Hey all! So, my plans to get a bigger workspace outside our school have kind of fallen to the wayside for right now, so I’m looking for a CNC that we could actually use in our limited space. I’m looking at a Shapeoko XL right now - I’ve got a new benchtop toolbox that it could live on and fit perfectly. It’s only 1.25HP, which isn’t ideal, but in theory I could upgrade the router and have a bit more power for aluminum, right?
Check out this very active discussion in our community for better recommendations:
I suggest reading through it as many people have weighed in on the Shapeoko as an option.
You’ll never hit the 1.25HP limit. The bigger issue is the plastic rollers that act as guides and the flexbility of the belts and frame. You can do plastic and wood well, but doing bulk aluminum will be a challenge.
3991 was able to run theirs at 15IPM 0.03" DOC slotting aluminum with a 1/8" bit, but they also spent a lot of time reassembling it and tightening stuff down. If you can scrape together the extra money, an Omio X6 or X8 will be better.
A few years back, a team I was on used an X-Carve (which is VERY similar in design and function to a Shapeoko) to make a few parts. As asid61 mentioned, you should be able to do wood and plastic (including polycarbonate) without any major issues. With the proper bits, cutting fluid, and VERY slow feed rates, you CAN cut thin aluminum (I wouldn’t recommend using it for more than 1/8" thick aluminum), though it’s far from an ideal solution.
In the case of our machine, we had some issues holding tolerances on round pockets (IE bearing holes), so I’m not sure I’d build a gearbox with it (though granted, our issues may have been due to bad settings/calibration on our part), but otherwise it’s great for cutting parts out of sheets of material, or drilling bit-size holes (rather than pockets).
Shapeoko is a neat machine that’s great for wood, but it’s not going to be rigid enough for aluminum. It’s not horsepower that’s the limiting factor, but rigidity.
If you’re wanting to cut aluminum just get an Omio router. It’s a little more expensive but an infinitely more useful machine for FRC.
Winston Moy has a variety of videos about getting the Shapeoko to cut aluminum. It takes him a good bit of work. He never really gets into measuring how tight its tolerances are, I suspect they aren’t tight enough for things like gearboxes but I honestly don’t know.
He talks about tolerances in his video on adaptive toolpaths. His initial results aren’t great, particularly for things like gearboxes. But he didn’t run either a finishing pass or spring pass, and he wasn’t boring all the way through the piece, both of which may produce tighter tolerances.