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Topics - Lob0426

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Mini CNC / Finally made some chips!
« on: September 23, 2017, 07:35:16 PM »
Well after almost 2 years not using my equipment as CNC I have been trying to get back to it!

Last week looked at some of my old gcode. Might as well have been in greek! So I sat down and look it over until it started making sense again. I have used the machines manually for some small repair stuff, but have not used it CNC.

I decided to build the "Millie Steam engine" project in the back of Joe Martins "Tabletop Machining" Book. The only stock I had on hand for the flywheel and crank wheels is some 1018 steel bar .75" X 1" x 7". I decided to mill a cylinder for the wheels from that bar on the CNC mill. Then finish them in the lathe.

I used an edge finder and centered up my bar, center drilled it, then drilled the 1/8" hole through. Then tried to tackle the gcode to cut the cylinder from the bar stock.

And of course just as I had the code edited the computer froze up. Rebooted appeared to be working and edited code again. froze up and would not save again, frozen. Tried to boot it again and it said I had to choose a different boot drive, Great!

Had to dig it out of it's hole and pull the side panel. No loose cables that I could find. Nothing obvious, just some dust and not really much of that. This computer maybe has 100 hours on it total, no reason for it to be acting up! Used an air can and blew it out! It booted. Edited and saved the code no problem, I guess third time is the charm!

Ran the code in simulation and found some errors, fixed them, tried running the code as a flyover (running the code with the bit well over the work) to make sure it is starting in the right place and speeds and such appear right. Had to change the start point of the "arc" as it was not cutting arond 0,0 but to the high right. More head scratching. Got everything right finally.

Finally started cutting. realized the "cylinder" did not appear large enough. It wasn't it was .625" not .8". I let it finish cutting down to .35" (I can use this piece for the crank wheel) and then stopped it recalculated the tool path by hand (should have let tool compensation do it). Reset to zero and started cutting a larger circle over the current cut. Made it back down to .35". At .38" the mill bit decided to come loose (an idiot must have not tightened it enough!) and it knocked the vice out of position. Emergency stop and look everything over!

Overall, not my day! But starting to remember the basics and made some chips. I want to check the tram of the machine before I try again. It was not a hard bang and nothing got trapped, but might as well check it to be sure! Should be ready for another try soon!

MegaPi / Looking at the MegaPi board
« on: September 06, 2017, 02:49:20 AM »
I have been looking at the MegaPi board. It sounds like it needs a Raspberry Pi to operate. That is not true, it can operate with a serial interface with no RasPi attached. Used like this it is a Mega2560 controller.

When attached to a RasPi it only uses 10 pins (2X5 header). It does not connect to the full 40 pins on the RasPi. It uses only serial pins. The RasPi has to be externally powered by a separate 5V source (wall wart).

They have a full image available for Raspbian with bcnc. You can directly control the steppers through Java with the Raspberry Pi touch screen. With the right software the RasPi obviously can directly control the board and it can update firmware.

Very little information available on software that will work or can be made to work on the pi to control the megapi. Makeblocks has a marlin based firmware as far as I know right now and it supports grbl.

The most used board is the raspberry Pi 3. Giving it the ability to be remote controlled through VNC or TightVNC over WiFi. When it was controlling a robot.

So what else is known about this board and software?

General Discussion / Cubiio on kickstarter
« on: August 17, 2017, 03:29:12 PM »
I could have sworn I posted this last night but now I don't see it!

It is a laser engraver, uses scanning mirrors to move beam in X and Y. It can only burn small work (100mm X 100mm). Shows a work distance of 150mm to 160mm so no focusing. Only 800mw. Suggested retail is $449. Pretty expensive for it's work area size and power level! It certainly is portable And they show it working off only the USB power!

Size wise it is really compact. It is smaller than most of our controller boards. And I do not see any active or passive cooling, unless it uses the case as part of the cooling.

The burning a pancake is kind of funny. It would probably take about 10 minutes to "engrave" a pancake and the only warm part left would be where it was engraved! LOL!

It is kind of interesting but does not answer several questions like smoke and fumes. And it is just as dangerous to our eyesight unless you use the Cubiioshield. Has the same green glasses we get with these kits! And their video shows does not show them using the Glasses during use!

