X-Carve CNC Router
Bloominglabs has an Inventables X-Carve 2015 750mm CNC router. This is a machine which can carve, cut, drill, and engrave flat sheets or small pieces of wood, plastic, soft metals (like aluminum), and other materials.
- gshield with three 1.5A stepper drivers, PWM spindle control, and grbl firmware
- 300W 24V air-cooled spindle with ER11 collet
- 400W 24V power supply
Assembly and Maintenance Instructions
Inventables's official software for the X-Carve is Easel, a cloud-based CAM program. An account is required. It starts with a 30-day free preview of "Easel Pro", which offers desirable features for a subscription price of $156 per year, and falls back to the more limited free tier.
Besides the price, I also found it more difficult than I was willing to deal with to configure the drivers, DNS, networking, and browser settings to get Easel to work at all. There's a very tall stack of software standing between the X-Carve's microcontroller, plugged in on a USB serial connection, up through the browser to the cloud, and it all has to work perfectly, and there are no error codes. With these problems in mind, it seems worthwhile to get alternative software working:
At this early stage, we haven't tried any of these yet, just collected this list of promising things to try:
- Universal G-Code Sender
- gcodetools (Inkscape extension)
- FreeCAD's Path Workbench
- Solvespace's basic g-code export
The previous owner 3D printed a mount for brushes and a vacuum cleaner. Completing this would allow the machine's waste to be captured and removed while it operates.
Water-Cooled VFD Spindle
The machine came with a very basic air-cooled brushed DC spindle. While adequate to start with, it is noisy, not very powerful, and offers poor control over its speed. Ebay is fat with inexpensive water-cooled VFD spindles that support ER11 collets, and only cost a couple hundred dollars. If the machine is used often, one of these would be a great upgrade. They are available in 0.8kW and 1.5kW models; 0.8kW would probably be plenty.
The machine needs a permanent enclosure to keep sawdust from the woodshop out, and chips, noise, and broken tools inside. The best material for this would be 1/16" or 1/8" thick polycarbonate on a square-tube aluminum frame. Ideally, the enclosure would be tall enough to accommodate the water-cooled spindle.