Laser – J Tech Photonics Tips and hints

New Home Forum Mostly Printed CNC – MPCNC Your Builds – MPCNC Laser – J Tech Photonics Tips and hints

This topic contains 93 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  Zeenon 6 months, 3 weeks ago.

Viewing 30 posts - 1 through 30 (of 94 total)
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  • #5199

    Curt
    Participant

    I fired up my new 2.8W laser for the first time today. I used the PicLaser demo to see how things would work and I made some smoke and burnt in part of a photo (demo limitations). I changed the extension to .g and ran it from a SD card and it ran well.

    @alan – What software did you use to create your part? I am not having any luck with the InkScape extension as it is giving me script errors.

    Ryan – If you don’t like the idea of a dedicated thread please delete this.

    Curt

    #5204

    karltinsly
    Participant

    I like the idea of having a single thread dedicated to lasers, particularly the JTechPhotonics, which most people seem to be using. I ordered mine on Christmas eve. I expect I’ll see it sometime next week. It has to come from Houston all the way to Austin LOL. I will repost my questions from the previous thread, since they haven’t been answered yet, and this thread is where people will probably look for them.

    How do I get started generating code to drive the laser? Ryan mentioned using ESTLCAM, which I use for carving already. Do I need to modify the resulting gcode to make it work with the laser? Also, do I need to make changes to Marlin to incorporate the laser? Does the laser come with a wiring diagram of how to connect it to the ramps for control?

    Curt – what is the inkscape extension you mentioned? I use inkscape, though I usually export to DXF and then bring that in to ESTLCAM for carving. What does the extension do?

    Karl

    #5205

    Curt
    Participant

    Karl
    There is a lot of helpful information on the jtechphotinics website. Under product details there is a documents section and under the software section there is a page just for the Inkscape plugin and for the PicLaser program license (which I ordered today). I assume you ordered the same kit I ordered. Did you order the laser fan upgrade? I did not since I had a fan and I can print the mount. The only issue I had was the jst plug needed to connect it to the control board. Since your kit will not ship until Jan 4 (per the website) you might want to add to you order.

    The extension will create the gcode right from InkScape….or at least that is what it is supposed to do. I think I found my issues and I hope to try tomorrow.

    I would like to know the software and such that Alan used so I hope to hear from him soon.
    Curt

    #5208

    karltinsly
    Participant

    Darn it, looks like you’re right, Curt. I hadn’t seen the message on the website that new orders will ship after 1/4/16. Not a big deal, though. There’s plenty to learn – I’ll take a look at the resources you mentioned. In addition to the new laser, I’m also almost done with my new foam cutter, and still need to learn how to use it, as well.

    What kind of stuff are you planning to do with your laser, Curt? Lasing pictures looks interesting. Are there any resources similar to thingiverse for laser cut projects?

    #5209

    alan
    Participant

    Just to chime in.

    I haven’t found the JTECH plugin to work. It’s written (I believe) specifically to work with their JTECH GRBL firmware, which we don’t have. I’ve been planning to look more into the GRBL on Ramps thing that another forum user tested out, but I haven’t had the time.

    I’m also considering temporarily borrowing the Arduino/GRBL shield from my XCarve and playing around with that until I can get another setup for GRBL.

    Right now, I’m using Easel from Inventables. The limitation is that it doesn’t do lasers, so I have to edit the resulting Gcode files and use M106 in place of Z down movements and M107 in place of Z up (presuming I’m just etching).

    It’s not perfect, but seems to work.

    #5267

    Bryan
    Participant

    First off, I wasn’t sure if we were putting everything laser-related in this thread or if I should start a new one for my question. If so, I apologize.

    I got the laser and driver wired up, but I cannot get it to beam anything. Here’s the steps I’ve taken:

    1. Wired H2 (+/-) to D9 (+/-) on the RAMPS board
    2. Checked to make sure that H1 amperage is set at 1.00 A
    3. Plug in laser to H3
    4. Set switch to “CW”
    5. Turned key on and flipped the switch.

    I get the “Enable” and “ON” lights to light up, and I know that the driver is supplying 1A, so I doubt that the driver is at fault here.

    Is there anything obvious that I am missing, or could the diode possibly be defective?

