It is possible to use LinuxCNC for laser cutters and engravers but not advisable. The efficiency and control with traditional CNC control programs cannot match that of Laser controllers. This is because laser controllers are very good at matching speed with power, especially with raster image burning. Moreover, controlling the laser tube while cutting and engraving is very built in with gcode. Special software can be used, but the processing and execution is not efficient.
Laser controllers and associated software have matured well and can do cutting and engraving very well and is worth the extra expense.
If you are still interested in getting LinuxCNC to work with the laser, let me know and we can discuss this in great detail on this FAQ.
A better question might be "What are some good ways to control the vertical laser directly from a Linux machine without having to hop through Windows?" Let me know if you want me to post this as a separate question.
If I were buying the blacktooth, I'd order the parallel port board for it and skip the anywells controller -- I notice that you don't show that as an option on the vertical, which is what's generating this question.
Some background: All of our CAD/CAM is done in Linux (openscad, freecad, librecad, cadquery, blender, pycam, python gcode generators...), we use git and Makefiles and other automation scripts extensively, and we need to be able to avoid doing the double-hop from Linux via Windows to get files sent to the laser.
An example use case is that of being able to say 'make' in a project's directory on any Linux machine on the network to ship the file to the laser, including power settings etc. Needing to ship it to Windows first, and then manually mouse around to set power etc. is what I want to avoid.
With Epilogs, I used to always bypass the Windows/Coreldraw toolchain by using Gershenfeld's cam.py, sending PCL from Linux straight to the Epilog.
Something equivalent to that -- being able to run a script in Linux to convert and ship the file straight to the laser -- is what I'm planning to do here. I mentioned LinuxCNC because it's what I'm already using for our mill, and I'm comfortable hacking on it. I'm not wedded to LinuxCNC for a laser, but I am looking for open-source flexibility and future-proofing.
We don't even have any Windows machines any more -- we got rid of the last of them years ago, and I'd like to avoid going back.
I've split the more general Linux use case out as a separate question at https://buildyourcnc.com/FAQ/13989
Starting to find some answers -- forums have a thread which addresses some LinuxCNC questions at http://www.buildyourtools.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=3452 for instance.
Example LinuxCNC config for the buildlog 2.X laser is at https://github.com/jv4779/2x_laser
I'm going to need some time to digest this information. Curious, are you able to develop a program to change the g-code if need be? Will you be doing vector style cutting operations only? If so, the process may be pretty straight forward.
Before we adapted the blackTooth laser to use the laser controller, we operated the machine using Mach3 and the z-axis direction signal was the chief mechanism to fire the laser (down=on, up=off). It worked like a charm. It would be better to use one of the output triggers to do this for safer operation; however.
Blacktooth adaptation of the above buildlog config can be found at http://www.buildyourtools.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?p=18157#p18157
Answering the earlier comment (is that you Patrick?) -- yes, we'd be doing vector primarily, though my wife (and CEO) is salivating over the potential for raster. I've got no problem writing a python script to massage gcode if that's what it would take to make things work. CAM is always a problem on Linux but I've been using a mix of things to generate gcode for milling (including just writing it by hand), and can get by as needed. Expect to spend this weekend looking around to see what others are doing.
Yes. This isn’t Patrick. I manage the Customer Service section. I will try my best to help with this over the weekend and balance family time. Haha.
I will check the links. If raster is a must, you can have two controllers controlling the machine using tri-state gates to the drivers. I did this for a customer a while ago to run CNC and laser with an external switch. You could use an external switch to switch between LinuxCNC operation and laser controller.
This is Patrick. Auto correct on my phone turned the "is" to "isn't". Ha!
The buildyourtools links doesn't really have much to do with LinuxCNC and the buildyourtools information on that thread (by MUK) implements a very similar configuration that I introduced when I first started selling the blackTooth (with the parallel control board). That style of configuration may work well with a LinuxCNC scenario.
I would rather jump-in cold with the LinuxCNC solution and see if we can address each step. What CAM program will you be using? I ask this question because that program may have the ability to inject g-code at specific points where we can turn on and off the laser.
Also, I'm going to merge the two FAQs once we pick the one we use the most often to figure this out. I'm also more comfortable using this Customer Service system to address the question for many reasons, one of which is I can tie these questions to the products directly to benefit many others.
For laser CAM on Linux we have used cam.py in the past; it's just a python script, so modifying the gcode it generates is easy.
I think we've reached a purchase decision; your responsiveness here has helped a lot with that, Patrick. It looks to me like we're going to be able to make this thing work, one way or another.