X-carve for me? Aluminum work

Hi Everyone. I’m curious about this machine (vs the shapeoko3)
I don’t know much about either company at all. I do a lot of welding/fabrication and own a plasma cnc machine. To upgrade my machine to do engraving is about $2500 or I can get another machine to do this. I have a lot of questions, so please bear with me.

What is the depth that this can cut? I have a few aluminum projects that I would like to do that are as thick as 2". Can this machine do it? The frame looks so much smaller than the shapeoko3, so is deflection an issue?

What is the expected build time?

Why in the world is shipping so expensive? I’m 1 hour drive away and got quoted $177 for shipping :frowning: I was also told there is no showroom so I couldn’t come see one in person or a demo.

How is the customer support. From what I read it’s great, but from my experience of emailing a few times I get responses that are crap. Don’t answer half of my questions, not even sure they read my entire email. Kind of rubbing me the wrong way to be honest, not a great way to start out, but I’m willing to look past it for the time being.

Sorry for all the basic questions, but I want to be sure I make the right decision. I think I did 2 years of research before buying my plasma cnc.

I did not really track my build time, but it was a few hours, here and there, over several days.

Addressing your shipping concern, the cost is due to the size and weight (mostly the waste board). I don’t think there would be a problem with you picking up. I was told that I could. I also dropped by to pick up some additional parts after my initial order.

Customer support is ultimately good.

A completely stock machine with the stock 300 watt spindle motor will have great difficulty machining aluminum down to 2". It may not even be possible.
With some mods to stiffen the gantry. Change to a much better spindle. Maybe change the electronics to better stepper drivers. You could expect better results machining aluminum.

What size aluminum projects do you have in mind. Maybe a CNC milling machine would be a better choice for you.


@Travelphotog may have a few things to say about milling aluminum with the X-Carve

Check out some of his results here:

1 or 2 inches is within the possibility of the X-Carve.

Hey guys, thanks for the tag on this thread. I am shooting all week in Chicago so limited to cell phone posting right now. I will post a longer reply tonight once I hit the hotel. I have the Shapeoko, X Carve and a 21x37 full ball screw mill so I will drop back by later and throw my two cents in to see if I can help with some answers.

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Great, can’t wait for your reply.

Got tied up with work each night so delayed reply. We wrap early tonight so I should be ablento sit down and gice an in-depth answer in a few hours.

Great, can’t wait!

OK. I made it to the hotel and have a nigh tot kill before the flight home tomorrow so I am here to answer what I can as best I can. I guess to answer your question better I would have a few of my own first. What size X Carve are you thinking of getting? What type of things aside from aluminum do you plan to mill?? Are you wanting to run it daily on aluminum milling or from time to time. say maybe a day or two a week?

In a short answer and without the above answered… Yes and No… The X Carve CAN mill aluminum if the right spindle is used (Dewalt or a VFD .8KW or so) and the right DOC and feedrates are used. It is not a fast process as say maybe a plasma cutting or such might be for cutting. The 2" size would be at the outer limit of the X carve for milling and would depend on the mill size (500X500 or 1000X1000). Your toolpaths would have to be very carefully considered on a job of that thickness also.

Cost wise the X Carve is a good deal, but would need an upgraded spindle and at least a TinyG controller or the new X Controller (once it is released) or maybe a http://www.planet-cnc.com/index.php?page=home controller. the stock controller just would not do well for that level of milling. A really good CAM software is also needed but I am guessing you have that already for your other CNCs.

So my gutt feeling based on what I have been doing is this. The X Carve could be used in the fashion you are asking about. But it would be pushing it to the outer limits of uses I think. If you allow enough time and use a good spindle, your DOCs would still be at most, 3/4MM and I would say closer to 1/2MM or so. Even then your feedrates would have to be low and the jobs would stretch into the 15+ hour range is not into the multi day range for a large 2" project

On the larger sized mill I would say it is a no go over all due to flexing issues on the longer sized makerslide. The smaller mill has much reduced flex, but then things like belt stretch come into play if you drive the spindle too hard which will then ruin the job overall on such a thick stock.

So that being said what would be your options…
If you are on budget and have time for the jobs you mention. I think the smaller X Carve could mill the jobs with a good .8KW spindle and upgraded controller. But then the question becomes if you have the time needed to allow the mill to take the shallower DOC passes it would need to not induce belt stretch. If you can afford the needed time for each job, then I think it would work for you.

If the budget can grow a bit and you need the jobs faster, then I would go with a larger format mill. The larger mills are stiffer and can take much deeper DOC and at much higher feedrates. A dual ballscrew gantry mill will far out perform a belt driven mill and allow for the deeper cuts and faster feedrates. But with that comes a higher budget costs of course. Not through the sky high, but in the order of 2 or so of the larger X Carves decked out nicely. But the increased production should offset the higher upfront costs and in the end I think you would have fewer issues with the mill for that size of stock.

The X Carve is a good little mill and does a great job on things like wood, plastics, FR4 and thinner metals. But when you start to push into aluminum and such above 1/4" is where things start to need more care and issues tend to come up.

I am heading home for a few days between shoots so I will be around far more if you have more questions or if any of the above info about your projects would change any of my answers above I would be very happy to try and answer anything else that might come up on the subject.

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Thanks for the response.
I’d say 2" is the largest I’d ever want to go and I’m not even sure it’s that thick, probably more like 1 or 1.5" at best but that’s just one project. I’d say most of my work would be 1/2" at best. I’d say 90% of what I want to do is 1/4". Some of it can fit on the smaller X-carve and some might need the larger one but I’d work with what I have available. It’s not like i would ‘NEED’ one or the other. This is just something to help me get into learning the design and mill stuff.
My CNC software is pretty basic to be honest and only 2d. So I would still need a better software to do 3d stuff.

I’m not overly concerned with DOC as long as I don’t have to babysit the machine for hours while it’s cutting. Most of what I do on the plasma cnc moves at 120-150 inches per minute and the longest stuff I’ve cut is 7 minutes. Most of my stuff is 1-2 minutes. So it’s not exactly apples to apples compared to the mill.

What can do the new controller do that the original one can not? I’m ok with a nice upgraded spindle, I don’t think they even cost that much right? A nice dewalt should be less than $200. I figured I would get a perfect machine out of the bo x that didn’t need some upgrades.