ShapeOko diy CNC mill is fully funded with 3 days to go!

diy CNC kit for $300 raises $8,950 and counting

It’s been almost one month since Illinois based maker Edward Ford launched his Kickstarter campaign to perfect his self-built CNC mill and come up with a complete CNC mill kit for under $300.

We loved the idea of what would really be the most affordable hobbyist CNC mill ever, so Ponoko decided to support this one from the get-go.

Ed’s goal was to raise $1,500; but thanks to over 100 backers, the ShapeOko has raised just under $9,000. And we’ve still got 3 days left to go.

There are a lot of diy CNC mill kits out there, but one of the best things about this one (besides the price) is that it’s as open-source as you can get.

From the ShapeOko Kickstarter page: “From CAD and CAM software to the CNC controller; every step has an open source solution. Did we mention the entire project itself is open source? Every nut, every bolt, every belt, fully documented with part numbers and vendor list. Do with it as you please!”

Ed’s been keeping a blog on the progress of the ShapeOko, and most recently improved the Z axis clearance.

You can see lots of pics and get more info at the ShapeOko home page.

And you can still donate to the ShapeOko Kickstarter project:

$1 and $5 donations are very much appreciated.
$50 donations get you a $25 Personal Factory making voucher from Ponoko.
$100 gets you 3 stepper motor drivers + an Arduino pre-loaded with GRBL.
$200 gets you a complete electronics kit for the mill.
$500 means you just bought yourself a full-on ShapeOko!

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Tom George

This is good but a bit misleading. He has mentioned that the one in the picture isnt what he is going to be selling as the rails alone would cost more than $300. Bit of a scam.

So what are people buying. can be made cheaply but not for $300 but cnc machines of the size he is talking about and cheap dont really go together.

It seems all people have done is buy him a laser cutter. There are many free plans around that will build a good cnc machine.

Anyway good on him for getting what he wanted.

Actually, if you would have read the kickstarter text all the way through, one of the things we specifically mentioned is that we are *not* going to use the funding to buy a laser cutter. Again, that’s not really our style.

As far as building a CNC machine for $300. It can be done. Have a look at Zend Works CNC. Their’s is slightly more costly, but they’re trying to make a profit. And that’s a really nice little machine.

What our project is doing is raising money to do the research (read: trial and error) of finding the right combination of parts that are both low cost *and* acceptable for use in an entry level CNC machine.

What are people buying: Well, the 11 people to date who have donated at the $500 level will be receiving the final version of what comes out of the R&D phase of the project. We have three designs done right now that need to be tested, one of those designs (or a combination of those designs) will end up being a small CNC machine that almost anyone can build for about $300. Plus, the whole thing is being documented and released as an open hardware project.

Feel free to send me an email (edward at shapeoko dot com) or post back to this thread if you have any specific questions. Or better yet, my phone number is on the kickstarter page, give me a call 🙂


George Smith

After having been interested in home cnc machines after stumbling upon, and having built various types I think your kickstarter was misleading, imo.

First the picture shows a machine that you admit will not be anywhere near what you are going to release. This is because of the cost of the parts. Why show it in the first place? Chances are the machine you will release, if it comes in at $300, will have to use at best low diameter linear bearings, and at worse, drawer rails.

this is like starting a kickstarter saying you will design a kit car for $1000 and showing a picture of a ferrari, with a note saying the kit will not produce the car shown as the wheels alone cost more than $1000.

Secondly, you say as I remember, that you will use belts on all axis. Belts can make a speedy machine but will be useless on the z axis, unless they are wide, which adds to cost.

Thirdly, you may achieve a machine for $300 but what the users will quickly find out is that it would quickly need upgrading to really be usable for anything other than as a learning tool. So why not spend the $300 on decent motors and electronics, and start with something simple like on

Dont get me wrong there is value in a learning tool but this is not what you gained funding for.

Its good that you have made your money but I doubt a usable machine can be built for the money you say.

the electronics, stepper drivers and motors will cost at least two thirds of the $300. Not really leaving much for the case and mechanics. Mechanics being the most important. Not even factoring in the cost of using a laser cutter. It would be interesting to see how much this site would charge to laser cut something like you showed in the kickstarter.

