Robotec 100W Laser

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Creator:
EnabrinTain
Status:
Fully Functional
Born On:
15:59, 19 November 2017 (CST)
Last Updated:
19:19, 16 November 2018 (CDT)


Overview

The Makeshop bought a laser!

Specifications

Robotec 100W Laser Cutter

  • Cut area: 1300 x 900mm
  • Laser: 100W CO2 Reci W2
  • Cutting speed 0-4000cm/min
  • Motorized z-axis
    • Autofocus
  • 110vac Input Power
  • Water chiller to cool the laser tube: Water chiller CW5000
  • Ventilation fan for exhaust: yes
  • Air pump for air assist on cutting surface: yes
  • Supply of low-cost replacement laser tubes: 100W CO2 Reci W2 can be found on eBay for about $600 (not sure if other tubes or suppliers are compatible)
  • May be controlled from a PC (running Windows, Linux, or both): BMP, PLT, DST, DXF, AI from CorelDraw, PhotoShop, AutoCAD, TAJIMA
  • Honeycomb table: yes
  • Controller that supports non-PC-connected cutting (USB drives): Yes (RD Color/Ruida controller)
  • Network interface for sending jobs from any computer: yes, through RDWorks8
  • Rotary axis for engraving round/multi-sided objects like drinking glasses: yes
  • Limit switches: yes (metal sensing)
  • Rails: Hiwin Linear Rails

Setting up a PC with the software

Windows

  1. Go here and download RDWorks V8. (The other versions are not meant for our machine.)
    • The manual is available here, if you want to grab that too.
  2. Un-archive the downloaded file using 7-Zip or whatever.
  3. Run the setup. Click Install.
  4. Eventually a window will pop up. Change the origin point to top-right. Install the USB driver. (It says to plug in the cutter before you do this, but you don't have to do that.) Click Install, then click Exit.
    • If you have trouble with this part, don't worry about it. It's easier not to use the driver anyway - it's only needed if you plug into the cutter with a USB cable. Just make sure you click Install, then Exit at the end.
  5. You're done. Now, let's open RDWorks and do some initial configuration.
  6. At the lower right corner of the window, click "Port setting."
  7. Add a new network port. Name it "Network" of the type "Web" with the IP 10.56.1.5. Press "Test" and approve the firewall exception if Windows asks. Then hit OK.
    1. If you encounter a failure, check to see if the laser is turned on, and/or not in use.
  8. Check the box next to the Network port you added, then click Exit.
  9. Select the "Config(S)" menu, then select "Page setting."
  10. Set the page width to 1300 and the page height to 900, then hit OK.
  11. Quit RDworks by selecting "File(F)", then "Exit." This will cause it to write these settings to disk. Otherwise if it crashes or your computer is shut off, it will forget everything you just set up.

Now initial setup is done.

Archlinux

https://aur.archlinux.org/packages/rdworks-wine-bin/

Using RDWorks

We need to flesh this out later, but basically you will want to import stuff using File->Import. (For very simple shapes and text, I guess you could use RDWorks itself to make them.)

In RDWorks, different colors are used to split up different cutting methods. For example, you could have a bunch of red shapes and a bunch of green shapes, and the red ones are "drawn" (cut with a very low power so as to produce a visible line) and the green ones are cut with a high power so as to cut through the material. These colors will import from Inkscape or whatever other software you use, provided that there is enough contrast. (Dark red and bright red will both import as just red, for instance. Or maybe a dark enough red will import as black.) So stick to garish colors for this.

Once you've got something that you believe is worth cutting, in the lower right corner, ensure the "Network" port is selected. Once that is done, press the Download button. Give your file a name that is 8 characters or less (spaces not recommended) and it will download to the cutter.