Now we need to scale this up to a real machine. Design it like a swinging desk lamp, give it at least 3W, and needs at least 3 to 4 times that work area plus auto focus! Swings out of the way for easy storage.

It is called "The Printrbelt" print size 6" X 6" X infinite! Yes Infinite!
Has an integrated Raspberry Pi for a print server for wireless operation.

Uses a Stainless steel Belt covered with Kapton tape and is heated! It is a copy of an authorize project from Polar3D.

Projects / Grbl 1.1f appears to be working on Mini-Mega2560 with BCL
« on: April 19, 2017, 08:42:45 PM »
Months ago I was playing with a Mini-Mega Adapter;
I built an adapter board that plugs into an Arduino Nano connector. The Idea was to add the extra memory and storage from the Mega2560 to the L7 style boards that were on the Laser kits. Ran into many problems. Firmware was the main problem as BenCutLaser and T2Laser were using were using grbl based, but not true grbl, firmwares to run their software. Both Ralph and Zax got some things working but, the grbl for Mega was not that mature as yet! The full size Mega worked decently but the mini-mega was not cooperating at all. The most luck was with T2Laser until later updates. The first Mega2560 1.1e was not any better. But Ralph and Zax have put a lot more time into their software and it appears to be paying off for my project!

Today I tried grbl-master-mega-edge (I believe it is 1.1f) BenCutLaser seems to be working with the Mini-Mega now that Ralph has grbl1.1e for Nano working. And T2Laser ran through also. I will have to do some more testing. Next is actually connecting it too one of the Laser kits and see if it is working in the real world!

General Discussion / repaired Printrbot Play, updated tablet
« on: February 01, 2017, 08:42:26 PM »
OK so I do not why there is no easy button for this stuff!

The cat knocked stuff over onto the printer. That knocked the mount and tablet off of the printer. That jerked the USB cable out and unplugged the tablet power connector I fitted. The cable end was bent. It broke when I tried to straighten it.

I updated the Tablet to Win10 update 1607. The tablet updated and worked for several restarts, trying to get the cable to connect, then it would not restart. That seems to be how these things go for me. After two tries at reset I finally got it back up, but now have to reinstall a bunch of stuff. Tried a different cable and have the printer/tablet working again. Ordered a new OTG cable. That will get it back to it's manageable length again.

The tablet is powered from the printers PSU. This setup is great when you need to make a part fast or need to take it with you.

Projects / Foam Board Size machine upgrade (20" X 30")
« on: October 28, 2016, 04:08:34 PM »
Well Misumi USA talked me into starting a new project. They gave me 30% for the next 30 days. So I bought some 20X40 rail.

Dollar Tree Foam Board (DTFB)
Is used by us R/C modelers for building inexpensive aircraft. It cost $1 for a 20"x30" board that is 5mm thick (about 3/16") It has paper on both sides and a foam (styrene) filler.

There is a newer version that has water resistant brown paper skins. Unfortunately you can only buy it from right now. It is about $2 a board. but much more durable. It is only sold in a 50 board box at about $90 plus shipping. If me and my brother can get these Lasers to work satisfactorily with the board we will probably go in together to buy a box. Currently I can cut through the top paper and all of the foam. But the bottom does not cut. This means you can "cut" the lines and use them like  a stencil. Then just follow the lines with a sharp razor. Ultimately we would like to find the right settings to cut all the way!

Clear Anodized all 2040. I almost bought the Black anodized! It is about 30% more expensive.
(3)2040 x 900  $20.40   
(2)2040 x 650  $9.82

shipping/tax     $10
Total                $40.42

I also bought my Brother 5X1 meter rails for his project. So the shipping is higher than it should be. They also charged tax.

I have an A5 machine to donate the electronics. I have some other stuff coming in for the project.

