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Question #: 13985

Question: How would LinuxCNC be used with the vertical laser?

Current Solution

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.

Additional Information:
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.

Additional Information:
I've split the more general Linux use case out as a separate question at https://buildyourcnc.com/FAQ/13989

Additional Information:
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.

Additional Information:
Example LinuxCNC config for the buildlog 2.X laser is at https://github.com/jv4779/2x_laser

Additional Information:
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.

Additional Information:
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.

Additional Information:
Blacktooth adaptation of the above buildlog config can be found at http://www.buildyourtools.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?p=18157#p18157

Additional Information:
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.

Additional Information:
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.

Additional Information:
This is Patrick. Auto correct on my phone turned the "is" to "isn't". Ha!

Additional Information:
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.

Additional Information:
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.

Respond:

Other Possible Solutions to this Question

  • how much would your vertical laser kit cost without the wood components and door plastic shipped to Canada

    Good question. I will need to add up the cost. However, the complete kit with the wood components will cost in the range of $300 to $500 using freight.

    Additional Information:
    I will add a price option on the Vertical Laser XL page that shows the assembly price without the wood structural parts. Are you wanting the rails included in the price?

    Additional Information:
    Hi, I was expecting an email answer, I did not know that you answered. Also I am in Fiji, not Canada. There is a flaw with your question form, It would not accept Fiji because we have no postal codes, so I put in my old Canadian code so that it would accept my question.

    Yes we would need the rails and any mechanical and electrical components. Our plan is to build it against a wall in a shipping container.

    If you do not have a suitable freight forwarder I can ask at this end because people frequently receive shipping containers.

    Thank you,

    George

    Click the link to respond:
    how much would your vertical laser kit cost without the wood components and door plastic shipped to Canada

  • What issues will a user need to be prepared to solve with the vertical laser that they wouldn't normally see with a horizontal bed?

    I personally haven't noticed any issues with horizontal and vertical (slanted). If there is no backing on the vertical laser (something behind the workpiece), then the parts do tend to fall out. Just keep something behind the workpiece.

    On a horizontal bed, you may be able to get a bit of a better vacuum hold down, but with a machine the size of a 4'x8', there really isn't a great way to get vacuum hold down, and I haven't seen the need for it anyway.

    Click the link to respond:
    What issues will a user need to be prepared to solve with the vertical laser that they wouldn't normally see with a horizontal bed?

  • What is the acceleration limited to with the laser tube vertical?

    With our new Laser/Spindle Combo Head for our greenBull, we kept the acceleration the same and had no issues at all with the tube (regarding chipping breaking etc.). So there is no specific limit to the machine (take into affect the weight of your gantry and the overall output of your motors), but here is the setup we have now:
    (with a custom greenBull gantry (4' x 8'))
    X-axis
    SPI: 910.069
    Vel: 400.02
    Acc: 12
    Y-Axis
    SPI: 911.023
    Vel: 400.02
    Acc: 18
    Z-Axis
    SPI: 1632.653
    Vel: 79.98
    Acc: 5

    Click the link to respond:
    What is the acceleration limited to with the laser tube vertical?

  • Can the USB CNC Controller be used with LinuxCNC?

    The USB Interface can only be used with the Planet-CNC software which runs under the windows operating system.

    Click the link to respond:
    Can the USB CNC Controller be used with LinuxCNC?

  • How feasible would a vacuum hold-down system be for a vertical CNC like the greenLean?

    Building a vacuum table, for any CNC machine is possible but doing it right might take a adequate amount of information and extensive planning. Depending on the overall complexity you want to build.
    Example, you want sections, and valves that can be operated to close sections of the table to allow vacuum to a specific spot of you material.
    It is possible and would be a very precise method to hold down your material.


    Additional Information:
    Thanks. It may be something I'd like to try on my greenLean at some point. Dan Spangler wrote a nice article on building a "Universal" CNC vacuum table in the latest issue of Make magazine, volume 41.

    Click the link to respond:
    How feasible would a vacuum hold-down system be for a vertical CNC like the greenLean?

