Upfront Disclosure. Onefinity AND Shapeoko sent me their machines, FOR FREE. Shapeoko asked that I show of their machine when I used it, Onefinity asked that I beta test the machine and help improve the machine and push it's limits for them.
*Check the end of this article for views on the pro/4/HDM*
If you’re looking at CNC – computer numerical control machine – you’ve probably come across the Onefinity and the Shapeoko CNC machines.
If you've been following me on social medias, you've seen me use both machines. Both CNC machines work in a very similar way, but will create 2, 2.5, and 3D cutouts of the same materials. They are both designed to be affordable desktop models to be used by hobbyists, home business, and small business alike. They're also priced around $2,000 us making them a solid choice as a first CNC machine.
The question is – which one should you buy? I get asked this daily, so I figured I'd write up a post about the differences between the two and which one I've decided to keep in my personal shop. Click the "read more" below to read the full article.
What's the best CNC machine for beginners?
I'm going to address the most common question I get first, that is "What's the best CNC machine for beginners?". The only difference between a 'beginner' and an advanced machine is the ease of assembly. Every machine needs to use a CAD (computer assisted drawling) program to design files, and these CAD programs are usually all the same. There's a handful of popular ones and they are used on every cnc machine in existence. Therefore, whether you have a $300 dollar machine or a $300,000 machine the program to design for it will usually be the same. So what really makes a cnc machine 'newb' friendly? It has to do with how easy it is to assemble and how easy the directions are to aid in that assembly. This article is aimed at hobby cnc's in the price range of around $2000, focused on Onefinity and Shapeoko, but there are two other cnc machines in this category that could be considered, the Millright Mega V and the Inventables X-Carve, the latter of which I have owned.
Here's the total average time it takes to put each together from unboxing to completion (on average):
The second part of this is the assembly guides and/or assembly videos. I'll link them for each machine below:
The Main Differences Between The Onefinity and Shapeoko CNCs.
While the Onefinity costs $1995 vs the Shapeoko's cost is $1970, the main differences of the Onefinity CNC and the Shapeoko CNC are:
Some similarities between the Onefinity CNC and Shapeoko CNC are:
What software is included?
Another common question I'm asked often is "what software should I use/buy?" This comes down to personal preference. The Onefinity does not come with any software. The Shapeoko 'comes with' Carbide Create. I use quotes around 'comes with' because that implies it's only usable with Shapeoko. This is not true. Carbide Create is available, for free, for anyone via a simple download HERE. Thanks to a recent update, Carbide Create has the option to select a standard GRBL post processor with just a few clicks. This allows the Onefinity use the Carbide Create just as easily as it works for the Shapeoko. Onefinity released a video on how to do that HERE. So the fact that Shapeoko 'comes with' software and Onefinity does not is a bit misleading.
I've done some videos on how to use Carbide Create. I link them here:
The same holds true with Inventables (x-carve) easel. While marketed as the software x-carve 'comes with', it also has a post processor selection to be used with any grbl based cnc (like the Shapeoko or Onefinity). You can start using Easel, for free, HERE. (be warned, this software is online ONLY). Onefinity has released a video on how to use Easel with their machine HERE.
In any case, both easel and carbide create are rather limiting. Some more powerful software that should be considered is Vectric Vcarve (One time payment) or Carveco (subscription based) (use code 'myerswoodshop' for 5% off) or Fusion 360 (free for education or individuals). I personally use Vectric Aspire for my use.
Deep dive into differences of the physical aspects of the machines.
These are my personal experiences of using both the Shapeoko and Onefinity. I do get messages daily asking for support of both machines, so I'll include those thoughts also.
The 3rd major difference is the linier shaft with a sealed bearing vs v-wheels. There's little that can happen to a shaft with the bearing. They are sealed so the just push the dust off the shaft as it moves. V-wheels are a different story. If you search the internet, fb groups, or forums of machines with v-wheels you'll see countless posts of broken, malformed, or misaligned v-wheels. These need constant maintenance and supervision as vibration from cut forces can make the eccentric nuts come loose and change the accuracy and consistency of cuts.
As of a few months ago, Shapeoko replaced their standard z slider that used a belt with a lead screw (not ball screw) Z slider. It's definitly a good move as that was the weakest point of the machine. However, the switch from the belt z slider to lead screw z (z plus) still uses v-wheels to travel along the x axis and lessened the clearance and distance the z can travel. I'd consider the latter aspect as a down grade. The Onefinity comes with a ball screw, heavy duty Z slider that has OVER 5" of clearance and travel, standard. Shapeoko offers a similar 'upgraded' Z slider called the HDZ, but that is a $450 add on cost to the standard machine. Even after upgrading, your still left with belts on the X and Y axis.
I would like to point out, however, there are some incredibly smart people pushing the belted Shapeoko to produce some absolutely incredible results. I, myself, never had any major issues with accuracy of the Shapeoko for the things I created. That is to say, I never created anything that was dependent on being accurate, as door signs and the like doesn't matter if I'm off .005". However, if your trying to push every last bit of accuracy making parts, especially out of metals, you'll get better results from a factory Onefinity machine, without the constant tinkering and maintaining of the belts and v-wheels. If you are new to CNC, how much do you want to spend maintaining your machine? Let's be real, you just want to set it up, load a file, and cut.
For the money being equal, ball screws and bearings are better equipment than v-wheels and belts.
Customer and Community Support and Warrenty.