    #5268

    Curt
    Participant

    Bryan
    You need to use M106 S to turn on the laser(or fan output). The use M107 to turn it off. Download the pic laser software and try the demo.
    Did you get it to turn run on to focus the lense?

    #5269

    Bryan
    Participant

    Curt,
    I have tried running gcode with M106 SXXX to enable the laser, and it does not turn on.
    No, I have not been able to focus the lens yet. I had set it in CW mode (Continuous Wave) so that the laser is always on, but still no output.

    #5271

    Curt
    Participant

    I would email the guys at JTech and see what they say. I just tried mine again and with the switch and key on and after hitting the reset my fan starts up. If I flip the switch to CW my laser starts up.
    Sorry I am not more help
    Curt

    #5307

    Bryan
    Participant

    I emailed Jay from JTech with the same details that I provided earlier. He is actually sending me a 2.8W (upgraded from 2.0W) replacement free of charge.
    Great customer service there!

    #5467

    karltinsly
    Participant

    I received my 2.8w laser kit yesterday, and have started working on mounting it and setting it up. I have a few questions:

    1. Where are people mounting the driver? Should it be mounted on the z tower somewhere, close to the laser, or should I extend the wires and mount the driver somewhere else, like near my ramps LCD?
    2. Where do I connect on the ramps board?
    3. Can I use the piclaser software with this setup (ramps + marlin), or do I need the DAC/PWM board advertised on JTP’s site?

    Any help is greatly appreciated!

    Karl

    #5468

    alan
    Participant

    I used long wires and have my laser driver over with the Ramps board.

    Here’s the link from Jtech on hooking it up to a Ramps:

    RepRap – RAMPS1.4 Upgrade

    For the short answer: hook it up to D9.

    I think the piclaser programs are all based on GRBL, so I’m not 100% sure it will work. For Ramps, we’re using M106/M107 to turn an unused “fan” on and off. In their GRBL based configurations, they have it set to the PWM control for a normal spindle (M05 I think?) so I don’t think it would turn on and properly change the laser intensity.

    Another user here linked to the Amazon pieces to put together a second Arduino with a GRBL based CNC controller…I think the whole thing could be done around $50-75.

    He’s also tested a little of the GRBL for Ramps github release for the Arduino. I had trouble trying to compile/upload it so I gave up for a while. May try it again.

    #5471

    Curt
    Participant

    Similar to Alan, I have my J Tech driver near my LCD (I have not figured out a good mount for it yet on the Minion case). I used an old plug set from a R/C receiver battery to allow me to disconnect the J Tech driver from my ramps board as needed.
    The piclaser works fine with the setup from Vicious. You do not need to buy any more hardware. There are some good videos linked to the J Tech site to walk you through the set up but basically (like Alan stated) you will use the M106 S and M107 commands when connected to the D9 terminals. I bought the license for PicLaser and I am planning on buying the laser etch software also. Test both demos first but know that they limit the size of image in the demo but will show you what they can do.
    I have been working on a remodel project in the house so I have not been able to play much with the CNC.
    Curt

    #5472

    Curt
    Participant

    What height are you setting your laser focus at?

    #5473

    alan
    Participant

    Good to know. Maybe a specific thread for how to set up the PicEngrave and other software would be helpful?

    I’ve tried the demo and as soon as I get something generated the Repetier-host time shows something like 7 hours, and I just don’t have that kind of time or faith in leaving my laser running for that much time.

    Got any pics from your piclaser projects? Would love to see how they’re turning out for everyone.

    #5474

    alan
    Participant

    I think I set it at something like 1.25″ based on what they mentioned in their install/focusing docs.

    I have trouble finding what I consider the “sweet” smallest laser spot. I’ve also been experimenting quite a bit with adding things under my wasteboard and changing the material heights, that I haven’t found a good way to 100% ensure consistency.

    Eventually, I’ll look into building some sort of electronic touch plate…or even just something basic that I can fit as a “dry” gauge to get reasonably close. Right now I’m using my wife’s plastic ruler which is unscientific at best.

    What I’d really LIKE to do is create a file like the Epliog’s raster burn tests that use different speeds and laser intensities to see what each burn looks like (for vector burns). I’d like to do the same thing with Z heights so I can calibrate it with real burns instead of just trying to see how cute the little dot looks with the laser turned way down.

