X Carve at work (software questions)

Hi everyone,

I work for a small engineering company and I am in charge of 3D printing. We have full size cnc lathes and a mill, but those are used for production and mill time is valued too high for a lot of our prototyping needs. Lately a lot of parts that I have been 3d printing seem better suited for a cnc machine like the x carve than they do for our little makerbot replicator 2x. I am going to try to pitch the idea of getting an x carve to my boss (the president of the company) soon. But before I do that, I need to know my stuff.

So my main issue with the x carve is software. I want to use this for prototyping where there are very specific dimensions and parts already drawn in real cad programs. Because of this I do not want to use Easel. We already use Solidworks for CAD and Mastercam for CAM software. What is the easiest way to set up the x carve with Mastercam? Does the stock arduino with the shield on it work with Mastercam or do I need a different controller? If so, which one? I would like computer spindle control, but it is not necessary if it ads a large cost.

Also, I am an electrical engineering student that already knows more than most graduated engineering students, so my easy is probably kind of advanced so don’t be afraid to give me technical instructions. I restored a few Denford Micromills and Microturns for fun last semester, but their capabilities are extremely limited.

Thanks in advance!


I have ordered a X-Carve but I did not get any of the electronics with the exception of the power supply. I have nema 23 steppers, Gecko G540 controller and will be controlling it with a Linux computer running LinuxCNC.

Mach3 is no longer supported by the developers, they have moved on to Mach4 at $200 per licence. LinuxCNC is free and under constant development.

I have a Tormach 770 that use to run Mach3 that now runs Tormachs Path Pilot that is also LinuxCNC with custom screens. It is a great improvement over Mach3

Be advised that the standard X-Carves only have 67mm of Z height. I have designed taller end plates that raise it by 50mm.


I have used linux in the past. I will look into linuxcnc.

We actually use Mastercam at work. I don’t know why I said Mach 3 (I did research on that for the micromills at school).

Does that change anything?

No not really. At present I design in Alibre/Geomagic. CAM is SprutCAM9 or CamBam. So Solidworks and Mastercam are 2 solid programs in the CNC world.

Just set up the machine with good stepper drivers and stepper motors. If you wanted to go full monty go with servo drivers and servos. LinuxCNC can be configured for servos.


After looking at this thread it appears that I could use the universal g code sender when I have the g code and not mess with using a different driver system. Generating g code from a file shouldn’t be an issue. Most parts initially won’t have fillets on the edges or anything. We would probably just take them to a belt sander since the x carve couldn’t fillet the bottom side anyway.

Did I buy the wrong machine? (X-carve 1000mm)

@NickSjoberg that is correct.

Thanks for confirming that!

I will pitch the idea to my boss tomorrow. We currently have a project that would be super easy with an x carve, but we are 3d printing it and then running it in our Haas mill to get the holes exactly right. It would be so much more efficient to use something like the x carve.

Just curious, what is the approximate lead time on an x carve? We are based in the northwest chicago suburbs.

3-4 weeks right now. We have stock but there are a LOT of orders ahead of you and more coming in every day. We are making progress towards getting to same day shipping and hope to get there in 3-4 weeks.

We’re also expanding the capabilities of Easel so that might be an option for you down the road.

Nick, it sounds like in the type of company you are working, going towards the upper end of the hobby market/light industrial does make sense. I also am guessing you probably have computers around there that have parallel ports and would make using something like the Gecko G540 easier (or at least cheaper) then it would be for most of us with modern home computers.

For those using at home, or if your boss wants a slightly less expensive option, the electronics that can be bought with the kit can also run the G-code generated from Mastercam in programs like Chilipeppr and Universal G Code Sender.

Whatever you choose, I’m sure you will have fun with it.

We build most of our computers using components marketed for gaming except for the video cards. Most of those are Nvidia Quadro k4000 cards. We actually just decommissioned an older machine from around 2005 that still has parallel ports. If needed it could easily be used as a dedicated computer to run an x carve with a fresh install of windows.

But for our use, I think that universal g code sender and the arduino with a shield will work fine for now. We could easily upgrade to a more advanced driver down the road.


Good to know about the updates to Easel. I will keep my eye out for that if we get an x carve.

3-4 weeks isn’t a terrible lead time for a relatively new product and a flood of orders coming in. I saw the tour of inventables from Barnacules. We are actually two companies (a CAD design company and a sister prototyping/production company). Our main customer has a tenancy to ask for 10 units a week for 12 weeks and then throw a curve ball at us and ask for 40 by next week. It is possible, but having a heads up to order parts/stock definitely helps.

List of free / opensource CAM options here: http://www.shapeoko.com/wiki/index.php/CAM

Hey Zach,

I finally got a chance to show my boss the X Carve and he seemed very interested. He had one question for me to ask. Does it support HSM?

I don’t really know what that means. Hopefully you can shed some light on it for me.


Err is he talking about High Speed Machining?
[reading the link]
This seems to be more of a software cutting strategy that a feature of the machine…

I guess. I will double check with him, but that does seem more like a strategy than a feature of the machine. I don’t think we really need it to be super high speed. It will be faster than changing out fixtures in our haas mill to make some random prototype part.


Ok, so what he meant is HSM Works like Inventor HSM. We have a version of it for solidworks with HSM integrated that he would like to use. I might end up just trying it out and seeing if it will give me the G code or if it gets saved in some file format.

You are probably best trying it out since it seems it is a free trial, but it does look like it outputs G-code. I’m new to this as well, and can’t tell standard code apart from non standard, but I downloaded one of the files on this page post processor and it looked similar to other G-code I’ve seen. I’ve also heard that Autodesk has a post processor setup for GRBL that they use in Fusion 360, so they also might have that setting for this product as well. Otherwise, it may be possible to set up your own post processor settings for GRBL with the help of some folks from around here. But like I said, I’m new to this, so others probably know a lot more.

I will say I’m a bit surprised that Autodesk is making add on programs for Solidworks, but I’ve not been paying close attention to the industry, maybe they are friendlier then they were 10 years ago.

I’m going to edit this post to point to an Autodesk forum post I found that leads me to think you will be fine in HSM works. Autodesk forum post

Thanks for the info! I will look into it, but it seems like it will work. I’m going to try it out tomorrow at work when I have more time to play with it.

I think that HSM is a standalone thing that is now integrated into both autodesk products and solidworks. But I could be wrong.

The answer is yes it does support HSM.

Cool! Thanks!

He said that as long as it supports HSM he is willing to buy it. He wants anyone in the shop to be able to use it, and thinks learning mastercam would be complicated compared to HSM since everyone is proficient enough in solidworks. Hopefully I can sit down with him tomorrow for a few min and figure out exactly what options he wants configured and I can get it set up to be purchased. I can’t wait to start using one of these machines. In the mean time it looks like I will be learning how to use HSM in Solidworks.

Thanks for all of the quick responses too! I can tell this community is great and will be even better when everyone gets their machines running.