The Stepoko runs Grbl software and is able to connect to your computer, accept G-code and translate that to stepper motor commands (complete with stepper motor drivers). The Shapeoko on the other hand is a complete 3-axis gantry. Together you are on your way to a complete CNC Machine. Check out our various Stepoko and Shapeoko products along with various support parts. If this paragraph is incomprehensible to you check out the definitions below.
Stepoko Board - This is the bare Stepoko board. It has 3 stepper motor drivers as well as an Arduino compatible processor running the GRBL software. Do you have your own gantry with its own steppers and just need a controller? If so this board is for you. The board can accept G-code commands from your computer and control your motors. Just make sure your motors are the correct size and start playing. This board now includes thermal gap filler to help with ESD issues.
Stepoko Motion Control Add-On Kit - Need a bit more than the plain board? This kit provides you with the Stepoko board (including thermal gap filler), 4 motors, 3 cable carriers an enclosure milled to hold the Stepoko, 24V/5A power supply, toggle switch and USB cable. Add your own gantry and you are ready to get started (this kit does not come with a power cable to connect the power supply to your specific wall outlet).
Shapeoko Mechanical Kit - This is just the gantry, no circuitry included. If you are looking to build your own GRBL setup or wanting to upgrade an existing setup to a bigger platform check out this kit. This kit has a cutting area of 16"x16"x3" (425mmx425mmx75mm) and an overall footprint of 28.5"x23.6" (725mmx600mm).
Shapeoko Deluxe Kit - This kit has everything you need to get started, the Shapoko Mechanical Kit as well as the Stepoko board (including thermal gap filler), 4 motors, 3 cable carriers, power supply, power cable, USB cable, toggle switch and milled enclosure. Keep in mind this does not have a router or other milling tool (although this does come with a Sharpie so you can make fun drawings or just test out your design).
Event the Deluxe Kit contains just the basics, so here are a few other products you might find helpful in getting your Shapeoko and Stepoko running the way you want to.
Cable Carriers - Help keep your cables contained and not in the way of moving parts. These now come in the Deluxe kit and Motion Control Add-On Kit, but if you have an older kit or just need more check out these cable carriers.
Limit Switches - Limit switches are good for mounting to the end of your rig, if the head hits these something went wrong and it is about to try to run off the track. Hook these up to shut down the system if this happens. Check out the web for professional limit switches, but in a pinch these should work as well.
Emergency Switch - Similar to the limit switches we don’t carry a standard Emergency Switch. You can try using one of our Concave buttons although they are momentary and not locking. You can also try a toggle switch (the covers make a nice bright thing to hit in an emergency).
Safety Glasses - Please be safe, no one likes wood splinters in their eyes.
Power Cable - Don’t forget a power cable to connect your power supply the the appropriate wall outlet. The deluxe kit does come with one, but the add-on kit does not.
Screwdriver - With screw terminals and other things you will probably need a good screwdriver. While you probably already own a few here is a good one with a few different tips that will work will on small jobs like screw terminals.
Router - We don’t currently carry a router to go on your CNC. The folks at Shapeoko recommend the Dewalt DW611 or the Porter Cable 450 to use with the machine. We ended up using a cheap Harbor Freight one that we 3D printed an adapter for to make it fit. Don’t forget you can put whatever you want on the end, whether that’s a laser, 3D print extrusion head, or a marker. Get creative!
We have quite a few tutorials, videos and projects to help you get started. Check out the hookup guides for an overview of the products including features, set up, and project ideas.
Stepoko Hookup Guide - This tutorial will give you a good idea of how to use the Stepoko board and it’s features.
Shapeoko Assembly Guide - These are the basic instructions from Carbide3D for assembling the Shapeoko. You will need this for both the Mechanical Kit and the Deluxe Kit. Please keep in mind that this Guide lists items for the Carbide3D version of the complete Shapeoko kit, not the SparkFun version. Be sure to reference the hard copy guide that comes with your kit.
Shapeoko Deluxe Kit Assembly Hookup Guide - This tutorial will walk you through building the Shapeoko and adding the motors, Stepoko and other parts.
More Information and Help
We’ve been using some fairly high tech terms and if you’ve never had the chance to use a CNC or do much with mechanical engineering they may be foreign to you. Here are a few definitions we came up with to help you understand the processes a bit more.
CNC stands for Computer Numeric Control. The short definition a mechanical device where a certain number of axes are controlled by computer code as opposed to manually. This definition includes traditional CNCs such as a mill, laser cutter and pick and place machines, but also things you don’t normally thing of as CNCs such as a printer or scanner (which both have automated x axis and either a y axis or an automatic feeder).
CAD stands for Computer Aided Design. This is basically just a piece of software that lets you design something. Eagle is a CAD program we use to design PCBs, Solidworks is a popular CAD program used to do 3-D modeling, and Inkscape can be used as a CAD program to design paths for a laser cutter. Even your computer’s native painting program can technically be CAD software (although probably not very good software), it all depends on your needs and what you are designing.
CAM stands for Computer Aided Manufacturing. This is where CNC means CAD. When we are done designing our PCBs in Eagle we have to run a “CAM Job” which basically takes all the information in the file and turns it into gerber files. A typical PCB has 5-10 gerber files, 1 for drill hits, 1 for the top layer of copper, 1 for the bottom layer of copper, one for silk screen, etc. These gerber files are what the machines at the fab houses use to actually make the boards. Similar processes need to be done for other types of CAD programs to translate a full featured design file into more basic information. In some cases this is done behind the scenes, for example when I take my Corel Draw file and send it to our laser cutter I don’t manually run a CAM job, but somewhere between Corel Draw, and the laser cutter drivers, the correct information gets to the laser cutter.
G-Code is basically a programming language used to tell a CNC machine how to move. Commands such as turn on drill, wait 1 second, move 2mm on the x-axis, change tool, and set speed gives the machine all the information to do what it needs to. While you can technically do this by hand the process will most likely be long and tedious.
Grbl is actually an Arduino based G-code translator. With the uptick in the Maker Movement and Arduino based controllers people were wanting to translate G-code on their own. Grbl is the software that takes those G-code commands and sends the correct pulses and exactly the correct time to the stepper motors (or stepper motor drivers), as well as controlling other features such as turning on the CNC or leveling a bed.
While we do not tend to make a lot of software suggestions - to run a CNC - you will need a few software programs. We’ve tried to give a quick overview of some of the more popular paid, free, and open source software options including what we’ve tried (and know works with this setup). We have provided links to the software in our tutorials for your convenience.
CAD - This is where you will be doing most of your work and you will want a good solid program. Professional CAD software is not cheap though. SolidWorks and Inventor are 2 well known CAD programs, just keep in mind that a license will set you back about $4000. There are also some reasonably priced options out there including Autodesk Fusion 360 (free for hobbyists and between $25-$40/month otherwise) which do have built in CAM functionality. Fortunately, there are a few decent Open Source options. FreeCAD is pretty popular and what we tend to use around here.
CAM - This is a tricky area in that there are few good Open Source options. For free programs you can try PyCAM. Also check out CamBam which is about $150 but does have a trial version that gives you 40 free uses. Lastly is MakerCAM, this is what we’ve been using with our Shapeko and we’ve been pretty happy with it.
G-code sender - This is fairly straight forward software, that takes the G-code and sends it over USB to your device. We are using Universal G-Code Sender which seems to be a standard, although I was able to find various options with a quick Google search.