Moving away from GRBL

I purchased my XC about a year ago as another tool to help me in my woodworking. I figured I work in Electronics this kit shouldn’t be hard to figure out and get up and running, HA! on me. I have spent a tremendous amount of time modding my machine to the point it looks very little like the original. But I have never touched the Electronic component of the setup. Now that my machine mechanically runs as good as it’s going to get with this setup I decided to tackle it.

I’ve done the reasearch and I have decided to go with the Planet CNC MK 3/4 controller and 4 DM442 Leadshine motor controllers. I love the fact that the Planet CNC controller uses full GCode not the stripped down version that GRBL uses, and they have their own software to send the file so goodbye Easel/UGS. Reading the feature set baked in to this new controller I think I’m going to be where I wanted to be to begin with.

I’ve also purchased a .8kw water filled spindle/ 1.5kw VFD combo that I will be installing once I get the motion control up and running. I’m playing it safe and going one step at a time.

Here is a picture of where I’m at so far. I had a NEMA3 enclosure I got off a job that I’m using to house the components in, I’ll put some fans on it at some point to get some cross ventilation going before it’s done.

The only original part I’m keeping for now is the power supply, at 20A it’s hard justifying getting rid of it. I’ve got a ton of other things going on, but as I get done with this I’ll update the post.


How about a picture of your machine. Love to see your mod

i moved away a while back, and use a geckodrive + mach3 now.
Its one of those things you don’t realize you need until you use it. I could never go back to arduino/grbl.

Mach3 is so flexible, like for example changing feeds/speeds while cutting. Also I don’t have limit switches and it is much flexible for retaining your zero while changing tools etc

1 Like

Chillipeppr does this with Grbl.

1 Like

Ok maybe chillpeppr can handle this.
But I follow @anon68752607 Mach is so different but in the good way. Been there done that. Never go back again .

Arduino is good for learning cnc but when you are a bit further, do some upgrades , these is one of the best upgrade you can do.

It isn’t cheap but the X controller also. But when I have to choose X controller or G540 with Mach3…

Grtrz Koen

I use planet CNC MK 3/4 also and it works great. I bought a package of nema 34 motors and drivers by longs motors on ebay and they have never lost steps yet. The X axis is Chain driven and the Y and Z are rack and pinion.


planet cnc is also a way to go. you have also eding cnc, all a bit the same, but for sure better then arduino.

I also have complet rack and pinion on my new machine.

I got a fair offer for the makerslide max machine and this is the new build.
Only the cover plate for bed.

Grtz Koen


I do love Panduit Phil

1 Like

That’s a serious build you have going there Koen. What’s the 4 jaw chuck for?

I completely changed the base of the machine inspired by what @PhilJohnson did with his, lifted the side rails, stiffened the x & y rails, dust diverters on the rails, new z caraige, custom cabinet base w/ torsion top, recently brought the shop dust collection over to the table so no more shop vac at the bottom making a racket, & I ran a hard wired Ethernet drop drop from the house to the shop. Ive level the work surface and I’ve trammed the machine with indicators, I’m level within .003 across the entire surface. I’m probly forgetting something.

1 Like

Actually the largest piece I’ve cut was 4" thick, just loosened 4 screws slid the caraige up tightened it back up, rechecked plum and square and I was off to the races. I don’t remember what stock was but I know it wasn’t even close to 4", I move the Z caraige as need based of the thickeness of the piece I’m working on. My last project was 1" so that’s why you see the carriage where it is now.

1 Like


The chuck is from the 4rth axis. I put him in the length off the machine so the chuck and the stepper assembly is out off the reach off the gantry . When I ll drive the gantry to his end there was just enough space for putting it there.
So now I have a table space 180cm long useable 150cm (±5ft) and 150 wide useable 125cm ±4ft.

Grtz Koen

Sweet, I didn’t notice the steady rest at first but great idea

Just did this my self but kept arduino


The left hand side has a pop out outlet that hooks up to the relay protect by a fused powered on by the key.

This is for air pump or vacuum or what ever I want to work with the router powering on and off with it.

My own little design😁

Sweet, I love the key switch master power.

While I’ll all for improving my X-carve, I’m trying to figure out the upside of upgrading from GRBL to Mach3. The only plus I can see is being able to add a 4th or even 5th axis to the x-carve. While a 4th axis would be interesting, I think at the end of the day it would be more cost effective to upgrade to a beefier kit if going that route. I must say for my own use, I haven’t found much that I can’t do with GRBL and my X-Carve (except more power and speed would always be nice". If I was to move away from the simplicity of GRBL, It would be for a larger full size machine that can handle full 4’x8’ stock. But would interested in hearing the other pluses of moving away from GRBL to Mach3. But anytime the question comes up, I hear “I’ll never go back to GRBL after using Mach3” While i’m not disagreeing as I never used Mach3, I’m just trying to find the actual reasons for why Mach3 is better and not just " you don’t realize you need until you use it" :slight_smile: Come on Mach3 users, give us Grbl users some details and reasons for the switch over…


It’s been awhile since I started this upgrade but I’m finally finished (almost). I wound up in the end with all of the adds I was going to start with and then added 9mm belts and 270oz motors inspired by @PhilJohnson, I changed out the limit switches to the crealtec hall effect switches and had to change out parts on my Z axis to accommodate the new spindle. I had some hiccups getting it going but I’m back up and running again. I need to design a new shoe for dust collection, and clean up some cabling but overall I’m very happy with the results. I cut a test program tonight and accidentally added a zero in the speed feed setting so instead of 80 ipm it was 800 ipm. After a minute I was like man thats really fast, once I realized the mistake I decided to see what would happen. The cut quality wasn’t top notch but surprisingly pretty good. I tried to upload a video of it cutting but could get it load.