Cutting a file

  1. Turn on the big exhaust fan, using the breaker in the main shop breaker box.
  2. Plug the cutter into power. Its power cord is near the chiller on the floor, and there's an extension cord right there.
  3. Turn on the cutter exhaust blower with the green button.
  4. Turn on the cutter lights with the red button.
  5. Focus the laser on your media.
    • For manual focus, press the ZU button. Scroll up and down to select "Z move". Scroll left to move the bed up and right to move the bed down. Hit Esc when you are done.
    • For automatic focus, locate the black metal disc and sit it on top of your media. Use the arrow keys to position the green box on the bottom of the cutting head directly above the metal disc. Now press the ZU button. Scroll up and down to select "Auto focus" and hit Enter. If you have not positioned the metal disc correctly, the bed will smash into the head/the gantry/everything. Hit the emergency stop button and try not to do that next time!
  6. Using the arrow keys, position the head at the top left(?) corner of your piece. Then press Origin.
  7. Press File. Scroll to your piece and press Enter to load it.
  8. Press Frame. The cutter will run around the (square) perimeter of your piece. Go back and correct your origin/head positioning if it's not right.
  9. Once you're happy with that, close the cutter and press Start to do the thing.
    • Seriously - close the cutter. If you don't close it, it will cut anyway and it will blind you and cut your hand off. Don't be daft.

Cutting things on the Rotary Axis

NOTE: The Y Axis motor will not work if the "Rotary" Button is pushed. Please be sure to Push out the yellow "Rotary" button when finished with the Rotary Axis

Using RDWorks

  1. In RDWorks -> 'Output' tab -> 'Enable Rotate Engrave' panel - click the checkbox.
  2. Measure the diameter of the thing you are engraving on. This will be set in RDWorks -> 'Output' tab -> 'Enable Rotate Engrave' panel -> 'Diameter (mm)' field.
  3. In RDWorks -> 'Output' tab -> 'Enable Rotate Engrave' panel -> 'Circle Pulse' - set this to 10000.
  4. ZU menu: lower the bed enough to reveal the socket for the Rotary Axis's plug. (around 10" down)
  5. Upload the job as normal.
  6. Plug in the Rotary Axis.
  7. Auto-focus the job to the workpiece being engraved.
  8. Push in the yellow "Rotary" button.
  9. run job as usual.

Using LightBurn

  1. In LightBurn, click the "Tools" menu and select "Rotary Setup".
  2. Select "Chuck"
  3. Set "Enable Rotary"
  4. Set "steps per rotation" to 100000
  5. Set your object diameter or circumference
  6. ZU menu: lower the bed enough to reveal the socket for the Rotary Axis's plug. (around 10" down)
  7. Upload the job as normal.
  8. Plug in the Rotary Axis.
  9. Auto-focus the job to the workpiece being engraved.
  10. Push in the yellow "Rotary" button.
  11. run job as usual.

Settings

All settings are merely a suggestion starting point, your experience may vary depending on many things like color, temperature of material etc.

Vector ("cut")

Material Thickness Speed (mm/s) Power (%) Repetitions Notes
MDF 1/4" 15 100 1
MDF 1/8" 25 100 1 Cuts through instantly. Lots of smoke though.
EVA foam 1/2" 45 100 1 45 speed does not cut all the way through, but it can be cleanly torn out by hand when needed. The foam comes in 22x22 inch sheets, which is 558.8x558.8 mm.
R-3.0 purple foam insulation 1/2" 50 85 1 Almost all the way through. (It can be broken out.)
R-3.0 purple foam insulation 1/2" 40 85 1 Cuts all the way through.
Styrofoam 7/8" 50 80 1 WAY too hot. It blows right through it and melts the bottom part. May want to do multiple passes at different heights... or something.
polycarbonate 1/16" 20 100 1
polycarbonate 1/8" 10 100 1 *Polycarb vapors burn, be extra careful of bright light and smoke. Sanding or acetone treating may be required to finish edges.
polycarbonate 1/4" 10 100 2-4 Requires multiple passes. *Polycarb vapors burn, be extra careful of bright light and smoke. Sanding or acetone treating may be required to finish edges.

Raster ("scan")

Material Speed (mm/s) Power (%) Repetitions Notes
Acrylic (cast) 200 50-70 1 Markings are noticeable but not overly deep.
MDF 200 15 1 The markings are of medium darkness and depth.
MDF 150 15 1 The markings are a little deeper, but much darker.
Soda can 250 15 1 Produces visible markings on the can. They're not very obvious and you can barely feel them.
Glass 200 20 1 Greater than this, and you risk cracking the glass
Ceramic (mug) 50 99 1 Removes and engraves glaze

Upgrade Log

Latest is on top.

