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Question #: 13989

Question: What are some good ways to control the vertical laser from a Linux machine?

Current Solution

There really isn't any good way to use Linux when using a traditional Laser Controller. If LaserCAD worked under the Linux OS, then that would work.

Would you like to know an alternative to use Linux using maybe LinuxCNC? There are ways to do it, but you will find yourself deep in g-code and out of the box wiring configurations, most likely.

Alternatively, you can create a dual boot scenario and put Window on the other part of the hard drive. This way, you would be able to run LaserCAD.

You can also "attempt" to use LaserCAD in the wine environment, but I have a feeling that will probably not work.

Additional Information:
We're a small family-owned electronics and hardware manufacturer, using LinuxCNC already for milling. Dual-boot into Windows isn't a sensible option -- it would greatly reduce the utility of the machine. I have more information about our use case in https://buildyourcnc.com/FAQ/13985.

Additional Information:
Ok, fair enough. Then let's get into the details on how you can use LinuxCNC to operate a Laser machine.

Do you have an idea what controller you will be using? Parallel?

Additional Information:
My first inclination was to use LinuCNC with the parallel interface board. Of that's the answer, then we might want to just add to the LinuxCNC discussion that's starting to firm up at https://buildyourcnc.com/FAQ/13985 rather than duplicate the information here.

I'm open to other alternatives and am happy to hack; we make PCBs and cable harnesses as a business, so that's not a limitation either. One answer might be to use one of the open source controllers that are starting to show up.

Additional Information:
My turn for phone typos. ;-) I meant to say "If that's the answer, then..."

Additional Information:
I've started a forum topic about this at http://www.buildyourtools.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=8412&start=0

Additional Information:
Good idea. Thanks.

When a direct solution is realized on buildyourtools, I will post it here.

Respond:

Other Possible Solutions to this Question

  • What software is needed to run the laser controller from the PC?

    The laser controller uses software called LaserCAD. You can find the link to the LaserCAD software on the Laser Controller product page:

    https://www.buildyourcnc.com/item/Laser-Component-Laser-Control-System

    Click the link to respond:
    What software is needed to run the laser controller from the PC?

  • MY LASER MACHINE VERTICAL DOES NOT ACTIVATE THE LASER TUBE, VERIFY THE POWER SUPPLIES AND THEY ARE WORKING WHICH THE PROBLEM CAN BE

    Same issue here -- TTL output from the AWC708C never seems to be pulled low. Still troubleshooting.

    Click the link to respond:
    MY LASER MACHINE VERTICAL DOES NOT ACTIVATE THE LASER TUBE, VERIFY THE POWER SUPPLIES AND THEY ARE WORKING WHICH THE PROBLEM CAN BE

  • What tolerance can I expect from your largest cnc machine and the laser cutter? Also, what depth can I get on the z axis?

    The largest CNC machine we make at this time (12/04/2015) is the GreenBull 6'x12' model. This model has 2 options for Z-axis travel.

    The short-z option has a total Z travel of 5.75 inches. From that you would subtract the length of the end mill used and the thickness of the spoil board to determine the maximum material thickness. (Example: If the end mill extends 1.25" from the collet and the spoil board is .75", then the material could be up to 5.75 - 1.25 - 0.75 = 3.75 inches in thickness). This is good for most sheet-type materials.

    The long-z option, used mainly for large 3D carvings, requires a custom frame and allows for up to 36" of travel.

    The tolerance of our machines, like any machine, depends on several variables. The major variables include the manufacturing tolerance, the type of machine control used, the precision of assembly, the thoroughness of maintenance, and the initial and ongoing calibration of the machine. Because we sell kits only most of these variables are outside our control. Therefore, we are hesitant to guarantee a certain level of tolerance for an end user. However, in our experience, tolerances of .001" are readily achievable with our machines.

    Click the link to respond:
    What tolerance can I expect from your largest cnc machine and the laser cutter? Also, what depth can I get on the z axis?

  • 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 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 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?

  • How should I control a plasma torch, spindle and a laser on my CNC machine?

    It will depend on how you configure the machine to use the Laser and plasma. Is the laser on a separate gantry? That will determine the way you will connect the laser control system or if you use a typical CNC controller. The plasma will need inputs of THC on, THC up, THC down and outputs to trigger the plasma torch. I recommend the Pokeys57CNC for the plasma and you can also fire the laser with it, but you will not be able to do engraving with the laser unless you use a laser controller. If you use a laser controller, you will need to either build circuitry to switch the digital signals from which controller you will be using, or if you have the laser on a separate gantry, you can use a traditional laser controller connected to the stepper motor drivers on that gantry.

    Users response:
    I was planing on using same gantry, and installing plasma and laser module on z axis along the side with current router. Perhaps if it’s needed installing another z axis on current z axis. So that when I use plasma, router z will be homed and plasma z axis will be able to utilize thc.

