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BenCutLaser / BCL VLM Stand Alone Version 1.0.1 Released!
« on: October 26, 2016, 10:23:12 AM »
The stand alone version of BCL Virtual Laser Machine with the full blown Gcode Editor is now released!

The download link is in my signature block:

If you are interested in learning to write gcode and want to use the gcode editor with the 2D gcode visualizer (the VLM), then this is the package for you.

If you are just interested in importing or writing gcode and want see it in the 2D gcode visualizer, then this is the package for you.

It comes initially with a Trial license so that you can try it out on your PC.

If you like using it and wish to purchase a Paid license, the price is $19.95 and the Paypal email address for payment is the same as it is for BCL (shown in my signature block).

Note: the Gcode Editor and VLM are fully contained within BCL itself, so there is no need to purchase both products.

Benbox / MOVED: BCL 1.5.3
« on: October 22, 2016, 04:31:38 PM »

Other Software / Closing It's Doors
« on: October 20, 2016, 08:58:09 AM »
For those of you who may not have heard of this company, is a website development IDE tool for Ardunio boards. You could write your C code using their web interface. To be honest, I never understood why they developed this technology when Ardunio makes their IDE tool available to anyone who wants to use it...for free.

I first discovered them about a year ago when I was writing C code on Ardunio boards using the Ardunio IDE tool. But I was developing on a compatible board called Teensy. However, CodeBender did not support this board so I lost interest in using their tool. I'm not sure I would have used their web tool if they had supported it as the Ardunio IDE tool worked perfectly fine on the Teeny boards.

Anyway, is shutting down the IDE tool part of their business.

BenCutLaser / How To Purchase BenCutLaser
« on: October 17, 2016, 10:05:04 PM »
Full BCL Version

BenCutLaser has a trial version that you may download and try it out on your PC.

If you like using BenCutLaser and it meets your needs and runs fine on your PC, you may purchase a Paid license file (BenCutLaser.lic) which will remove the trial limitations of BenCutLaser.

Trial Version

Gcode lines generated limited to 400 lines of gcode.
Saving of the generated gcode is not available in the Trial version.
Start ups are limited to 45 start ups.
These limitations will give you an opportunity to try out BenCutLaser and see how you like using it and if it meets your needs. If it doesn't meet your needs, thank you for trying BenCutLaser and I wish you all the best in your search for a CAM software solution for your low power laser machine.

Paid Version

The price for a Paid license file is $39.95 USD. Once you make a Paypal payment to this email address ( email me the ID Code in the start up dialog when BenCutLaser starts up. I will take that code, which uniquely identifies your PC, and create a Paid license file for you. When you receive this BenCutLaser.lic file in an email from me, copy it over the existing lic file inside your BenCutLaser folder. You will now have a Paid license version of BenCutLaser with no limitations.

If you wish to run BenCutLaser on another PC, you will have to purchase a separate license for that PC. You pay 50% of the price ($19.95) for each additional PC.

Each license is uniquely associated with the PC the trial version runs on. In other words, you cannot copy or move a license file from one PC to another.

Important: the trial version is so you can try out BCL and make sure it works on your PC. Once I send you a Paid license file, I cannot refund your payment! So please make sure you use the trial version for awhile to make sure you are happy using BCL before purchasing a Paid license!

BenCutLaser / How To Do The PWM Modification
« on: October 17, 2016, 09:58:17 PM »
Notice: If you have the new EleksMaker Mana SE controller board -- see last photo attachment -- this controller board already has PWM built-in and you can skip this step.

PWM stands for Pulse Width Modulation. While this is a good technical term, what it really means to us is this: with the PWM modification done to the controller board, software can now control the laser out power from 0% to 100%. This opens up a lot of new capabilities as well as providing for higher quality output for parts.

Instructions For How To Do The PWM Modification

Carefully remove the Nano microprocessor from the controller board. Pay attention to orientation!

Move the jumper pin over to the other side.

Attached is a close up picture of the controller board, showing the jumper pin as it comes from the factory. Note the Nano microprocessor has already been removed.

The next attachment shows the PWM Mod done. The jumper has been moved over by one pin. Simple. Easy.

Replace the Nano microprocessor. Look carefully at the third picture attachment. Make sure you insert the Nano pins/legs into the correct socket holes. Depending on your controller board, the end of the controller board, the open circuit board hole in the Nano itself, may come down onto the first socket hole. The first Nano pin comes down into the second socket.

That's it for PWM Mod itself!

Next up, you'll have to install (flash) new firmware into the Nano microprocessor. The firmware that is there now, comes from the factory and it doesn't support PWM. So once you do the PWM Mod, the factory firmware (the Grbl .hex file) will no longer work*. In other words, you cannot use the factory Benbox software any more.

