The Shark SD120 is a medium-size CNC router made primarily for CNC woodworking by Next Wave CNC.
Next Wave machines are designed and manufactured in the USA.
With a 12"x24" cutting area, the SD120 is ideal for medium-sized woodworking projects such as cutting boards, and wood signs.
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In this review, I will evaluate Shark SD120 on various parameters like size, build quality, linear motion, material capability, controller, software, community, and customer support.
The footprint of Shark SD120 is 19 ½ ” (L) × 30 ½ ” (W), which means you can easily fit this machine on most workbenches.
It has a 12’’×30’’ work bed, on which you can cut workpieces with a maximum size of 12’’ × 24’’ with a maximum thickness of 4 inches.
For perspective, cutting boards are almost always less than 12" in width, and the size of this machine is ideal for that type of work.
The Y-axis travel has been increased from the previous versions of the Shark SD series CNCs.
The Shark SD120 provides you with the largest cutting area compared to all other Shark SD series CNC machines.
2. Material Capability of Shark SD120
Shark SD120 is well-suited for various types of woodworking like decorative, precision drilling, and joinery.
Its long Y-axis makes it capable of carving ornamental boxes, corbels, plaques or signs, and intricate inlays engraving.
You can also cut other materials like plastic with this CNC machine.
However, one disadvantage of this CNC machine is that it is not meant for working on metals.
While you may find people who mill aluminum sheets with this CNC, it's not what the manufacturer intended.
Next Wave CNC explicitly mentions not to mill metal with this CNC machine in their user manual.
Milling metal will likely void the warranty of this machine.
Also, you can’t cut materials with mist or lubricants, as it can cause a fire. This is because the router used on this machine is meant for dry cutting.
I don't think this is a problem at all, as this is primarily a wood CNC machine, and it does that job quite well.
The software and the machine have been designed to work seamlessly with wood and materials of similar hardness.
3. Chassis/Frame of SD120
The frame of Shark SD120 is made using aluminum that is interlocked with stainless steel. The whole construction makes the frame rigid and gives it sturdy build quality.
The workbed of Shark SD120 is made of extruded aluminum with integrated T-slots to hold the workpiece firmly.
Most CNC routers at this price range do not come with an extrusion bed (except the Shapeoko).
An MDF spoil board is all you get with most CNC routers.
Although you can use threaded inserts in MDF for clamping and work-holding, it's never as good as an extruded bed.
The innovative InterLoc T-slots work bed offers you endless possibilities for workpiece clamping.
The gantry bridge and its supports are made using HDPE for long-lasting operation.
Overall, the chassis is lightweight, with good build quality, and capable of resisting rust.
4. Linear Motion
The movement in X, Y, and Z axes of Shark SD120 are controlled by lead screw systems driven by stepper motors.
However, lead screws, in general, have inherent backlash due to relative axial movement between nut and screw.
To overcome this issue, Shark SD120 comes with an anti-backlash nut to compensate for this.
This means this CNC router can offer 0.001’’ resolution for linear movement.
Shark SD120 comes with three hybrid stepper motors for each axis.
With these stepper motors, you can get a maximum jogging speed of 120 ipm.
Each axis is guided by heavy steel polished shafts that include four linear bearings on each axis to maximize rigidity, which results in quiet operation.
These bearings are lightweight and resistant to external shock, dirt, and corrosion. So, you don’t need to worry about its maintenance.
5. Spindle on Shark SD120
The Z-axis of Shark SD120 comes with a pre-installed router mount. The package also includes Carbide V-bits to drill hard materials for both 2D and 3D projects.
A router isn't included with the CNC and needs to be purchased separately.
Shark SD120 is compatible with various routers like Bosch PR20 (1 hp) , DeWALT 611 (1.25 hp), Makita RT0701C (1.25 hp), and Porter-Cable 450 (1.25 hp).
All these routers are suitable for woodworking.
I recommend DeWALT 611 for woodworking because of its soft-start feature, versatility, and variable speed range of 16,000-27,000 RPM.
Although it is costlier than the Porter-Cable 450, Bosch PR20, and Makita RT0701C, it is worth the extra money.
If you want to use a router different from the ones specified by Next Wave CNC, make sure the diameter of the router is 65mm.
Else, you'll need to build a custom router mount.
Shark SD120 includes a router power control unit that has a power outlet for the router cable.
It is essentially a solid-state relay switch that you plug into a standard 110 V socket and it will let you control the router through the control software.
6. Controller and Electronics
Shark SD120 comes with hybrid stepper motors with a one-step angle of 1.8-degree.
The stepper motors have a holding torque of 269 oz-in.
The Shark SD120 controller requires a 24V power supply, and you can plug it into any standard power socket in your shop.
The machine controller box has ports for stepper motor cables, router power control unit, and homing switches.