List of changes needed.
1. swap out stock rails for new rails
2. swap to T-nuts during upgrade
3. extend laser and X stepper cables
4. extend Y stepper cables
5. extend Home switch wires
6. new GT2 belts for X and Y axis
7. add drag chain for wires to Laser/X stepper

Some decisions I have not made yet.
1. Move all electronics to the gantry, makes all the wiring simpler, but adds weight (inertia) to the Gantry system. I have successfully done this on an A5 system that I currently have. It seems to have little effect. Will it work out on a gantry that is 35" long rather than 10" long.The X carriage is going to be an A5 style rather than an A3 style I do not think this is going to be an issue.
2. add limit switches along side the homing switches.
3. A cover plate for the controller board. I have 12' x24" transparent red acrylic I can use for this.
4. shield for the laser. I am considering making a shield that hangs real close to the work to cut down the splash of the laser.
5. switch to 3W NDB 7875? Not sure If I should waste it for here, cutting, or use the stock 2.5W unit

Parts should tart arriving next week. Some are already here, ordered for other projects, I always order extra.

As Always, everyone is welcome to the discussion!

I thought some of you might like to see this:
The important words for us "LASER MODE" LOL!! Be sure to Thank any of the grbl Developers that you run into for their work. My testing of Laser Mode shows it to be right with J-tech in speed and better accuracy. Waiting for word from some of the others trying it out. This gives us a firmware that can be compiled for options like Limit/Homing switches and Z movement that we could not do with some of the other firmwares. That code hiding in the microcontroller is very important to the operation of our Laser machines!

This grbl 1.1 (1.1c3 our internal name for it) allows both T2 Laser and BenCutLaser to run equally well on one firmware. In the past if you wanted the best performance from these two software you needed different firmware, J-tech for T2 and grbl0.9i or j for BCL. Unfortunately Benbox software will not run on this firmware as it uses proprietary firmware to operate!

I believe @Zax is getting ready to make this firmware available in his next release of T2Laser and I am sure Ralph will also in BCL once he has completed his testing!
From Sonny Jeon, AKA chamnit.
This has been a long time coming and it's finally here! Grbl v1.1 is available for public beta testing at this new project site ( ). The new version has some huge features:
Real-time overrides for rapids, feeds, spindle-speed, spindle-stop, and toggle coolant states! All of these alter the running state within tens of milliseconds for instantaneous feedback. It feels totally different than how others do it, where you have to wait several seconds to a minute for a change to go through. It's awesome. You can have your CAM program generate a conservative feeds and speeds and then alter them on the fly at the machine to optimize your job. You can also feed hold and stop the spindle and coolant (vacuum) mid-job to inspect how your part is coming along or to clean out swarf!

Laser mode! Grbl now officially supports laser cutting and it works with spindle speed overrides (aka laser power) too! It's just a simple $ setting to change and Grbl will then move continuously through consecutive G1/G2/G3 motions when an S spindle speed word is present.
Jogging mode! This new jogging command is different than feeding Grbl g-code commands, mainly because you can cancel it and Grbl will automatically feed hold and flush the buffers. It also doesn't alter the g-code modal state, so you no longer have to track them. This helps reduce inadvertent crashes when you forget and start you job.

There's a bunch more features, but those are the big ones. Keep in mind that this is a BETA release. There most certainly are some bugs here and there. So, please use this if you'd like to help out with the testing. Please report issues at the NEW SITE, rather than here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Grbl v1.1 altered some of its interface to cram more data into the status reports and make it easier for developers to maintain their GUIs. Grbl v1.1 only works with GUIs that support it. So far, this includes (in order of most v1.1 support):

Grbl-Panel: Just about full compatibility.

UGS Platform Nightly Build: Click the bottom-most link. The overrides pane is enabled via a menu item. Only new minor features not yet implemented.

bCNC: Operational, but no override controls yet.

PicSender: Status unknown, but they are working hard at it!

The Wiki is not yet up and operational, but there is a lot of documentation that I've written in the /docs/markdown ( ) folder. You can navigate to it through the Github website or click the link. Github will show it in markdown form.

Thanks everyone for being so patient! It's been a tough couple of years for me and my family, but we are finally seemingly in the clear. That and with this beta release finally out, it's a huge weight off my shoulders. Cheers!

General Discussion / This is a pretty good price!
« on: September 24, 2016, 05:07:51 PM »
A3 2500mw from Banggood.

