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 Laser cutter software

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barriew
vigo
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vigo
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PostSubject: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptyTue Jul 06, 2021 5:20 pm

I'm considering buying a laser cutter but I can't figure out what kind of design software I'd need. I've used several CAD packages in the past but can't seem to find any references to CAD in any of the product specs.

Can anyone point me in the right direction?

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barriew
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PostSubject: Re: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptyTue Jul 06, 2021 6:01 pm

I'm no expert - don't use CAD, never mind laser cutters - but from what I've read on other Forums you need to use a 2D package. You may then need to convert the output file if the package doesn't match your cutter's requirement.

Barrie

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redpmg
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PostSubject: Re: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptyFri Jul 09, 2021 9:16 am

Hi - we have a large Laser cutter /engraver which is used commercially for trophies etc. Both of us use Corel Draw - I stick to version X3 as our laser is now 7 years old and its software does not handle the new versions of dxf files (CAD) , Better half uses the latest version - but the cheaper student version as she simply saves files as version X3 (13) and passes on to me to produce CAD files for use with the Laser. Its only 2d unlike CAD software where you can get isometric views so when I set up 3d items such as boats you have to check it all out carefully. There are still some free versions of CAD software around but Corel is easier to use and you can export files in practically any software version - eg dxf, dwg, pdf, jpg etc.

Basic difference is CAD files in a circle produce hundreds of data points (uses minute straight lines ) whereas Corel uses 4 data points. Same applies for any type of curve. You can also zoom in to about 45000 times magnification on Corel to give minute corrections.

Either type of software it takes time to learn - make sure whatever you settle for provides tuition of some sort - not just a manual.

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Oldsmokey
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PostSubject: Re: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptyWed Aug 11, 2021 9:48 pm

Hi Vigo.
How are you going with your laser cutter? Are you still looking and thinking about it, or already taken the plunge.
If still thinking do take your time it's so easy to be taken by all the advertising for the different machines. 
The laser cutting machines usually come with some sort of software package or a link to one.

As an alternative, there are now desktop routers cutters that also can take a laser head so you can at a cost of course have the best of both worlds.
3D routing, cutting, and laser cutting in a more manageable machine. 
Price-wise they compare the dedicated laser cutters.
Also, take up less space the lasers are not as powerful but some are now able to cut light gauge aluminum.
Safety point LASER'S are lethal. Desktop machines are not enclosed be aware if you go this route.     

What do I use for 3D printing? 
Autodesk Fusion 360 free version they do ask because they charge for business users.  
Also FreeCAD. Both support 2D & 3D which can be converted to STL files and exported to whatever your slicer program choice.
For Laser cutting I find Inkscape suits me it's free.

But as always everything new seems like climbing a mountain until you reach the point when the light switch is flicked on, suddenly a eureka moment.

If you are totally new to CAD, machine programming, etc you do need a buddy who can sit down with you to go over things at your pace.

Remember, "Show me and I will do it" "Tell me and I will forget"

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vigo
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PostSubject: Re: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptyWed Aug 11, 2021 11:09 pm

Thanks for the replies. I haven't actually bought one yet but I'm leaning towards this 15w laser:

Laser cutter software Cutter

From reading the blurb it seems to be able to do what I want it to do - ie cut frames from 3mm ply, whilst not being too expensive as to break the bank at a shade under £230.

Again from reading blurb around the internet I understand that I need to use a CAD program to design what I want to cut, then interface that with the cutter. Bearing that in mind, I'm currently re-learning CAD on a new package because the one I've been using for donkey's years is now not considered worthy enough to operate with windows 10, which is a real shame because I've had some outstanding results with it over the last 20 years or so.

This is going to be a steep learning curve but if I can achieve designs like I get using styrene on my Silhouette cutter then it'll certainly be worth it.

The only thing that bothers me really is the possibility of excessive smoke from burning/cutting plywood. Still, this is nothing that a small home-built extractor system can't solve. Just hope the other half doesn't complain too much.

