Which Shapeoko?

Hello all,
I’m new here, recently found Carbide 3D in my search for a cnc router. I’m relatively certain i’m going to purchase one in the near future, and would love some input from those of you already using them as to which machine to buy.
I’m new to cnc routers, but do have a good bit of time on a cnc plasma table so have a handle on the basics of 2D cnc (though there’s a ton more i need to learn). I plan to start out working on wood projects, but will probably sooner than later get into plastics and aluminum.

With that (somewhat long) preamble, i’m basically deciding between the Shapeoko 4 and Pro in XL. Here are my main questions -

  • After buying the bitsetter and dustboot, the 4 is only about $400 more than the Pro. I know both are capable machines, but will I be kicking myself later for not pinching pennies a little longer and getting the Pro?
  • On the size, basically the same question - XL seems a good fit for my current ambitions and budget, but will i regret not going XXL?

Thanks in advance for your input/advice. Looking forward to spending more time here.

Josh

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Hello Joshua; Clearly which machine is going to depend on your usage. It sounds as if you are preparing to run some sort of production business. Only you will know what size pieces you intend to machine. It may sound obvious but if the maximum size workpiece with which you hope to work is smaller than an XL then buy what suits your plans. It is not to say your plans wont change but if you have no specific need to go to the largest size, the increase in rigididty of the smaller footprint may be a positive to consider.

You will want to consider noise, spindles, cooling and dust collection. The type off rigidity you get with a large framework and MDF baseboard (prevents liquid cooling) may not easily support metal working. I have just moved to machining metal (as a hobby) and I have the smallest SO3 standard sized machine. (16 x16 x 3" work area)

I found workholding and rigidity an issue and could not help noticing that there are many metal machinsts in the community… with fixture tooling plates and modular vices. I upgraded my machine and now it is as rigid as I can make it. I was machining aluminium 20mm thick yesterday. I would not have been able to hold it still enough with the MDF baseboard.

The Shapeoko machine benefits from as much rigidity in use as you can produce. The metal baseboard (sea of holes) is a major and essential upgrade, in my opinion. If you are considering using the SO4 for production runs, you will probably find it a pain to hold your work rigidly with an MDF baseboard and a larger working area than I am using.

The person to contact in the community is @Vince.Fab who knows as much as anyone here about milling metal and workholding.

My setup is at the following link:

As always, it really depends on what you will be doing.
The Pro has linear rails which will give you
a) the possibility to achieve higher material removal rates (=productivity / reduce cutting times).
b) higher rigidity (than vwheels) which mostly matters when cutting metal

Size: if you hesitate between XL and XXL, you need to consider the possibility to use the tiling method, which allows one to cut “infinitely” long projects (feeding material from the front or back of the machine, milling what the work area allows, then shifting the material, rinse and repeat), so the XL is pretty capable. The XXL will allow to avoid tiling, which saves time if you cut a lot of large/long pieces.

Also, since you are new, shameless plug for the (free) Shapeoko ebook.

Looking forward to hearing from you on the forum soon once you get your machine!

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Both the SO4 and Pro include a Sweepy v2 65mm, so that shouldn’t factor into the price difference. Note that you can save a bit on an SO4 by deferring the purchase of a BitSetter. Note that it’s only warranted for work which involves multiple tool changes — do you see that happening?

Depending on the sort of work you wish to do, the larger XXL size can be all but a necessity, or a waste of space — if you work w/ sheet goods in larger sizes, you’ll probably want it — if you mostly work w/ boards, then an XL is fine. As @Julien noted, one can always do indexed cutting for tiling larger parts.

My suggestion is to draw up a typical project and see how it fits on the XL — if it looks like the tiling on an XL-sized bed will be tedious, go for the larger size.

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I own a Shapeoko 3 XXl and XL. 90 percent of my work could be done on the XL but that 10 Percent has been used regularly. As the old saying goes “Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” Both the XXL and XL take up some room in the shop so you know how much room you have and can sacrifice for the CNC machine. Roughly the XXl takes up 4’ x 4’ and the XL 4’ X 2’. I would highly recommend a cart/table with wheels so the machine can be moved for cleaning and/or rearranging the shop. I have a traditional woodworking shop and the CNC has become the center of my shop. I thought it was going to be used to augment my traditional work but instead it has taken over.

So consider the space required more than the amount of the purchase. If you keep the machine for 10 years the small incremental prorated over 10 years makes a better value to get the best machine you can afford. Every time I have bought a cheap tool I have regreted it. So do not make your decision solely on price but on function and the size of your wallet and the size of your shop.

I have not been keeping up with the store but if the HDZ is available I would get that with your purchase. I have both an HDZ and Z-Plus and the HDZ is a superior Z axis over the Z-Plus. The Z-Plus is good but the HDZ is better.

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Hi Jeff,

Thanks for your reply - helps me think the decision through more practically. After reading what you and others have replied, I’m leaning toward the 4 in xl, with the plan being to eventually invest what I save in an upgraded table. Thanks for the link on that. I’d definitely like to chat with @vince.fab about his experience. I do hope to make money with the machine, but especially in metal will primarily be doing personal projects at first. Nice work on your aluminum project!

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Thanks Julien, this is something I hadn’t considered. I’ve done it on a plasma table but somehow passed my mind as a method with a router. Helps solidify my thoughts that an xl is a good size for my current plans.

Going to read it!

Missed that about the sweepy coming with the 4 - thanks. And waiting on the BitSetter til i need it does make more sense.

Again, thanks for helping think this through practically.
I really appreciate you all taking the time to reply.

Hey Josh

Kevin Barnett from Carbide 3D here. If you haven’t seen the comparison video, this might give you more factors to consider. Either machine will serve you well.

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Thanks Kevin,

Super hepful video. I think you sold me on the 4 with the point of v wheels not having trouble with rust - I could see that becoming an issue with my current workspace.