Hi all, I’m not saying I’m old, but rather I haven’t used my ShapeOko 2 machine in over 4 years. I bought it from Inventables in 2014.
My goal is to mill PCBs, but looking at different websites/forums I can’t find anything that’s easy to use.
I’m also aiming at engraving wood/aluminum.
I’ve tried another forum, asking for help, but they referred me here since I don’t have a ShapeOko 3.
I’m about to re-plug everything tonight, I’ll be able to list exactly what I have. Is there any “start to finish” guide I could follow to help mill my first PCB?
(I have milling bits and non-fiberglass copper plates)
I also have a ton of questions about if I need to upgrade my machine or not, to “modernize” it… I don’t even know if I have NEMA23 motors on it (how do I check this?)
The Nema 23 part is easy.
On the back of the NEMA23 there should be 4 holes spaced 32mm on one side and 51mm on the other side (center to center). These four holes should be M3 and with a depth of 1.8mm.
Before you actually try to mill the real copper boards, I would advise starting with some 1/8th" polycarbonate. That will make it easier to see if you are getting uniform cutting depth around the traces. Also,if you are going for double sided, you can see if your registration is good.
Prior to cutting your boards, you should surface your spoil board so that the boards can lie perfectly flat. You should also try to hold the board down as flat as possible. I would be careful using double sided tape for fear of getting the PC board out of level.
Last but not least, be careful with the copper dust. You should wear a mask and use dust collection.
Do you have any idea about your workflow? Are you starting with a PC board layout program? Does it export SVG or DXF files? Those can be loaded in Easel and you can export G-Code from Easel and send it to your Shapeoko using a GCode sender.
Thank you for your reply, Harry!
This evening I’ll check for the motors. The machine is in a big cardboard box right now and I’m just about done setting up a workspace in the garage. I’ll post the details on the motors later today.
I do not have any polycarbonate, unfortunately. And searching for it at my local hardware stores show that it’s not cheap, especially for testing!
I was thinking of creating a MDF board, surface a 4x4 square on it, and use this square as a “holder” for the copper boards. Maybe add screws with washers to mimic clamps on each side, I don’t know yet.
I have a box of new dust masks that a friend got me from his work. I think there are 250 masks in the box. I should be good
I was also looking at the “SuckIt” device, there’s apparently one that fits a ShapeOko 2… I also have a mini-ShopVac that I want to dedicate to the ShapeOko machine.
Workflow : very minimal for now. I have about 8 different circuit boards I want to mill. I am currently trying different PCB software but if I know what I’m doing in electronics, I get confused quickly with the “nets” and “pads” and “footprints”. Just give me proper sized traces for capacitors, resistors, TO220 regulators, transistors and IC chips, and I should be good. But with software such as “FreePCB” or “FlatCAM” or “Pad2Pad”, I get easily lost and confused.
I have InkScape, which I also barely know, but I was able to get a test SVG file in Easel and create traces that looked ok.
I’ll be back later with details of my ShapeOko 2 machine.
You should consider an upgrade from the S2 to the X carve. I think you’ll be pleased with the improvements. I did all the upgrades to current X carve specs on my S2.
Sounds like a good idea! However, searching the Inventables shop, I couldn’t find an upgrade kit, are they still available?
Nema23 = motor body is 2.3x2.3" wide.
Consequently Nema17 is 1.7" and Nema34 is 3.4" wide.
Get your CNC up and running, then we can think software workflow
Ideally you’d want to use a sender program that allow height mapping
They had a list of parts you could order ala carte, but I don’t see it anymore. I’m sure they can provide it at customer service. There were two stages, one was a minimal upgrade to the original X carve and then the second one was the x carve got upgraded. I had nema 23 motors here already, so I ordered the X axis extrusion, the controller, and other parts. This is what it looks like now.
After measuring, I see that I have NEMA17 motors (thank you Haldor for the indication)
Looking at Martin’s picture, I feel quite jealous as my machine looks nowhere as neat as his…
The following posts will show pictures of my machine.
I cannot find any of the railings for the wiring, as seen on @MartinW.Mcclary 's picture.
