X-Carve Pro vs Shapeoko Pro [2021]- Which is Better?

X-Carve Pro vs Shapeoko Pro [2021]- Which is Better?

X-Carve Pro vs Shapeoko Pro [2021]- Which is Better?

X-Carve Pro or Shapeoko Pro?

Both these CNC routers are meant for businesses that want fast and smooth milling without paying for an industrial CNC.

X-Carve Pro is made by Inventables and is available in two sizes, 4’ × 2’ and 4’ × 4’ cutting areas.

Carbide 3D offers Shapeoko Pro in three different sizes, Standard, XL, and XXL.

In this article, I thoroughly evaluate and compare the features of both CNCs to help you identify the CNC you need.

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1. Price

The price of these two CNCs is skewed and Shapeoko Pro is the affordable choice among the two.

However, the maximum size offered on the Shapeoko Pro is smaller than the maximum size on the X-Carve Pro.

And this difference can be crucial if you need to fit a 4ft wide piece of material in your CNC router.

The largest Shapeoko Pro with a 33" x 33" (1,089 sq inch) work area costs around $2,800 and the smallest X-Carve with a 48" x 24" (1,152 sq inch) work area costs roughly $8,495.

CNCPrice
X-Carve Pro 4’ × 2’~$ 8,495
Shapeoko Pro XXL~$ 2,800

Price of X-Carve Pro and Shapeoko Pro

Note that in Shapeoko Pro, the router/spindle is an addon which you can choose if you want.

Shapeoko Pro beats X-Carve Pro hands down when it comes to price. But there are other factors to consider as well.

Winner: Shapeoko Pro

2. Footprint and Work area

CNCFootprintWork areaZ Travel
X-Carve Pro 4’ × 2’65.75’’ x 31.6’’48’’ x 24’’4’’
X-Carve Pro 4’ × 4’65.75’’ x 55.75’’48’’ x 48’’4’’
Shapeoko Pro Std.33’’ x 24’’17.5’’ x 17.5’’4’’
Shapeoko Pro XL50’’ x 24.65’’33’’ x 17.5’’4’’
Shapeoko Pro XXL50’’ x 42’’33’’ x 33’’4’’

Size summary of X-Carve Pro and Shapeoko Pro

Both variants of the X-Carve Pro have a 4’ wide work area with both ends open.

This width allows you to push long 4’ wide sheets through it, provided you can properly support the extra length sticking out. 

For X-Carve Pro 4’ × 4’, you need a 6’ × 6’ table with a minimum 600 lbs load-carrying capacity.

The open design of the work area and the tiling feature of Easel Pro enables X-Carve Pro to carve sheets larger than the machine's work area.

This feature is quite useful because it lets you work on 4’×8’ sheets.

If you're wondering if you can buy the 4'x2' X Carve Pro and later upgrade to a 4'x4' one know that you can't.

The X-Carve Pro has a gantry height of 5.5’ with 5’’ clearance. The high gantry clearance enables you to work on thick materials and makes it easier to change bits.

The largest variant of Shapeoko Pro has a 33’’ x 33’’ work area, which is 15’’ smaller (in X and Y) than the largest version of X-Carve Pro.

Both X-Carve Pro and Shapeoko Pro can carve materials with maximum thickness up to 4’’ (depends on bit length as well).

With a big cutting area and high gantry clearance, X-Carve Pro is the winner when it comes to the size of the workpiece that it can accommodate.

Winner: X-Carve Pro

3. Frame

CNCFrame Material
X-Carve ProPowder-coated aluminum
Shapeoko ProMachined aluminum

Summary of frames used in X-Carve Pro and Shapeoko Pro

The frame of X-Carve Pro is made with rigid C-shape aluminum bars.

The powder coating on the frame gives X-Carve Pro a smooth, slick look.

In practical terms, the coating also helps to keep the CNC corrosion-free.

The work bed has a series of thick aluminum cross members underneath. Such an arrangement prevents the work bed from sagging under heavy loads.

The base frame of X-Carve Pro

Additionally, the cross members have six leveling feet, which lets you level the work bed on uneven surfaces.

