WorkBee Z1+ CNC Review [2021]- Good and Bad

WorkBee Z1+ CNC Review [2021]- Good and Bad

WorkBee Z1+ CNC Review [2021]- Good and Bad

Launched in 2021, the WorkBee Z1+ is the flagship CNC machine offering from Ooznest, a UK-based brand popular for CNC machines and components.

The Z1+ is the next iteration of the Original Workbee CNC router from Ooznest.

The Original Workbee was so popular that several other brands forked the design to launch their own Workbee CNC kits.

With the Z1+, Ooznest has poured in the learnings that they gained from users of the Original Workbee to make it much better.

Ooznest WorkBee Z1+ Review

I reviewed this CNC router for its quality of build, the work area it provides, ease of use, components used, assembly, community, and the customer support offered by the brand.

1. Size Options of Workbee Z1+

WorkBee ModelFootprintWork areaWeight
500 x 50019.6" x 19.6"10.62" x 10.62"~55 lbs
750 x 75029.53" x 29.53"20.47" x 20.47"~63 lbs
750 x 100029.53" x 39.37"20.47" x 30.31"~68 lbs
1000 x 100039.37" x 39.37"30.31" x 30.31"~72 lbs
1000 x 150039.37" x 59"30.31" x 50"~83 lbs
1500 x 150059" x 59"50" x 50"~89 lbs

Size options of Ooznest WorkBee Z1+

Ooznest offers WorkBee in six size options with the smallest having a footprint of 19.6” x 19.6” (500mm x 500mm) and the largest one having a footprint of 59” x 59” (1500mm x 1500mm).

The largest WorkBee has a work area of 50” x 50” and weighs around 89 lbs.

You will need a sturdy stand or table with at least 5 ½’ x 5 ½’ of space on top to keep the largest version.

The smallest WorkBee can be accommodated on most tables as it has a small footprint and weighs around 55 lbs.

If you need to work on 4 x 4 sheets or full size 4 x 8 sheets go for the 1500mm x 1500mm version.

For wood sign makers or people working on workpieces under 10” x 10”, the 500mm x 500mm version is a good choice.

I recommend you get the largest size that fits in your workshop as the price difference between the sizes is not much.

The machine has an overall height of 20 inches and has a maximum Z-axis travel of 3.46 inches.

2. Material Capability of Workbee Z1+

Insignia made on WorkBee
Insignia made on WorkBee

Ooznest WorkBee Z1+ can plow through wood, plastic, foam, carbon fiber, leather, PCB, and many more with good precision and finish.

You can also mill aluminum, brass, copper, bronze, gold, lead, silver, tin, and zinc on the WorkBee Z1+.

The aluminum however has to be of machinable grade such as 1100, 2011, 3003, and 6061.

Even though the maximum Z-axis travel is 3.46”, the maximum depth to which you can cut is only 1.73” which can be achieved if you use an 18mm thick spoil board.

Just like the Original WorkBee, the spoil board is not shipped with the kit and you will need to purchase an MDF board from your local store. 

Ooznest provides detailed instructions on making a spoil board for your WorkBee Z1+.

3. Chassis/Frame of Workbee Z1+

Black anodized aluminum extrusion frame of WorkBee Z1+
Black anodized aluminum extrusion frame of WorkBee Z1+

The frame is made of anodized aluminum extrusions and you can choose a black or clear coat on them.

Personally, I like the black anodized frame better.

The frames are held together by 6mm thick anodized aluminum plates and nuts made of stainless steel.

Structurally, the frame of the Workbee is made from aluminum C-Beams or V-Slot extrusions.

The great thing about C-Beam based CNC routers it the flexibility it offers if you want to build a bigger machine or change your machine design down the road.

These C-Beams are made from aluminum 6063 and have a 40x80 mm cross-section.

Overall, the build quality is good and the WorkBee Z1+ has excellent rigidity that gives it an accuracy of 0.0039 inches.

4. Linear Motion in Workbee Z1+

Lead screws with thrust bearings on WorkBee Z1+
Lead screws with thrust bearings on WorkBee Z1+

All three axes on the WorkBee Z1+ use a lead screw drive mechanism that uses an 8mm thick shaft.

In the Original Workbee, Ooznest offered a belt-driven version as well.

In the Z1+ however, lead screws are the only option.

That's a good thing as lead screws are considerably more accurate than belts.

The advantage of belt-driven systems is that they are cheaper.

However, Ooznest has managed to keep the price of the Z1+ close to the previous version, even with a lead screw-driven system.

The gantries are guided by polycarbonate V-wheels that move over V-slot extrusions.

V-wheels require less maintenance when compared to other guiding mechanisms like Linear Rails.

However, they are not as smooth or fast as linear rails.

One major change from the Original WorkBee in the Workbee Z1+ is the use of thrust bearings on the lead screw which helps in reducing the vibrations.

