. The NO side of the push button parallels the Router Off pushbutton. So, slamming the E-Stop switch kills +24V to everything and also provides a continuous Off signal to the Router control module.

I also added a 3 conductor 1/4" phono-plug to the top of the box for a quick and easy touch-plate connection. While the Carbide 3D touch plate is coming (and requires a dedicated +5V and ground) I’ve got 3 of the 4 connections available should I be convinced to purchase one (I’m still waiting for an explanation of the benefit of a “more sensitive” touch plate). These connections are parallel between both controller boards (pin polarity observed).

I’m running the GRBL controller with the Shapeoko homing switches, however I’m not running the ESTL controller with any homing or limit switches.

Enough babble… here’s another 2000 words worth:


That’s amazing Jim, I can’t follow the electronics explanation (my trouble not your explanation) but it kinda is like having 2 cars and 1 steering wheel, I imagine . Totally understand the “gotta do it my way” attitude, nobody builds stuff the way I want it built either. Congratulations I’m sure you have the only one there is. Jude

Very nice work.

What do you run on the two different controllers?

Thanks @grumpa & @cgallery.

I’m running GRBL on the top controler because I like the Carbide workflow for some jobs.
I run ESTLCam CNC controller on the bottom because it does with the Carbide tools don’t do.


Wow!!! Really nice work!!!

I don’t follow the electromagical stuff, but the idea behind the end product is really cool :sunglasses:


1 Like

Thanks @DanoInTx

I couldn’t stand it, I had to plug it all in… no smoke!

Here’s EVERYTHING connected… machine, power supply, limit switches, and USB Hub:

Here’s how it looks when switched between controllers (ESTL-Yellow / GRBL = Red):

Now, to engrave nameplates!


Isn’t that funny how that works? I swear I buy a tool per project, and if I buy the “right” tool it becomes the project. I think I was looking for a special turn signal for my bike a few years ago, not finding what I wanted, so I designed one, then I needed a 3D printer so I could prototype it, now I have two 3D printers and I sold that bike a couple years ago! Don’t even remember why I needed my XXL, but I’ve considered buying a Nomad ever since. I don’t own every tool, but only because my garage isn’t big enough. Looking forward to seeing some of these nameplates!



That’s how we all roll, right?

At some point in the near future, I want to put this machine to work. When I finalize this silly box I’m off to final accurizing.

I had an old “desk job” name plate laying around, so I decided to use that for my nameplates. I acquired some 0.5mm 30 deg bits from Amazon (5 for $9.95) and this was the perfect opportunity to give them a whirl.

I first tried some of the C3D white fixturing wax, and ran a few test engraves… it seemed OK, but the stickage was lacking… I tuned the CC files and opted to stick the plastic to MDF using double-sided VHB .
Touched off my workpiece, and viola… nameplates. I ended up using 0.25" Arial font in a pocket operation as I wanted a clean font. Very pleased with the results, so now it’s on to finalizing the selector operators,


Very,Very nice @jimidi Love the name plates aswell.

So wait, don’t get me wrong, I definitely like the way you think, but did you build/buy all of this so you could make nameplates for it? I mean, that’s exactly what I would do. I’d belike, “I bet that machine could make nameplates, and it needs nameplates, so I should buy that machine, spend months tweaking it, so I can make nameplates for it, because it needs some.”. This is the kind of “Dan logic” that has me collecting tools at a higher rate than I can actually use them, really liking this project!

All kidding aside, this looks really cool, nice work!