With the good build quality of X-Carve Pro, you can achieve repeatability of 0.001’’ and accuracy of 0.001’’.

The frame of Shapeoko Pro is made of machined aluminum extrusion.

Underneath the work bed, multiple extruded cross members rest flat on the table and provide a solid foundation for carrying load.

The base frame of Shapeoko Pro

It makes the work bed as stable as the workbench on which it rests and prevents it from sagging under heavy loads.

The edges of cross members are attached with support panels for Y-Axis drag chains for cable management. 

The black aluminum end plates secure the X and Y-Axes belts at the extrusion end and give the CNC machine a premium look.

Since both the CNC routers have a series of extrusions underneath the work bed, it reduces the chances of sagging the MDF wasteboard. 

Overall, both CNC machines have a solid build quality and I'm calling it a tie.

Winner: Tie

4. Work bed

The work bed of the X-Carve Pro is made of MDF with M5 threaded inserts.

In X-Carve Pro, you will get a version of a work bed with three t-slots, two along the Y-axis rails, and one in the middle.

Workbed of X-Carve Pro

Typically, M5 nuts are placed into threaded inserts to hold the workpiece but the t-slots allow you to slide toggle clamps in rails for better workpiece holding.

T-slots inflict less wear and tear on your spoilboard compared to threaded inserts.

Clamping on workbed of X-Carve Pro

Inventables call the work bed of the Shapeoko Pro the hybrid table. 

Hybrid table as worked of Shapeoko Pro

The arrangement of hybrid extrusions forms the T-track rails. 3’’ wide MDF slats are placed between the hybrid extrusions.

Notice that the t-tracks in Shapeoko pro are at much shorter intervals, giving you much more flexibility for workholding.

Clamping on the hybrid table of Shapeoko Pro

Instead of M5 nuts, Shapeoko Pro uses teez nuts for clamping.

Additionally, Carbide 3D provides gator tooth tiger claw clamps, which are low-profile side clamps for work holding.

Tiger claw clamping on Shapeoko Pro

If you want the surface milling without obstructions, these clamps are suitable for you. 

You can drill holes on the MDF slats and place some M5 threaded inserts to use threaded nuts for work holding.

Shapeoko Pro offers a hybrid table that is well-engineered and provides better work holding capabilities than X-Carve Pro.

Hence, Shapeoko Pro is ahead in this section.

Winner: Shapeoko Pro

5. Linear Motion

CNCDriveLinear Guide
X-Carve Pro 25 mm ball screw drive in X, Y, and Z-Axes.Rigid rails
Shapeoko Pro 15 mm belt drive in X and Y-axis. Lead screw driven Z-axis.Rigid rails

Summary of linear motion elements used in X-Carve Pro and Shapeoko Pro

X-Carve Pro uses 25 mm ball screws to drive all the axes. Ball screw systems are highly efficient for horizontal motion and can carry heavy loads.

Ball screw on X-Carve Pro

The ball screws in the X-axis are hidden between the C-shaped aluminum bars of the gantry and the ball screws in the Y-axis are located underneath the frame. 

Such placement of ball screws helps keep dust and debris away. However, ball screws require timely lubrication for long life and smooth movement.

The gantry is integrated with two rigid aluminum linear rails for linear motion in the X-Axis. 

The Y-Axis rails have linear guides at the outside of the frame, which support the Y-Axis adaptor plates of the gantry.

Belt drive on Shapeoko Pro

In Shapeoko Pro, 15 mm GT2 open-ended rubber belts are used to provide linear motion in the X and Y-axes. 

The stiff and wide belt drive prevents backlash in Shapeoko Pro and requires less maintenance than ball screws.

The X-axis gantry has integrated linear rails, which provide linear motion to the router for high-speed machining.

Although the linear rails provide rigidity and reduce vibrations, they require proper oiling to prevent rusting.

The Z-axis uses lead screws for linear motion. Lead screws have inherent backlash but can hold heavier loads compared to ball screws on the vertical axis.

Although belt drives are fast, they are less accurate compared to ball screws (which are expensive!).