Nextwave uses its own proprietary firmware to run the controller, unlike most other desktop CNCs which use either GRBL or Mach3/Mach4.
Shark SD120 comes with a handheld pendant controller to operate the CNC machine.
The pendant controller is different from the machine controller box.
The machine controller box does the processing of the machine, while the pendant controller is like a gamepad that lets you jog the machine.
The pendant controller comes with an LCD touch screen and has a color graphical interface.
It comes with a USB port, you can transfer G-code into a USB stick and plug it into the pendant to control the CNC machine.
Hence, it lets you keep your PC away from the dusty environment of the workspace.
7. Software for Shark SD120 CNC
Next Wave offers you dual functionality to control Shark SD120 CNC machines, either by pendant controller or via a computer.
All SD series CNCs from Next Wave include VCarve Desktop software, which is designed to work with small CNC machines.
It is suitable for beginners and hobbyists who use Shark SD120 in a non-production environment. This is a great deal as it would otherwise cost you hundreds of dollars to buy a VCarve desktop.
The CNC software gives you the functionality to create designs and generate toolpaths for your projects.
You can import existing 2D vector files, bitmap images, 3D clipart files, and 3D models from 3rd party resources, and VCarve Desktop offers you a comprehensive set of drawing and editing tools.
VCarve Desktop has various in-built 2D and 2.5 D toolpaths to offer you different types of CNC machining. It also can simulate the toolpath to visualize the end product.
It comes with free and CNC-ready 2D and 3D clipart model projects in the package to help you get started easily and quickly.
You can run VCarve software on a computer with Windows 8 or higher versions.
Note that you'll still need a CAD software program to create 2D and 3D designing, like Fusion 360, as VCarve Desktop is only a CAM software.
While Fusion 360 is a paid CAD software program, free CAD programs are also available.
Shark SD120 CNC router kit also includes Ready2Control software, which lets you control the CNC router from a computer.
The software comes with a Virtual Zero Unlimited feature, which lets you carve designs into curved or uneven surfaces, such as chair back or rough-sawn board.
It maps the entire surface with an unlimited number of dynamic reference points. With these reference points, the software adjusts the project design to fit cuts and angles of curves.
This way, the software lets you keep a constant cutting depth on oddly or intricately shaped workpieces without needing a different CAD 3D model for the same design.
Using this software requires a standard touch plate, which does not come with the kit and needs to be purchased separately.
You can use Ready2Control software on a computer running Windows 10.
Its user interface lets you view your project and access router movement controls on screen for a better CNC experience.
You will not require an active internet connection to use VCarve Desktop or Ready2Control software.
8. Laser Module for Shark SD120 CNC
Next Wave provides solid-state laser modules for use with their CNCs which lets you etch images and letters on the material’s surface.
Its high-quality optics deliver incredible depth and sharpness in every use.
However, the laser kits are not designed for cutting materials.
The laser head mounts to the router collet, which means you need not replace the router, and you can quickly complete the installation.
You can choose the laser module from two different power variants depending on your project requirement.
The 2W laser diode is recommended for etching on plane and painted surfaces.
I recommend you start with a feed of 50 ipm and full power for effective surface etching. Later, you can adjust the feed using the override slide bar.
Alder, cherry, and mahogany are among the best woods to use with this laser module.
If you are looking to etch tough materials, leather, acrylics, or cutting soft materials like balsa, basswood, foam, veneer, and fabric, the 7W laser module is ideal.
The 7W laser diode uses 445 nm lasers to engrave raster art on the material and is powerful enough to cut thin woods with a maximum thickness of ⅛ inches.
Instead of 50 ipm, you should start a 7W laser module with a feed rate of 100 ipm with half power.
Both 2W and 7W laser kits run on a 12 V power supply and you can plug it into any standard 110 V socket.
Also, both laser kits are compatible with Vectric VCarve and Aspire for laser engraving.
Since the laser collar is 0.1’’ above the material, you must zero the Z-axis after installing the laser head.
The new models of Shark CNCs come with a controller integrated with an interface to connect the laser bundle with the controller.
To use the laser kit using an older CNC controller, you must get the interface for the controller.
You should use the laser module on Shark SD120 in a well-ventilated area to let the smoke clear quickly. You can also use a fan to blow away the smoke.
Both laser modules are compatible with piranha and shark CNCs. They don’t arrive with the CNC package and need to be purchased separately.
4th axis rotary system
The mini 4th axis kit allows you to turn the router/spindle around the circumference of your workpiece for intricate carvings and designs..
Next Wave offers two types of 4th axis rotary systems. A three-jaw chuck kit and a four-jaw chuck kit.
The first and the smaller rotary axis kit comes with a mini 2’’ self-centering three-jaw chuck, MT2 taper, and tailstock that lets you make precision cuts.
The four-jaw chuck kit is for heavier workpieces.