    When you say “If you use a laser controller, you will need to either build circuitry to switch the digital signals from which controller you will be using,”
    If i install laser controller, pokeys and router motion card, do you mean all ( axis and router/laser/plasma) signals or just the one that controls router/laser/plasma?
    I was wondering if I could jump (parallel connect) axis signals from card to card without ?
    Also do you prefer ethernet card or usb?
    I really do appreciate your help :) thanx again.

    Buildyourcnc response:
    Not a problem at all.

    Remember that with all of that weight on the z-axis, you will not be able to do efficient raster style engraving.

    By putting the laser on another gantry, say at the far end of the table, then you would be able to use a laser controller that controls its own stepper motors and the nozzle can have fast swing motion for engraving. With the laser on the z-axis of the spindle (like see on the greenBull), you will only be able to do vector motions for the laser.

    You can also have a CNC interface and laser controller controlling the same stepper motor drivers, but you will need a few tri-state buffer chips where you can use a toggle switch for which controller has control of the drivers.

    Click the link to respond:
    How should I control a plasma torch, spindle and a laser on my CNC machine?

  • WHAT ARE SOME USEFUL MODIFICATIONS CAN APPLY TO THE BLACKTOOTH LASER CUTTER?

    Temperature probe monitor. Very valuable. This keeps you up to date on your coolant temperature levels.

    Voltage meter. This will tell you the exact level of voltage/power you are running telling the laser to run at instead of an arbitrary mark on a drawn wheel around your POT.

    Ammeter sensitive to 1mA. This will be sure your not over driving your tube and reducing it's life significantly.

    Hour meter. This will tell you exactly how long your system has been 'on' giving you a more accurate bead on the length of your tubes life.

    Exhaust fan upgrade. The current fan included is 100CFM. You can buy 120mm fans that push 250CFM and I have included a guide on how to go about doing this here. http://buildyourtools.com/phpBB3/viewto ... 8cdd1802bf

    To push the exhaust fan even further, if you have the room/power, I would highly recommend investing in a 600+ CFM "Dust Collector" system. 250CFM is still not suffice to draw all the smoke that can come off of 3mm or 1/8 MDF cutting job.

    A cutting surface. I bought myself a aluminum 'egg crate' mesh from my local HVAC company. They are used a cover for fluorescent lights and work great for low impact cutting surface. They come in 4'x8' sheets and are easily cut to fit. The other side is if you can find a steel honeycomb cutting bed to fit. These can be quite costly or fairly affordable depending where you are looking. The benefit of a steel honeycomb is you can use high power magnets to hold material down.

    Click the link to respond:
    WHAT ARE SOME USEFUL MODIFICATIONS CAN APPLY TO THE BLACKTOOTH LASER CUTTER?

  • 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?

  • If I understand correctly, the greenBull kit comes with a spindle and laser. What else do I need to have a working machine. Obviously a table, do I also need the computer, software, wires, pump and plumbing, electronics, VFD, steppers and controllers?

    The greenBull kit (not the assembled) will need the table (the rails for the table is supplied), wires/cables for the stepper motors and stepper motor drivers, smaller gauge wires for digital wire connections (limit switches, drivers to control interface, etc), wires for the spindle connection to the VFD, tubing for water flow to and from the spindle, and a pump and reservoir (we are just about to introduce a small pump/reservoir/radiator/fan system for use with the spindle. The VFD/spindle, stepper motors/drivers and interface board are included.

    Click the link to respond:
    If I understand correctly, the greenBull kit comes with a spindle and laser. What else do I need to have a working machine. Obviously a table, do I also need the computer, software, wires, pump and plumbing, electronics, VFD, steppers and controllers?

  • What is the footprint size of the Blacktooth laser machine?

    The footprint of the blackTooth laser machine is:
    Length: 37"/ 939.8mm
    Width: 33"-3/4"/ 857.25mm
    Height: 11"-1/8"/ 282.575mm

    The height will change with the doors that open to retrieve your material/project the highest point will be 28"-1/4"/ 717.55mm

    Additional Information:
    what is the maximum cutting depth of the blacktooth laser on plywood

    Click the link to respond:
    What is the footprint size of the Blacktooth laser machine?

  • I have a double engrave in y_swing mode in my vertical laser machine

    When engraving with the vertical laser, use unilateral movement for the y-swing. Unilateral engraving will allow the firing on the laser in one direction.

    Click the link to respond:
    I have a double engrave in y_swing mode in my vertical laser machine

  • How would LinuxCNC be used with the vertical laser?

    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.

    Click the link to respond:
    How would LinuxCNC be used with the vertical laser?

  • Hello  We would like to buy a greenLean Vertically Oriented CNC Machine we start from scratch and want to make sure that we get all the pieces, we need  hardware and software we have a PC and a Mac

    If you purchase the greenLean, you will get everything you need except a router, computer to operate the machine, and software to control the machine. You state that you have a computer. You can use this computer, but you will need to determine if it has a parallel port, or if you are going to need the USB controller option. As for the software, there are too many different options for you to choose from. We would not be able to tell you which to get, and how much it will cost you. This is a matter of preference. I can tell you, however, that you will need 3 types of software to complete a CNC project. You will need CAD software to design your design, CAM software to add tool paths and convert the design to g-code, and then control software to take the g-code and operate the machine.

