It’s finally here! I pre-ordered my Shapeoko 2 in November and it shipped out last week. I got it put together and have had a few days to play with it. So far it’s great!
I was never able to get satisfactory results from my Shapeoko 1. There was too much slipping, so that the tool path always ending up wandering off its path and ruining whatever it was cutting. Eventually I took it apart and used the parts to build a robot. When I saw that there was a new version out, I was a little hesitant to buy another one, but also excited about the possibility of finally having a working machine. I decided to go for it since I already had the motors and electronics.
The Shapeoko 2 features several improvements over the 1, like a larger work area and dual motors on the Y axis. It also includes 2 pieces of makerslide back to back for the X axis, which gives the Z axis more support and makes it a lot sturdier. Whereas the 1 had quite a bit of wiggle to the Z axis, the 2 barely wiggles at all. Additionally, a lot of the pieces that were made out of plastic in the 1 are now metal which adds a lot more rigidity. Lastly, the Shapeoko 2 has an open front and back so you can work with longer pieces of material. It also makes clamping down your work a lot easier.
Building the Shapeoko is pretty easy. There’s no cutting or drilling, just a huge pile of screws and nuts that you assemble. It took me two evenings to put everything together, although I already had the experience of building the first one which probably made it easier. The hardest (and most annoying) part is tapping the makerslide. The rails come with holes for the screws, but you get to tap them out which basically involves screwing a tap handle in and out of the hole until it goes far enough in for the screws. Don’t try to use pliers for this. You’ll need a tap handle like this one. There are 18 holes that need to be tapped and by the time you’re done you’ll be an expert at tapping and your hands will hurt.
I ordered the mechanical kit since I already had motors and the controller from the first one. One thing I didn’t realize until it arrived is that the mechanical kit doesn’t come with belts or pulleys. I wasn’t too happy about that since I consider belts and pulleys to be mechanical. I was able to use the MXL belts off my old one, although the Shapeoko 2 comes with GT2 belts which are supposed to eliminate slipping when the motors are reversed. Oh well, that’ll be an upgrade for later.
The instructions for assembling the Shapeoko are very clear and easy to follow in most spots. Each step is accompanied by several pictures and diagrams to illustrate what you have to do. There were two places where the instructions failed me. The first spot was the belt clip assemblies on the Y axis assembly page. Some of the pictures would tell you the belt clips were supposed to be on the makerslide, but the instructions never mentioned them. So I ended up putting them on, then they would be in the way so I would take them off, then after I put the X axis on I realized I should have put them on so I had to take the X axis back off, and so on. It’s not too hard to figure out yourself, but for the sake of clarity I think the instructions should have just told you when specifically to slide each belt clip on.
The other gap in the instructions was at the very end when you mount the belts. At this point the machine is entirely assembled, and the instructions casually mention, by the way, you should have mounted the pulleys so they will line up with the idler wheels. Information that would have been helpful when I was mounting the pulleys back in step 2, not when they are already in place and I can’t reach them anymore to change anything. I almost had to disassemble the entire thing to fix that, but luckily I was able to reach a long allen wrench in there and adjust the pulleys in place.
All in all, the build went along smoothly and before long I was ready for the Hello World marker test. I made a quick marker hold with a blob of the ever useful InstaMorph and hit send.
Oh! One last tip in case anyone runs into the same issue I did. When I first put the machine together, the Y and Z axes worked as expected, but the X axis barely turned, and seemed like it didn’t have enough power to move the carriage. I thought the motor might have been too weak so I switched it out and had the same problem. I finally figured out that the issue was caused by the Grblshield and was easily fixed. The shield comes with 3 tiny white potentiometers, one for each axis. The potentiometer controls how much current goes to each motor. In my case, the pot for the X axis was just turned down too low, and turning it up fixed the problem.
All in all, the Shapeoko 2 is everything I hoped it would be. It’s stronger and sturdier than the first one, and still easy enough to put together in a weekend. The documentation could use a little help but you can usually find what you need with a quick Google search. If you have any questions that you can’t figure out, feel free to leave a comment here and I’ll try to help.
If you’re just getting started with CNC, check out my guide to CNC router bits to get you up and running.