This is one reason why you don't see belt drives in any CNC router costing over $5k.

Winner: X-Carve Pro

6. Material Capability 

Using X-Carve Pro, you can carve softwood, hardwood, plywood, MDF, plastics, polycarbonate, and acrylic.

With proper tools and lubrication, you can cut non-ferrous materials like aluminum, brass, and copper.

Aluminum milling on X-Carve Pro

For 3D carving using X-Carve Pro,  you need separate 3D CAD/CAM software to design and generate G-code for your project.

Shapeoko Pro CNC router can cut wood, plastic, MDF, cast acrylic, extended PVC, aluminum, and copper.

Additionaly, nothing stops you from machining 303 stainless steel with Shapeoko Pro.

It is possible to carve steel using an adaptive tool path and proper cut settings.

Aluminum milling on Shapeoko Pro

The user manual of Shapeoko Pro provides links to guide videos to help you with recommended cut settings and tool path design for effective cutting.

MaterialX-Carve ProShapeoko Pro
Non-metalsYesYes
Non-Ferrous MetalsYes (with lubrication)Yes
SteelNoYes (with coolant)

Material capabilities of Shapeoko Pro and X-Carve Pro

Overall, both CNC machines can cut metals well. But the ability of Shapeoko Pro to mill stainless steel pushes it ahead of X-Carve Pro.

Winner: Shapeoko Pro

7. Feeds and Speeds

For any CNC router, the cutting speed depends on the material being cut and the quality of the cutting bit used along with the router/spindle.

The feed relies on tool type, available power, RPM of the cutting bit, and workpiece strength.

The CAD/CAM software of X-Carve Pro and Shapeoko Pro include preset values which are recommended for milling the material you choose.

As an example, I have tabulated the recommended cut settings for MDF for both the CNCs.

ParameterX-Carve ProShapeoko Pro
MaterialMDFMDF
Bit Diameter⅛ ’’⅛ ’’
Depth per pass0.06’’0.04’’
RPM1800018000
Feed rate X/y40 ipm40 ipm

Feed rate comparison of Shapeoko Pro and X-Carve Pro

Quite clearly, for the same feed rate on MDF, X-Care Pro will do 1.5 times deeper cuts than Shapeoko Pro.

Hence, X-Carve Pro edges out Shapeoko Pro here.

Winner: X-Carve Pro

8. Spindle/Router

CNCRouter/SpindleRPM
X-Carve ProPre-programmed VFD Spindle8,000-24,000
Shapeoko ProCarbide Compact Router12,000-30,000

Spindle/router specifications of X-Carve Pro and Shapeoko Pro
VFD spindle on X-Carve Pro

X-Carve Pro comes with a pre-assembled proprietary CNC spindle.

It is a 2 hp (1.5kW) unit and it is air-cooled which allows you to use it for extended periods. 

The spindle is integrated with a pre-programmed VFD, enabling you to control the speed through Easel Pro software.

It comes with an ER-16A adapter that can hold ⅛  and ¼ collets, allowing you to use tools with shank diameters ranging from 0.118” to 0.276”.

As an end mill, the kit contains a ¼" high-speed 2-flute upcut bit, a V-bit with a ¼" shank, and a planing bit.

It has a variable speed range between 8,000-24,000 RPM.

While X-Carve Pro comes with a good spindle, Inventables does not recommend choosing a spindle of your own.

Possibly, because the VFD is pre-programmed to work with X-Carve Pro.

However, this is a disadvantage as most CNCs at the price of the X-Carve Pro allow you to switch spindles.

Shapeoko Pro ships with a 65mm router mount in the package. Its robust build quality minimizes the deflection of the router during heavy-duty milling.

However, the router is not provided by default, and you need to opt for it as an add-on.

Carbide 3D recommends the Carbide Compact Router for Shapeoko Pro. It has an RPM range between 12,000-30,000.

It is a 1.25 hp router, and you can plug it into a standard 120V AC socket.

Carbide Compact router on Shapeoko Pro

The router package includes a 12-foot power cord and ⅛ ’’ and ¼ ’’ collet to hold the cutting tool.

