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Best Software for X Carve

Without the latest software innovations on your drive, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Take your car for example. How many times have you had to just give up on it because of its outdated software? If you want to improve operational efficiency and reduce costs, then I recommend that you go with an off-the-shelf product that is compatible with X Carve.

X Carve is a simple desktop application that enables you to carve out digital designs into real wood. This is the only way to create real wood engravings in software today, and it is offered in several quality levels. X Carve works great on any model of touch screen device, including tablets, cellphone, and laptops.

X-Carve is a 3D carving machine that can carve designs out of a variety of materials: wood, plastics (e.g. acrylic and HDPE) and other materials. The versatility of machines like X-Carve (often called 3D carving machines, CNC milling machines, or CNC routing machines) is that they can be used to aid all kinds of projects and applications. 

Many people use X-Carve to make gifts for friends and family members, items to decorate their home, and products to sell. Some of the most common products our customers create are signs, trays, toys, guitars, home decor products, games, kitchen accessories, and furniture. You can browse ready-to-carve project designs in our Projects section. 

With a CNC milling machine like X-Carve, you are not just limited to making projects that are completed exclusively on the machine. Many customers use X-Carve to mill parts/fixtures for larger projects. You can also carve out segments that are assembled to make the final product. Some examples include modular furniture, inlays on larger pieces, or components that enhance other projects. Our YouTube channel is filled with videos from makers that use X-Carve for a variety of different projects.

If you’re building a project with multiple components or in an assembly line fashion, X-Carve can be used to make jigs, fixtures, and devices that expedite the assembly or production of other projects. Nick from Blink Lab Studios uses jigs to hold pieces in place for carving, assist with assembling his custom lampshades and maximize storage and efficiency in his small shop.

Steps for Connecting Fusion 360 to X-Carve

1. Initial Easel Setup

You can skip this step if you’ve already connected your X-Carve to your computer and used it with Easel successfully. All we are looking to do here is make sure that your microcontroller is sending the commands to your stepper motors that’ll drive them in the correct directions.

If you’ve wired your stepper motors backward and you send gCode coordinates that move your x-axis motor 2 steps forward, it’ll move them backward. The Easel setup process can account for this and reverse the commands with the microcontroller’s firmware – follow X-Carve’s initial setup guide for this.

2. Universal gCode Sender

The sender software interface isn’t going to be very complex. You’ll have some control buttons for manually moving the machine around and the option of selecting and sending a gCode file (.nc filetype).

Here are two options: Universal gCode Sender (UGS) or Source Rabbit gCode Sender. UGS seems to be the most popular choice among X-Carve owners, but some people may find its Java interface to be a little clunky. I still vouch for its quality though.

3. X-Carve Post-Processing File

First, you will download the file here. Unzip the archive and place the .cps file into your F360 Posts folder. You can find where that is exactly by reading Fusion’s guide on Personal Posts.

If you’re on a Mac, it’s as easy as this:

If you want to utilize Fusion’s cloud features and store your post file on their server so you can access it on any machine (as long as you remember your F360 login details), follow this guide.

4. Toolset

Here’s where you’ll really be glad you stumbled across this article. Inventables offers a wide range of full carbide bits with 1/8″ and 1/4″ shanks – that means they’re high quality and they’ll fit your router spindle. They also have colored depth collars which will not only make your tool programming process a little easier, but it’s also much easier to identify and organize them. They are definitely recommended – you can purchase them in their official shop.

To save you hours and hours of meticulous cataloguing by precisely measuring each of your bits’ dimensions, you can download our extensive Inventables tool library for Fusion 360 here. To read more about it (with setup instructions included), visit the official post here.

Or you can skip to downloading the toolset here: F360 Inventables Toolset v3

If you’re having trouble getting the .tools file to work, there’s a few other options for older versions of Fusion or even other programs here: Alternate Toolset Filetypes Archive.

5. Put it all to use

If you’ve loaded in your post-processing file, imported your Inventables tool library, and you have a gCode sender downloaded, then you’re ready start working. All you need to do now is make a model and program the toolpaths in Fusion, use the Post-Process option to export it to gCode using the Easel post-processing file provided, open your gCode sender and connect to your X-Carve to send the code.

Obviously, we’ve glossed over a lot of the important pieces regarding how to properly program your toolpaths and select the right tools for the job, ensure you can stop and change your tools when needed, etc etc. All that will have to wait for another tutorial – but at least you’re connected and ready to go.