    I managed to draw a few rectangle outlines with Easel that each burn at a different intensity. (IE: M106 S255, S200, S150, S100, S50). I then copied the file a few times and edited the feed speeds so I have a single file of ~5 rectangles for each speed (50mm/m, 100m/m, 200mm/m, 280mm/m, etc) to try and see what produced the cleanest lines at each speed and intensity.

    But, I didn’t spend the time to line up each rectangle nice and straight, and then you have to run the file for each speed since I edited only the feed rates and not object positions, so you have to reset your zeros and try again.

    I’d like to do the same thing, but also with Z depth/speed/intensity, though that would probably take up at least a full 12×12″ sheet of material! 🙂

    At least once that is done, I’d have some fairly accurate results for my material and could (hopefully) manage to find the perfect settings for all 3 and could then make some sort of height adjust to ensure it’s perfect every time.

    I like routers better, you just touch the bit to the material and it’s ready to go. A lot less guess work when the tool properly touches material.

    #5476

    karltinsly
    Participant

    Thanks everyone, for your insights and answers.

    I’m actually working on a mount to put the driver just above the laser, using HicWic’s universal mounting system, but I might end up not using it, depending on some of the other wiring. Speaking of which:

    I think I saw that there is a place to connect the laser cooling fan on the driver board – is that correct?

    I also have two line lasers, to create a target for positioning the big laser – is there a place on the driver I could get power for them, as well?

    Thanks again!

    #5477

    alan
    Participant

    I’d be wary of putting it right above the laser, for a few reason.

    1) Heat rises. No need to put electronics right on top of a hot laser. Though, did you buy the additional fan to use a “semi-air-assist” to blow smoke down and away from the laser? That might move most of the heat away too. I’m about to hook mine up tonight or tomorrow (just came in the mail) and will see how hot it gets just above that fan. I imagine not much if the fan is blowing down towards the workpiece.

    2) Z stability. This is pretty stable, but I always worry about it. Are you also going to use a router or printer head on it? How would you get the laser driver off and unplugged to do a tool change? I’m happy that the laser is nice and light and doesn’t cut laterally on the surface to create twisting tension…but I wouldn’t add a fraction of an ounce to the Z axis just out of pure OCD about that kind of stuff. Particularly since there’s not a whole lot of easy ways to adjust Z straightness outside of the tool mounts.

    I’ve read about adding the fan to whatever power the driver fan is on, but haven’t checked it out. That’s my “plan” for researching today.

    The pic on the JTech site I think assumes a real “power supply” source other than the laptop style plug that I got here. They have additional fans and LEDs plugged into that. If you’re using a more dedicated power supply like that, I’d think having it on there would ensure not drawing too much power from the driver board (I’m not an electrician, so I know nothing of this, just speculation).

    #5478

    Curt
    Participant

    The fan for removing the laser smoke can be driven from the laser driver board. J Tech sells a kit with the fan and wiring but they offer the stl for the fan mount so you can use a fan you already have. I chose this option but I did not have the plug that fit the port on the driver board so I ended up ordering the plug from J Tech and it should be in the mail box today. The fan can be powered from any 12 volt source (which is what I had to do temporarily).

    I am going to use my CNC for some lasing and some routing so I do not want the laser or laser driver covered in dust so I will remove and store it when routing.

    I will start a PicLaser/Laser Etch thread soon and start sharing some info there.

    #5479

    Curt
    Participant

    I think that is the recommended height but if you watch any of the videos on their site, the setups they have are MUCH higher than 1.5″. Talking to one of my guys who is a laser expert (used to work for one the big industrial laser supplier) and he encouraged me to be as close to the part as possible to minimize the losses due to the beam hitting anything in the air. I have mine set up at about 2″ now but I will likely lower it when I come up with a good height tool (spacer block) to allow for easy setup.
    Curt

    #5480

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    If you a cutting close to the material you need very good air assist or your will foul your lens with vaporized material. Not that I have ever used one, but looking into the CO2 lasers this is a common problem. They usually have air nozzles wrapped around the final lens.

    #5488

    karltinsly
    Participant

    Good point about the heat. I’m not as worried about the z axis stability, but the heat is worth considering, since both the laser and the driver have fans on them.