1 Like

You need the new Quantum upgrade kit. It time travels into the future to do the carve and then appears right before you hit the button.

I have about 8 hours on my new setup and I’m really loving it so far. There is still a learning curve (again, sigh) but all of the mistakes so far have been my own. I think that I’m finally just about done messing about with my machine. I was thinking today that I have not put all of my upgrades in one post so I thought I would put them all here in case anyone wanted to follow the same route or for inspiration.

I purchased my machine 18 months ago so I started out with the old controller, 1000 by 1000 bed, NEMA 23 motors, wasteboard, Dewalt 611. The first thing I did was build a custom cabinet for the machine. It has a torsion box top, 4 drawers that hold my computer tower and all my various stuff related to the machine.

I then did the 30 minute mod with 1/8" aluminum bars above and below the Y Axis. I still have mod today because even with all the added weight of the new linear Z Axis and the 270 oz motor it is not sagging along the axis.

I was having an issue with my eccentric wheels backing off so I broke out the blue locktite but I felt it would make it more difficult to adjust the wheels later. So I flipped the eccentric washers around to the front side, I did not want them to move so I used CA glue and bonded the washer to the screw. A year later and it still is holding fine and the wheels are easy to adjust without loosening the nut.

Then I wanted to make the machine more rigid so I completely changed the bed based on @PhilJohnson build with my own little changes. I managed like 150 tapped holes in the 1/4" plate without breaking a tap. I pulled the mdf off, added twice the bracing that came with the machine then put down a 1/4" aluminum plate. I chopped up the original mdf bed and added in t slots to expand the hold down options. The t slots sit down 3/8" so I still have probably 2 more flattenings before I have to change the mdf out.

I had a bunch of left over 1/4" aluminum so I decided to raise my X Axis. Using the original plates as a guide I hand made new end plates. I don’t remember how tall the originals were but these are 7 1/2" tall. I now have 5 1/2" between the X Xaxis and the bed. While I was at it I added a total of 6 plates along the Y Axis to help raise and stiffen it up.

Then I changed out my Z Axis to a direct drive linear rail from Open Builds and reused the original motor.

I ran the machine for a while like this knowing I had to get away GRBL . I also knew if I was going to change out the electronics I might as well change out the motor as well so I could have real control of chip loads, etc. After some looking I decided on the MK 3/4 controller from Planet-CNC and a .8kw Chinese Spindle, plus 4 Leadshine DM442 motor drivers. I purchased a Controller, a output board and 2 opto idolaters from Planet-CNC and the Spindle/ VFD combo & drivers from Amazon. Then promptly got busy and let it sit for 7 or 8 months while I worked on other things. I finally got freed up and completely tore apart my machine and starting changing out parts. I was able to get my NEMA 3 enclosure for free from a job I was working on. It started out as a MCC for a big revolving door at a high rise main entrance. I stripped it and started installing all the goodies. I reused the original power supply for the drivers and everything else is new. The DIN rail ps is for the controller and the output board.

Once I had the machine apart I decided I didn’t want to do it again so I broke out the wishlist and things kinda snow balled.

I hated the original limit switches from day 1 so got 6 of the Crealtec Hall effect Switches (2 for each axis) and the controller board and I love them. I also changed out all of the wiring in the drag chain to shielded cable grounded on one end, more on that later.

I changed out the belts to the 9mm GT3’s again inspired by @PhilJohnson. The belts I purchased at Royal Supply, the idlers and pulleys I purchased at Openbuilds. I handmade the end clips from 1x1x1/8 aluminum angle.

I changed out the motors to 270oz 2.8a NEMA 23’s 1/4" dual shaft from Automation Technologies.

I came up with what I’ll call a interesting rig for my water cooling for the spindle. I didn’t want to use a PC cooling system for several reasons and I didn’t want to spend a grand on a purpose built CNC water cooler so I went McGuiver and came up with something that seems to scare people. I have a 5gl bucket of water feeding a 1/4hp Iwata aquarium pump, from the pump it feeds to a heater core for a car, then down to the spindle and back to the bucket. The heater core is tie wrapped to the front of a fan that is suspended under the bucket facing backwards so it helps cool the pump. The fan and pump are plugged into my old relay controller for the 611. The controller is triggered from the VFD to turn on when the VFD turns on.

I added a light ring under the Z Axis from Openbuilds that really helps light up the work. It is triggered from the 3rd relay on the Planet-CNC output board.

I had some real ugly problems with common mode noise coming from the spindle back feeding into the motion controller ultimately breaking my first output board (the 0-10 input to the VFD is on the output board). So I wound up purchasing a really fancy spindle cable from a company called Igus to go from the spindle to the VFD, to that I added ferrite chokes at both where the spindle goes into the VFD and at the 0-10 input on the output board. I installed a isolated ground bar by the VFD and everything is now grounded to that bar. I also came up with another rig to keep the spindle cable away from the low voltage signal cables.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something but I can’t think of it right now. My machine looks nothing like it started out as, it kinda looks like I left it in a bad part of town. But I’m routinely cutting at 80-100 IPM now with the best results I’ve ever had so I’m happy.:smile: I wrote this to share my journey and maybe inspiring someone. If you have a question please ask and I’ll do my best to answer.

What’s even better is that I was talking to the Mrs. a little awhile ago and she gave the blessing to buy a automatic tool changer for Christmas, I can’t wait till then😎.