Shapeoko Pro Review [2021]- Worth the Price?

Shapeoko Pro Review [2021]- Worth the Price?

Shapeoko Pro Review [2021]- Worth the Price?

Shapeoko Pro is a high-performance CNC router in the Shapeoko series.

The Shapeoko Pro was launched in September 2020 primarily aimed at businesses that wanted that extra speed and productivity compared to Shapeoko.

In this review, I go through every important aspect you need to know about the Shapeoko Pro CNC router.

At the end of this review, I compare Shapeoko 4 with Shapeoko Pro to help you choose between the two CNC routers.

MellowPine is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.

Shapeoko Pro Review

For this review, I assessed the Shapeoko Pro CNC router for its size, build quality, material capability, linear motion, software, accessories, and community support.

1. Size of Shapeoko Pro

Footprint(X) x (Y) x (Z)Cutting Area(X) x (Y) x (Z)Price(with hybrid table, without router)
Shapeoko Pro Standard33" x 24" x 19"17.5" x 17.5" x 4"$2,400
Shapeoko Pro XL50" x 24.65" x 19"33" x 17.5" x 4"$2,600
Shapeoko Pro XXL50" x 42" x 19"33" x 33" x 4"$2,800

Shapeoko 4 size summary

Carbide 3D offers Shapeoko Pro with 3 different cutting areas, Standard (17.5” x 17.5”), XL (33” x 17.5”), and XXL (33” x 33”).

If your project demands working on full-size sheets, you can look at 4x8 CNC routers instead. 

Shapeoko Pro Standard:

The standard variant of Shapeoko Pro is its smallest variant with a footprint of 33" x 24’’. It can fit on most tables.

This 115 lbs CNC router offers you a 17.5" x 17.5" work area.

Shapeoko Pro XL:

The XL variant comes with a footprint of 50" x 24.65". Its extended footprint gives you 33" x 17.5" of cutting area.

It weighs around 145 lbs and can be accommodated on most desks.

If you are a hobbyist and looking for a CNC machine for medium-sized workpieces, the XL variant is suitable for you.

Shapeoko Pro XXL:

The XXL variant has a 50" x 42" footprint, which gives a work area of 33" x 33" and weighs around 175 lbs.

It is a CNC router suitable for small businesses. This machine lets you work on workpieces with a size of less than 2¾' x 2¾'.

Z-axis:

All three variants of Shapeoko Pro have a height of 19 inches. 

In terms of Z-axis travel, Shapeoko Pro offers 4’’ in all variants.

This means that you get 4" of space for your material and tool bit combined.

For instance, if your cutting bit is 1.25 inches long, the maximum thickness of the workpiece you can use is 2.75 inches.

2. Material Capability of Shapeoko Pro

Machining aluminum on Shapeoko Pro
Machining aluminum on Shapeoko Pro

Shapeoko Pro can cut a variety of materials, including wood, plywood, MDF, cast acrylic, extended PVC, aluminum, brass, and even stainless steel.

The Pro is capable of quickly milling aluminum and is an excellent choice for any aluminum CNC application.

For beginners, Carbide 3D provides charts of recommended feeds and speeds for different materials.

How about Steel? With coolants and adaptive toolpaths, people have milled steel using Shapeoko Pro.

Carbide 3D has shown demonstration videos of the Shapeoko milling steel on YouTube.

This CNC is faster compared to Shapeoko 4 due to the better linear motion components.

For example, using a ¼ ‘’ bit on MDF with 0.06’’ depth of cut at 18,000 RPM, you can achieve a feed rate of 100 ipm. 

3. Work Bed of Shapeoko Pro

Hybrid T-slot work bed of Shapeoko Pro
Hybrid T-slot work bed of Shapeoko Pro

The extrusion bed is one of the highlights of this machine and comes included in the price.

This bed which Carbide 3D calls a "hybrid table" is extremely useful in your daily work.

You can get the hybrid table with Shapeoko 4 as well, but as an optional feature, and you need to pay extra.

The base of the hybrid table consists of machined aluminum cross members, which are equally spaced and positioned in the X-direction.

Both Y-axis rails, one at each side, are tied onto these cross members in the Y-direction.

This whole arrangement provides rigidity and stiffness to the work bed and makes it extremely solid against vibrations.

The T-slot aluminum extrusions channels are installed on the top of the base of the hybrid table.

The 3’’ wide MDF slats sit inside these channels.

Since the MDF rests a bit above the aluminum channels, you are unlikely to cut into the extrusion bed by mistake.

One great advantage of this design is that there is unlikely to be any sagging that usually occurs with big spoil boards of CNCs.

Workholding is very easy and efficient with the hybrid table.

This is primarily due to the T tracks available between each pair of slats.