One last thing how come the kits cost $500, when the whole point was that you did not want to make kits and charge a large markup? Nearly half? mmm, I would buy a laser cutter and offer a free cutting service to those who bought into your “offer”.

Add open source to anything and people will pay over the odds. Funny really? Look at makerbot. $400 maximum in parts for $1300.

Kristen Turner

I think the skeptical comments are just a matter of seeing things from different perspectives. This project has drawn a bit of attention and critique from who I think are more hardcore CNC enthusiasts. And that’s not who the ShapeOko is meant for.

I don’t think the ShapeOko pretends to be a Ferrari for cheap. It’s an affordable tool for learners. It’s a really cool toy that makes it affordable for someone to tinker around with CNC. A gateway machine. : )

And I could be wrong, but I imagine the final result will actually look something like what has been pictured. Since that’s one of the 3 designs Ed has been working on and improving.

I personally don’t know anything about CNC routing/milling aside from the general idea that a computer tells a tool to carve a material. I learned a little bit more about CNC as I compiled the CNC kit pricing guide.

And after putting that guide together, the only kit I would be interested in at this point is the ShapeOko. I wouldn’t want to spend more than about $350 on something that I might not get into.

And since the MakerBot was brought up, I’d just like to add that I don’t think people are using the term “open source” as some sort of cash cow buzz term. Projects like MakerBot, EggBot, and ShapeOko are attempting to make machinery, manufacturing, and electronics accessible to more people. And I think that’s where open source comes into it.

And for the people who feel Edward has somehow tricked people and earned lots of money — if you look, all he wanted to raise was $1,500. Ponoko worked with him to launch the campaign and A) he refused to ask for more than $1,500 and B) he honestly didn’t think it would be particularly popular. When I told him I thought it would raise $10,000, he said “That’s preposterous.”

At the end of the day, the ShapeOko might introduce DIY CNC to someone, who like me, doesn’t know much about it. And I think that’s more the point than creating some piece of super professional equipment that costs less than some other piece of super professional equipment.

George Smith

Research costs nothing but time. There are already free cnc plans and sites that will walk you through the building of a cnc machine. cnczone, buildyourcnc etc.

I would believe it more if he had shown sketches or cad drawings of what he had designed and what the end user may be able to achieve. Instead of showing something that would be impossible to buy. hence the ferrari comment.

ShapeOko is a good name though.

My comment regarding open source is that it seems, more with makerbot than eggbot, that the price is way higher than the cost. How is that making the tech available to all?

Thanks for your honesty. With your no-b.s. and straight to the point attitude, you seem like the kind of guy I could get along with. I’m married (today is my 7th anniversary btw) with two kids, so I’m not always available, but I love talking DIY CNC with anyone, so give me a call if you want to chat about it.

I debated quite a lot about the picture. Originally I wanted to do a video, but every time I shot one it got worse and worse, and I couldn’t help but feel that a video of me on the landing page was not going to do the project any favors. So I looked through the pictures I had in my flickr account and picked the best one, in terms of lighting and showing the general size of the machine. Notice I didn’t try to spruce it up though: Did you see the pen mount? It’s laughable.

That was a good catch on the z-axis comment, and something that I had overlooked before a buddy of mine pointed it out couple days back. Using a belt there would have been a poor idea. Mostly because when the power was cut to the z-axis stepper motor, gravity would take over and the slide would fall. That axis will now probably end up being a screw. Lesson learned.

To the meat of your point: I honestly do believe a CNC machine can be built for about $300 that isn’t a POS. If I didn’t then I wouldn’t be running the kickstarter project.

As far as the kits and the money goes: When the kickstarter project is over, you will never see me selling a ShapeOko kit. For many many reasons, this isn’t something that I’m trying to make money off of. The kit offer was stricktly to raise funds for the campaign to finish the R&D. To be honest I didn’t think anyone was even going to donate at that level.

Which leads to your second post: R&D does cost money. Trust me, just ask my paypal account about all the money I’ve spent over the last 6 years trying out new parts, designs, components :-). I can draw all the models in 3D that I want (I’ve drawn 100’s of conceptual mills), but until I get the pieces on my workbench and assemble everything, there’s no way for me to know if it’s going to be acceptable or not.

