Is it possible to make money doing 3D?

This may be related to: Please fix the tool path efficiency. 3D carving is taking a long time. If I charge for the time it takes, at $30 per hour, it appears to me that the end product winds up being too expensive to sell.

This carving will take a little under 9 hours. The cut settings are:
I don’t think these are too conservative.

9 hours of cutting time at $30 per hour would equal $270 for cutting time, plus the cost of wood (Teak), about $25, plus labor for sanding and finishing, and the serving board would be approximately 14.5 " X 11" X 1". I don’t think I could sell the finished product for $350.

But if you see it selling for $350 or more, let me know.

Like the previous posting, it appears that the tool path is making lots of divots then goes back over the same area, at the same cut level, and the cut path seems to often go to cuts not close by, thus spending an inordinate amount of time not actually cutting.

I know this is your first release of 3D and I’m glad to see you introduce it.

In my experience and opinion, 3D is not profitable and therefore unusable for commercial purposes.

For what it is worth, I love the X-Carve and Easel. It is very good system. I use it daily.

Two D and 2.5 D could use some rework in the efficiency department as well, but is commercially viable in many instances. However, even 2 D & 2.5 D have limitations because of the inefficient tool paths.

A more efficient tool path, in both instances would make the machine and software much more viable as a commercial tool.

Also, if you make money doing 3D with Easel Pro, please let me know what your formula is for pricing so you can make a profit?

I could make this using 2D instead of 3D and drop the carve time. But it seems that all 3D projects have similar results.


Well, I can’t see what size bit you’ve got selected in those screenshots, BUT that Plunge rate (even though it’s an Easel Default) is unachievable with the X-Carve stock settings so I can never understand why Inventables set it as a Default when the Machine itself (per the grbl settings) will self limit to 19.68 IPM. . . And on that note, I suggest tuning this manually, performing a series of tests to determine the best, fastest, plunge rate. IF you’re able to double the Plunge rate in the grbl settings from 19.68 up to 40IPM than your carve will complete in half the time. . . . AND if you can get it to plunge at 60IPM, than it’ll be three times as fast as it is now. . . HOWEVER your design there of the tray would best be carved as a 2.5D design to begin with AND a roundover bit be used to apply the radius to that top edge. . .

Well, the $30/he for machine time, how’d you come up with this value?
Electricity+Machine Depreciation+Maintenance costs=machine hourly rate
Then I’d calculate the setup and the materials separately
The Standard X-Carve draws just barely over 1kWh of electricity and where I live in California it costs about $0.30 per kWh so lets say electricity cost is $1 per hour (including lights, and dust collection)
Depreciation calculated out for 2 years of use at 20hours of use per week comes out to $1 per hour
And for your labor of maintenance on the machine, tightening belts, adjustment of eccentric nuts and the occasional brushes on the router (you should upgrade to a brushless spindle to reduce this cost actually) I’d say 4 hours of maintenance per month and I think that’s a LOT at $40/hour divided by the 85 hours of usage in that month and we’ve got $1.88/hour of use.

Adding those up and rounding UP and we’ve got $4/hour cost for the machine to run.
PLUS Labor to prep and finish (1 hour to cut stock to size and clamp down + 1 hour after to remove, sand + apply a finish= 2 hours @ $40/hr = $80)
PLUS cost of materials ($10 in wood for that tray, $2 for finish)
PLUS cost of consumables (no more than $2 per project on bits)

Here So Far I’ve got $4/hour for the machine time + fixed cost of $94 = (9hours*$4)+$94 = $130
I haven’t added in the cost of marketing and sales… but we’re well below the $350
AND with some modifications to the grbl settings to allow the Z to plunge faster I’m sure that 9 hours can easily become 5-6 hours. Bringing the cost down a bit more. Speaking of bits, IF you’re buying top of the line bits (or other over priced bits, like the ones inventables sells) that could also be part of the issue as the extra cost is not really worth it for what you get out of more expensive bits.

AND even then it’s about finding the right buyer for 3d Pieces.
Making Niche pieces can sell really well.
I see religious items selling for a lot of $ in the right areas.
Americana like 3D wavy Flags sell for their worth.

I do think that finding the right product, buyers, and ironing out the process can certainly make 3d less profitable than 2.5D especially if you’ve already got a product line of 2.5D items and buyers lined up…


If you’re serious about 3D, you might want to look at other software like Vectric to get better tool paths. You may also want to look at a more professional machine that can power through deeper cuts.

3D can be hard to make profitable. I would say that you might want to do a few 3D pieces to put in your portfolio just to show people that you can do it. 3D carves such as police retirement badges can be more profitable because people are willing to spend for them.



Sure, you make money with relief caring. you need to learn to crawl before can walk and then you’ll learn to run and make money with profit and less firewood.

FYI: the tray is a simple 2.5 carving

These are 3d made to order

Check this out > Ball Nose End Mill [Easy Guide to Ball Cutters] - CNCCookbook: Be A Better CNC’er

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Thanks for all of the suggestions and information. I should have used another 3D piece as an example rather than something that could more easily and more quickly be cutout with 2.5D.

I will try some of the suggestions I never thought about plunge rate having a dramatic effect on time.
What is the difference between plunge rate and depth per pass?

