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Topics - wild.bill

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Projects / Fine engraving with laser and CNC
« on: June 14, 2017, 10:51:13 AM »
Attached is an image with a lot of fine detail that has worked well with the laser but I have decided that I would also like to make images like this using a CNC for materials that don't work well with the laser.

On the CNC I have been working with a 60deg V bit. If I only cut to a depth of .1mm I can get about .1mm resolution which is what I am working for. With that shallow a cut getting the Z axis correct is important. I do it by setting my X & Y with the bit way up in the chuck, and when in position and Z is about where I want it I open the chuck and let the bit drop to the surface of the material to be cut. Currently T2 CNC mode does its non cutting moves at zero and the bit would scrape the surface of the material when moving (which is way I asked for a new feature).

If I can get this to work well enough I will be putting images onto aluminum and be able to get better resolution with images on acrylic.

So here is the image that I engraved into wood. I stained the wood lightly about 2 hours prior to the engraving and I think it softened the wood some and allowed the laser to etch deeper into the wood rather than just burn the surface.

Z Axis / Mounting my Z axis
« on: May 30, 2017, 07:26:28 PM »
Some time back I showed that I could set up the Banggood Z axis onto my laser cutter but at the time the mounting was just a hack so I could show that I could make it work.

After seeing the new mount that Banggood has for mounting the laser on their newer kits it got me thinking - that it would be nice to have a mount the the X gantry that I could put different units onto so I designed one the other day and have finished printing it and put the whole system together.

I have a mounting bracket that mounts onto the gantry so I can put a mounting plate onto it and have a little room for the screw heads, and I put 4 screws on the sides so I could lock the plate down when it was in place. The first picture shows the plate on the X gantry and you can see where I have space to put the side nuts into the plastic. And the second shows the mounting plate sitting in the mount with nothing attached.Then I put the mounting plate onto the Z axis unit and attached it. And last I mounted the laser onto the Z axis unit for a complete system.

Is it perfect? NO - the whole mounting system should have been a little wider because the screw heads from the Z axis unit didn't have quite enough clearance in side the holder, no enough to make it now work but if I were to do it again I would make everything a little wider. I also plan to do another plate for just a laser if there is a time that I don't want the Z axis.

Z Axis / Banggood Z-axis tested
« on: April 07, 2017, 11:16:43 AM »
For a while now people have talked about the Banggood Z-axis product but no one has ever said that they were using one. So I purchased one a while back and today finally had time to look at it.

It looks like a solid design and is quite well built. When I got it I was surprised because it was a better product then I expected.

So this morning I did a quick and dirty (meaning I didn't take the gantry off) install of this unit. I took my laser off the mount I made for it a while back and mounted the Z-axis unit onto the mount, and them mounted the laser onto the Z-axis with only one TIGHT screw - that was all I could do without making some new parts.

With this crude install it seemed to be solid and could not feel any play in the X-axis carriage so it was time to try it out. I took out my old L6 board because it supports Z-axis in installed it and plugged the new unit in. The movement was smooth and quiet so no problems here. I then used it to get the laser focused on some cardboard. Using T2 I loaded a DXF file that I had for testing and fired things up. The resulting burn showed no difference than what I got before install the Z-axis. OK so lets try a gray scale image and again the results we the same as before.

I took a close look and could not see any signs of wobble so my conclusion is that while this unit is cheap it does a good job and is light enough to work well on a modified Banggood table. It worked well enough that I will keep using it and make a proper mount for things.
I was surprised that it worked as well as it did with 2 screws holding the Z unit on, and only 1 screw holding the laser on.

Here is a picture of it mounted.

FAQs For New Users / FAQ - my motors don't move
« on: March 13, 2017, 04:58:29 PM »
For FAQ section - when I connect with software xxx my motors don't move and I can't turn the laser on.

There are a few things that can prevent you from controlling your laser system from any software package. The first thing to check is are you even getting connected to the controller.

When you first connect to the controller the GRBL firmware sends back a message with what version is loaded. When you connect you should get a message back like:

BenCutLaser (c) 2016-2017 All Rights Reserved
Developed by Ralph Freshour and Paul Henty
Connected to COM24 @ 115200 baud
Grbl 1.1e ['$' for help]
-- from BenCutLaser


Connected COM24 115200
Grbl 1.1e ['$' for help]
-- from T2 Laser

If you don't have either of these software packages you can use a terminal program like the one that is built into Arduino Software development package or Putty. With any of these programs if things are set up correctly you should see something like Grbl 1.1e ['$' for help] when you connect.

If you don't get the Grbl line showing the version you are not connected to the controller.