  • How long should it take to build the vertical laser kit?

    Assembling the Vertical Laser XL machine will vary depending on your specific abilities. The length of time can be as short as one weekend, or as long as two weeks.

    Click the link to respond:
    How long should it take to build the vertical laser kit?

  • WHAT SOFTWARE CAN BE USED WITH THE BLACKTOOTH LASER CUTTER?

    If you take the standard parallel cable BoB (Break Out Board), then you will need control software (Mach 3 or EMC2) and CAM software to make your G-Code (such as CamBam). Personally I use CamBam and Mach 3, they work beautifully but don't expect to turn them on and know how they work out of the box. Give yourself a few weeks to get familiar with the basics. CamBam is VERY powerful software for it's price. I'm surprised how much I keep learning on what I can do with it...I highly recommend it if you want as much control as possible.

    Mach 3 + CamBam as a bundle costs $310. EMC2 will give you a free replacement for Mach 3 and is exclusively for Linux.

    If you use the USB BoB, it will cost an extra $75 + $75 for the software. This is an all-in-one package so no need for Mach 3 or CamBam.

    For etching rasters (jpeg, bmp, tiff, non-vectors, photos), I highly recommend PicEngrave. It has been a labor of love for the past 9 years and John has done a wonderful job with it. It easily compares in quality compared to software that is in the $200-$300 range. John's software runs $40 and can be found here: http://picengrave.com/ (don't let the modest website fool you, this stuff can do amazing things). DotG and the Mach3 engrave plugin are two other options and instructions can be found on Dustans page in the gallery on buildyourcnc.com website.

    Click the link to respond:
    WHAT SOFTWARE CAN BE USED WITH THE BLACKTOOTH LASER CUTTER?

  • WHAT SOFTWARE CAN BE USED WITH THE BLACKTOOTH LASER CUTTER?

    I would say mechanically, between the official build instructions, Warren's awesome blog (http://blacktoothlaser.blogspot.com/) and the tips in the forum, the blackTooth is a really simple build. The challenges come with electronics and software. There's a number of different ways to drive the laser and motors. A decent understanding of electronics and computers is a must.

    Click the link to respond:
    WHAT SOFTWARE CAN BE USED WITH THE BLACKTOOTH LASER CUTTER?

  • Can the leangreen vertical laser be adapted to attach a spindle as well?

    At this current time we only have the laser hybrid available for the greenBull. Due to the weight that is on the z-axis for the greenLean and the spring load, we have not tried retrofitting it just yet.

    However, with enough skill and patience anything is possible. Please let us know if you try this and any lessons learned along the way.

    Click the link to respond:
    Can the leangreen vertical laser be adapted to attach a spindle as well?

  • WHAT ARE THE SHIPPING DIMENSIONS FOR VERTICAL LASER

    Shipping crate size 121" X 36" X 92"

    Weight 511 LBS

    Click the link to respond:
    WHAT ARE THE SHIPPING DIMENSIONS FOR VERTICAL LASER

  • what is the total envelope of the vertical laser xl?

    The footprint (necessary floor space) for the Vertical Laser XL is: 123 inches x 26 inches or 3124.2 mm x 660.4 mm

    The height of the Vertical Laser XL is 87 inches or 2209.8 mm

    So, the envelope of the Vertical Laser XL is:
    length: 123 inches or 3124.2mm
    depth: 26 inches or 660.4 mm
    height: 87 inches or 2209.8 mm

    Click the link to respond:
    what is the total envelope of the vertical laser xl?

  • What file types will the vertical laser xl accept?

    LaserCAD and the Anywells Laser Controller used in our BlackTooth and Vertical Laser XL laser cutters and engravers can accept these file types:

    .nc (Gcode)
    .ai (Adobe Illustrator)
    .svg
    .pdf (Adobe Acrobat)
    .dxf (AutoCAD and Drawing Exchange)
    .plt
    .dst
    .dsb
    .uds (UD)
    .bmp (Bitmap image)
    .gif (Image)
    .jpg (Joint Photographers)
    .png

    Click the link to respond:
    What file types will the vertical laser xl accept?