Question about charging for machine time:

I would think using depreciation + run costs + bit cost, etc., would not be a good choice for machine time charges, since I want to make a profit well above the deprecation+ of the machine. Although, I can do a few other things in the vicinity of the machine, it doesn’t seem to be a set and forget operation and at this point (this may be because I’m just not as experienced with 3D yet). Right now, for me, I have to keep a pretty close watch on the machine to be sure I’m carving at optimum settings, during carve and not being too aggressive or to conservative in my settings.

I would still like to see the system not cut a small hole or small area only to come right back over that area, at the same depth, during roughing. I think I understand the logic (algorithm), in that it looks for places the bit will fit and not fit. When it sees a small area where the bit will fit, it will carve out those areas first. Later during the roughing pass, following large areas where the bit will fit, it many times will carve out over the same exact area, at the same depth, which makes the small holes and areas useless activity. If the process were reversed and the software cut out all areas, at a specific level, where the bit could follow a path and then cut out small divots that were left, the cutting path would be much more efficient.

The second area is cutting on one corner of the carve then jumping to the opposite corner to cut out a divot, then jumping back to the original corner to cut a small area, etc. This makes the carving time on rough cuts take longer than they have to, creating more overall carving time and making the machine use cost go up unnecessarily.

And the tool path will cut a fairly long cut then jump across the workpiece to cut another long cut then come back to the original area, sometime later to cut more of the same path.

All that said, I’m happy with the X-Carve, Easel and the effort that is being put into improving the capabilities of the hardware and software and speed of cuts. Nothing happens overnight and the things that I know can be fixed, I’m sure will be fixed, given the time to address them. Ninety percent of my frustration is of my own making. Easel has gone a long way to try to prevent me from making mistakes.

Absolutely beautiful carvings BTW.

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Plunge rate is the feedrate for your Z axis.
Depth per pass is the maximum depth the Z will plunge to cut at one time.


@Ken4 if it is not asking too much, how long does it take to carve the sword, for instance, and what do you charge for this particular piece? Thanks in advance!

About twenty hours or so

@Ken4 thanks for that information.

I understand the problems with assuming, however, assuming a modest $30 per hour to cut the piece + sanding, staining and material cost, this piece should be sold for around $800 to $1000, with multiple dependencies.

Will a carving of this size bring $800? IMHO, I think it should but I wonder if the market for this type of carving will bear this price?

For someone making a living doing these types of carves, $1500 or more may be more accurate, especially if an employee is to be paid for their time on the project.

I think you should take a look at a post from @SethCNC about cnc and rates.
it cost about $1.00 an hour to run a CNC, computer and vac.

it sounds like you want to run before you can crawl.

Using $30 per hour is low by most standards. It is not just the cost of running the router, it’s all of the overhead associated with running a business. I don’t know if you are suggesting using $1 an hour as a base rate to calculate pricing but that brings me back to my original question. Can you make money or make a living doing 3D as opposed to 2.5 D, which I can make money at all day long making signs.

I have a full cabinet shop and cannot afford to charge less than $30 and hour or I lose money. Even $30 an hour sometimes is only what I would pay an employee to babysit the router and that doesn’t take into account all of the other costs for running a business. I know, you can do more than one thing at a time, but in a cabinet shop that isn’t always a good idea and it really depends on what your are working on and most things require attention and focus. I’ve walked off from my router a few times and have regretted it more than once as unexpected things can happen.

I still don’t see how you can make money doing 3D, unless someone can tell me how long it takes to do a specific piece, including sanding, staining, etc., and the price they charge for the completed work.

I’m not trying to rain on anybody’s parade but I can’t seem to make the math work. And if somebody else can, I am open to being educated.

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I don’t think that 3d alone is very profitable. I notice that most people who do a lot of 3d are those who are retired and don’t place much value on their own labor aka they are running a fun hobby, not a business.

I’ve integrated 3d elements into a mostly 2.5D project and the buyers there are willing to pay more for those details, and I do it more as a means of generating social media content that gets the views moreso than making an actual profit on the carve… that said the machine time in and of itself is rather low, so If I’m able to start and run multiple machines in the shop all while I’m sanding or running a saw to cut more stock down, then the machine time itself wouldn’t really include all of my labor hours into it’s cost, granted the cost of running the machine for a business shouldn’t only include the electrical costs which is where that lower amount stems from, but should also include depreciation and other maintenance related costs like bits and router brushes of course.
All in, I’d probably place about 10-15$ / hour on my machine time because I’m usually running 3 different machines at the same time and also manual labor items as well (sanding / finishing) … so the man hours get divided down pretty well. but even then, it can be a LOT of cost…

I think the key is identifying and properly tracking costs, doing whatever possible to reduce those costs, and checking whether the market is willing to pay what you need them to pay in order to turn the required profit margins… and IF the profits cannot be achieved with 3d then it’s not a viable product to market… we all operate in different local markets that might be willing to pay enough to make it worth while, but I don’t see it being profitable enough via online sales with the undervalued competition online and added shipping costs though.

Some people use the 3d more as a “wow” effect at farmers markets, the people want to see more even though they don’t sell them (at least not at a profit) but the influx of customers might buy other items after seeing the quality of the 3d items as they were walking by…

Something to think about as well, IF you’re running an X-carve then you might want to look at what can be done to expedite the 3d carving process, something I’ve been covering on the last couple livestreams I’ve been doing every Friday afternoon…

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@SethCNC Thank you for the reply. I think you covered it! This is more insight than I’ve seen anywhere else. And it is much as I thought. Just glad to hear that while I may not have a complete handle on the situation, I’m not all that far off.

I’ll be watching your videos!

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