In this article, I'm going to review the CAD, CAM, and Control/Simulation software that comes with Carbide 3D's Shapeoko series of CNC machines.
Carbide 3D offers Carbide Create, Carbide Create Pro, Carbide Motion, Carbide Copper, and Design Elements on their website that handles various software aspects of CNC cutting.
For the Shapeoko series of CNCs, they provide Carbide Create, Carbide Create Pro, and Carbide Control free of cost with the machine.
I'll be reviewing these three software programs in this article.
Carbide Create vs Carbide Create Pro - Which one do you need?
Carbide Create and Carbide Create Pro are different versions of the CAD plus CAM software provided by Carbide 3D.
Create is an intuitive CAD plus CAM software package that you can use to create designs or convert designs to G-code.
For a long time, Carbide Create as a program was only limited to the Shapeoko machines.
However, Carbide 3D decided to make Carbide Create freely available for anyone to use.
|Carbide Create||Carbide Create Pro|
|Price||Free||$120/year or $360 perpetual license|
|OS||Windows, Mac||Windows, Mac|
Carbide Create and Carbide Create Pro comparison
In the next sections, I'll discuss the main differences between Carbide Create and Carbide Create Pro.
Carbide Create is a free CAD/CAM software available for anyone to download and use.
Even if you are not a user of Carbide 3D's CNC machines, you can use Carbide create.
Carbide Create Pro on the other hand is a paid software and it comes with two purchase options. You can either subscribe to it yearly or can get a lifetime perpetual license.
The yearly subscription costs $120 and you'll be able to get all the software updates when Carbide 3D releases them.
For the perpetual license, they charge a one-time fee of $360 but you'll only get software updates for one year.
After one year, if you want to update to a newer version of the software you are allowed to do so but you'll have to pay $120 for one full year of updates.
Both Carbide Create and Carbide Create Pro have the same interface.
With its simple design, it makes navigation super easy and has several user-friendly features like the help menu which will greatly boost the user experience.
Both have a grid-based design editor, which helps you make designs with correct dimensions so that you don't make errors on the workpiece.
Carbide Create and Carbide Create Pro are regular G-code programs that have some neat features.
One major advantage you get by using Carbide Create Pro is that it can handle 3D modeling and machining.
Carbide Create on the other hand can only work on 2-dimensional designs.
For the job setup, you can select the type of work material you are using. These have some preset speeds and feeds which is a good starting point.
The tool path section of the Carbide Create software has contour and V-carve options for you to choose from.
Once your tool path is ready you can check the tool path simulation for different materials and it shows the simulation in a 3D viewer.
Though Carbide Create Pro has 3D modeling capability, do not expect advanced capabilities as in CNC software programs like Fusion 360 and Solidworks.
It's geared more toward woodworking and artistic applications.
Carbide Create Pro is built off the foundation of its regular version.
You can start with the basic 2D geometry as the basis for more complex 3D shapes.
Closed vectors can be built into layers/components and it comes in three shapes, round, flat, and angle. This defines the transition style around the border of the shape.
Angled components create a chamfer around the component, while rounded component results in a fillip. You can adjust the height and angles of these modifiers.
Carbide Create Pro uses greyscale to represent the height maps.
If you bring in height maps as textures you can have additional control over these features.
Along with these new modeling features, Carbide Create Pro also has new tool paths. They are 3D rough and 3D finish.
These new features do exactly what they are called.
3D roughing will pocket out your shape with a certain amount of margin left around the corner.
3D finishing uses a parallel raster tool path to finish your model.
If you are using the regular version of Carbide Create, you can try the pro version by enabling the pro trial mode in the regular version. But it doesn't allow you to create tool paths.
If you want to try the tool paths of the pro version, you can get a free 14-day trial of the Carbide Create Pro from Carbide 3D's website.
This doesn't have any limitations and you can even try a full project on it.
With a simple and user-friendly interface, it's pretty easy to maintain a smooth workflow in both versions of Carbide Create.
Once you install the software you can easily navigate and learn the software.
It won't take much of your time, it has a simple design and after running some test operations you should have a working knowledge of the software.
Carbide 3D's YouTube channel has detailed tutorials on how to use the software.
Carbide Create and Carbide Create Pro are available for both Windows and Mac OS.
It supports Windows 8, 10, and 11 with an AMD/Intel processor. Also supports Mac OS/X 10.14 and higher.