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redpmg
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PostSubject: Re: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptyThu Aug 12, 2021 3:51 pm

As Old Smokey said - Lasers are very dangerous - this type especially so . First you have to wear the right colour protective glasses for the type of laser spectrum - and try not to look at the beam directly. Secondly remember even a low powered Laser like that can cut a finger off or even your whole hand with surgical precision . All to easy to reach in to move something.

If you only wanted to cut frames with the machine you would probably be better off with a CNC Router. The gent who set up the EeZeBilt and Old Boats websites does just that with a similar type of router - really not worth taking chances with your health & eyesight.

By the way you would need a decent extractor system to cope with the smoke - unless you wanted the local Fire Brigade paying a visit

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Oldsmokey
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PostSubject: Re: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptyThu Aug 12, 2021 4:08 pm

Hi Vigo.
I am old, my eyesight is not what it should be and it was fairly late last night so I missed your reference to past CAD usage.

Let's start with a bit about yourself.

Age and what CNC experience you have.
In your post, you refer to having 20 years or so with a CAD program you can no longer use because outdated type of thing.

These machines move by “G” Code commands.
The CAD is only part of the deal if you produce your own drawings a CNC machine needs a language so it can interpret your drawing into positional movement, and tool instructions, etc.

I will leave it there for the moment for your comments,

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redpmg
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PostSubject: Re: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptyThu Aug 12, 2021 5:16 pm

Oh and I forgot to mention - you might need a blower to prevent the ply workpiece catching fire - also highly likely.........

We have one powered by a Coy Pond air pump - it has to move directly with the head - difficult on a machine that size.

Obviously there's not the same problem with a router
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Oldsmokey
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PostSubject: Re: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptyThu Aug 12, 2021 6:25 pm

Hi Vigo

Couple of valid observations by redpmg. 
Especially re Lasers, Eyes, Fingers/Hands, and Fumes.

Fumes. A DIY enclosed cabinet would be a good investment, fitted with an exhaust extractor venting outside in the open air. Certain materials do produce very toxic fumes. 
Plus a blower fitted around the business end of a Laser nozzle. For cooling and smoke reduction.
Some form of vacuum attachment (dust extraction) for Router cutting, again some materials produce toxic dust which needs to be contained.  

The machines you seem to be interested in are primarily CNC routers which can also support a Laser head. Making a dual perpose machine.
I am guessing that the one in your post may be a 3018 of some make.
My preference only a 3040 would be a better choice.
The manufacturer is an important consideration too, there are a lot of copies out there. 
Don’t only think Price. If it goes wrong or need advice can you get customer service easily? (China, not around the corner for problem/fault solving). 

Size matters small work can be carried out on a larger m/c but larger workpieces cannot be successfully made on a small m/c. 
As always Horses for Courses.
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Oldsmokey
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PostSubject: Re: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptyThu Aug 19, 2021 9:56 pm

Hi Virgo

If you have already purchased your machine then disregard this post, 

Not yet then perhaps you may like to try this website if only for a little more information and a better idea of prices.

Yorahome.com    


It could help you with some of your questions regarding the software needed to run a CNC Router/Laser cutter.

They are a North American company which have bases in Canada, China, UK, the USA, and soon in Australia. 
So no problem with customer services contact as they are based in this country.
If you join their club (free membership) you have access to other users, just about everything machine, or software advice/questions you could ask with help from existing users, including a member's discount on their products. 

They have the CNC 3018-PRO Router at £252.96 with a members discount (40.33) = £212.63
The CNC 3018-PRO Router / Laser pro at £381.20 with a members discount (29.33) = £351.95

Hoping this is of some help to you or maybe other forum members toying with the idea of going down this route without spending all the kid's inheritance. (Hang on ---- stuff-em). You earned it you spend it.
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vigo
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PostSubject: Re: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptySat Aug 21, 2021 7:55 pm

Well it's finally arrived.....

