I was at the meeting last night and I noticed that the Shapeoko was on a pallet in the aisle.

After doing some research I think I would like to learn my CNC chops on the Shapeoko rather then fight with the (old) manual mill conversion. There are just too many variables on the mill for me to tackle right now. I’ll still do the research, but I would like to get better at CNC before trying the conversion.

Anyway, I would like to get the Shapeoko online (and in English).

It sounded like the Shapeoko could use some overall cleaning up and a new PC to drive it.

I wonder if we could convert it to use Mach 3 so all the CNC’s are on the same system? I’ll check into it. Perhaps we get it running on the existing setup then talk about conversion. Not sure if there is a need for a new controller board to use Mach 3.
Do we have a site license for Mach 3?

We could even use Vectric on it. :slight_smile:

I wanted to check with whomever moved it before I started to assemble things.

We can use Mach3 on any machine in the space so there is no problem there.


you’ll need a new motion controller to use mach3 the current one is only compatible with GRBL softwares

Good to know.

Julien: do you have any info on the Shapeoko that would be helpful? I know you spent a lot of time getting it going. Any quirks or watchouts?



Brad -

Yes, to my understanding we’d need a new control board if we wanted to use Mach3 with the Shapeoko. The Shapeoko currently uses an Arduino Uno and GRBL shield for motion control, much like a 3D printer. The GRBL firmware is responsible for interpreting G-Code and generating step and direction signals for the motor drivers on the shield.

Mach3 performs this work for the Big F(riendly) Router table.

For the Shapeoko, you can just connect to the arduino via serial and send gcode. There are many apps which support this.

I get why you would want to be able to use the same software for all the CNC machines, but before you change the firmware on the shapeoko, consider this:

  1. Presumably the pool of people checked out to use the big CNC would be smaller than the set of people who could use the shapeoko. Is it really better to force everyone to use that same piece of software for compatibility to a machine they can’t use?

  2. My quick research on mach3 seems to indicate that it takes gcode as input. So the same software that sends gcode to the shapeoko could send gcode to mach3, no?

I don’t know much about this stuff, so neither of the questions in those 2 points are rhetorical. Maybe mach3 is so awesome that making the shapako use only it is a good choice, and if I had used mach3 this would be obvious.

Gcode is sent to mach3 and Mach 3 will transform Gcode into a number of steps and direction for each motor in sync.

For the shapeoko, this will done on the Arduino board using the GRBL firmware. If you want to use mach3 on the Shapeoko, you’ll need to replace the arduino with a controller using a parallel port or adding a smoothie board.


Do you have access to the hive13 dropbox? I will put all the info I have on the Shapeoko. You should check two things on this machine:

  1. all the nuts can be un-tighten after some time due to vibrations. I always wanted to put nylon lock models to solve it.
  2. check all the axis are square to each other.When moving on the y axis,the gantry should hit the two rear plates at the same time. You can use a level to check the z axis.
  3. The cable chain system is not the best part of the machine. It get stuck sometimes during operation.


Thanks for the info. Go ahead and put stuff in the dropbox. I’ll figure out how to get access (I may have it already :smile:)

As far as the Mach 3 discussion, I’m not going to change anything for now. I just want to get it back in operation with the existing setup.

If we can just send the gcode and the system handles it, then we may not need to do anything. We could setup the Vetric to talk to the Shapeoko.

I was just thinking of the workflow, it would be nice to have some consistency.

Good times.


Hey, we could always dig up another Arduino and control the big CNC with GRBL.


The intention was simply to get shapeoko out and running. I started this. The computer and system that Julien set up so well had been pushed aside by recent expansion, so I tried to initiate dusting off shapeoko and placing it in a prominent place in hive.

Jon and Ryan moved it out. Jon cleaned up the wiring a bit (which is what Julien was starting when he left, and didn’t finish). I have run it before, have all the software on my laptop, etc.

Quite simply, it works well as is. The work flow is identical. Vectric and fusion and any CAM software are compatible. So Mach is a non issue. Shapeoko software control does exactly the same thing, but is controlled by a serial connection. Mach 3 is parallel. Remember serial and parallel computer ports? Both could run a laser printer by just hitting print. The nuance is rather low level and benefits of bandwidth are moot in the case of shapeoko.

Anyway, let’s meet up and plan the installation. I have some parts to make a simple DIY downdraft enclosure so folks can experiment with PCB etching, engraving composites, etc without giving everyone lung cancer. That’s a next step. I think it will get a lot of use with this capability in addition to being a safe easy way to do woodcuts, art, etc.

So how about we just get it going?

Let me know your availability off list. I’ll be around all weekend.


Yes, sounds like the right thing is to get it going.
I remember the Centronics interface! Big fat parallel cables with snap connectors on the edges . . . . .

I should be at the Hive Saturday late morning.
I wanted to clean up the workbench area and inventory/organize the cabinets next to the workbench.

Looking forward to driving the Shapeoko. :smile:

Parallel ports were also useful as the equivalent of GPIO for controlling stuff, though the skills needed to turn individual pins on and off made this a rare application.