I do my best to keep an eye on CNC routers that are comparable to my Shapeoko XXL. Last night, I watched this overview of the LongMill CNC router from Sienci Labs. I have to say, I am intrigued.

Let’s start with the things I’m excited about. The LongMill Benchtop CNC kit is available with a router in the box and a 30” by 30” cutting area. At a price of about $1,200, that is $1,000 less than what I paid for my 33” by 33” Shapeoko XXL kit. The LongMill uses lead screws on all three axes.

That’s enough to make the LongMill compelling. Lead screws are objectively better than belts. They provide better accuracy, more torque, and less backlash. At first glance, this would be enough reason to choose the LongMill over the higher-priced Shapeoko or X-Carve machines.

Sienci is saving you money on the extrusions. The X-Carve rails are sturdy aluminum tubes. The Shapeoko rails are also tubes, and they are extremely beefy. The LongMill seems to use generic 90-degree angle stock. The Shapeoko also has a steel frame under the wasteboard, while the LongMill uses the wasteboard entirety of its base structure.

How sturdy is this stuff? The side rails are each bolted down in four places, and I bet that makes up for a lack of rigidity. I’m less convinced that the gantry is stiff enough.

I’m confident the LongMill could cut anything I’m likely to throw at it. I’m just not confident that the machine is rigid enough for lead screws to be a significant improvement over my Shapeoko’s belts.

Even so, does it even matter? The LongMill would do everything I need, and it could have saved me $1,000.

It might matter. Carbide 3D has fantastic support. They’ve proven themselves time and again. They hired Winston Moy, so he’ll keep making amazing Shapeoko content for us.

NOTE: I’m most definitely NOT saying that Sienci has poor customer service. The Shapeoko has been around for more than 5 years. I regularly see /u/WillAdams responding to questions about and problems with the Shapeoko on Reddit. As far as I am aware, Sienci hasn’t been around long enough for me to know much about their customer service, but they seem to have more than a few happy customers!

If my garage caught on fire today, which CNC router would I buy to replace my Shapeoko? With the extremely limited amount of research I’ve managed to do so far, I can say that I would buy another Shapeoko, but this time, I’d go with the smaller Shapeoko XL.

The LongMill is on my radar now, though. I’ll be paying attention! It only costs a little over twice as much as my friend Alex’s SainSmart Prover 3018 CNC, but this LongMill absolutely dwarfs a tiny 3018 machine!

What do you think? Would you buy a potentially less rigid machine just to have lead screws? Are you going to be buying a LongMill, or are you hunting for a Shapeoko or X-Carve? Let us know in the comments, or stop by the Butter, What?! Discord server to chat with me about it!