How do I upgrade to full 3 axis control?

I would like to know how I can leave Easel (which really seems to limit the X-Carve to an engraving system) and take advantage of the 3 axis setup. I see hints in posts about things like TinyG and Chilipeppr and Mach 3 and LinuxCNC, but my level of knowledge leaves me baffled about the steps involved.
So what do I do? Toss out the existing electronics? What kind of board to I replace it with? What kind of software do I need? I have Turbocad, which can produce a wide variety of files. How can I take a 3 dimensional model I’ve created in that program, and what kind of system do I need to take that file, feed it through some software and drive my X-Carve to carve that object in some material I’ve loaded into my X-Carve. Simple step by step instructions would be GREATLY appreciated.

Hi Hugo,

On the surface it is an easy question to answer really. Your X Carve is fully able to carve in full 3D, it is all a matter of a few things. First your stock controller will work fine. Though most like myself do run the TinyG and use Chilipeppr like you mentioned. But from that point on there are a fair number of things that can effect how much and how well you can do 3D carving.

The mill runs off the Gcode you feed it. So firstly you would need a program that can produce a Gcode in 3d which your controller ( and thus mill) can understand. Aspire 4.0 is what a lot of guys use, myself included. Then you will need some new Endmills with a rounded end, called a ball end endmill. These allow the mill to follow the contours of the Gcode you send it to produce the 3D mill work.

Then you have to consider what it is you are trying to a make and if your mill is able to make it. By this I mean can your mill reach every spot which would need to be milled without have to stop and have you turn the work for it? If the answer is yes then we move on to the next question. If that answer is NO and you must move the work for the mill to finish it, then you have a long road ahead of you to make that happen. it is not impossible but then nor is it easy.

So moving forward with the idea that your object can be milled without being moved to be finished… You need to look into your program of choice (Aspire 4 maybe) and make sure it can understand the type of model you are sending it and make Gcode from it. There are some programs like MESHcam that work off os standard STL models for milling, but again you have to make sure the model you select is one which CAN be milled in the 3 given axis of the mill. Just because it prints on a 3D printer does not mean a 3 Axis mill can mill it out also.

Assuming you have a good model, your program understand it and you have the ball endmill. Then you just send the code to the mill with either UGS or Chilipepper and set back and watch with amazement as your mill brings your vision into the real world one pass at a time!

That is the BASIC idea of how it is done and a rough outline of what is needed. I have been up all night milling myself so I might have skipped a step in my sleepless state, but I think I covered the rough idea. Check the forum as there are a few threads from guys who have done it and I bet if you hit them up about it, they will be happy to give you some pointers and get you set on the path to 3D carving pretty quick.



Yep, you don’t need to change hardware or electronics, I’m using V-Carve / Aspire on my stock X-Carve and running the gcode via Chilipeppr, works great.

Thanks for you quick answer Matthew. Although I think my heart skipped a couple of beats when I looked up and saw that Aspire sells for $2K… I think I’ll be carving out signboards for long time before I can contemplate the kind of investment that Aspire would require. :smile:

Don’t give up on it! There are less expensive options as well. MeshCAM is one that I’ve been using with great luck, and it’s only $250. :smile: V-Carve desktop is one that a lot of people use also, and it is only $350. Lots of options to play with!

Fusion360 is actually free, and works awesomely if you can figure it out!

Ditto on V-Carve Desktop. I bought a license yesterday after working with the trial version for a couple of weeks. As frugal as I am, I felt there was no way for me to retain my sanity trying to do some projects with free software. I’m starting with V-Carve Desktop for $349; the upgrade to V-Carve Pro is only the difference in price should I decide I want its additional capability.

Just assembled my X carve today. I currently use solidworks for design and HSMexpress for CAM. I’ve figured out how to use HSM to generate G code, but can’t seem to get Chillipeppr to connect to my machine??

Where did you get Fusion 360 for free?

If you go here: And look in the top-right of the page, it details how to register for free use by “students, enthusiasts, hobbyists, and startups”. I registered that way with no trouble at all. :smile:

I don’t have my x-carve yet so take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt, but I highly suggest that you look at fusion 360 if you want a free option. It does the CAD and CAM step in one piece of software which is really convenient. Also, as mentioned above its FREE unless you are making substantial money using it. When I say free I don’t mean something with limited uses that somebody put together as a hobby. Auto desk is one of the larger CAD companies in the world. I will tell you though that it’s targeted at serious mechanical design applications, so the workflows can be overkill for making something simple like a sign or a 2d cutout.

Another good thing about f360 is they have a YouTube channel with very detailed how to videos that really break the process down step by step using real life examples.

Coming from an engineering background I find myself more comfortable with fusion 360 than some of the other options out there but your mileage will vary… It just comes down to what you were trained on I guess.

The only hesitation I’ve had to run code from it so far is that the GRBL post seems to be a bit odd… at least, the simulations in CP have shown it making diagonal moves where it should be doing pre-programmed arcs, etc. And the feeds are really high in the program, but simulate ABSURDLY slowly…

I’m just nervous putting the program to actual machinery. Does someone have a Fusion 360 program that they’ve run successfully that I could look at, and compare to my own? It’s sure a powerful programming suite, although I find the modeling to be considerably inferior to solidworks.

I’m afraid that I can’t help you there yet. I certainly do intend on trying when my x-carve gets here.

I do know what you mean about the high feeds. The f360 software is designed around metal milling more than routing (I would imagine the cast majority of projects designed on f360 get milled on a Bridgeport end mill or equivalent…not an x-carve) so that may have a lot to do with the high default speeds. The nice thing is that you can set all that and save the settings for future use.

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I’m actually much more concerned about the disparity between the speeds entered in the program, and how they simulate out. I wouldn’t be worried, except I’ve used CP as a simulator a number of times and I can’t ever recall it simulating at a different speed than it would run unless I had the time-compression options selected…

Really, I think I just need to make a simple profile program or something and run it in the air. I’ll probably just do that this evening, with a hand on the power switch!

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I have only played around with F360 a little bit, but one thing you need to check in the gcode is that it raise the spindle before moving it to the first cut. I had a problem the first time I did a small test, the spindle traversed to the first cut location by dragging across the work.
I have seen other comments from people that they had similar issues.

Patrick did a real interesting youtube tutorial explaining how to use Fusion360 with x-carve. Super interesting video:

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