You can insert Teez Nuts (supplied by Carbide 3D) into the T tracks and use it as a threaded insert for placing any type of clamp supplied by Carbide 3D.

This includes the gator tooth and tiger claw clamps which lets you hold the workpiece from the sides.

A cheaper option is to use the green nylon clamps, which reduces your risk in case you accidentally cut into the clamp.

Clamping using Hybrid Table
Clamping (nylon clamps) using Hybrid Table

The advantage of gator tooth and tiger claw clamps is that they hold the material completely from the sides and do not extend above the top of the material.

This means you can mill the top surface completely edge-to-edge with those clamps.

A hybrid table also offers you the opportunity to use threaded nuts.

In case you don't want to use the T Tracks, you can go the traditional route of having threaded inserts inside the MDF slats.

You can take the slats out, drill holes in the MDF, and fix M5 threaded inserts in them.

In this case, you don't need to use Teez Nuts and you can directly fasten the screw into the threaded inserts.

Overall, the hybrid table is extremely handy and can be called as the heart of this CNC machine.

4. Chassis/Frame of Shapeoko Pro

The chassis of Shapeoko Pro is made of machined extruded aluminum.

Shapeoko Aluminum Rail
Shapeoko Aluminum Rail

Main components like Y Rails and Gantry are built from thick aluminum sections that add plenty of weight to this CNC.

There are aluminum bars underneath the work bed to keep the whole frame rigid.

The well-thought-out design of the aluminum bars also helps keep the gantry square.

This solid frame of Shapeoko Pro can do some heavy lifting and thereby give you incredible accuracy and repeatability.

5. Linear Motion Components in Shapeoko Pro

Linear rails on Shapeoko Pro
Linear rails on Shapeoko Pro

Shapeoko Pro uses a belt drive system on X and Y axes.

Generally, flat belt drive systems can be susceptible to slipping and slacking.

To overcome these risks, Shapeoko Pro uses 15mm wide open-ended GT2 rubber belts, which are considerably wider than belts used in most comparable CNCs.

One general advantage of belt-driven systems is the high speed compared to screw-driven systems.

For CNC routers with a long gantry, racking can be a significant issue.

To tackle this, two stepper motors are used on the Y-axis to move the gantry and prevent racking.

This is called a dual-drive system.

The gantry of the Shapeoko Pro has integrated linear rails, which are smooth enough for high-speed machining.

This is a major difference between the Shapeoko Pro and the Shapeoko 4 since the Shapeoko 4 uses V-wheels for motion.

Linear rails make the Pro faster and also helps dampen vibrations, particularly during metal machining.

The Z-axis of Shapeoko Pro has a lead screw-driven system to move the router up and down.

The stock Z-axis setup of the Pro is good enough for most people.

However, if you really want to push the Shapeoko Pro with metal milling at a high depth of cut, Carbide 3D offers a Heavy-Duty Z (HDZ) upgrade for the Z-axis.

Shapeoko HDZ upgrade
Shapeoko HDZ upgrade

What this gives you is the ability to use heavy spindles such as a 2.2 kW spindle, and extreme repeatability in terms of depth of cut.

The HDZ converts the Z-axis from a lead screw-driven system to a ball screw-driven system and also increases the Z-travel to 5.5" from 4".

6. Spindle in Shapeoko Pro

Carbide Compact Router on Shapeoko Pro
Carbide Compact Router on Shapeoko Pro

In the stock version of the Shapeoko Pro, you get a 65 mm router mount which is quite good.

The router does not come with the base price package, and you need to purchase it separately.

For spindle/router, Carbide 3D offers its custom-made Carbide Compact Router.

It is a 1.25 hp trim router package with an RPM range between 12,000-30,000.

You can vary its speed using the dial on the router and it can be plugged into any standard 110 V socket.

The Carbide Compact router comes with 1/8" and 1/4" precision collets, so you don't need to buy them separately.

Alternatively,  the Makita RT0701C router is another recommended router by Carbide 3D that can be installed on the 65 mm router mount.

The RT0701C has a variable speed between 10,000 - 30,000 RPM.

If your project demands a bigger router than Carbide Compact, you need to purchase an appropriate router mount to match that.

Also, if you plan on using heavy spindles, you will need to upgrade the Z-axis to the HDZ version.

While choosing a CNC spindle, make sure that it has an RPM range suitable for cutting hard and soft materials if that's your intention.

7. Controller and Electronics

Stepper motors

All axes of Shapeoko Pro are driven by NEMA 23 stepper motors which have a holding torque of 140 oz-in.

The motors are powerful enough to provide smooth linear motion in all axes.