  • what is the footprint of the vertical laser xl?

    The footprint (necessary floor space) for the Vertical Laser XL is: 123 inches x 26 inches or 3124.2 mm x 660.4 mm

    The height of the Vertical Laser XL is 87 inches or 2209.8 mm

    So, the envelope of the Vertical Laser XL is:
    length: 123 inches or 3124.2mm
    depth: 26 inches or 660.4 mm
    height: 87 inches or 2209.8 mm

    Click the link to respond:
    what is the footprint of the vertical laser xl?

  • Is there any precision or accuracy difference between the vertical and blacktooth lasers?

    I will address the two separately (precision and accuracy):

    Precision (repeatability):
    This is most closely related to the resolution. The blackTooth uses the same mechanical drive (timing belts and pulley) of the same ratios and specifications, so the two machines will be the same in this respect.

    Accuracy:

    The output of the machine (the final physical work) matching the input given to the machine (the design data or instructions for the machine to product the physical work. This has to do with both resolution and how well the machine will hold up over time and through environmental changes.

    With that said, both machines have very similar attributes in mechanics and structure. The overall structure is made of MDO (Medium Density Overlay) and has a very low coefficient of linear expansion with regards to temperature change, so accuracy will not be affected in any appreciable manner over time with the two machines. The Vertical Laser XL does use more industry standard rails to hold the heavy gantry, but this will be differ appreciably since the blackTooth will exhibit rigidity by virtue of its size.

    It really is best to consider the application and size as the main aspects of deciding between these two machines.

    Hope this helps.


    Additional Information:
    We're looking at getting the vertical so we can run both large and small jobs on the same machine. It sounds like running a small job on the vertical (using a positioning jig) would provide results at least as
    good as running the same job on the blacktooth. Does this sound about right?

    Click the link to respond:
    Is there any precision or accuracy difference between the vertical and blacktooth lasers?

  • Can your 4' x 8' vertical laser/engraver be built with a 4th axis for engraving cylinders (baseball bats)?

    Absolutely, between the ribs that make up the structure, there is room to add other peripherals like an 4th axis.

    Click the link to respond:
    Can your 4' x 8' vertical laser/engraver be built with a 4th axis for engraving cylinders (baseball bats)?

  • how long would it take to build the blacktooth laser cutter?

    The blackTooth Laser cutter and Engraver can be built in a weekend. Take a look at the build instructions and try to determine if you feel you have sufficient capability to put together the laser system.

    Click the link to respond:
    how long would it take to build the blacktooth laser cutter?

  • WHAT IS SHIPPING DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT FOR THE VERTICAL LASER.

    Shipping crate size 121" X 36" X 92"

    Weight 511 LBS

    Click the link to respond:
    WHAT IS SHIPPING DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT FOR THE VERTICAL LASER.

  • i would like to purchase the Greenlean Vertical as a skratch kit.

    We do not provide scratch build kits for any of our machines due to copyright issues in the past. The only plans we make available for purchase are included with our basic scratch build CNC kit.

    Click the link to respond:
    i would like to purchase the Greenlean Vertical as a skratch kit.

  • How can i get a complete list of all the components (electronics) I need for a CNC laser cutter with the laser controller? A wiring Diagram would probably be very helpful.

    All the options for and variations of our blackTooth laser cutter/engraver are available on our website here https://buildyourcnc.com/blackToothLaserCutterAndEngraver.aspx#prettyPhoto. The wiring diagram is available here: https://buildyourcnc.com/blackToothLaserCutterAndEngraver.aspx#prettyPhoto/0/
    We do not offer plans or a bill of materials for our machines at this time, but if you are interested in doing your own from scratch you can learn a lot about the design and build process from our tutorials. We wish you success in your endeavors.

    Click the link to respond:
    How can i get a complete list of all the components (electronics) I need for a CNC laser cutter with the laser controller? A wiring Diagram would probably be very helpful.