The Main Differences Between X-Carve vs Shapeoko

The main differences between X-Carve vs Shapeoko are:

  • X-Carve can be customized if you’re an experienced CNC user with a variety of add-ons, whereas the Shapeoko comes as one unit with no add-ons
  • X-Carve comes with a dust collector, whereas Shapeoko is a lot cheaper
  • X-Carve is a cloud-based software, whereas Shapeoko is a software that can be installed onto your PC or Mac
  • X-Carve software has some features locked behind a paid plan, whereas Shapeko’s free software contains all the features upfront
  • X-Carve takes a long time to install, whereas Shapeoko comes part-installed

Shapeoko 3D Printer

The Shapeoko, by Carbide 3D, advertises itself as ‘The Best CNC Router for Your Shop’. It comes in three sizes. Let’s take a look at the specifications for the Shapeoko 3:

Shapeoko Specifications

Cutting Area

  • 16” (X-axis)
  • 16” (Y-axis)
  • 3” (Z-axis)

Footprint

  • 28.4” (X-axis)
  • 23.9” (Y-axis)
  • 16.6” (Z-axis)

Accuracy

If calibrated correctly, accuracy can be 0.005”

Electronics

Input Voltage: 24v

Spindle

  • Model: Carbide Compact Router
  • Speed: 12,000-30,000 RPM
Why Go With Shapeoko? | Matter Hackers

The Main Features of Shapeoko

One of the main selling points of the Shapeoko is that it comes ready to go out of the box – with no need to buy extras to make the machine work more smoothly. You can, however, buy an expansion Shakeoko kit at any time to upgrade from the Shapeoko 3 to the XL or XXL. 

Installation

The great thing about each Shapeoko model is that they come partially assembled – it takes about two hours to assemble the rest together for complete assembly. This gives it a bit of an advantage over the X-Carve, which can be a lengthy process. However, some reviewers say the instructions aren’t completely clear, which is a shame.

The Hardware

Shapeoko comes with the Carbide Compact Router. It has a 12-foot power cord, which works well with the Shapeoko 3, XL, and XXL. The RPM range is 12,000 – 13,000RPM, making it pretty powerful. It’s almost identical to the Makita 1-1/4inch router, which Carbide previously used with their Shapeoko machines before replacing it with their own version.

The cutting area varies in size depending on the model you choose. The XXL version, for example, comes in at 32” (X-axis) x 33” (Y-axis) x 3” (Z-axis) – this is pretty huge, allowing you to work on some big projects.

There is no dust collection mechanism included in the box (dust boot), which is a bit of a let-down, as it’s so vital to using a CNC machine safely. Most people recommend the DeWalt DW660 Dust Shoe as a simple method for dust collection.

Speed and Performance

Depending on the type of material used, users say that Shapeoko gives a pretty smooth, accurate finish to projects, but you can sometimes notice drill marks on acrylic projects. However, projects made from wood gave a professional result.

Like the X-Carve, some people had issues with accuracy. It takes a lot of tinkering to get the accuracy just right, with users having to pay a lot of attention to the belts in order to improve accuracy.

Again, the lack of dust collection included is a shame, but most users have found a way to work around this, and the DeWalt dust shoe works quite well.

Software

Carbide Create has an advantage over the X-Carve’s Easel for two reasons. Firstly, it’s not cloud-based. This means it will work regardless of whether X-Carve decide to continue to provide it.

Secondly, it offers tons of features for free – including V-carving (which you have to pay for with Easel). These include:

  • Create basic shapes
  • Create splines
  • Text (using any font from your computer)
  • Pockets and contours
  • V-Carving
  • Engraving
  • Tool library
  • Speed estimation

You can see a preview of your work at any time, too.

Upgrades and Extras

The Shapeoko has everything you need in the box (minus a dust collector), but Carbide does offer a range of bit cutters in different shapes and sizes on their website. They also sell materials directly, including:

  • Synthetic wood
  • Metal
  • PCB
  • Plastic
  • Synthetic

Shapeoko Pricing

The pricing for Shapeoko is as follows:

Conclusion

In a world of cloud-based applications, software used to be a one-time purchase that was never had to be replaced. Today, a new type of software has taken hold – Software as a Service (SaaS) – and is rapidly replacing the traditional Software-as-a-Service model, which requires licenses for all users. While SaaS tends to increase your costs, there are some SaaS tools that offer compelling value for your software’s environment.

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