Laser cutter software 210821-001
.... in kit form  affraid   (but I knew that really)

A couple of hours following the 'instructions' on how to assemble it, then another hour or so trying to figure out what wire goes where  Rolling Eyes 

A quick test run (cold, no laser) and a few minor adjustments here and there and everything seems to do what it's supposed to. I'm amazed!

The next big test is to load the appropriate software onto the garage computer and try to get the two to communicate in there and maybe set fire to some wood. I haven't bothered with the one in the office, I think the amount of smoke and noxious fumes involved precludes any chance of using this piece of kit indoors.

I've had a quick gander at the software (I'm reliably informed that this is referred to as Gerbil) and to say it's a bit daunting would be the understatement of the century. This is going to be one hell of a learning curve  Surprised


Old dog, new tricks?

Ha. Nailed it  Cool  (I hope)

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Oldsmokey
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PostSubject: Re: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptySun Aug 22, 2021 9:45 pm

Well done Vigo once you get your head around things and start producing something no matter how small or simple your first item maybe you will soon find it will take up most of your spare time.  
It becomes another addictive hobby.
I hope you will share your progress with us.

What is the make of your machine and is it only the Laser version.

I am interested to know how you get on with LaserGRBL 
I did load the free version onto my laptop. No idea why, I think someone I know was interested in it but that was as far as it went.
 
Old dogs are always learning new tricks, sometimes much better than young dogs. 

Good luck with your 1,000-mile journey the first step is well behind you now.

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Martin555
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PostSubject: Re: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptyMon Aug 23, 2021 4:06 pm

Hi Vigo,
Looks like hours and hours of fun.
Good luck.
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vigo
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PostSubject: Re: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptySat Aug 28, 2021 7:04 pm

You would not believe the amount of hassle involved in getting this damned thing to work.

You'd imagine that using a brand new machine and an up to date CAD program would be sufficient but oh no. There's a little thing called G-code that I'd never heard of and it seems that most CAD programs don't support it (unless you pay a lot of money). Anyway, The software that came with the machine is a bit... politely put... crap and all the instructions are written in Chinese so Google's had some severe walloping recently and I've come up with several workarounds. There's a really nice simple to use one called Laserweb and it works beautifully on the PC in the office but not on the one in the garage which is a bit older, so it's a bit of a moot point as I'm not allowed to set fire to bits of wood inside the house (can't imagine why not  Rolling Eyes )

Finally I landed on a thing called Lightburn, and very good it is too. It does everything I want it to do and it's fairly user friendly. Unfortunately their pricing structure doesn't really gel with mine so sometime in the next 30 days I will have to actually pay for a license Surprised Well, there's a first time for everything...

Whatever, I'm happy with the results so far.

Laser cutter software 20210828-001
This is a motor mounting assembly on 3.6mm ply. It's taken 8 cuts to do it and I think that's a bit excessive so I've invested in a boat load (see what I did there?) of 2mm ply which I think will cut easier and quicker.

Onwards and upwards. There's no stopping me now I sort of know what I'm doing Twisted Evil

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Swab
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PostSubject: Re: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptySat Aug 28, 2021 7:18 pm

' I sort of know what I'm doing' that's the forum motto sorted!  Very Happy

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vigo
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PostSubject: Re: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptySun Oct 03, 2021 3:42 pm

So it's been a rather steep learning curve (and expensive it turns out, with all the false starts and mistakes) but I'm seeing some positive results.

This thing does exactly what I wanted it to.

Laser cutter software Paddle-wheelsLaser cutter software 20210907-1
Laser cutter software 20210927-1

Laser cutter software 20210927-2

Laser cutter software 20210927-3

All in good time I'll start up a dedicated build thread on this boat in the correct place. I can't right now because I'm relaxing in the Spanish sunshine contemplating my next beer.

Cheers chaps Cool

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Martin555
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PostSubject: Re: Laser cutter software   Laser cutter software EmptySun Oct 03, 2021 4:15 pm

Hi Vigo,

From what i have seen in the photos you have done a really great job.
Looking forward to the build log.

Have a Beer for me.

Cheers,

Martin.
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