How To Flash New Grbl Software Into The Nano

BenCutLaser currently uses Grbl version 0.9i or 0.9j .hex file and has built-in flashing capability. My Youtube Channel, located here

The video shows how to use BenCutLaser to flash Grbl software to the Nano microprocessor. While there are other external ways to do this, I wanted to make it easy on users of BenCutLaser, so I built-in the capability to do flashing.

Here is a link on my laser support forum with the exact steps on how to use BCL to flash a new firmware:,657.0.html

96 / Just received my small frame DIY laser kit
« on: October 12, 2016, 10:22:29 AM »
I wanted a smaller DIY laser machine because the space I have for another one was pretty small. So I ordered a kit from,  vendor Novel Life. Despite it being a week long holiday last week, my kit arrived via FedEx this morning! The service from Novel Life has always been excellent and I have ordered many laser parts from them as well.

The work area size of my unit is 17X22cm/7X9inch. Pretty small I know, but it will work for what I want to do with it: further development of new features for my BenCutLaser (BCL) program.

I have the large frame laser machine from Novel Life as well, and that one is my main laser machine!

BenCutLaser / Talk To Me via FTP
« on: October 07, 2016, 05:08:19 PM »
I just finished another Skype support video phone call...and solved another BCL issue the user was having with his laser machine...this time it was his firmware settings were not set correctly. I don't know why, I don't know how, they got that way, but I got him all fixed up and he's now a laser-machine-using fool...!!! (Said in a nice way!!).

When I released 1.5.3 it contained a new feature where by you can, with one mouse click, update your Grbl firmware settings...all of them. This should help to make BCL more convenient to use.

However, in my down time, hey, wait a minute, what down time?

In my down time, I think about how to make BCL support easier for the user and faster to get the user up and running.

So, I have designed a way in 1.5.4 (not released yet) so that the user can send me their Grbl Settings data in a file. That way, I can look at their settings and make corrections to get them up and running, or back up running, faster.

The file gets uploaded to the BCL server and I can log in using my FTP account and grab their file and have a look and then contact them as needed.

Photos attached with how to do this.

BenCutLaser / Trouble Shooting Tips
« on: October 02, 2016, 09:21:35 PM »
BenCutLaser Trouble Shooting Page

The items in Red are what you MUST do in order to use BenCutLaser on your laser machine! If you do not do these steps then BCL will not work for you!

If you're having problems using BenCutLaser (BCL), check the following tips. These are compiled as the most common support questions I get. I don't mind helping you at all, but there are some basic things that you should make sure you have done, and they are listed here. These items are also the first things that I will be asking you about.

If you need more help, please follow this technical support process here:,1128.0.html

Mana SE Controller Board

For those who are upgrading to the newer Mana SE controller board, a common question that comes up is where do I plug in my 2-pin laser wire? The Mana SE board has a 3-pin plug labelled 'Laser'.

Plug your laser 2-pin connector into the red Motor 2-pin plug. Remember: the Mana SE already is setup for PWM so you do not have to do the PWM modification!

(1) Use The Latest Version of BCL
You must be using the latest version of BCL because the latest version will have all of the current updates, enhancements and bug fixes.
You can download the latest BCL version by clicking on the Setup zip download link in my signature below.

(2) Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) Modification
You cannot use BCL unless you have done this simple modification. I have made a step by step tutorial on my website.

Click this link to read all about this important modification:

Note 1: Once you do this modification, you cannot go back to using Benbox software.

Note 2: If you have the Eleks Mana SE controller board:

-- you do not need to do the PWM Mod as this board has it already done for you!
-- You must flash using Grbl 1.1.e. Do not use 0.9i or 0.9j.

Note 3: If your laser beam seems to always be at full power and you cannot control it using BCL, the most likely reason is that you have jumper pins under your Nano microprocessor but you have not done the Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) modification. See the link directly above this (2) section for instructions on how to do this.

(3) Flash Grbl 0.9i or 0.9j or 1.1e
Your laser machine most likely came from the factory with Benbox firmware flashed (installed) into the Nano microprocessor. You cannot use this firmware with BCL. You can start up BCL and click the Setup tab and in the lower left corner of the Setup window, you will see the Flashing Grbl section. Follow the steps listed there very carefully and exactly as they are listed...and you'll have excellent results with flashing a new version of Grbl into your Nano CPU. You can successfully flash your Nano but you MUST follow my steps EXACTLY as I have listed them!