Although the Onefinity and Shapeoko may be considered 'hobby' machines, $2000 is still a serious investment. This is even more so when you're buying a CNC for the first time. You don't know what you don't know. Shapeoko is know for being top tier when it comes to support. I've experienced this myself when I broke a belt. Of course it was over the weekend. When I sent an email, I received a response within a few hours, and the next business day I received an email with a tracking for a new belt. Also, Carbide 3D has been in business selling machines since 2015(ish) and has shipped thousands of machines around the world. The user base is very large and the community is very active. This is great for when your having an issue, you can just post a question with a picture or video on Facebook, HERE, and have a handful of answers within minutes. They also have a wealth of knowledge on their forum page, HERE. That's one of the benefits of selling machines for years, if someone has had an issue, it's probobly already been discussed with a solution.
On the other hand, Onefinity is in it's infancy. The company behind Onefinity, Suck It Dust Boot, has been around the CNC world before the Shapeoko has, but they haven't been selling machines, at the day of this blog post (November 2020), for much longer than 6 months. The user base is, understandably, small. That's not to say the community isn't active, helpful, or full of knowledge. They also have a Facebook page, HERE. At the time of writing this, if I've done my math right buy their shipping tables, over 300 machines are in the wild, with over 500 by the end of 2020. By all indications via the groups and forum, Onefinity is just as on top of support as Shapeoko is. They respond to questions and issues extremely fast and the general consensus of the group is support has been outstanding. I cannot personally attest to needing support per say, as I'm a beta tester for them. I'm in relatively frequent contact with Onefinity, trying to break what I can so they can make a better machine in the end :P There we're a few others who tested (Two Moose Design and Furniture By Pete) the machine also and none have needed any repairs or performed any maintenance in the 8 months they've had them. Onefinity also has a active forum full of information, HERE.
Both Shapeoko and Onefinity have pretty standard written 1 year warranties. However, Shapeoko are known to support their machines for the length of the machines existence. Onefinity is too young to know if they will continue their (outstanding) support after a year (although, I'd be surprised if it was any less than what they provide now).
Both have very active YouTube channels full of helpful videos. I'll post them below.
*I'm giving Shapeoko the win on this one, not because Onefinity is any less helpful in support, but just for the fact that they have the longevity of sales that Onefinity can only gain with time.*
Conclusion: Which one is the winner? Which one should you buy?
Onefinity won two of the 4 categories that I've highlighted (Tied in one and only lost the 4th because of time). For those reasons I'm giving Onefinity the win. Remember, I've personally had an X-Carve, Shapeoko 3 XXL, and the Onefinity Woodworker CNC's in my shop. Since my shop is small, I only have room for one, and that one is the Onefinity CNC. I've you've ever purchased tools before, you'll know when you buy the cheapest one, you usually end up replacing it later with the one you should have bought. Fortunately, since they are so evenly priced, you're not spending any more to get a better machine.
Most Budget Friendly CNC: Onefinity
With the Onefinity being all ball screw axis and a heavy duty z slider standard, you don't need to purchase all kinds of add ons to bring it up to something useable. And with all of the advanced features and the high tech controller, it's amazing they can set the price under $2,000.
Most User Friendly CNC [Best overall]: Onefinity
If your new to cnc, you don't want to spend hours, let alone days, putting together a machine you've never seen or used before. With the 90% preassembled Onefinity machine, all the hard work is done for you. It only takes 15 minutes to set it up and be ready for cutting. They also provide a great user manual and installation video to get you up and running fast.
And something else...
"But Ben, what about the newly release Shapeoko pro?" "Pro", isn't that just a company telling you the nonpro isn't good enough? It's a nice looking kit that definitely improves on the Shapeoko 3. (I mean, that power button does look sweet in the end of the rail). The unfortunate thing about it is that 2 of axis are STILL belt drive (albeit a wider belt) and the Z is still lead screw not ball screw (z plus) with only 3" of travel. They did remove the problematic v-wheels (basically saying the standard Shapeoko was not optimal) and bolting on some linier rails (that will need to be cleaned very often, profile linear bearing don’t seal as effectively as round linear bearing and will definitely clog/gum up much easier which will require a lot more maintenance). They also upgraded the frame and waste board (again, an acknowledgement that it's incredibly hard to square the machine without a ratchet strap around it and the middle of the waste board sags on the standard Shapeoko). And, you're still tethered to your computer via usb for the duration of the cut. All of that with a price tag of $800 more ($2800 starting price). And if you want to machine HDZ Z slider that comes standard with Onefinity? You guessed it, another $450 upgrade. We're reaching well over $3500 for a machine that's competing with the $2000 Onefinity. I don't think it's going to do anything better than the Onefinity and you're just shy of buying two of them at this point.
What about the Shapeoko 4 and Shapeoko HDM? I find it pretty interesting that they stated 'we have no plans for the 4' and 'there are no issues with belts' and 'we'll never do a preorder'. Then, once the Onefinity comes out they flush all the info and come out with the 4 (requiring you to trash your 3 because it's not upgradable) which STILL uses belts?? and the 'HDM" that uses ball screws (mimicking the Onefinity for WAY more cost) and has a 6 month backorder. This basically cements the idea that Onefinity is the superior machine and Carbide scrambled to make a competitive product. And while they did that, Onefinity came out with more products, like the journeyman rail that is 4 foot cutting area and does not require their users to trash their machines just because of the upgrade, they can actually trade in their x axis rail for credit and get a much larger machine. They also came out with the QCW wasteboard frame (the Shapeoko loyalists biggest grip, 'there's no base'), and the rolling/folding stand, all of which attach to users current machines, shows me Onefinity actually know what their users want and are actively listening to their customers. By releasing upgrades that doesn't cause the user to completely replace their machine, Onefinity is the way to go, in my own option.
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