The previous version only had flange bearings to support the lead screw. The added thrust bearings also help the WorkBee Z1+ to run quieter and smoother than the previous version.

5. Spindle on Workbee Z1+

Katsu Spindle on WorkBee Z1+
Katsu Spindle on WorkBee Z1+

Ooznest offers multiple spindle options that you can bundle with your purchase at an additional charge.

Alternatively, you can choose to buy one of the 63mm, 65mm, or 69mm spindle mounts offered by Ooznest and use a spindle or router of your choice.

You can also buy WorkBee Z1+ without a spindle mount and use a custom spindle mount if you wish.

Ooznest provides Katsu and Mafell routers as an add-on with your WorkBee Z1+ purchase.

However, if you select the US power option you cannot select the Katsu compact router option.

With the Z1+, consumer-grade routers are the best option and not spindles.

A 2.2kW water-cooled spindle is too heavy for this machine.

If you plan to use such a heavy spindle, you need to look at a heavier machine like the Shapeoko Pro.

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6. Controller and Electronics

Stepper Motors

The leadscrews are driven by NEMA 23 stepper motors with 175 oz-in of holding torque.

They are powerful enough to let you achieve a maximum feed rate of around 100 ipm.

WorkBee Z1+ uses four stepper motors, one each for the X and Y axes and two for the Y-axis.

Dual stepper motors are used on the Y-axis to prevent racking of the gantry which provides better precision.

Controller and Electronics

WorkBee Z1+ CNC machine controller case
WorkBee Z1+ CNC machine controller case

The controller is housed inside a neat and sleek case on the Y-axis gantry which reduces the cabling you need to run for the various axes.

The case provides excellent dust resistance to the control hardware inside and also has multiple cooling fans to keep the controller running cool.

A 32-bit ARM microcontroller-based Duet 2 board is used for all processing purposes. It runs the latest RepRap Firmware version 3.3.

It has 4 GB of internal storage that you can use to run G-code.

You will need to choose from two connectivity options while ordering your WorkBee Z1+, one is ethernet and the other is WiFi.

The advantage of WiFi is that it reduces your cable management considerably.

However, you need to consider whether your CNC router is going to be placed at a location where you can ensure a stable connection with your WiFi network.

Locations such as basements can be zones with weak WiFi.

There is no option to change to an Ethernet controller later if WiFi doesn't work for you.

So you need to consider this carefully and choose.

I recommend you choose the ethernet controller board option if you cannot guarantee a strong WiFi signal at your CNC router location.

If you need USB connectivity you will have to get the ethernet version and purchase an ethernet to USB converter accessory that Ooznest offers.

All the processing is done onboard and there is no limitation on the type of operating system you can use, theoretically any device with a web browser can be used to control WorkBee Z1+.

WorkBee Z1+ has limit switches on all three axes to prevent the gantry from crashing into the frame and also helps in homing the device.

The power supply unit is sealed against dust and is IP65 rated. It can work on standard power supplies across the world but you will need to select the appropriate plug option for the outlet you use.

7. Software for Workbee Z1+

WorkBee Control software interface
WorkBee Control software interface

Ooznest provides WorkBee Control as the CNC software to control the WorkBee Z1+ CNC router.

The software is pre-installed and pre-configured on the controller that ships with the kit. You do not need to install any additional software on your computer.

You can use the software by logging into it through any web browser on a device connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the WorkBee or connected via an ethernet cable.

The control software from Ooznest is really easy to use and intuitive. It has a clutter-free user interface that includes all the necessary functions.

The software can run standard G-code generated from most CAD/CAM software programs.

However, you will need to use a paid or free CAD/CAM software program to design and generate G-code for your projects.

8. Accessories

Original WorkBee USB to Ethernet Adaptor

USB to Ethernet adapter for WorkBee Z1+
USB to Ethernet adapter for WorkBee Z1+

WorkBee Z1+ has two connectivity options, WiFi and ethernet. If you do not have either of these connectivity facilities on your computer you will need this accessory.

It costs around $28 and converts the USB signals to Ethernet. But you will need to buy the WorkBee Z1+ with the ethernet option for this to work.

Original WorkBee XYZ Touch Probe

XYZ touch probe from Ooznest
XYZ touch probe from Ooznest

This is a touch plate from Ooznest that works with the WorkBee Z1+, you can use it for easily zeroing the X, Y, and Z axes.

It is made of aluminum and it also works as a corner finding tool. Additionally, it is a plug-and-play device and can be easily integrated with the control software.

You can buy this accessory from the official website for around $68.

I highly recommend you get this as zeroing is much faster with this accessory and can save you a lot of frustration down the road.

CNC Dust Shoe from Ooznest

Dust shoe from Ooznest
Dust shoe from Ooznest

If you plan on working with wooden workpieces you should definitely use a dust shoe along with a CNC dust collection system.

This dust shoe is a good fit for any 69 mm router and has a 2 ½” dust collection port that you can use to connect your shop vac or dust collector.