  • Two strong magnets have been stuck to the inside of the cutting area door. They're good for holding down flimsy stuff like fabric or paper so it doesn't move around while it's being cut or when you open the door too quickly. Try not to pinch your finger between the magnets and any metal surface.
  • extra Cartesian endstops, Door sensors, and auxiliary z-stop, have been ordered from China
  • Exhaust system is upgraded!
  • Rotational Y-axis was debugged and repaired.
  • One of the mirror targeting screws came loose necessitating a recalibration, thanks Hunter!
  • Vent exhaust was tied back into the 40W Laser's exhaust system, exhaust tubes were ordered so that the 100W laser could have a parallel system.
  • 10 minutes into the first vector cut, one of the E-Stop switches failed open causing a complete loss of power. The switch was replaced from phil's spares and the machine was functional within 30 minutes of failure.
  • The unit was initially focused by Ryan Coons, thanks Ryan!

Possible improvements

  • Door safety! (ordered)
    • This would come in the form of a microswitch that is opened when the door of the laser is opened. It would be wired to the "DrProc" (door protection) pin on the laser main board in order to inform it to pause the job when the door opens.
  • X/Y/Z over-extended safeties (ordered)
    • The X and Y axes will both crash if somehow they are moved too far away from the origin. The controller does count how far they have moved and it does stop them when they reach what it believes to be the other side of the cutting area, but if these calculations are ever incorrect for various reasons, it could continue running and crash the gantry or head. The X axis sensor could be a magnetic sensor mounted to the left side of the gantry that detects when the metal head approaches. The Y axis sensor could be a magnetic sensor mounted to the body of the cutter that detects when the metal gantry approaches. These sensors could be wired to their respective axes' limit connectors on the laser main board.
    • The Z axis will bottom-out if it's lowered too far, as it will crash into a power transformer, its own motors and belts, or the ventilation system under the cutter. It's unclear whether the controller has any idea how far the Z axis can move downward, or whether this is accurate to our cutter, so it's possible one could simply direct the Z axis to crash. The sensor to prevent this could be a microswitch or magnetic sensor mounted to the body of the cutter that detects when the metal body of the table approaches it. This sensor could be wired to the Z axis limit connector on the laser main board.
  • Z safety in parallel with the auto-focus one (to keep from crashing into the head) (ordered)
    • The Z axis will crash into the head if it's raised too far. The only safety against this is the auto-focus sensor that is mounted to the head, but the honeycomb table is not magnetic enough to trigger this sensor reliably. The sensor to prevent this could be a microswitch or magnetic sensor mounted to the body of the cutter that detects when the metal body of the table approaches it. This sensor could be wired to the Z axis limit connector on the laser main board.
  • Connecting a fan to the "blow" output on the controller.
    • Lasering certain materials, such as acrylic, can produce a dust that will settle back down onto the material and fog it up, or at least be visible on it. A fan could be mounted to the gantry in order to blow this dust away. There is an output on the laser main board called "Wind" that receives power when the "If Blowing" setting on the layer is set in RDWorks, and this could be used to control the fan via a relay.
  • U axis???
    • There is another axis on the cutter that we could use for something else. It doesn't have a motor controller or any motor, obviously. It's unclear what you can use this for, but I think it would be easy to add if an application arose.
  • Publishing the "Status" pin on the controller to MQTT to be able to tell when jobs are done
    • There is a pin on the laser main board called "Status" that goes high when the laser is cutting. This could be used to make graphs on stats.makerslocal.org and generate alerts when jobs complete.
  • Red dot sight
    • This is basically a laser pointer that could be added to the head. It would be turned on all the time, and pointed at the exact location the 100W laser will hit when it is fired - assuming that the material was in focus.
  • RDVPrinter
    • This is a piece of software that may allow users to "print" to RDWorks, just like they print to the Phil Spectrum Laser.
  • RDProjector?
    • This is a piece of software that can be added to RDWorks to allow the laser cutter to work with an overhead projection system. I have no idea what it does or whether it would be useful to us, but RDWorks does have some options pertaining to it already.
  • Lightburn
    • This is a total replacement for RDWorks slated to be released in January. There will be a free trial available and the full version will cost 80 bucks.

Repair

Repair Timeline