Alternatively, the Makita RT0701C router can also fit into the 65 mm router mount of the Shapeoko Pro. 

Considering the spindle with VFD feature and lower RPM, which is helpful for metal milling, X-Carve Pro has a better spindle setup than Shapeoko Pro.

Winner: X-Carve Pro

9. Accessories

Accessories add more functionality to your CNC machine. 

X-Carve Pro comes with a Z-probe. Once you change the cutting bit, it helps you zero the Z-axis.

Its touch disk is made with copper, which has better conductivity and sensitivity to improve accuracy.

The front right-endplate of Shapeoko Pro integrates BitSetter to zero the Z-axis of the router.

Carbide 3D also offers Bit Zero V2 and Bit runner V2 for Shapeoko Pro. These do not come with the package and need to be purchased separately.

The accessories for both the CNCs are more or less similar and hence I call it a tie.

Winner: Tie

10. Controller and Electronics

CNCStepper MotorController
X-Carve ProNEMA 23HMI
Shapeoko ProNEMA 23Carbide Motion 5.0

Stepper motor and controller on X-Carve Pro and Shapeoko Pro

Stepper motor and Stepper motor driver

X-Carve Pro comes with four stepper motors, which provide linear motion in X, Y, and Z directions. 

All four stepper motors are NEMA 23 type with 292 oz-in holding torque. The Y-axis uses dual drive to prevent racking.

The DRV8711 stepper driver controls the stepper motors of the X-Carve Pro. It features 1/256 micro-stepping and stall detection and provides a maximum current of 4.5 A to each stepper motor.

Like the X-Carve Pro, the Shapeoko Pro also uses four NEMA 23 type stepper motors to provide linear motion in X, Y, and Z-direction.

All stepper motors have 140 oz-in holding torque and like the X-Carve Pro Shapeoko Pro also uses a dual drive for the Y-axis. 

The stepper motors on X-Carve have better holding torque and hence can carry heavier loads than Shapeoko Pro.

Controller and Electronics

In X-Carve Pro the controller board, stepper driver, power supply unit, heat sinks, and cooling fans are housed in an enclosure that looks like a computer cabinet.

Controller of the X-Carve Pro

The controller box is neatly designed and looks sleek. The controller board is based on GRBL and flashed with custom GRBL firmware.

You can place the bulky main controller underneath the work table after the initial setup. 

Additionally, you get a pendant-type external controller. Inventable calls it HMI which stands for Human Machine Interface.

It lets you pause, resume, and reset the cutting process. 

HMI for X-Carve Pro

It also has an emergency stop button to stop the CNC machine immediately in case of emergencies.

The USB Type-C port on the pendant type controller allows you to connect the CNC router with Easel Pro. It also has a Z-probe port which is used to connect the Z-probe for calibration.

The controller plugs into any standard 120V non-GFI outlet, which means you need not rewire your shop to install this CNC.

Shapeoko Pro comes with the proprietary Carbide Motion 3.0 control board. The controller houses connectors for stepper motors and proximity switches inside it.

Carbide Motion control board on Shapeoko Pro

It has Atmel 328 microcontroller and GRBL 1.1 firmware flashed onto it, which lets you control CNC with Carbide Motion software.

You can install the controller on the Y-rail. It is attached with ground wire to resist EMI and static discharge. 

The back of the controller has a USB port and it is used to connect to Carbide Motion on your computer.

Both the controllers have a well-enclosed design and are GRBL based controllers.

However, the inherent limitation of GRBL to 3-axis prevents you from adding a 4th rotary axis to either of the machines.

If you need a 4th axis, a CNC router based on other CNC controllers (non-GRBL) is what you need.

In comparison, the controller on X-Carve Pro has a pendant controller and is much more robust than the Controller on Shapeoko Pro.

Winner: X-Carve Pro

11. Software

CNCSoftwareModeModeling
X-Carve ProEasel ProCloud and offline3D
Shapeoko ProCarbide Create and Carbide MotionOffline2D and 2.5D

Software of X-Carve Pro and Shpeoko Pro
Easel Pro Software

Easel Pro is an all-in-one professional CNC software package.