The computer should have 4GB of RAM and a screen with a display resolution of 1280 x 1024 pixels.
Both versions of Carbide Create can work offline and only requires the internet for authentication, update activities, and integration with Carbide Motion Control.
Since Carbide Create has been made freely available for anyone to use, it has attracted a lot of people in the CNC industry.
Though the Pro version is paid, both the Pro and regular version of the software has several active users.
For the Pro version of the software, Carbide 3D provides dedicated support to walk you through any software-related problems.
Carbide Motion Control Overview
|Carbide Motion Control|
|Supported Machines||Shapeoko and Nomad series of CNC machines|
Price and features of Carbide Motion Contol
Carbide Motion is what controls your Shapeoko CNC machine's movement. It accepts universal G-code and helps you do simple and advanced operations.
Carbide Motion is a free-to-use software and can be downloaded from Carbide 3D's website.
There is no paid version of this software available, so nothing is kept behind a paywall and all the features are freely available to use.
Carbide Motion has a simple user interface that makes it easy to load the G-code and control the Shapeoko machine.
The jog/position window screen of Carbide Motion looks like a video game controller and is pretty easy to understand what each button does.
You can do the jogging process either by clicking the on-screen buttons or by pressing the arrow keys on your keyboard.
Once you start Carbide Motion software, it'll ask you to connect to the CNC machine. After establishing a successful connection to the Shapeoko, it'll perform a homing sequence.
If you use a bit setter or tool length probe like the one in Nomad, Shapeoko will measure the length of the installed router bit or end mill once the homing operation completes.
Once the above process completes you can load the G-code program to run and start the job.
Shapeoko BitSetter users will have an additional button in the run window for loading a tool of their choice.
The jog/position window in the Carbide Motion is where you can position and set your origin.
To manually set the origin of any program that you are going to run, you have to go into the set-zero menu and type in your values.
The rapid positioning menu has nine different presets which can help easily position your CNC at nine positions.
Carbide Motion has a working probe window where you can zero your axes. You can also switch your display and jogging units from millimeters to inches.
It has an MDI window, this is where you can send manual commands to your CNC.
Carbide Motion only connects to the Nomad and Shapeoko series of CNC machines from Carbide 3D.
These CNC machines use an Atmel 328 microcontroller flashed with GRBL firmware.
Carbide 3D has lessons on how to use the software on their youtube channel and it has a detailed explanation of the workflow in Carbide Motion.
It is pretty easy to get started. Having a simple user interface helps you do the operation without getting lost in the plethora of menus.
Though simple, Carbide Motion doesn't take off any control options for advanced users. You can dig a little deep on each control to get to the advanced control options.
Carbide 3D's Control software can be installed on Windows and Mac OS.
For Windows, you'll need an Intel/AMD processor with 4 GB of RAM. It supports 8, 10, and 11 versions of the Windows OS.
For Mac, it'll support OS/X 10.14 or higher versions. It also requires 4 GB of RAM.
Carbide Motion requires a screen display with 1280 x 1024 resolution for optimum performance of the interface.
Supported CNC Machines
Carbide Motion Control only supports the Nomad and Shapeoko series of CNC machines. It looks for a unique VID/PID whenever you connect a machine.
Both the Shapeoko and Nomad CNC machines have a huge and active customer base.
The users are largely active throughout the Carbide community website, Facebook groups, Reddit and YouTube.
Carbide provides regular updates on bug fixes and also uploads videos on youtube to notify their customers of what updates they've made to the software.
Carbide 3D has a resource page where you can find a lot of documentation on how to use Carbide Motion and their other software programs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What files does Carbide Motion use?
Carbide Motion can import and use files like G-codes, .egc (encrypted G-code) files from MeshCAM, and .nc (NetCFD) files from Carbide Create.
Is Carbide Create free?
Yes, Carbide Create is free to use. It can be downloaded directly from Carbide 3D's website.
Carbide Create has a paid version too, that is the Carbide Create Pro. It is more advanced than the standard version and comes with two subscription options.
For Carbide Create Pro, you can subscribe yearly for a price of $120 or you can get a lifetime subscription for $360.
Can Carbide Create do 3D designs?
Carbide Create can't work on 3D designs but Carbide Create Pro can design and machine 3D components. Carbide Create is only a 2D CAD/CAM software.