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CNC Piranha FX vs XL Review

You may recognize the company called Next Wave Automation. They manufacture the CNC Shark machines as well as the Piranha FX and XL. Both Piranhas are popular kits for makers, artists, and inventors. Let’s examine them both to see which one will be the best deal for you.

CNC Piranha FX

CNC Piranha FX

CNC Piranha FX

One of the highlights of the Piranha FX is its touchscreen interface. You can run the machine separate from a computer by using a USB drive to transfer your files. Then use the screen to select your project and begin milling.

The Piranha FX can carve in three dimensions, including inlays and corbels, from wood, plastics, and soft metals. It can even engrave circuit boards because it’s very accurate. The only limitation is its compact table size of 12 by 18 by 3 inches.

Of course, to operate the Piranha FX, you’ll need a router. The manufacturer recommends palm routers from DEWALT, Bosch, or Porter-Cable. But you’ll find a 1/4-inch V-router bit in the box with the Piranha, as well as two hold-down clamps for materials you mill.

The kit itself also contains the mounting hardware for the router plus the touchscreen and analuminum interlocking table track. In fact, it comes fully assembled. Owners have said that the structure is substantial and stable. The main complaints seem to be that customer service is slow.

The Piranha comes with a 3D models library as part of the Vector Art Sampler Pack. It’s also bundled with software called VCarve Desktop V8 Design. These programs are only compatible with Windows, not Mac.

Finally, the Piranha FX is compatible with Next Wave Automation’s Touch Probe. This device is a 3D duplicator. You can use it to scan a 3-dimensional image, and then reproduce the image with the FX CNC machine. This ability is handy when you’re restoring furniture or copying a broken part for a fix. All you’ll need is the VCarve software to manage the image file.

More features of the CNC Piranha FX:

  • Compatible with USB 2.0
  • Returns require a 15% restock fee


CNC Piranha XL

CNC Piranha XL

CNC Piranha XL

Why would you choose the Piranha XL over the FX? If you want to cut larger projects, you’ll want the XL. It has a bigger table with a cutting space that measures 12 by 24 by 4 inches in size. That means it can handle longer and taller materials than the Piranha FX.

Other than the extended workspace, the Piranha XL comes with the same software as the FX. It includes VCarve Desktop V8 Design and a sampler pack with 3D models. Once you’ve installed the program on your PC (as it’s only compatible with Windows), you can create your own projects.

The Piranha XL is capable of engraving circuit boards on plastic as well as doing ornamental inlays in wood and soft metals. You can machine precision parts for a robot or make a plaque for your home. Then copy the file to a USB flash drive and plug that into the module with the touchscreen.

The touchscreen module is referred to as the “Pendant” by the manufacturer. It has a USB 2.0 port for uploading your design to the Piranha. Once it’s copied over, simply use the screen to run the job. The Piranha will activate the router and get to work.

Since the kit does not include a router, you’ll need to install one yourself. It works with palm routers from DEWALT, Bosch, and Porter-Cable. The manufacturer ships the Piranha fully assembled with a mounting bracket.

The XL is also compatible with accessories like a laser module, a 3D printer, the Digital Duplicator, and a safety enclosure. The Digital Duplicator is the Touch Probe, or 3D scanner and image duplicator. It’s very useful if you need to restore a broken piece of an object or copy patterns and textures for a new project.

More features of the CNC Piranha XL:

  • Overall dimensions: 19-1/2”wide x 30-1/2”long x 24”tall
  • Returns require a 15% restock fee



If you plan to mill larger objects like signs, consider getting the Piranha XL instead of the FX. It has a longer and taller cutting area. But if you’re short on space, you might prefer the compact Piranha FX.

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