Note: If you can't flash with BCL for some reason, you may want to try flashing with XLoader.exe. This a free utility and now gets installed into the BenCutLaser folder in its own subfolder->XLoader. Here is the XLoader website for reference:
XLoader is a separate product and has no association with BCL. XLoader has its own copyright: "Copyright 2010-2012 XLoader".

(4) SetFactoryGrblSettings (a link on the COM Port tab)
You can click one link and have BCL set all the needed Grbl settings into your Nano!
This link is on the COM Port tab, to the right of the large Connect button.
Connect to your laser machine with BCL and the Connect button will turn green.
Select Nano from the dropdown list and then click the SetFactoryGrblSettings link. It will take about 10 to 15 seconds to update the Grbl settings.

GRBL 0.9i & 0.9j Power (0-255 or 0-1000)?
If you are switching between laser cutter/engraver software and you notice a change in the power, read the following to understand what might be going on and how to resolve it.

GRBL 0.9i & 0.9j use a range of 0-1000 to define the min and max power. Other versions of GRBL like the J-TECH version use 0-255. Be sure to go into the setup tab of BCL and make sure to set the laser power settings to match the version of GRBL that you are using.

Set 255 and then do some line burns at different power settings. If you don't see any difference in the lines, try setting 1000 and repeat the tests. One of those two settings will work.

If you are using the Mana SE Controller Board: you MUST set max laser power value to 255!

Do not enter in other laser power values as anything else WILL NOT work, use only 255 or 1000.

(5) Stepper Motors Do Not Work
Check your power on switch on the controller board! Yes, some users have forgotten to turn this switch on to give power to the laser machine!

(6) Baud Rates
Flashing: The Nano uses 57600 baud rate for FLASHING firmware.

Connecting: GRBL firmware uses 115200 baud rate to CONNECT.

(7) Belt Tension
With your finger, push in on a belt near one of the pulley's. The normal average tension will allow your finger to push the belt in about 1/4 of an inch. If you can push in more than that, your belt is too loose. If you can't push in that much, your belt is too tight. Note: 1/4 of an inch is a general guide.

( 8 ) Do NOT Use SainSmart Nano
Make sure your controller board is NOT using the SainSmart Nano microprocessor! Those CPU's will not work. I have two of them and they do not work.
See photo attachment.

(9) .NET 4.0 Framework
You will need to have Microsoft's .NET Framework 4.0 or higher, installed on your PC. Most PC's already have this framework.

Follow this link:,1109.0.html

and read about how to download that utility and run it so it can tell you what .NET Framework versions you have installed.

(10) Check For Gcode Generation Errors

When you click on the Generate Gcode button, on the right side the gcode gets displayed. Look at the bottom of that Gcode Editor in the error window pane and make sure there are NO ERRORS displayed! You cannot, repeat, cannot continue to send that gcode to the laser machine or the VLM. If you have gcode generation errors, you have to STOP right then and there and figure out why and how to get clean gcode generated. If you need to contact me for help, please do so -- but -- do not click on the send to VLM and then email me with the strange results in the VLM and say the VLM isn't working. Do not send this gcode to the laser machine and then email me and say your laser job didn't come out right. If you have gcode errors then you're dead in the water and we have to fix that before you can do anything else with BCL.

(11) Match Laser Tool Units with Drawing Units

If your drawing is in Inches, make sure you've selected Inches Laser Tools. If your drawing is in MM make sure you're using a MM Laser Tool. You will have feed speed problems if you do not match these.

(12) Some screen links are 'squeezed together' and/or over lapping each other

Check the zoom setting of your PC. One user received a notebook from a friend and it was set to 150% zoom and caused this problem. Once he set it to a lower zoom value, the issue went away.

(13) Vertical Slider Bars

Most BCL tabs have vertical slider bars so you can slide the window panes left and right. See attachment for a photo showing an example of this.

(14) Circles are not round -- Arcs/Curves are not perfect arcs/curves

If you are having this problem, your frame and/or wheels and/or X and Y axis aluminum frames are not aligned correctly or are not tight. If your frame setup is correct, you will get perfect circles and perfect arcs and curves. The fact that you are not getting that results indicates your frame is not setup correctly.

Try these tune-up steps:

1. Remove the belts from each pulley wheel and hand turn each pulley wheel (slowly). Make sure the belt pulley is tight on the stepper motor shaft. Sometimes, a belt pulley wheel will come loose.

2. Using an Allen wrench, make sure ALL the wheels are tight.

3. With the belts still off at this time, slowly push and pull the laser head in the X and the Y axis and make sure both axis moves smoothly and easily. If not, check the wheels and replace if needed. You should have a stock of spare parts on hand for this event. The kits usually come with a yellow plastic box, double sided, with all of the frame hardware that you need. I bought an extra box to have on hand for spare parts. I paid $20.00 for it. The company you bought your laser machine kit from will probably sell you this box for about the same that I paid.

