If you’ve followed me for any length of time you’ve probably seen me talk about some of the CNC machines from Inventables. I’ve reviewed the Shapeoko 2, X-Carve version 1 and now the X-Carve version 2 (or 2017 model). I’ve really enjoyed getting to see the transformation and maturing of this product over the years. They send me these machines to get me to do an honest review (seriously). That’s the only way I do it. I’m a straight shooter (sometimes to a fault some would say).
When Inventables reached out to me for the latest version I agreed to do the review as they’ve made some enhancements to the platform. Plus, they’ve created several new options for it. Options like a very versatile and reasonably priced clamping set and a thoughtful and complete dust collection solution.
All the components arrived in great packaging and were undamaged with the exception of the large MDF table surface. It suffered a minor bump about mid way down the right edge. It was purely cosmetic so no issue really. The corners were very well protected by high density foam but as usual the shipper found a way to leave their mark. There were 4 boxes in total with the largest being the table.
Assembly was a much different experience this time. I believe my more pleasant experience this time is the result of two things. First, this isn’t my first rodeo so to speak. I’ve had some experience in assembly with the first version X-Carve. Secondly, Inventables made the assembly process easier. This fact is most evident in the X axis bridge. Instead of 2 lineals that make up the bridge, there is just one double sized lineal. This eliminates the trouble of having to space the lineals correctly so that the X axis carriage rides smoothly. Also making the assembly process easier is that all the stepper motors now connect to the wiring with a plug instead of the old screw terminal connection. The wires are also labels very well. The total number of pieces seems to be less overall.
Every tool you needed was supplied in the optional tool kit with the exception of 2 things, a pair of scissors or wire cutters and a 5mm hex driver bit. Most people have scissors but I didn’t have 5mm hex driver for my drill. I was able to make one by cutting off a length of a cheap hex key I had laying around. You need the hex driver to install the threaded inserts into the X-Carve table or at least to do it in an easier way. A standard 5mm hex driver could work but it would take a considerable longer time.
The online instructions do a good job of walking you through the assembly. I was able to put the entire unit together, by myself, in a few hours.
New Standard and Options
The old standard DC spindle has been replaced by the, once optional, DeWalt 611 router. The 611 has a lot of power for it’s size and it’s not to loud. There’s also the added benefit of being able to get precision collets for it as well.
The clamp set is a great option. It’s very complete and allows you to easily secure your materials to the table for cutting. There are 5 different length plastic straps, 5 different length color coordinated hold down bolts, 5 short step blocks, 5 tall step blocks, and 5 riser blocks all with 5 of each. A great value in my opinion.
The dust collection System. As great as the clamp set is, I’m most impressed with the dust collection system. It’s very well thought out and works great. The systems main components consist of a dust shoe, side mount brackets, hose, and grounding wire. It’s super easy to install and comes with a generous length of hose. The grounding strap is a nice add to help dissipate the static charge the could develop when using the system. The removable dust shoe is securely held on with magnets. Yet you can still remove it with relative ease when needed.
There are also several different bits that you can add in various types and sizes. I show two different packs and detailed picture of each bit further down in the blog post.
Another advantage ti the DeWalt 611 router being standard is that you can add the optional precision collet set. It is made to a higher standard the your typical factory collet and will have less run-out which translates to a better surface finish on your parts.
As with the previous Inventables CNC machines, using it is very straightforward and easy. The Easel software is very intuitive and walks you through the process by leading you through a series of questions. Questions like how thick is your material and what size bit will you be using. There’s an enormous amount of information for Easel online and the basic account is free so you can be using it right away. Even before you buy an X-Carve.
Hard Drive Ring Trivet?
My first project with the latest X-Carve was something that popped in my head. It accomplished a several things for me. Firstly, It’s a good project for the X-Carve, Second, I get to use some beautiful Black Walnut wood that Inventables sent me. Third, I get to make use of some hard drive platter spacer rings I’ve had laying around for a while. I use 9 of these rings and press fit them into a square of the Black Walnut to make a unique trivet. The contrast between the shiny aluminum rings and the beautifully grained Black Walnut couldn’t have been better. I created the design and CAM job in Fusion360, then imported the file into Easel and had the X-Carve do it’s thing. After a few goofs on my CAMing job, I finally got it right. I think the results speak for themselves and I’m pleased how it turned out.
This version of the X-Carve is better (as it should be) than the previous versions. Inventables is listening to feedback and making improvements to the X-Carve platform. They’re offering additional solutions with the options they’ve brought to market. DIY CNC is fun, but it’s not for everybody. It takes multiple disciplines to bring a functional and accurate machine together. If you want to concentrate on making things with a CNC machine then you should buy one in my opinion. The X-Carve is a good starting place for a new user of for a small business that needs to cut out shapes, art, etc. Like the home signs I mentioned or the wooden shapes the a lot of these “paint n pour” type places allow you to paint things with a group of friends. (sometimes I do feel like a free business consultant 🙂