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General Discussion / MOVED: T2 Laser
« on: April 10, 2016, 07:03:13 PM »

Assembly Help / Assembly Reference Video
« on: April 04, 2016, 01:44:55 PM »
This assembly video may be of help to some of you:

Thanks to @carolynsdad for this reference!

Laser Accessories / A Better Belt Anchor
« on: April 01, 2016, 10:17:59 PM »
The belt anchors that came with my Benbox DIY laser machine I have never liked. But I know why the factory designed them that way: they are cheap to make. But I don't like having to hold down a belt with such a tiny diameter screw. And it takes three hands (at least for me) to hold down the plastic anchor, pull the belt tight and tighten down the screw, all at the same time! Phew! Enough already.

So I went to the drawing board and came up with a new, better design:

1. You only need to install the anchors one time! Once tightened down, you can adjust the belt tension using only two hands (really) and you don't need to loosen the belt anchor screw at all.
2. If you need to install a new problem, leave the anchor in place, and just thread the new belt into the anchor slot and then clamp the belt onto the anchor plate. Adjust as needed.

They work great and I think are a great improvement over the factory belt anchors.

I am making these available as a package: six belt anchors with all the supporting hardware and the metal clamps. $20.00 plus postage. Please PM me if you are interested.

Please note I am using the more expensive nut plates that can be inserted into the T-Slot from the outside. This means you do not have disassemble the end legs to slide the nut plate into the T-Slot. These will just drop in from above and then you can tighten the screw down snugly. Easy to install. Easy to make belt adjustments. Easy to install and tension new belts.

Note: You may use the existing nuts already inside your aluminum frame to screw these new belt anchors into. That way, you won't have to remove the acrylic 'feet' part to expose the frame ends to remove these factory nuts to get them out of the way to make room for the new nut plates. I'm always taking my frame apart and re-assembling it, so it wasn't a big deal for me but I thought afterwards, maybe folks won't want to do that. So, in that case, you can use the existing hex nuts inside the frame! The only caution I would state about using the factory nuts is that sometimes the edges of a nut won't grab into the frame and the nut will just turn in place. I've had a few of these just be aware.

Here are some photos.

Laser Accessories / Laser Focusing Ring
« on: March 30, 2016, 03:34:48 PM »
Well, after much design time and some false starts with earlier designs, here is my final focusing ring part.

This is a part made from my 3D Printer and I designed it myself. I used a free 3D CAD software app (Sketchup) to draw it and get into a file format the the 3D Printer could accept.

One of the photos you'll see some hot glue. The exact diameter isn't perfectly round due to the 3D Printer filament tolerances, so, of the few I've made, some fit better than others.

This one represents the final design and just happened to fit a little looser than I like. So, I ran a bead of hot glue around part of the focusing collar. Hot glue does a nice job of 'holding' a part in place yet is easy to remove if you need to remove it.

The 'arm' is easy to access and to move the laser focusing ring and keep your fingers away from the laser beam!

If anyone is interested, I am making these for $5.00 + postage. Please PM me if you want one.


General Discussion / MOVED: Eleks Maker board
« on: March 26, 2016, 08:26:09 AM »

Trouble Shooting / Having Trouble Cutting Using 3.5 Watt Laser
« on: February 25, 2016, 08:52:41 AM »

First, welcome to!

Here are my initial questions regarding your issue of not being able to cut 3mm plywood:

1. Are you able to set your laser power using gcode? Like S255 for 100% power and S128 for 50% power?

2. Laser need to be able to set a low power setting (S10 or S20) to be able to focus and not burn a hole in your wood. It sounds like maybe your not focused to a tiny spot on the material surface?

3. You need to be able to make multiple passes over the same shape, so are you doing this with some gcode you've written? If not, then how are you accomplishing the multiple passes?

97 / DIY Laser Machine vs AliExpress
« on: February 23, 2016, 08:11:44 AM »
Someone else on this forum has a Banggood DIY laser machine and we have confirmed it is the same one that is also sold by AilExpress. So they are the same machines.

Other Software / Vectric Aspire Software
« on: February 23, 2016, 08:04:56 AM »
I'm not 100% sure if Vectric Aspire can be used with these low cost, low power laser machines but my guess would be YES because we now have modified these lasers to use the Spindle word to control laser power. The S gcode word is a standard CNC word, so really, any CNC software should support us.