4. Put the belts back over the pulley wheels and tighten the belts such that, near a pulley wheel, that you can push in with your finger on a belt and deflect it 'about' 1/4 inch.

Connect to your laser machine and click the SetFactoryGrbl settings link to make sure your Grbl settings are set correctly. This will help. You can have Grbl 0.9i or 0.9j or 1.1e loaded, either one is fine.

CAD Files (.dxf)

90% of tech support emails regarding .dxf files are because of 'problems' with .dxf files popping up dialog messages in BCL...and 90% of the time its because the user has not set the Units of Measurement correctly or at all, inside their CAD program. Please check this first.

"I can't see my drawing once I open my .dxf file in BCL" -- This means your drawing is not in positive work space (positive X value and positive Y value). Inside your CAD program, you will have to move your drawing out of its negative work space and into positive XY space. Until you do this you really can't laser your drawing using BCL because the lower left corner of your laser work area is X0 and Y0 so, with your drawing in negative space, it's off of the laser work area!

All of your drawing objects must be within the positive work space.

Text Objects -- when creating a text object, if it is one line of text, make sure you select the simple text or text drawing object.
Do Not use an MText object (Multi-Line Text) for a single line of text.

Text Positioning -- this is true for any drawing object: Do Not place any drawing objects in the negative work space. There is a cross hair symbol on the main canvas. The vertical line of this cross is the X axis. Do not place any objects to the left of the vertical cross. The horizontal line of this cross is the Y axis. Do not place any objects below the horizontal line of the cross.

Old .DXF Files -- if BCL won't load a .dxf file because it is older than year 2000, inside your CAD program, try doing a Save As and save it to a newer .dxf format. BE SURE AND CHECK UNITS OF MEASUREMENT!! When someone sends me a .dxf file to look at, 50% of the time, there is no Units of Measurement set.

USB Drives -- You must be using BCL version 1.8.5 or newer to load DXF files from a USB drive.

Lines vs Polylines -- Polylines are nothing more than a group of individual Lines connected to each other. Polylines are extremely efficient compared to Lines. Therefore, where possible, use a Polyline drawing object instead of a group of Line objects.

Polylines will also greatly cut down on your work to identify and create tool paths. I've seen drawings with 300 Line objects that could have been drawn with just three Polylines! Work smarter, not harder.

Supported Drawing Objects:

Texts (Single line Text)
MTexts (Multiline Text)
Images (B&W and Gray Scale)

General Discussion / 1200th member signed up today!
« on: September 29, 2016, 02:38:50 PM »
Continuing to grow...the 1200th member signed up today...!!!

CAD Software / MOVED: Looking for help installing the Benbox software
« on: September 29, 2016, 01:45:56 PM »

BenCutLaser / Added: If you have the latest BCL release
« on: September 24, 2016, 10:41:09 AM »
Starting with the next BCL release...please see attachment.

This was a suggestion made by a user and I thought it was a good one. This eliminates the need to keep a mailing list to notify users of updates.

An internet connection is needed for BCL to fetch the latest version number from the website upon startup -- but -- nothing bad will happen if you don't have a connection. You'll just see an 'Unknown" instead.

BenCutLaser / Full workflow Text engraving video now available
« on: September 23, 2016, 08:30:44 PM »
Again, I am responding to some of the emails I have received asking to show the full workflow sequence of BCL.

This new video shows the full workflow for Text engraving. BCL does an absolutely beautiful job of Text engraving. Text can generate a lot of gcode so it might take more than the usual 1 or 2 seconds to generate the gcode for might take 5 to 10 seconds!

Once Rulers are added to BCL, this workflow will become even easier because you will be able to see in the main canvas your drawing scale and if there are any problems with scale. You'll also be able to see your scale in the VLM with its rulers.

BenCutLaser / Coming Soon to BCL (Gcode Editor)
« on: September 23, 2016, 08:23:11 PM »
Coming soon to BCL:

1. Gcode Editor. A full blown gcode editor with syntax highlighting and full gcode language parser built-in. Now, for the first time, a cost-effective stand alone Gcode Editor. Also will be fully built into BCL itself. So you'll have two choices on how to get at the new gcode editor!

2. Rulers! Drawing canvas Rulers. Responding to customer needs, BCL will soon have X and Y axis rulers to help check and verify your drawing scale. Rulers will be part of the main drawing canvas and part of the VLM canvas.

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