You can choose expedited, instead of 8 to 20 day free shipping.
Expedited Shipping Service Free shipping
5-8 business days

Projects / Convert stock Benbox laser unit to higher power diode.
« on: September 22, 2016, 04:06:51 PM »
Opening thoughts;
It took 5 days for me to get the stock "host" out of the heat sink. My host is aluminum. I had to soak it in finger nail polish remover. And I only was able to remove it with snap ring pliers. Even then it took some work to get that first movement, then it came out relatively easy. Those were suggested by a fellow forum member @kn4ud. The pliers probably would have worked a couple of days before.

This unit was a 500mw stock laser diode/host/heat sink. The stock laser diode was 3.8mm sized package (TO38). I intended to use the lathe to open the host up for a 9mm (TO5) diode. After I removed the host I knocked out the diode. I saw that there was a brass adapter from 5.6mm (TO18) down to 3.8mm. I knocked that adapter out and it exactly the right size for a 5.6mm diode.  There are a number of diodes in this size from 1W to 2W. And these are inexpensive to buy.

I have decided to use one of the M140 2W diodes in this housing. There are two reasons for this change. One is the host is aluminum. The higher powered NDB7875 (3W) needs more cooling. The fact that this will give those with these low powered unit a path, that does not need machining, for a major power upgrade. This should be true of many of the stock units.

I have a 1.8A Super-X Drivers to use with the M140 diodes.

If you have disassembled a stock Benbox laser unit, or another kit laser unit, please report on the diode size, host material (aluminum, copper, brass) and wattage. This will help others to know what they can do to upgrade their units. See link below if you need help in figuring the size.

I will post some pictures later. I hope this will help others upgrade their units for better performance.

General Discussion / Microstepping article from Hackaday
« on: September 03, 2016, 01:13:06 PM »
I thought some of you might want to see this. It is about accuracy and micro-stepping accuracy from drivers.

Projects / Project: Mega2560 to L7 board test.
« on: August 28, 2016, 11:41:12 PM »
If you have been following the TTL board posts you probably have read most of this already.

I am proposing to test the Mega2560 board (here after called Mega) using an L7 Eleks Maker board as a "Sheild". I will use bread board wires to make connections from the headers on the Mega to the the headers on the L7 board. The Arduino Nano board will be removed from the L7 board. This means that the stock cabling in our Laser kits will be able to be used without modification. The Stock Laser will operate just as it does with a Stock L7 board. I hope!

As an aside the L1, L2, L7, L8 or L6 boards should all work exactly the same.

This is not a "permanent" solution. This is a test as to the performance of the Mega versus the Nano controllers. Hopefullly I can come up with a "sheild" that uses the advanced features available on the Mega as an upgrade for our machines. This would mean drawing up a board designed for these laser kits.

The real goal would be to get a ARM powered solution that will really improve performance over these Arduino boards. Grbl is headed that way but not there yet. The Mega would be an intermediate step to better performance and the firmware is available now. It is in BETA but has been out for about 5 months and is based on grbl edge, the precursor to grbl 1.0, the end step of the Nano/Uno work. Grbl 1.0 is supposed to be out "soon" and supposed to support a Laser mode that will enhance laser performance. these updates will also be applied to the Mega branch.

As you can see from this comparison chart both have the same clock speed of 16Mhz. The Nano, with 328P, has 1KB EEPROM, 2KB SRAM and 32KB Flash storage. The Mega has 4KB EEPROM, 8KB SRAM and 256KB Flash storage. There is a lot more resources available on the Mega. Many will see the 16Mhz and think you will not see any speed advantage from the Mega. This is not the case, grbl firmware allocates twice the the Block Buffers on the Mega and 40% more Segment buffers. This means that the Mega accepts more code into memory at each read. So less time is spent reading and writing to memeory. So less of a load on the processor for the same amount of code. This "comparison" will not compare the added "pins" that are available to be used by the Mega. We will use exactly the same number of pins as the L7 board uses, though they may not be the exact same pins!

In my earlier ramblimgs I had thought that re-doing the cpu_map for the Mega firmware;  Mega version        Nano/Uno version

was the way to go. meaning re-allocating the mega pins the same as the Nano pins used. This would have worked. I now believe for simplicities sake the better route is to use the default mega pin mapping to run the tests. This means people will not have to fool with cpu_map at all. And if we find a solution to using the Mega in our machines people will not have to remember what they changed. I would like everyones thoughts on this!

I plan on posting plenty of pictures of this Frankensteins mess in case any of you wish to follow along.