The turning accuracy is also better in the four-jaw chuck kit.
Both systems are made from machined aluminum and can be easily mounted on the work bed.
Using this kit, you can cut fluted columns, spirals, and different types of decorative carvings on your cylindrical projects.
Their plug-and-play design lets you connect them to the data port of the pendant controller.
There are very few CNC lathes that let you turn wood.
Generally, woodturning is done manually by using a turning chisel in combination with a wood lathe.
Turning something like a pen or chess piece manually will require quite a bit of control and skills with your hands.
The 4th rotary axis allows you to make such beautiful art pieces without any sort of artistic skills with your hand.
The standard touch plate is required while using Ready2Control software to zero the Z-axis.
The whole unit is made of aluminum, lays flat on the workpiece surface, and costs you around $100.
The touch plate comes with a 4’ cord to connect it with the controller. It also has a 6’ extension cable, which needs to be purchased separately.
If your workspace has tight space, you can choose a mini touch plate for virtual zero, which costs you around $30.
It also has an aluminum construction and a touch surface of 1’’ dia. You will get a 1’ cord with a banana receiver attached to it.
If you are cutting materials like wood or plastics that produce dust, a dust shoe is a must-have accessory.
Next Wave offers dust shoes for its CNC machines and costs you around $100.
It is made from HDPE and can be bolted to the router mount. The nylon brush skirt is attached to its base using magnets.
The magnets let you easily remove the nylon brush skirt to change the cutting bits.
With its 2.5’’ dust opening, you can attach standard shop vac or dedicated dust collector system with it.
If you primarily do woodworking, then you need to build a dust collection system to prevent your shop from being buried in dust.
An alternative is to get an enclosure for your CNC which traps all the dust inside the enclosure itself.
You need to clean the enclosure manually, but it's definitely not as difficult as cleaning your entire shop.
Compare the cost of an enclosure with a dedicated dust collection system to see which one makes more sense for your situation.
In addition to trapping dust, an enclosure is also great for keeping you safe from flying pieces, and also for muffling the noise from your CNC router.
The Shark SD120 CNC machine arrives fully assembled.
For people who dislike the hassle of fastening nuts and bolts to assemble a CNC, this is a great choice.
There are very few CNCs in this price category that comes fully assembled.
Almost all come as DIY CNC kits (Like X-Carve, Shapeoko, Avid, Onefinity).
However, since it comes assembled you will need help to lift it out from the box safely.
After unpacking, connect X, Y, and Z axes and pendant controller cables to the main controller box.
The next step is to install the router in the mount and connect the router adapter to the control unit.
You need to spend a little time installing Vcarve Desktop CAD/CAM software in your system.
You can also choose to complete the installation before the arrival of your CNC.
Next Wave has videos with clear instructions for the setting up process.
You can find written instructions in the user manual as well, which arrives with the kit and is also available on their website.
Next Wave has two large and active online community forums, CNC Shark Talk and NWCNC Owners only.
You will find users who actively participate in the discussions and share their project ideas in both forums.
12. Customer Support
The customer support from Next Wave is excellent and responsive. They offer lifetime call and email support to resolve your issues related to Shark CNCs.
Shark SD120 comes with a two-year warranty on parts against manufacturing defects.
Next Wave also accepts old Shark CNC machines, refurbished them, and donates them to a school in your name.
Next Wave CNC offers excellent training programs similar to the ones offered by industrial-grade CNC brands.
If you come from a non-CNC background, the training programs and webinars offered can get you up to speed rather quickly.
All the terminology, technical details, and processes can be overwhelming for those new to CNC.
This brand has a partnership with MiLL National Training Center to support technical education and shop programs to offer training on woodworking.
13. Final Thoughts
The Shark SD120 is a hit among woodworkers with good reason.
Every feature of this CNC router is tailored for people who want to work with wood and other non-metals.
While its inability to work on metals like aluminum is a disadvantage, it wins in so many other areas like an extrusion bed, a 4th rotary axis, and a laser module.
This CNC is packed with value and it still sells at a highly competitive price.
Overall, if you are a hobbyist or a woodworking business that creates medium-sized projects (like cutting boards and wood signs), then I strongly recommend this machine to you.
- Compatible routers include DeWALT 611, Porter-Cable 450, Bosch 1 HP Model PR20 or similar style palm router (sold separately)
- Includes SHARK SD120 CNC Machine, two (2) hold-down clamps, carbide V-bit, Vectric VCarve desktop design software, Vector Art 3-D sample pack, and Ready2Control software
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can you use a VFD spindle with Shark SD120?
You can use a VFD spindle with Shark SD120 but you will need to use an appropriate spindle mount that can fit the spindle you intend to use. Also, you cannot plug it into the router control unit that comes with the kit, you will have to use a separate wall socket.