Author Topic: Converting CO2 Laser machine to Smoothie board.  (Read 380 times)

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Converting CO2 Laser machine to Smoothie board.
« on: May 31, 2017, 06:51:05 AM »
I am in the process of modifying my BenCutLaser (BCL) software to support the Smoothie controller board that can be used in a 40 watt (or higher) CO2 Laser Machine. I am presently about 90% finished.

Some very useful links from the Smoothie website:

The step by step instructions on what to do to convert your CO2 laser over to using a Smoothie controller board. Very detailed instructions: http://smoothieware.org/laser-cutter-guide

If your laser machine has two stepper motors driving the Y axis and your Smoothie board is the one that only has one Y (M2) driver plug, you're going to need to use a Splitter cable. Instructions on how to drive two steppers from one plug is here: http://smoothieware.org/general-appendixes

Supported G-code commands: http://smoothieware.org/supported-g-codes

Making the move from Grbl to Smoothie: http://smoothieware.org/from-grbl
Your interaction with your CO2 laser machine is different than it is with a low powered laser diode machine. The commands to set the various Grbl values are different for the Smoothie and this link provides a list for all of them.

GRBL....Smoothie........................Action
$..........help................................Display help
$$........cat /sd/config.................Display current configuration
$#........M114 M114.1 M114.2....Display current positions
$I.........version..........................Display build info
$X........M999.............................Exit alarm mode
$H.......$H..................................Run homing cycle

You can send these Smoothie commands inside BCL from any one of the four g-code windows.

In BCL version 2.0 (not released yet) type in, for example, version and make sure the cursor is on that line and press the F5 key to send that command to the Smoothie controller board. Smoothie will return the version information in the com port receive window.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2017, 07:15:59 AM by Administrator »
Admin -- Ralph -- support @ BenCutLaser dot us
https://www.dropbox.com/s/xftw71gccfhyl3y/SetupBenCutLaser2.9a.zip?dl=0
BCL Paid license: $49.95
via Paypal to bclpp@primemail.com

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Re: Converting CO2 Laser machine to Smoothie board.
« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2017, 07:12:42 AM »
I'm at the point where I'm hooking up my stepper motors to the Smoothie board.

My observations on this project so far:

1. At first I thought the $165.00 price for the Smoothie board was high. But remembering when I was doing my research about a year ago on CNC hardware and software, I saw that almost everything related to the CNC parts (including any laser modifications) were very expensive. You have to remember a Smoothie board is going into a 40 watt CO2 laser machine and one will end up spending a lot of money getting their machine finally setup the way they want.

The quality of the Smoothie board is outstanding. I am very impressed with it. Some comments about it so far:

--It's a very flexible board to support almost anything you need. It is an open source architecture. The CPU on it is far superior to the CPUs we have on our low power laser machines, especially in CPU speed.
--It needs a 12VDC power supply like the kind that came with my Prusa i3 3D Printer. I am currently using that power supply. I am used to our low powered laser machine power supplies that you just plug into the controller board. However, for a CO2 laser machine this kind of larger power supply is OK.
--It has an on board SD Card slot with a 4GB card installed. The firmware is installed on this card (as firmware.cur file) and will flash to the board CPU every time you power up the board...if it finds a file named firmware.bin. So, flashing is pretty easy and takes about 3 to 5 seconds if that file is found. Flashing success is determined if you find your firmware.bin file renamed to firmware.cur on the SD card.
This is a HUGE design advantage!! Something that NONE of the Ardunio boards have and they need badly (Ardunio has no interest in adding this design change to their boards...another story and a long one). This means to upgrade to new or different firmware, all you have to do is insert the SD card with the new file (firmware.bin) on it into the Smoothie board and power it up! Everything else will happen (flashing) automatically. This is really a big design plus for this board.
--config file. There is a file on the SD card named config. This is a text file (no file extension however) and you edit this file to setup and configure your Smoothie board for how you want it to work. A nice cross between how Marlin and MegaPi boards work and how our little controller boards work. For example, on our boards, we send Grbl commands to the board to set certain values. With the Smoothie there is no concept of that. What you have to do is just edit the config file for the value you want to set for a given item. With a Marlin board, this Smoothie config file looks much like a C language header file that you set your values and then compile your firmware .bin file with those settings. Any changes you need to make, you have to re-compile and build a new firmware .bin file. The design of the Smoothie is the best I've seen in this regards. Really a smart design.
--So to finish up my comments on the Smoothie board: do I think the 'high' price is worth it? For a CO2 laser machine to be able to run T2Laser and BCL, yes, it's worth the price. An extremely well thought out and extremely well designed board. To have the laser power of a CO2 machine at 40 watts or 50 watts or more...AND to be able to use software like T2 and BCL, is a match made in heaven in my opinion!

Support for the board is handled by Arthur Wolf, who also designed the board (with the help of others it says on the back of the board). His support has been very helpful and very quick. My questions will often get an answer within minutes.

The Smoothie website has a lot of information and a lot of documentation. It is over whelming to a newbie so it's going to take some time to read through it all. From what I've seen so far, there is some kind of help for you no matter what you are trying to do with a Smoothie board. They have a nice detailed Wiki on how to setup the Smoothie board for a laser machine and that is the document I am reading at the moment.

To get this Smoothie board working on my laser diode (or on a CO2) machine is a big project as there is a lot of work to be done to get setup and connected and then test out how the steppers work, etc. Once I am at this point, I can focus on using BCL and see what I need to do to tweak it for Smoothie board support.

After I'm done doing all of this, I will mail the board to @Zax so he can have his turn at the Smoothie board!
Admin -- Ralph -- support @ BenCutLaser dot us
https://www.dropbox.com/s/xftw71gccfhyl3y/SetupBenCutLaser2.9a.zip?dl=0
BCL Paid license: $49.95
via Paypal to bclpp@primemail.com