Homing Switches

Inductive homing switches on Shapeoko Pro
Inductive homing switches on Shapeoko Pro

Carbide 3D offers inductive homing capability in Shapeoko Pro.

This means the homing switches stop near the endplates without touching them when you home the machine and use inductive technology to detect position.

Any possibility of crashing your homing switches is prevented when using inductive homing switches, unlike mechanical homing switches.

This greatly enhances the life cycle of the homing switches.

Controller

Carbide Motion Controller PCB with the enclosure open
Carbide Motion Controller PCB with the enclosure open

Shapeoko Pro comes with a proprietary control board called Carbide Motion 3.0 made by Carbide 3D.

It uses an Atmel 328 Microcontroller with the latest GRBL 1.1 firmware flashed onto it to drive four stepper motor drivers.

Along with a heat sink for heat management, the controller houses ports for stepper motor, homing switches, BitSetter, USB, and power supply and comes with a metallic enclosure.

8. Software for Shapeoko Pro

Carbide Motion control software interface
Carbide Motion control software interface

Unlike most CNC brands, Carbide 3D offers end-to-end software solutions of their own for their users.

The great part about these software programs is that they are free.

For CAD/CAM, Carbide Create is the software offered, and for CNC control, Carbide Motion software is what Carbide 3D offers.

Carbide Create

Carbide Create is a free CAD/CAM software that lets you create designs, convert them into G-code, and simulate them.

Carbide Create is compatible with computers having Windows or Mac OS. After its initial setup, you may operate it without having an active internet connection.

With Carbide Create, you can create 2D and 2.5D designs. However, it doesn’t support 3D modeling.

If your project demands 3D design, Carbide 3D offers Carbide Create Pro, which needs to be purchased separately. Carbide Create Pro comes in two different purchase plans. 

Its annual plan costs you around $120 per year, and the perpetual license plan costs you roughly $360.

Although Carbide Create lets you design with quick and easy steps, it still lacks full-fledged features, as offered by Fusion 360.

Carbide Motion

Carbide Motion software lets you control Shapeoko Pro.

It integrates well with Carbide Create to offer you a seamless working experience.

Like Carbide 3D, it is easy to use, compatible with Windows and Mac OS, and does not require an active internet connection for operation.

The software package is easy to use and has a simple user interface.

On the official YouTube channel of Carbide 3D, you will find lots of tutorial videos and lessons to help you use both software programs.

9. Laser Module for Shapeoko Pro

Laser Module for Shapeoko Pro by J Tech Photonics
Laser Module for Shapeoko Pro by J Tech Photonics

Unfortunately, Carbide 3D does not offer a laser module add-on for their CNCs, but you can use 3rd party laser modules.

However, the use of any 3rd party add-on like laser modules will void the warranty of your Shapeoko Pro machine.

Therefore you need to consider whether adding the module is worth voiding the warranty.

Carbide 3D is not alone here.

Most CNC brands don't support laser upgrades possibly because of the safety hazards of having lasers in an open design machine.

In case you want to use a 3rd party add-on, the laser upgrade kit from J Tech Photonics is a popular choice for Shapeoko Pro CNC.

You need to exercise caution to prevent laser radiation exposure while using the laser engraver.

J Tech photonics lets you choose from multiple power options for the laser.

I suggest the 4.2 W laser kit as it is sufficient for engraving.

Note that this is only a laser engraver for most purposes and not a laser cutter.

What you can cut using this laser add-on are non-dense woods like Balsa, Basswood, and thin plywood.

You might be interested in these:

10. Dust Collection

Sweepy V2 Dust Boot:

Sweepy V2 dust boot from Carbide 3D
Sweepy V2 dust boot from Carbide 3D

Shapeoko 4 with the Sweepy dust boot attached to a vacuum

You must have this if your project demands woodworking. The Shapeoko Pro comes with a 65 mm Sweepy V2 dust boot.

It attaches to the spindle and collects dust and debris flying while material milling. 

You can attach the dust boot to the 2.5’’ adaptor of any standard shop vac.

It is made with transparent polycarbonate that enhances the visibility to view the cutting process.

It is compatible with any 65 mm spindle/router, such as Carbide Compact Router and Makita RT0701C.

11. Accessories

Shapeoko BitRunner:

Shapeoko BitRunner
Shapeoko BitRunner

BitRunner is an automation accessory that lets you turn parts of your CNC on or off through G-code commands.

This does not come included with Shapeoko Pro, and you need to buy it extra from Carbide 3D.

The Bitrunner can be used to automate the powering of a router, or lighting or dust collection, or all of them together.

Through pre-programmed commands, you can set your spindle to turn off after a job is complete or at a point in your process.

You can also program it so that the dust collector turns on as the machine starts cutting.