    Additional Information:
    20

    Click the link to respond:
    Hello  We would like to buy a greenLean Vertically Oriented CNC Machine we start from scratch and want to make sure that we get all the pieces, we need  hardware and software we have a PC and a Mac

  • Hello  We would like to buy a greenLean Vertically Oriented CNC Machine we start from scratch and want to make sure that we get all the pieces, we need  hardware and software we have a PC and a Mac

    If you purchase the greenLean, you will get everything you need except a router, computer to operate the machine, and software to control the machine. You state that you have a computer. You can use this computer, but you will need to determine if it has a parallel port, or if you are going to need the USB controller option. As for the software, there are too many different options for you to choose from. We would not be able to tell you which to get, and how much it will cost you. This is a matter of preference. I can tell you, however, that you will need 3 types of software to complete a CNC project. You will need CAD software to design your design, CAM software to add tool paths and convert the design to g-code, and then control software to take the g-code and operate the machine.

    Additional Information:
    20

    Click the link to respond:
    Hello  We would like to buy a greenLean Vertically Oriented CNC Machine we start from scratch and want to make sure that we get all the pieces, we need  hardware and software we have a PC and a Mac

  • 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.

  • What is the wiring configuration for limit switches on the laser controller?

    If you are using the AWC708 or equivalent laser controller, the limit switches will connect between the EL input terminal and the GND terminal in normally open (NO) connection. Most limit switches can be connected as NO, or normally closed (NC).

    For instance, a limit switch for the X- limit will be connected from the ELX- terminal to the NO connection of the limit switch, then a connection from the GND terminal on the laser controller to the COM connection to the same limit switch.

    Click the link to respond:
    What is the wiring configuration for limit switches on the laser controller?

  • i have purchased the laser control does it have an software and can i run this from my computer instead of using a thumb drive

    Yes, the laser controller comes with software (LaserCAD), and you can indeed use your computer to communicate with the controller.

    Click the link to respond:
    i have purchased the laser control does it have an software and can i run this from my computer instead of using a thumb drive

  • What settings does I use for controlling the spindle in StepCon/Linuxcnc?

    LinuxCNC has excellent documents; however, I would like to offer our help in case you don't understand the information on that page. So, please use this FAQ (Question #: 13233) to state your questions by submitting additional information below.

    The LinuxCNC spindle control page is found here: http://linuxcnc.org/docs/html/examples/spindle.html

    Additional Information:
    After reading the LinuxCNC page my first questions would be can the spindle be controlled by PWM signal? Also, what pin on the parallel port would I set to Spindle Enable and FRW?

    Additional Information:
    To connect your computer to the VFD, use a USB to RS-485 interface. RS-485 is just a serial interface protocol that uses standard 0 to +5 voltage TTL signal levels for communication (as opposed to RS-232 which uses -12v and +12 for signal level changes).

    Get a high quality interface to reduce any issues during the process. The VFD should have two terminals labeled RS+ and RS-. The USB to RS-485 adapter should have this labeled on it as well so the connections should be relatively straight forward.

    In the VFD parameters:
    PD001: 2 to accept RS485 commands
    PD002: 2 to accept frequency comands
    PD163: 1 to RS485 slave address:1
    PD164: 1 RS485 baud rate 9600
    PD165: 3 8bit, no parity, 1 stop bit

    Make sure LinuxCNC is also set accordingly:

    The PIN14 and PIN16 in the stepconf wizard should be set to unused because you don't want LinuxCNC to be outputting unnecessary signals.

    In the options step of the stepconf wizard:
    - Check the Include Halui user interface component.
    - Check the Include custom PyVCP GUI panel.
    - Check Spindle speed display

    You will want to edit the custom.hal text file located in the folder that was created from the stepconf wizard. Add these following lines:
    loadusr -Wn vfd hy_vfd -n vfd -d /dev/ttyUSB0 -p none -r 9600
    net spindle-cmd-rpm-abs => vfd.speed-command
    net spindle-cw motion.spindle-forward => vfd.spindle-forward
    net spindle-ccw motion.spindle-reverse => vfd.spindle-reverse
    net on motion.spindle-on => vfd.spindle-on

    The dev folder in linux is typically used for interfacing devices and peripherals to the computer as these devices are communicated by simple memory addresses and these files are linked directly to these addresses.

    Under the custom_postgui.hal file, change this line:

    from: sets spindle-at-speed true
    to: net spindle-at-speed => cfd.spindle_at_speed

    and add the line:

    setp vfd.enable 1

    When you start LinuxCNC, you will a spindle section with the reverse and forward buttons, a stop button and - and + buttons. Use these buttons to conform that the spindle is functioning properly. The spindle speed indicator in LinuxCNC will show the spindle speed and you can confirm that this is equal to the speed indicated on the VFD.


    Credit for this helpful information goes to:


    Additional information was also added by us to provide a better understanding.

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    What settings does I use for controlling the spindle in StepCon/Linuxcnc?