@Zax pointed out to me that T2Laser does not necessarily need grbl to operate.

"T2Laser supports G-code, it doesn't need to be Grbl in particular. I can write an interface module for a different hardware setup if there's enough interest. The concept of being modular allows me to have a different sender / controller for other systems.

I'm also very interested in the other ports (ARM) that seems to be the future for Grbl. It sounds like the Nano version is dead once 1.0 is released."

BenCutLaser I believe does need grbl to operate, but I am decently sure @Ralph could change that if need be.

To Do List:
Remove Nano from L7 board, leave everything plugged into the board, Motors, drivers and Laser. (sshhhh,,, I have an extra if it catches on fire!)
Compare the cpu_map.h from grbl Nano to cpu_map Gnea/Grbl-Mega and draw up a map of where to run wires from and to.
Use bread board wires to make connections from the Mega's headers to the headers on the L7 board.
Double check everything.
Power it up!
Watch for any Magic Blue Smoke being let out!
Run timed tests between boards at engraving.

Many of the 3D Printer firmawares could be used to make our Laser kits work. And that opens up many boards that could be used. But most people want something that they know will work. Not something they have to fool around with to make it work. We know Grbl works for the software (BCL and T2Laser) and for the hardware that we are currently using.

There is no "Benbox" version for the Mega. If you like using Benbox software, then this post is not for you. Benbox is it's own little world. I have been playing with it on the 500mw machine and it actually works ok. I kind of ignored it at first. But it does work even if it has very few features and is relatively simple. There is no source code for the firmware to make adjustments to use the resources available on the Mega. You would get similar if not exactly the same performance as the Nano, if you could make it work!

NOTE 2: The Mega will not be here until at least Tuesday from Amazon.

Trouble Shooting / Here is a good one for you!
« on: August 15, 2016, 06:40:12 PM »
So the 500mw from GearBest came in today. I have been putting it together all day. Taking lots of pictures. Documenting assembly.

So I get it all together and decide I just need to Burn something, after about 6 hours of work. I connect power, and USB to the tablet. As soon as I push the power button the Laser comes on. I turn it off and check all the wiring again. Power on, Laser on. I play around and finally the Laser stays off when I power on. I thought maybe the Low Laser button was sticking. I try to burn an outline and the Laser works just fine. Worked several times. Then the Laser would not come on at all. Motors continued to work through all of this.

I power off as I see I forgot to tighten the screws on the carriage and the belt is way too loose. Power on, Laser on again. I screw around with the Low Laser pot. I finally get the Laser off and then it will not come on again.

Ok this is getting disturbing. I remove the board. Check it for solder balls, dry joints etc. Looks good. Plug it in hanging free. Power on, Laser on. Disconnect it again. Try a different Nano. Tried changing the jumper. No difference. Pulled the Nano again and the drivers, see nothing wrong. All of this is with Benbox and Benbox hex. Tried GRBL .09i from @Ralph. Same thing in BCL on two different Nano's.

So I look the board over again. The back of the board looks kind of cloudy/gummy, not bad, but not clean, like there is some left over flux. I dig out a toothbrush and give it a good scrub. I take a Q-tip with alcohol, rub the board down. Let it dry. Now its clean.

The Board works every time now. I knew that lasers can be triggered by very low voltages, but that low. It had enough power that it was lightly burning the wood.

So I guess if you are having Laser ON troubles you need to clean the dang board!

30 minutes I will never, ever get back LOL!

T2 Engraving / Laser support in GRBL 0.9j not working.
« on: August 09, 2016, 05:21:12 PM »
I just compiled GRBL 0.9j with Minimum Junction speed set to 20mm/min the engraving finished faster and was cleaner. So Laser Support may already, at least partially, be implemented in GRBL. I think it is going to take some playing around to see what it needs to be set at. Definitely had the carriage moving faster. @John63303 was playing with this already.

#define MINIMUM_JUNCTION_SPEED 20.0 // (mm/min) was 0.0   in config.h

Unfortunately the only way to set it that I can find is to re-compile each time. Hopefully that will change with the release of GRBL 1.0.

Scorpions; one on left new settings on right old. neither very good needed better focus. Both at laser 158 speed 1000. very soft pine, burns really easy.


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