With this software, you can design models (CAD) and create toolpaths (CAM), and control the X-Carve Pro using a single interface.

Easel Pro is also compatible with various design software, such as AutoCAD, Aspire, Fusion360, Illustrator, InDesign, VCarve Pro, Photoshop, and SolidWorks.

Easel Pro is suitable for creating 2D designs and 3D objects. For 3D carving with X-Carve Pro, you need separate 3D CAD/CAM software, such as Fusion 360.

You can also import DXF, G-Code, and SVG files from other CAM/CAD software in Easel Pro.

Its tiling feature creates separate tiles and automatically calculates their size depending on the CNC’s work area and sheet size in the Y direction and helps you to work on full size 4' x 8' sheets.

Although it is a cloud-based software and requires an internet connection to save and load projects, you can work offline once your project is loaded on PC.

The software comes with a three-year subscription, which needs to be renewed. It costs you $12.99/month to get an annual subscription plan.

However, you can still use the Easel basic for CAD/CAM but with limited functionalities.

Inventables provides various tutorials on its website, from which you can learn the software. You can also find additional learning resources for Easel Pro on YouTube.

Carbide 3D provides two software packages, viz. Carbide Create and Carbide Motion Control for Shapeoko Pro.

Both work offline and are free CNC software programs.

Carbide Create lets you do CAD/CAM for your project. However, it is limited to 2D and 2.5D designing.

Carbide Create software

You can use a separate software like Fusion360, MeshCAM, or SolidWorks for 3D CAD/CAM.

Carbide Motion is the CNC router controller software for Shapeoko Pro, which acts as the dashboard of your CNC router. It integrates with Carbide Create to offer you an all-in-one software experience.

Carbide Motion software

It comes with features like jogging and work offsets, with which you can have good control of your CNC.

Both Carbide Create and Carbide Motion can run on Windows PC and MAC.

Since both, Carbide software runs offline, you can work even in areas with poor or no internet connection.

Overall, both software programs are easy to use easy and help you to get started with Shapeoko Pro.

The software package of both the CNCs offers a similar range of functionalities and ease of use and it is tough to decide which is the better one.

Winner: Tie

12. Homing Switch

X-Carve Pro comes with homing switches on all axes, which can be used to drive axes to a known, fixed, and repeatable location.

X-Carve has an extra homing switch on Y-axis that helps with squaring the gantry.

Shapeoko Pro includes inductive homing switches on all its axes.

The additional homing switch at the gantry of the X-Carve Pro is something extra which you don’t have in the Shapeoko Pro.

Hence, the winner in this section is X-Carve Pro.

Winner: X-Carve Pro

13. Dust Collection

CNCDust CollectionIncluded
X-Carve ProDust Shoe, Dust hoseYes
Shapeoko ProDust BootYes

Dust collection attachments on X-Carve Pro and Shapeoko Pro

A dust collection system is essential to keep your workplace clean and protect other equipment from dust.

X-Carve Pro includes a custom-designed dust shoe.

It comes with an easy-access knob to move it up or down, according to the thickness of the carving material.

Its easy-to-pop-out feature lets you change the cutting bits hassle-free. 

X-Carve Pro comes with a dust hose. The 4’ × 4’ version gets a 54" long hose and the 2' x 4' comes with a 42" long hose, both of them feature a ground wire to prevent electrostatic build-up.

Shapeoko Pro comes with a 65 mm dust boot called “Sweepy V2” made from polycarbonate. 

It comes in two parts. The top half is clamped to the router, and the lower half gets attached magnetically. This arrangement provides easy access to change the cutting bit.

You can attach it with a standard shop vac adaptor of 2.5 inches.

If you are working with a big router, for ex., Dewalt 611, you can connect a 69 mm dust boot with it. It is an optional accessory and needs to be purchased separately.

Both X-Carve Pro and Shapeoko Pro come with a good dust shoe, but X-Carve provides a dust hose along with the dust shoe which makes it a better deal.

