So a couple of years ago I got a laser engraver off eBay, something like this one: https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/A3-500-5500mW-CNC-Pro-Laser-Engraving-Machine-Desktop-Printer-Cutter-Engraver/392163585697?hash=item5b4ec56ea1:m:mzjbfntY4evHmy88vXUlQuw:rk:12:pf:0
It worked ok, and I got some alright results, but I was never overly happy with it. It took forever to engrave anything and the software provided (Benbox) with it was horrible to use. It sat in the back of the shed for ages, until I pulled it apart to use parts of it on another project. This got me thinking, could I use a different software package to get some better results? I tried using LinuxCNC when I first got it but never had much luck. Then I stubble across this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PijjOQbtZo via https://hackaday.com/2016/12/23/convert-that-cheap-laser-engraver-to-100-open-source-toolchain/. Basically this engraver is controlled by an Arduino Nano controller and the motors are driven by Pololu-A4988 motor drivers (https://www.pololu.com/product/1182).
The linked video formed the basis of my upgrade, but there were a few extra steps I had to go through to get things working properly, and a bit of the info there is out of date. Below are some instructions on how to do this upgrade. It made a heap of difference to the usability of the thing, and has re-invigorated me to use it a bit more. The final article will have some photos of projects I have completed with it.
Below is a list of programs you will need to download to complete this upgrade.
Laserweb is control software that converted this cheap horrible to use laser engraver into something useful. It is available to download here: https://github.com/LaserWeb/LaserWeb4-Binaries/. It is an open source collaborative project that replaces LaserWeb3 mentioned in the video above.
GRBL is an open source CNC motion controller. It interperts G-Code (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G-code) sent from a PC, and converts it into the required signals to drive stepper motors. It means we can move away from parrellel based interfaces that were required by the likes on LinuxCNC.
XLoader is a program for flashing hex files Arduino boards. You can download it here:http://russemotto.com/xloader/
To be continued ….