I am a little jealous of the folks that will be buying a Shapeoko 4 or Shapeoko Pro instead of a Shapeoko 3 like I already own. There are some significant upgrades on the Shapeoko 4 that I would really like to have, and Carbide 3D has somehow managed to keep the prices quite reasonable!

The Shapeoko Pro is a lot more CNC router than I personally need. I mostly cut carbon fiber plate for FPV drone frames, and I occasionally cut wood. These don’t exactly give my older model Shapeoko a workout. Carbon fiber is rigid stuff, but it cuts quite easily, even if it is extremely rough on endmills.

I’ve messed around with machining aluminum, and I’m certain I’d have a better time if I had the Shapeoko Pro’s linear rails or the upgraded Z-axis. The latter is even shipping on all recent Shapeoko 3 models, and it is an upgrade I can make to my machine for a reasonable price.

What am I really missing out on here?

The Shapeoko 4 is just a Shapeoko Pro without the expensive linear rails. Rob’s blog post announcing the Shapeoko 4 claims that the Shapeoko 4 is roughly 80% of a Shapeoko Pro, and that assessment sounds accurate to me.

We already know my older Shapeoko 3 doesn’t have the linear rails or the lead screw-driven Z-axis. What else am I missing?

  • The hybrid aluminum t-slot and MDF table
  • Fully supported extrusions on the sides
  • Upgraded v-wheels
  • Newer and better electronics
  • Much wider belts
  • Inductive homing switches

Most of these upgrades make the machine more rigid or at least more durable. I’ve been drooling over that new hybrid table ever since seeing the first photos of the Shapeoko Pro, but it isn’t something you can easily add to a Shapeoko 3.

I haven’t had any problems with my older, narrower belts, but bigger is definitely better in this case. I’m sure the wider belts are less likely to stretch, and I bet they do a slightly better job when pushing the machine into more rigid materials.

I’m both excited and slightly disappointed by the pricing

Let’s talk about the exciting parts first. When I bought my Shapeoko 3 XXL in 2019, I paid $1,830 plus $95 shipping, and that included the router. I don’t remember there being any special promotions or discounts, and it doesn’t note anything on the invoice.

If you order a Shapeoko 3 XXL today, you’ll pay $1,970, and you’ll have to pay another $80 for the router. This is extremely reasonable. You now get the upgraded Z-axis and a Sweepy Dust Boot in the box. I’d have to pay $250 just to upgrade my Z-axis, so you certainly seem to get more for your money today.

Stepping up to the Shapeoko 4 XXL will only cost you another $330, and there’s definitely more value than that for me in what the Shapeoko 4 brings to the table. I’d pay that just for the upgraded table!

Of course, upgrading to the Shapeoko Pro will cost you another $500. If you’re going to be pushing your Shapeoko hard, those linear rails will be nice to have, and the Shapeoko Pro even includes a $120 BitSetter. Maybe you just have an extra $500 to spend, and extra rigidity and reliability certainly can’t hurt. It isn’t an upgrade I need, but I’m excited that the option is available.

You haven’t told us why you’re disappointed!

I’m disappointed in how far up the price has gone on the entry-level Shapeoko. The standard Shapeoko 3 is only $1,320. When I bought my Shapeoko 3 XXL, I believe the standard size was around $1,300 with a router. They’ve since added the stronger Z-axis, though, so I think $1,320 is a fantastic value.

The standard Shapeoko 4 starts at $1,800. Add a router, and that’s precisely what I paid for my Shapeoko 3 XXL. Sure, you get an awesome Sweepy 2.0 Dust Boot with the Shapeoko 4, and lots of things are upgraded, so this isn’t exactly a fair comparison.

This isn’t the part that bums me out.

I somewhat regret choosing the Shapeoko XXL. It is almost too big. At least 95% of what I work with would fit in the standard Shapeoko, and the vast majority of the rest of that 5% would fit in a Shapeoko XL. The Shapeoko XXL takes up a lot of space, it requires a lot of stretching and leaning to secure things down in the rear of the machine, and building a usable enclosure for this behemoth is more problematic.

I do most of my cutting in the front left corner of my Shapeoko XXL. It is a much bigger machine than I need.

The Shapeoko 4 XXL only costs 27% more than the standard size and only 12% more than the Shapeoko 4 XL. Even though I know I should own an XL, I’d have a really hard time not buying the XXL.

From where I’m sitting, this is a good thing. I’ve never once wished I bought a less capable machine than my Shapeoko 3, and it definitely wasn’t at the very top end of my budget. If I had the option to buy a Shapeoko 4 or Shapeoko Pro for $500 or so more, I probably would have taken it.

I like the Shapeoko 4 and Shapeoko Pro more than the X-Carve Pro

I am not a machinist. I am still a newbie in the world of CNC. My 3D-printing background makes me see Carbide 3D’s CNC offerings as being the equivalent of Prusa Research’s 3D printers.

The Prusa MK3S is engineered to be just barely more 3D printer than most people should ever need. There are more expensive machines with bigger motors, expensive linear rails, and fancier movement systems. You wind up paying a lot of money for these machines to gain minor upgrade in performance, quality, and reliability. Josef Prusa is trying to get you as much quality, reliability, convenience, and performance as he can for your money.

Carbide 3D seems to be doing the same with the Shapeoko. I’ve had people point at the belts on my Shapeoko and say, “I wouldn’t buy this! I want my CNC with lead screws!”

I would also like a machine with lead screws, but they cost twice as much, but the belts are just fine for the work I’m doing, and I’ve saved myself thousands of dollars. I don’t have an unlimited budget.

Inventables has dived directly into the deep end with the X-Carve Pro. The X-Carve Pro has upgraded everything. It has huge extrusions, linear bearings, lead screws, and giant stepper motors. They’ve gone from their $2,000 X-Carve that competes with the Shapeoko to a $9,995 and an $11,995 beast of a machine.

I’m not informed enough to know how these machines compare to other machines in their class. They’ve leaped out of the Shapeoko’s market altogether. Machines like the X-Carve Pro aren’t even on my radar.

If I needed an upgrade, Carbide 3D’s Shapeoko Pro would be a much more reasonable machine for my garage, and I don’t even think I’d ever manage to push it to its limits.

Will I be upgrading to a Shapeoko 4?

I have no plans to upgrade. I’m not even pushing the limits of my Shapeoko 3 XXL, and it isn’t showing any signs of wear and tear. I have managed to get to the point where the bearing in the DeWalt router is wobbling around a bit, but my v-wheels seem quite happy.

I’d be more than a little tempted to sell my Shapeoko 3 XXL and order a Shapeoko 4 XL. Maybe I’d even splurge on the Shapeoko Pro. As I said, though, I’d hate to not spend the extra $250 to upgrade to the XXL. At that point I’d be back to wasting space in my garage AND I would have to assemble a brand new CNC machine. That’d be a conundrum!

The fine folks at TheLab.ms makerspace ordered a Shapeoko Pro XXL, and I believe it has already arrived. I look forward to stopping by in a few weeks to check it out. I haven’t seen a Shapeoko Pro in person yet. Maybe that will tempt me into purchasing an upgrade for my own garage!