Winner: X-Carve Pro

14. Assembly

CNCAssembly Resource(s)Advertised Assembly Time
X-Carve ProVideo Instructions and manual2 hours
Shapeoko ProVideo Instructions and Manual3-4 hours

Assembly time for X-Carve Pro and Shapeoko Pro

X-Carve Pro ships with pre-assembled components. It comes with a pre-assembled gantry and Y-axis, which makes the process easy for you.

The installation of the heavy gantry of the X-Carve Pro requires two persons to lift and fix it onto the frame.

Inventables have provided dedicated videos on their website with step-by-step instructions for CNC assembly, and you will find a manual within the box of X-Carve Pro.

The assembly of the X-Carve Pro can be completed within two hours as claimed by Inventables.

The gantry of the Shapeoko Pro ships with pre-installed wiring. You need to attach X/Z assembly, GT2 belts, and stepper motors to make it a functional unit.

The components, which arrive in the shipping boxes, are not too heavy. Hence, the assembly can be completed by one person.

If you have basic CNC assembly skills, you can complete it within 3-4 hours.

In the shipping box of both CNCs, you will find an assembly guide with all the necessary instructions.

Additionally, both Inventables and Carbide 3D have uploaded dedicated videos to make the assembly process easy for you.

The shipping boxes of both CNC routers are well-labeled and come with essential tools for assembly.

The X-Carve Pro can be assembled quicker and is much easier to assemble as well.

Winner: X-Carve Pro

15. Community

Both Inventables and Carbide 3D have an active online community forum to discuss all your queries and to get peer support. 

The forums of both brands connect all users around the globe to assist you, be it in troubleshooting or upgrades.

Both brands do equally well on this metric, indicating a tie.

Winner: Tie

16. Customer Support and Warranty 

CNCWarranty
X-Carve Pro30-day return, 12 months warranty
Shapeoko Pro30-day return, 30-day user error warranty, and 12 months warranty

Warranty on X-Carve Pro and Shapeoko Pro

Both X-Carve Pro and Shapeoko Pro come with US-based excellent customer support.

X-Carve Pro comes with a one-year warranty. Additionally, Inventables has collaborated with Clyde to offer three years of extended warranty.

Shapeoko Pro also comes with a one-year warranty. Additionally, Carbide 3D offers a “30 days mistakes are on us” policy, where for the first 30 days any part damaged due to operator error is either repaired or replaced by Carbide 3D.

This policy of Carbide 3D builds trust among people for Shapeoko Pro.

Although both brands offer great customer support, Shapeoko Pro wins because of its better warranty policies than X-Carve Pro.

Winner: Shapeoko Pro

You might be interested in this- X-Carve vs Shapeoko 4 [2021]

17. Overall Winner

I have tabulated the section-wise comparison results of X-Carve Pro and Shapeoko Pro:

ParameterWinner
PriceShapeoko Pro
Footprint and Work areaX-Carve Pro
FrameTie
Work bedShapeoko Pro
Linear MotionX-Carve Pro
Material CapabilityShapeoko Pro
Feeds and speedsX-Carve Pro
Spindle/RouterX-Carve Pro
AccessoriesTie
Controller and ElectronicsX-Carve Pro
SoftwareTie
Homing SwitchX-Carve Pro
Dust CollectionX-Carve Pro
AssemblyX-Carve Pro
CommunityTie
Customer support and WarrantyShapeoko Pro

Quick summary of X-Carve Pro vs Shapeoko Pro

Although the Shapeoko Pro is a great machine, the belt drive system on it is a limiting factor.

The biggest flaw with with X-Carve Pro is that you can't use a spindle of your own.

However, better build quality, features, and accuracy of the X-Carve Pro make it the overall winner.

But, you need to pay 3x the price for the X-Carve Pro compared to Shapeoko Pro.

X-Carve Pro is a desirable CNC machine, but its high price can be a barrier for small businesses.

The high price actually puts in the price category of CNC routers like Avid (PRO4824), Axiom(Pro V5), and Camaster (Stinger I).

If you are on a budget, the Shapeoko Pro is an excellent choice and will meet the requirements of most small businesses.

But if you have a bigger budget, definitely consider the other CNC routers as well before going with X-Carve Pro.

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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