I also now realize that I need to find the AC adapters to connect everything. Other pictures (such as closeups) are coming soon
There’s also the original Shapeoko forums:
and the original instructions are still up at:
For PCBs, NEMA17 motors should serve well enough, and the original machine is small enough not to need drag chain — the expandable braided sleeving works well for cable management.
For milling PCBs see: https://wiki.shapeoko.com/index.php/CAM#PCB
It’s actually someone on the Shapeoko forums that told me I should come here instead, since I have a Shapeoko 2, not 3.
For the instructions, I have them saved locally on my laptop, so they’re easy to find. It’s also good to know for the NEMA17 motors, thanks.
I’ll have to see if I still have the braided sleeving. I originally only had set up the machine quickly just to test if the connections were good but then for health reasons I stopped working on it. I never tidied it up.
Thanks for the link for PCB milling, also. But PCB software are a nightmare for me. The simplest I found is Pad2Pad, but it can’t export to Gerber unless I buy the PCBs from them. FreePCB is nice because you can take pre-made footprints (whatever those are) of electronic parts and add them to the board, but I can’t place them exactly where I want, they’re always stuck on some type of predefined grid that I can’t get rid of.
As I said earlier, I’m good with understanding electronics, writing schematics, and soldering! But I can’t find an easy-to-use, free PCB software that can allow free placement of standard electronic parts, that also allows export to Gerber and Excellon files. If anyone has suggestions for such a software, I’d really appreciate it!
You might see if you can get screen grabs of your Pad2Pad designs and then use some other program like inkscape to create vector output by tracing the image. You might have to fiddle with the scaling a little, but it might be worth trying.
Harry, that’s a wonderful idea and I think it might have worked.
The following post is the SVG I got from doing a screen copy of Pad2Pad, then saving it as PNG, importing this in InkScape and saving it as a SVG file.
Now I’m playing around with it on Easel but it looks weird…
Well, I wasn’t expecting the SVG to show up this small… It seems to be placed on a 8.5"x11" page that I cannot remove. I’ll have to find how to save the SVG with only the PCB on it.
Edit: Found it.
It isn’t the copper swarf you need to worry about - it is the fiberglass dust! Seriously, a painter’s mask will not save you from it. It also requires carbide bits and will wear them.
If you can stand to use phenolic PCBs and can find a source, I’d suggest at least starting with them.
Our makerspace, OlyMEGA, was given a Shapeoko 2 back when they were giving one away to a makerspace in every state. As expected, everyone was excited to assemble the kit, but lost interest when it got to aligning and getting it actually working.
So I found it sitting on a table, covered in stuff. I found most of the bolts were loose. I took it home to make a torsion box base for it, tighten and align everything. I swear, that is all I was going to do…
A year later, it has the torsion box base. Which sits in a box with the electronics and power supplies, with a pullout tray for a laptop. Cable chains everywhere. Upgraded Z axis, upgraded motor with speed control. Dust cover. Someone else said they were going to install a dust capture system, but that hasn’t happened and it has been another year.
I don’t know if you can see this: https://www.facebook.com/pg/olymega1/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1033826970037988
For dust control, spread a layer of mineral oil on the board before carving. It doesn’t need to be dripping off, just thick enough so it pools together. It’ll tend to follow the bit around somewhat, too. The thicker the oil the better. I’m pretty sure I’m using stuff that was labeled for A/C repair.
Thank you Steven and Brian for your suggestions.
I tried connecting with Easel, but setting up the machine doesn’t work. It says “plug the USB and start your machine”, so I do, but it doesn’t do anything. Actually, the gShield LEDs start flashing and I can hear the NEMA motors do a silent “thud”, at a pace of about once every 3 seconds.
I unplugged everything, then re-plugged and tried with Universal g-code sender. It worked! I see I have grbl 0.9a installed, though. I thought I updated it to another version back in 2014 ??? So I’m wondering… EDIT I successfully updated to 0.9g, UGS shows this version now. I noticed that there are also versions 0.9i and 0.9j but I’m not sure if I should go there…
For use with Easel, is there a minimum grbl version to have? Any suggestions on this?