    One reason I was thinking about mounting the driver near the laser was to reduce the number of wires that need to be routed to the tool head. Now that I’m looking at the wiring, though, I can see that there are some advantages to keeping the driver by the LCD (or at least away from the z axis tower) and running a bunch of wires to the tool – the main one being that when I swap out the laser with another tool, particularly an extruder head, I’m going to need to run a bunch of wires up there anyway.

    I printed my remixed version of ductsoup’s mount: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1245848, which has mounting points for the fan and line lasers, so I just need to put it all together and wire it up.

    #5489

    alan
    Participant

    All told, that’s bad ass.

    I didn’t bother drilling my Z and putting in the nut trap stuff because I used a mount that clamped on the outside of the pipes. Would require me to disassemble some stuff to drill those holes if I wanted to redo it for something like this.

    But, it does give me some ideas to remix some sort of multi-tool holder that uses outside clamps instead of the Z nut trap. Though, I’d need to find a clamped tool holder to fit a 3d head just be able to then print a new design, which doesn’t make much sense. 🙂

    I’m thinking though, that it would be nice to have both a printer head AND laser on a single mount, with one of the tools just offset a little. I built a pretty big rig (some 24″ x 36″ or so)…mostly for the laser to be able to engrave on 12″x24″ sheets with some room to spare.

    I’d likely never need that much room for a print head, so if it was offset and not able to use the ENTIRE area, that wouldn’t be a major problem. I’d likely not find a heated bed for the full size anyway, at least not in affordable form.

    The reason I’m not all too interested in the interchangeable mount bit is precisely some issues like you said of wiring. I’d hate to have to constantly be unplugging wires and hiding the connectors out of the way to change tools. But having 2 tools on permanently, that’s just a little extra wire. I ran my laser wire up through one of the Z pipes anyway, so I have a second pipe to run wiring through if I don’t want to confuse anything…

    Now my brain is flooding with ideas that I don’t have the skill to do. I’m thinking of some sort of awesome “stacked” mount where the laser sits above a printer head, then can basically fold down on a hinged mount to be even height but offset of the printer when I need to use the laser.

    Or maybe just printer in the front, laser in the rear? (that sounds more dirty than intended).

    I’d have to measure available Z height on the back side of the axis to see if there would be enough clearance there pending how high I’d need Z travel to print.

    ideas ideas ideas…

    #5496

    karltinsly
    Participant

    The multifunction head does sound interesting. I use or plan to use my MPCNC for routing, lasing, foam cutting (with recip needle), plotting, and 3d printing, so I’m trying to set it up for easy tool changes. I’m just starting down that road, though, so there will be plenty of bugs to work out. The laser is the second tool (after my router) that I’m trying to set up.

    #5497

    Curt
    Participant

    I agree what Karl did is awesome. What software did you use to blend the files? I would like a laser mount for universal set up. I am currently using the standard DW660 mount with my laser on a piece of plastic that uses the 4 clamp mounting holes.

    Curt

    #5499

    Curt
    Participant

    Here is a quick blend I made using TinkerCAD. I am printing the universal mount now so I am not sure how well it will fit. http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1250289

    Curt

    #5500

    karltinsly
    Participant

    I used TinkerCad to blend the files. The universal mounts includes 3 different mounting pieces that you can use, depending on what you’re mounting. They can easily be joined to any mount you want. Be sure to leave enough clearance all around to slide into the receiver.

    As I mentioned in the other thread, I had to spend some time with a swiss file and some acetone (for the ABS parts) to get everything to fit just right. Nothing unreasonable, though, and the resulting functionality is definitely worth the effort!

    #5501

    Curt
    Participant

    Let us know if you can come up with a good mount for the driver board….I can’t come up with anything good yet

    #5502

    karltinsly
    Participant

    I took a look at the thing you mentioned – in thingiview, it looks like the two parts aren’t actually touching. They might stick together some, but they might not be very strong.

    I wanted to make sure everyone knows I’m not taking credit for the universal mount – it was created by HicWic on thingiverse. I’m just telling folks about it and making some useful mounts, mostly made up of other people’s mounts!

    Karl

    #5503

    Curt
    Participant

    That was my first attempt at blending parts. Thanks for the heads up and I have since fixed it. In Thingiverse I linked to the original universal mount to show the remix and called out you and HicWic

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