Overall, the Bitrunner is a major convenience that bypasses the need to manually give inputs for powering something on or off.

Shapeoko BitSetter:

Shapeoko BitSetter
Shapeoko BitSetter

The BitSetter is a great accessory that is included in the Shapeoko Pro.

It measures the tool length automatically and zeroes the Z-axis every time you change a tool bit.

Without a BitSetter, you need to use a touch probe and clip to manually zero your machine each time.

With the touch probe, zeroing can take minutes, while with a Bitsetter you'll be done in seconds.

This might appear like a small inconvenience, but when you have to repeatedly do this every day, the time adds up and this ends up being a major point of inefficiency in your production process.

Note that the BitSetter is not a complete replacement for the touch probe.

You need the touch probe to set the X, Y, and Z, zero positions when you start your project.

The Bitsetter helps only with any Z zeroing that's required after the initial setup with the touch probe.

Such as when you change a tool bit during a project.

12. Assembly

Shapeoko Pro arrives as a DIY kit. Its well-labeled shipping boxes make the assembly process easy for you.

The pre-assembled gantry comes with pre-installed wiring, which will save you time and effort.

Each shipping box consists of self-contained stages that allow you to focus on one step at a time.

So you can open each box, assemble its components, then proceed to the next box.

Therefore, you need not open all the boxes at once which helps in avoiding confusion.

With some basic skills, you can expect to assemble and configure the Shapeoko Pro in 3-4 hours.

Carbide 3D may be reached by phone for any assistance needed during the assembly process, and they are quite helpful.

There is also an assembly video by Carbide 3D on YouTube that'll walk you through each step.

13. Community

Carbide 3D CNC machines are highly popular among beginners, hobbyists, and entry-level businesses. 

This means there is a large and active community of users for their machines.

The more popular a machine is. the better is its development and community support.

The official Carbide 3D forum is a great place to find answers to any questions you might have.

14. Customer Support

Shapeoko Pro is a made-in-the-USA CNC router and comes with a one-year warranty against manufacturing defects.

Additionally, Carbide 3D has a “30 days mistakes are on us” policy, under which they will repair or replace any damaged part that you break within 30 days of buying the CNC router.

This policy is to help beginners to start their CNC machining without worrying about breaking the machine.

All Shapeoko CNC routers are made in either Torrance, California, or Sterling, Illinois, ensuring that replacement parts arrive quickly.

Overall, Carbide 3D offers excellent customer support, and you can contact the support team over phone or by email.

15. Final Thoughts

The Shapeoko Pro is a great CNC machine that's best for people who want excellent productivity at an affordable price.

With useful features like hybrid table, BitRunner, and BitSetter combined with a well-built machine, the Shapeoko Pro is worth its price.

A great thing about Carbide 3D is that they include every essential component in the stock package itself, so what you see is the final price you'll need to pay for doing actual work with the machine.

Many other brands work with a "bait-and-switch" model whereby essential components are also put as add-ons to feign a low price at first-look.

Carbide 3D brand is highly trusted in the CNC community and is known for excellent customer support, which is important when you are making a big investment like a CNC machine.

Shapeoko 4 vs Shapeoko Pro-What’s Different?

The Shapeoko 4 and Shapeoko Pro share the same DNA.

Both CNCs have the same build and same components for the most part.

However, they have some key differences which I have discussed below.

Shapeoko 4 XXLShapeoko Pro XXL
Work area33’’ (X) x 33’’ (Y) x 4" (Z) 33’’ (X) x 33’’ (Y) x 4" (Z)
Hybrid TableAdd-onIncluded
Linear motionBelt-drive + V-wheelsBelt drive + linear rails
BitSetter Add-onIncluded

Shapeoko 4 vs Shapeoko Pro

The availability of linear rails on the gantry, the hybrid table, and the BitSetter are the major differences between these two CNC machines. 

If you are a business, my recommendation is that you choose Shapeoko Pro since it's quite faster compared to Shapeoko 4.

You might be interested in this-X-Carve Pro vs Shapeoko Pro [2021].

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I upgrade Shapeoko 4 to Shapeoko Pro??

No, Carbide 3D does not provide an upgrade for converting Shapeoko 4 to Shapeoko Pro. In any case, the upgrade will require you to replace the frames and considering the cost to do so, it's better to buy a new machine.

Can I integrate a Shop vac with BitRunner??

Yes, you can add a splitter where the router plugs in and connect both the spindle and Shop vac to BitRunner so that they both turn on and off together.

About John

Hey I'm John. I talk about CNCs and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNCs and writing about CNCs for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNCs. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at john@mellowpine.com

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John

Hey I'm John. I talk about CNCs and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNCs and writing about CNCs for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNCs. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at john@mellowpine.com

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