The skirt is made of nylon brush that is 2 inches tall and provides ample vacuum to scoop up the chips generated.

The official website lists the dust shoe for around $225.

However, you can find much more affordable CNC dust shoes if you were to choose from third-party dust shoes.

Make sure the size of the dust shoe you choose matches the spindle diameter of your Workbee Z1+.

Original WorkBee Enclosure

Enclosure for WorkBee from Ooznest
Enclosure for WorkBee from Ooznest

You will need an Enclosure to contain the dust generated during CNC routing and keep them from damaging the other equipment in your shop.

This enclosure kit comes with frames and hinged doors. You will need to provide materials to make the walls of the enclosure.

In my opinion, polycarbonate is a good option to build an enclosure as they are transparent and allows you to view the cutting process.

This enclosure kit from Ooznest was designed for the Original WorkBee but it will also work on the Z1+ as both share a similar footprint.

It costs around £205 - £340 ($280 - $460) depending on the size you need and you can buy it from their official website.

9. Assembling the Workbee Z1+

The kit arrives in two boxes as parts and you need to assemble them.

You need to follow Ooznest's guide and expect to spend a whole weekend to get it up and running.

You will need Allen keys and basic tools to put the WorkBee Z1+ together. 

Ooznest provides an excellent instruction manual to help you with assembling the machine.

10. Community

Ooznest has a huge user base and a large online community of users and a good community forum where you can share your queries.

The Ooznest Original Workbee could probably be the most popular hobby-grade CNC router in the UK.

They also have a knowledge base called Ooznest Learning Portal where users can find ideas for projects, view guides, and access troubleshooting tips.

However, you can expect an excellent response from the community.

The community is highly responsive and can help you solve most of the problems you may face while machining with Ooznest WorkBee Z1+.

11. Customer Support

Ooznest is known for their excellent after-sales customer support and has a UK based support team who are highly reliable.

They have plenty of customers in the USA and Canada as well, and Ooznest is known for its excellent customer support.

You can contact them over the phone or E-mail for any queries related to your Ooznest CNC router.

Additionally, the WorkBee Z1+ has a one-year warranty that covers any defects in manufacturing.

A great thing about Ooznest is the backward compatibility it offers to its existing customers when new products are launched.

The Workbee Z1+ is backward compatible with the Original Workbee, so you can buy the extra components and upgrade your Original Workbee to a Workbee Z1+.

The continued support for legacy products is the sign of a company that cares about its customers.

12. Final Thoughts

The Workbee Z1+ is an excellent choice for hobbyists who want quality milling at an affordable cost.

Ooznest offers extreme customizability in terms of size and choice of components for the Z1+.

In its largest size option, Z1+ offers a 4'x4' cutting area, at a price that's similar to its smaller-sized competitors like Shapeoko and X-Carve.

It is a popular choice among hobbyists and hence has a large community of users.

In addition to all this. you also have guaranteed quality customer support from Ooznest.

Ooznest Workbee Z1+ vs Ooznest Original Workbee- What's Changed

The original WorkBee CNC router from Ooznest was well received and good enough for hobbyists.

The Z1+ upgrade has made it even better to make it faster and more accurate than the Original WorkBee.

Coming to the Size of the machine, there is no change here WorkBee has the same six size options as it had before.

One of the most significant changes is the use of thrust bearings on the lead screw drive mechanism. 

This allows the WorkBee to run smoother, quieter and at the same time reduces the vibrations, which improves the quality of your cuts.

For a spindle, Ooznest offers the same Mafell and Katsu spindles as it did with the original WorkBee.

The stepper motors used have similar torque performance and gives you a feed rate of around 100 ipm on both machines.

The controller has also been upgraded and now runs on RepRap Firmware 3.3 compared to version 1 on the original WorkBee.

Controller placement has also been changed and it now rests on the gantry which reduces the length of cabling you need to run.

Additionally, the controller case has been redesigned to have better cooling and access to boards inside while providing excellent dust resistance.

The power supply unit has been changed and the Z1+ uses the Meanwell power supply unit which also includes an E-stop button, something that the original WorkBee lacked.

Furthermore, Z1+ has better cable tracks that allow you to have proper cable management and helps keep the cables arranged neatly.

On the software front, the WorkBee control software has gone through modifications to optimize performance.

Original WorkBee used the Duet Web Control software to control the machine, Z1+ uses a revamped version of the same software called WorkBee Control.

The assembly process is quicker on the Z1+ as there are a reduced number of parts and the assembly manuals have been modified to address all the issues faced in the previous version.

In a nutshell, the Z1+ looks better, runs smoother and quieter, has a better controller and software, and costs nearly the same as the original WorkBee.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I upgrade my existing WorkBee machine to WorkBee Z1+?

Yes, Ooznest has made all of the components to be backward compatible, meaning you can buy the components and upgrade your old Original WorkBee and make it a WorkBee Z1+.

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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