Speaking of models: That is a good idea George. I should have posted a couple mockups of my other designs. I’ll try to get those up over on the ShapeOko site in the next couple days, and I’ll be sure to post back here with the link if you’d like.

Sorry for the lengthy post.


george smith

if you had researched and knew cnc properly you would know that it was impossible to make a quality machine for the price you set. Unfortunately given those who have funded you campaign, they wouldnt know this.

I can build a machine to move a pen and dremel for less than you quote and have. At the beginning. It ran off uln2003 drivers through the parrallel port. POS but it worked.
The good thing about cnc is that you can spread the cost. If you cant afford a mill then buy a driver kit. Hobbycnc make a good one for <$70. The next month pick up some linear rails. Then a motor. And so on. Soon you will have a quality machine.

All you are advocating is wasting money. Yes you can learn. A go cart shows you how to drive but its nothing like the experience of a car.

Why should people fund your hobby and mistakes? For free they could have gone to cnczone. There are quite a few low cost machines to build and a massive community of helpers.

Anyway you have made a tidy packet from this venture. What next? Fund my research into "open source" space ship for $500? or "open source" holiday to hawaii.

Liked the name though. I bet you are in advertising or sales.

No, I’m not in advertising or sales. I’m an IT manager. You can find me in the server room on most days.

Hobbycnc does make a good kit. I own one. Think I bought the steppers from him too and paid about $250 for it. That was the second controller I bought. The first was a Xylotex. That was a good controller too. I bought the kit from there as well. Ran me about $300 + shipping.

One of the problems with both is that they’re expensive. An Arduino and three drivers only costs about $50 then steppers are about $20 each. The other problem with both is they require a parallel port. Seems trivial, but most new computers don’t have a parallel port and not everyone wants to have two computers.

You are clearly not the type of person who is going to want a ShapeOko. That’s fine, I’m not trying to convert you. You knew enough to get yourself and had the time and energy to figure it all out on your own, and I think that’s fantastic!

However, not everyone is up for that. Some people want a turn key solution or a step by step solution. That’s the type of person ShapeOko is for. Someone who wants to get into the CNC game but doesn’t know where to start and doesn’t want to spend a ton of money.

As far as you designing a cnc machine that can push a dremel for less than $300: Sounds awesome! Where can I get one?


george smith

Let me get this right, people are paying $500 for something with no plans and no details? You should be in marketing.

Like I said cool name.

One thing, how come this $300 unit is $500? As I see it both will have to be assembled by the end user. So no cost there. $200 to source parts and laser cut? You are an “open source” saint. Helping the needy.

Also how come, “i need $1500 to develop a open source machine” becomes infinity amount of kits?

It is not just the driver that matters but the size of motors. The machine looks like it has nema 14s or 17s.
Not really going to push much around, especially with a light 5mm plywood frame.

I think you know a $300 machine cant really do anything but need money for something else. I think you know because I guess you frequent the cnczone forums. So maybe you watched a couple of kickstarter recent campaigns where cnc machines sold well. Maybe you saw how “open source” had its blind followers. 1+1 = $$$$

Give the people what they want.

All they are doing with your machine is losing $500.

I hope you now make sure that you dont skimp on the quality of parts. Dont make a big markup. Its a hobby. Let most of the money be spent on good parts. $150 for electronics. $200 for linear bearings and acme thread. $100 for wood and misc, $50 for yourself and maybe you will redeem yourself. That would build a small machine capable of moving maybe a small foredom flaxishaft. Could cut plastic and mdf well.

george smith

“The first was a Xylotex. That was a good controller too. I bought the kit from there as well. Ran me about $300 + shipping.”

Why? Because you wanted to do something with the machine. probably researched it. Found out that cnc relied on motor power. Not really mentioned in your kickstarter.

george smith

Just seen the youtube videos. You say that the machine you are selling will not be the one in the picture but seemed to have a youtube account promoting the shapeoke machine. This being the one in the picture?

An exercise to confuse, methinks!

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