Help! I need to upgrade

Hello everyone,

I have first gen 1000mm x-carve. Everything is stock except for an upgraded z axis and some other parts I got from TBDCNC.

I’m looking for what other upgrades people recommend. I definitely need a new controller and some new stepper motors.

I fell out of using the x-carve for a while but am getting back into it. any help would be appreciated.

thank you much

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Good morning Kevin. Inventables does sell an upgrade kit for both XY and Z axis. I got both last fall and have been happy with both. If you have not yet discovered him, go onto YouTube and look up Paw Paw’s workshop. Phillip makes some fantastic videos for X Carve and has a couple of them dedicated to the upgrade kits.


I recently upgraded my x-controller to the Demon controller with a rotary switch., Phil Johnson, designed and made it. You buy his shield and he lists out the materials you need to buy, he provides printable plans for the case. He designed a rotary switch so I can flip a switch and plug in my rotary and it works great. I use openbuilds sender. Or you can buy a put together controller he assembled. Videos and instructions on the site. Works with laser and router. Good luck. Lots of options.

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In order of my priority for a GEN 1 X-Carve (what I did to mine):

  1. Stiffen the X and Y rails.
    X-Carve Upgrade: Stiffening X and Y Axis
    Do yourself a favor and just buy the upgraded Wide MakerSlide X Axis from Inventables. I made the one in the video above and could not tell the difference between that and the upgraded Wide MakerSlide. Building the one in the video was a lot of work.
    Wide MakerSlide for x-axis
  2. Upgrade the belts to 9mm.
    Belt Upgrade
    You can save money by sourcing your own belts and pulleys, but its harder and more work for you.
  3. Upgrade the X axis stepper motor (and maybe Z axis if not already upgraded).
    270 ozin stepper motor
    You can upgrade the Y axis steppers, but the two motors and double belts of the y-axis will basically match the upgraded x-axis. The upgraded z-axis motor was included in my z-axis upgrade kit from CNC4Nubie kit. I’m not sure its necessary since the lead screw increases the torque like 8x or more over belts.
  4. Upgrade the stepper drivers and drive with an Arduino running GRBL.
    Stepper Driver
    I’m and electrical engineer so I don’t mind building my own electronics. I’m not a fan of the all in one controllers that have the drivers on the board. They can not possibly get the heat out better than separate driver controllers.
  5. Upgrade to an air cooled 800W spindle with VFD
    Air Cooled Spindle Motor 0.8KW 65MM CNC Spindle ER11 Collet 1.5KW 110V 220V VFD Inverter Converter Speed Controller For Engraver|Machine Tool Spindle| - AliExpress
    You don’t need more than 800W. Anything larger will slow you down because it will weigh more, and a completely upgraded x-carve still has so much flex that you can’t push the 800W spindle to it’s limit in my experience.

You should ask yourself why you are upgrading your x-carve. In my case I was cutting a lot of AL for a High School robotics team. The upgrades made for shorter cut times which was helpful for the short and frenzied 6 week build season. The upgrades improved cut time maybe 2x which was helpful. In the end I purchased a Openbiulds WorkBee CNC. It is much beefier than the x-carve, but requires more build experience. I got another 2-3x improved cutting speed, which got me to useable turn times. Also, I spent less building the Workbee (~$2K) than I did on the completely upgraded x-carve (~$2.5K). If you are not using the x-carve a lot and are not doing it for the enjoyment of upgrading your tool, I would not trade a bunch of money for a slight improvement in speed. Really that is all you are buying in my opinion. If on the other hand you intend to make a business using the x-carve, I would skip the upgrade and go buy a Workbee or professional CNC. Good luck.

Thank you sir. That is super helpful. I’ve enjoyed the xcarve but there a bunch of things about it that sometimes don’t seem like the effort will fix the solution. I like the workbee you sent. Is this it?

Thank you

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The workbee design is open source so theres a few makers and the each have their own spin on it. I have one nearly identical to bulkmans and i like it.
The openbuilds brand one uses a different contoller and they offer a few accessories that require their controller, they also have a bit better quality control IMO.

That said the mechanical kit from bulkman would work as an upgrade to the X-carve but you may need to lengthen stepper wires a bit… :+1::+1:

Above is an early photo of the Workbee build. It has changed some since them. Below is the spreadsheet of the Items I purchased to build my workbee . The busman kit is very reasonable, I took a chance with ALIEXPRESS. I upgraded the Z-axis and added an AL T-slot table which are very nice but pricey. I need to find a better way of doing the spoil board. I also went with a 1.5kW spindle. I highly recommend trying to get one that is air cooled rather than dealing with water cooled. It was a lot of work setting up the PC liquid cooler, but it worked well in the end. Let me know if you have any specific questions about my build.

# Qty Item Description Cost Site
1 1 WorkBee Mechanical Kit 503.50 Newest WorkBee CNC Router Mechanical kit with 4 sets 1.26N/2.45N/3.6N Close Loop Stepper motors and drivers|3D Printer Parts & Accessories| - AliExpress
2 1 Z-Axis Upgrade 289.00 WorkBee SLIDER
3 4 250mmx1000mm T-Slot Ext. 278.35 Flat Aluminum Extrusions - No Shoulder, Slot Width 8mm | MISUMI | MISUMI
4 3 2040 1000mm Extrusion 45.55 ZYLtech 2040 Aluminum Extrusion Pre-cut lengths 300mm-2000mm - ZYLtech Engineering, LLC
5 20 2020 corner brackets 25.00
6 1 15x30 1000mm Drag Chain 13.29
7 1 15x40 1000mm Drag Chain 13.59
8 1 1.5kW VFD 128.99
9 1 1.5kW Spindle 164.98
10 1 1.5kW Spindle Mount 27.00
11 4 Stepper Drivers 155.96
12 4 278oz-in Nema 23 Stepper 115.80
13 2 48V Meanwell 350W PS 76.52
14 10 4-pin Aviation Plug 10.90
15 13 16AWG 4 Conductor Shielded Wire 28.60
16 30 18AWG 4 Conductor Shielded Wire 29.40
17 1 Corsair PC Liquid Cooler 109.99
18 1 Flow Indicator 15.49
19 2 M8 thread to 1/4 barb 9.00 Unbranded Boat Parts and Accessories for sale | eBay
20 2 G1/4 hose barb 7.98 Bitspower Matte Black G1/4" Barb Fitting - 1/4" ID (BP-MBWP-C12) -
21 3 1/4 ID tubing 6.00 Tygon A-60-G Norprene 1/4" ID (3/8" OD) - Industrial Grade Thermoplastic Elastomer Tubing -
22 5 1/4 ID hose splicer 3.75