This can be caused by not using the correct com port or not having the proper windows driver for the Nano processor. Both BenCutLaser and T2Laser have drop down boxes to see what com ports are available. If none of the available com ports work you should look at the windows device manager. Under Ports  (COM & LPT) you should see a USB port (see first attachment). If you don't see it the next things is to look to see if there is an unknown USB device - if so you need to fix the driver. The driver that I use with my Banggood Laser is the one that came with BenBox the original software.

If the device shows up in the Device manager and you are still not connecting properly try a different USB cable. You would be surprised at how many bad one's there are.

Once you get Gbrl version response on connection you are now ready to move on to the next step to see what is working and not. My advise to everyone checking out a laser system is at this point leave the laser disconnected until you have the motors set up and working properly.

General Discussion / Forum suggestion
« on: March 09, 2017, 11:57:08 AM »
A suggestion for Ralph that I think could help the forum. I think its great that so many new users are finding the forum and asking questions and the people on hear do a great job getting answers for them. But with the never ending stream of new users we see the same or similar question all the time.

So what I would suggest is make a new category and make it the very first. I would make an "FAQ for new users", and make it so the normal user can read but not write to it. With the general forum structure some excellent answers can get lost way down in a thread. We see lots of time the answer to a question is a pointer to an old thread and the new user would never find.

I think that by having a category like this where only a few people can post to it, we could get a lot of information organized in a way that it would not get lost.

Something that I always remember is that for everyone that asks a question there are at least 10 others thinking of the same issue or question that never asks. With good easy to find information we could draw even more lasting members when they find that can get good answers quickly and at their own pace. I am sure that there are a lot of us that can help collect and format the information.

just a thought

General Discussion / RAMPS boards with laser cutters.
« on: January 18, 2017, 12:53:01 PM »
I wanted to start a new thread for this topic so it would not get lost in another thread with a totally different meaning. I will be a little long winded here - and as a side not I hate computers. I had this all written and while reviewing it - it went poof and I had to start all over.

So to start the RAMPS board is just another controller board that is designed to run stepper motor's and control stuff. The most often used software for this board is Merlin and together their main focus is on 3D printers. It has an implementation of the GBRL protocol that is a little different than what we are used to because its focused on heat beds and hot ends and does not have spindle commands. I don't have the link but somewhere on git there is a document on the GBRL protocol and which commands are supported by the different implementations.

One of the features that Merlin has which many people like is the LCD/SD card support. With this you can control the 3D printer (or anything else) using GCode off the SD card so no computer needs to be connected. This is the only way that I do my 3D printing. To answer a question that I have seen many times is can GBRL 1.1 support an SD card? The answer is yes it could BUT someone would need to do a lot of coding to make it work so I don't expect to see it in the near future.

There are several way's that a laser can be hooked up and controlled by a RAMPS board. If you have a 12V/PWM laser you can connect it to the parts cooling port. Merlin has commands that let you control the port from 0 - 255 PWM setting. This is where the M commands and P vs S come into play. If you have a TTL laser you can still make this work by changing the port to a different data port that has a 5 volt pin available. NOTE: the details are left to the user to implement.

Taking a look from the other side there are many new laser enhancements that have been added to GBRL 1.1 that are not likely to be put into Merlin because it does not help 3D printing. So the short summary here is that GBRL 1.1 and Merlin are to completely different implementations of control systems using the GBRL protocol - with many differences.

I have not had time to look yet to see if there is a GBRL 1.1 implementation that will work on the RAMPS board. I know there is a branch of GBRL for the MEGA but have not seen that there is a pins file that supports the RAMPS board. A future project for me.

So how did I get here? I am just finishing building a new laser/CNC platform and I need to decide what controller to use. I have RAMPS, MKS, CNC Shield, and a collection of E boards.
Most of the work that I do is etching so the improvements in GBRL 1.1 are very important to me (and why I have not installed the RAMPS board yet). But there are times when I have a long multi-pass cutting project that I would like to have the SD card for rather than tie up a computer for a long time. With what is available know I think the best that would work for me is having two different firmwares that could be loaded depending on the type of project I am working on because I don't expect any firmware that will do it all in the near future.

thoughts? (and I will use edit to fix things because I am not going to preview again)


General Discussion / TTL Laser upgrade
« on: December 29, 2016, 01:31:32 PM »
I have not said much in this group for quite a while (until today) and figured I would go over what I learned upgrading the laser. It started quite a while back when ZAX go the TTL laser from Banggood and I liked what he was saying so I ordered the same one along with an UNO/CNC Shield board. I had a bunch of things that I had tried to print in Grayscale and we never happy with the results, and dithering was OK but still not what I wanted. I will say up front that my guide for this upgrade was all of the information that ZAX has written up. It make things a lot easier.