Is Vectric Aspire overkill? Oh yeah definitely...but if you already own it and use it, then I think you're OK to also use it on this class of laser.

There is another thread on this forum about my ongoing efforts working with Vectric to get their Cut 2D Laser software to work with our machines. The effort is on going but it is going slow...Vectric takes a long time to respond to my email communications.

What Can Be Cut? / Why Cutting Woods is Problematic
« on: February 21, 2016, 06:47:57 PM »
So I started to post my results of my materials test cutting (see the other thread in this category).

As you probably know, these low cost, low powered lasers were never intended to cut anything. They were designed to engrave only (not etch). However, I wanted to find out if I could cut wood and acrylics. As you can see from my cutting results, the answer is YES you can cut 3mm wood and 3mm acrylic - however - for the woods, the cutting is problematic. What do I mean by that?

Because we're dealing with very low powered lasers (mine is 2.5 watts) the grain of the wood impacts the cutting results and thus the success. My test cuts have been one inch squares. I discovered that cutting along the grain takes less Feed speed that cutting across the grain. Thus, to get an evenly cut shape, such as a square, you actually need to change the Feed speed depending upon which direction of the grain your line is moving on. Obviously, higher power lasers don't have to worry about this...but we do. And this is not an issue for cutting acrylics, only for cutting woods.

My tests have been manually written in gcode and saved for each material. So how do I plan to actually use this new found ability to cut wood...evenly...going across and going with the grains? Early on, I knew that if I could cut wood at all, a key piece of being able to do this would come from the CAM software being used. Unfortunately, there is almost no CAM software out there that was made to support our low cost lasers. The key to making this workable and usable is in how you define your toolpaths.

While there are a few CAM software packages out there that can be used, they have so many non-laser related settings to worry about, you can get easily lost trying to make one of them work. I was not happy with any of them. The solution was CAM software written specifically to support low cost lasers.

There is another thread I started regarding my working with various companies and individuals who have developed CAM software to see if they would support this growing market. One company is working with me but they are slow to communicate with me. One developer is working with me and he is modifying his CAM software to support our low end lasers.

Once we have this CAM software, then, for the first time, we will have a usable laser machine with which we can turn out some pretty neat things. And all on the low end of the price scale!

I plan to make a tutorial video on how to use this CAM software once it is ready. For our usage, there will be a slightly different way in which we will have to interact with all the toolpaths that you don't have to do if you're using normal CNC CAM software toolpaths. I'll save the details of this for the video but I can tell you now it has to do with whether or not your lines are running with or against the grain.

What Can Be Cut? / Materials that I can cut
« on: February 21, 2016, 09:39:59 AM »
I have posted some results of what 3mm materials I can cut with my 2.5 watt laser diode.

I purchased a lot of different types of wood materials just to see what can be cut or not cut.

Please check back here for my updated results.

Here is a list of what I have tried to cut...these are all 3mm thick:

1. REGULAR BIRCH PLYWOOD (from Revell) - Can cut in 8 passes.
2. CRAFT PLYWOOD (from - Can cut in 6 passes.
3. Craft Plywood (from - Cannot cut.
4. Baltic Birch (from - to be tested.

The following 3mm woods came from
5. ALDER - Can cut in 7 passes.
6. White Oak - Cannot cut.
7. POPLAR - Can cut in 6 passes.
8. Mahogany - Cannot cut.
9. CHERRY - Can cut in 8 passes.
10. WALNUT - Can cut in 6 passes.
11. ASH - Can cut in 6 passes.
12. RED CEDAR - Can cut in 2 passes.

Revell Balsa Wood test cut results:
2.3mm - can cut in 5 passes.
4.7mm - cannot cut in 6 passes.
6.3mm - can cut in 1 pass.

In addition to the above woods, I have the following 3mm Acrylic sheets cut results:
These all came from

UPDATE: All the Acrylics have now been tested and the results are below. The 4 digit numbers are the ePlastics Reference Numbers.

