First of all you’ll need a CNC machine. I got mine from Inventables and upgraded it with a Kress 800 FME spindle (the ShapeOko forum has some nice posts on the bigger Kress 1050 spindle). I posted some posts about building my ShapeOko 2 (here’s another one). I’m very pleased with the performance of my new spindle. The stock spindle (the Dremel clone) wasn’t strong enough for continuous work in my opinion.
Then there is software: there is a lot of free and open source software out there for the purpose of drawing, generate g-code and sending the g-code to the ShapeOko 2. I find the following combination of software useful:
OpenSCAD: An open source CAD program. It doesn’t have a lot of fancy drag and drop features but it is solid and gets the job done. There is a lot of documentation and tutorials on the homepage for the beginner so don’t be scared by the programmatic approach (which suits a mathematician and programmer like me very well 🙂 ).
Inkscape: Another open source program for drawing SVG files which sometimes are handy when creating simple tasks for the ShapeOko 2. Again the homepage contains a lot of useful information for the beginner: tutorials, videos, blogs and a strong community.
FreeMILL: A free program from MecSoft (thank you for making this excellent program free 🙂 ). If you get fascinated by making things on a CNC machine (like me) then you should consider some of their non-free products (no, I don’t get paid for writing this!).
Grbl Controller: A open source g-code sender for communicating with the CNC machine. There is also a tutorial on how to run Grbl Controller on a Raspberry Pi. A list of g-code senders can be seen here.
Last but not least: I needed a small utility for breaking down the g-code generated by FreeMILL so I made one (I will make it available for download later on). The thing is that FreeMILL generates g-code describing the surface of a solid (imported as STL) which often isn’t possible for the ShapeOko 2 to run directly because the cuts are simply too deep for the machine to handle in one run. Therefore, I created a small tool to break down the file from FreeMILL so it can be milled a few millimeters at a time. I’ll write more about it, when we reach that part. 🙂
At the end of this tutorial we’ll have created something like this:
I’ll take you through the process step by step and tell you about my experiences with the ShapeOko 2 along the road (Murphy has been a very frequent but uninvited guest in my workshop since I got my ShapeOko 2!). 🙂