Trying to only change one thing at a time I upgraded the GBRL code and T2 to the latest version and made sure everything worked with the regular 2.5W laser. Everything worked so I started taking things apart. First was getting the TTL/PWM signal from the jumper under the NANO. I read what ZAX said several time. I found that I had some jumper plugs that had the metal exposed on the top so I took 2 of them and soldered wires on top. The one with the red wire went on the pins under the NANO and the one with black wires went to a ground pin that I found. As a side note I found that on the L6 board you can adjust to voltage that goes to the laser connector and it can be set to 5V so with this board there is another way to get the TTL signal needed for the new laser.

Next is pull the 2.5W laser off. The way the screws go in you need to take the X gantry apart to make any laser change, and this was not the first time. Its a PIA to take it apart, make the change, and put it back together and get the wobble out. So I made an L bracket to mount on the gantry and mount the laser sideways on it. Printed that out and installed it, and of course the screw holes didn't work so I drilled it by had and got everything back together. Then I got out my box of JST connectors and build a cable to go from the Laser to its controller board.

So I got everything hooked up started T2 and loaded a gray scale test that I created months ago when I was first trying to make gray scale work. Connect to the controller and I see the laser pulse. Not happy that it pulsed, but at the same time I am because it tells me the laser is working. I print the test several time to get the correct speed to get the best transition from black to white. I learned something else new here, the fan on this laser is a high volume fan (twice as wide as a normal 40mm fan) and it moves a LOT of air, so much that it blowes all the smoke away from the cut area. I never had to turn my normal fan on.

The results are a lot better than I expected and well worth the time and effort.

I will attach a couple of images that were made with thing wood that is used between layers in a cigar box. Poor quality wood with grain and differences in color. I was running at 2500, laser 0,255 0.1 resolution.

General Discussion / Power Limits of controller/ power supply
« on: June 12, 2016, 08:47:24 AM »
Yes I am an engineer and can't leave details alone. I noticed something a while back when printing black and white images, and after going from the 1.6W -> 2.5W laser it got worse.

The problem is with BW images that have black area's, and while watching them print I could see that the laser was brighter at the edges then it was while printing the black areas, and the black area's were not really as black as the edges, and I looked at the G-code and it was always the same. After doing a number of tests I think I am hitting the limits of the power supply that came with the cutter and when the motor's are running I get a lower voltage to the laser which makes it cut less.

Attached is my test case - I made a black cube with a white circle in the center. The only purpose of the white circle was to make the movement stop to change the laser power and start again because the laser is at the proper power lever before the motors start again.

The first image was etching at 4000 with power at 255. Doing horizontal etching you can see a clean black line on both the left and right sides but not the top or bottom and you can see the black area is not black at all.

The second image I slowed down to 2000 and 1/2 power on the laser and is a lot better, the black area is much darker.

The third image was a little harder I dropped the speed down to 1000 but needed more than 1/4 power to the laser because at that point it would no turn on. The image shown was about 1/3 power and I think it could be higher, but the important part is you can't really see any difference in darkness between the edges and the all black areas.

So I think that the faster you run the motors (etch speed) the more voltage drop you get at the laser. So for the next step I will try putting a large CAP on the power supply to see if it helps (don't expect it to help enough) and then try using larger power supplies. I have a rack mount 50amp linear supply that I am sure is more than enough but who wants to start moving a 100lb power supply around.

T2 Engraving / Won't update firmware on the Nano
« on: June 02, 2016, 11:36:47 AM »
I had been using GBRL 0.9j so when I loaded the T2 software I decided to load new firmware on the Nano. I control click on the lightning bolt and it asks if I want to upload the firmware and I say yes. I then get a quick DOS window flash and it say that it failed to upload. No idea what the problem is because it window flashes by so quickly.

Using Xloader I choose Duemilanove/Nano(ATmega328) and can load anything. Is there a place where I can get the firmware that T2 uses so I can load it with Xloader?

Other than that I have been have great luck printing using the GBRL 0.9j firmware.
After learning how to set/tune things I have been very happy with the images that I have burned.

General Discussion / Another new guy
« on: May 27, 2016, 01:54:11 PM »
I just found this group a few day ago. The good new for you guy's is
I managed to get my unit working before finding the group.

I got a 1.6W 20cmx30cm from Banggood a little while back. I never got the
Benbox software working so I loaded the GBRL that came with it and have been
using GBRL Controller to drive it. After I got it working I bought some 2020 framing
and rebuilt the frame so now its 24" x 36" to take the full stock that I was cutting.
The only change I had to make was increasing the voltage on the stepper to take the
extra load.

I have been cutting Dollor Tree foam board with it that comes in 20"x30".
I think 1.6W laser is a little weak for the job. The white board is hard to start with
and running it slow I can cut all but the bottom layer of paper and its not worth the
time to make another pass (small knife works well to finish the paper).

I have been looking at the 5.5W laser but it has a voltage regulator board on top.
Has anyone removed it and connected directly to the controller so you can vary the power?
I am sure that there will be times when 5.5W will be to much.

Are there any other good options?

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