13. ORANGE 2422 - Can cut in 4 passes.
14. Light Purple 1020 - Cannot cut.
15. Dark Purple 3730 - Cannot cut.
16. RED 2423 - Can cut in 3 passes.
17. DARK GREEN 2092 - Can cut in 3 passes.
18. Light Green 2111 - Cannot cut.
19. Glass Green 3030 - Cannot cut.
20. Dark Blue 2424 - Cannot cut.
21. Light Blue 2069 - Cannot cut.
22. Yellow 2208 - Can cut in 3 passes.

I will update my results as I complete my materials testing. Check back here on Sunday evenings (Los Angeles time) as I only get to cut on the weekends.

I have Baltic Birch to test cut this weekend.

General Questions / Calibrating the A4988 Driver Boards
« on: February 20, 2016, 06:13:29 PM »
I want to check/calibrate my two A4988 mini-driver boards but I need to know what the data sheet for the stepper motors say for the normal operating amps?

I can see the Current sense resistors (Rs) are rated at 0.1 ohms on my two A4988's.

I know how to use a multi-meter and check the Vref (Voltage reference value) on the A4988 mini-boards, but I need to know the operating amps of the stepper motors...are they 1.0 amp motors?

The formula is: Vref = Max_Amps * 8 * Resistors

Assuming they are 1.0 amp normal operating motors, I would end up with this Vref calculation:

0.8 = 1.0 * (8 * 0.1)

UPDATE: So I've found out my steppers are rated at 1.3 amps for normal operation.

So, plugging that new information into the formula, I now get the following:

1.04 = 1.3 * (8 * 0.1)

So I put my red multimeter lead on the trim pot of one of my A4988's and the black lead on the ground pin and with the controller board all powered up (USB cable plugged in and the power supply cable plugged in) I measure the following:

The A4988 closest to the opposite end of the Nano reads 0.17 volts. The other A4988 reads 0.41 volts. My multi-meter DC Volts scale is on 20 and I'm not reading anywhere near 1.0 volts.

So before I adjust the trim pots to pull the voltage up closer to 1.0, can these A4988's be off that much?  Is my understanding of the formula correct?

Spare Parts Sources / Nut Plates
« on: February 12, 2016, 12:38:04 PM »
My nut plates arrived today from Amazon!

I'm attaching some close-up photos of what they look like.

Spare Parts Sources / Stepper Motor and Wire Harness
« on: February 11, 2016, 08:19:17 AM »
Last month I ordered a spare hardware box from my Benbox supplier (the yellow double lid plastic box).

After their Holiday, I plan to order some spare stepper motor wires and a spare stepper motor.

@Zax, I believe this is the Benbox stepper motor?

And here are just the stepper motor wires:

Grbl Controller / How To Upgrade Your Grbl Software
« on: February 02, 2016, 04:19:16 PM »
This link explains what Grbl is for those of you who may not know:

This link has the Latest Grbl down load link. It's on the right side of the web page and it's called "Download ZIP":

This link tells you how to use your Ardunio IDE to compile and flash your new Grbl software:

After you get your new Grbl software into your laser machine, this link covers configuration:

When you flash (install) a new Grbl version, some of your settings previously save in the controller board may get wiped out! So as you configure or re-configure, write down the settings you change so you'll know what they are!

These are the settings I changed:

These are changed to re-calibrate your stepper motors. For my Benbox DIY I ended up with values around 80.0000. There are formulas all over the internet to show you how to calibrate your X axis stepper motor and your two Y axis stepper motors. Once you determine what your corrected values are, write them down!
$100=314.961 (x, step/mm)
$101=314.961 (y, step/mm)

I also changed these values. In my previous Grbl version the default values were 10.000 and I changed mine to 50.000 because it helped the steppers maintain a more constant motion up until the end of the line. With the default values of 10.000 the motors would accelerate slowly while getting up to speed and then towards the end of the line, start to slow down...not good when using a laser! 50.000 gets them up to speed faster and holds that speed until the last second.
$120=50.000 (x accel, mm/sec^2)
$121=50.000 (y accel, mm/sec^2)

Nice list of Grbl Tools:

Benbox / Benbox GCodes
« on: January 31, 2016, 05:32:31 PM »
I wanted to start this thread and collect gcodes for the various laser functions such as Intensity, Laser on and Laser off, etc.

One thing I found out from the factory is that there is no gcode to set the number of passes when making a line cut. This is because this laser was designed for engraving and not cutting.

However, this is very easy to implement in a CAM program using gcode so all is not lost!

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