17 March 2019
My kickstarter campaign
continues to tick over in the background, amazingly I just reached 1000% funded. I shall have to make another 6-700 puzzles next month in a similar scale to the previous campaign. All of this work and secret escape room projects and large cake projects are keeping me all rather busy at the moment. There are lots of things I mean to write about but am just not finding the time, hopefully I can squeeze some of those things in too.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 17 March 2019 11:32 PM
12 March 2019
|Ninja Warrior Button tied to wifi controller|
Over the last few weeks I've been playing around at Ape Index Leicester
, it's like a ninja warrior training gym with a climbing wall. I'm mostly playing but I've certainly been getting fitter because of it, I was talking to the owner who discussed a big red button project like they have at the end of the ninja warrior course. Wiring one up is tricky because the place is so big so it sounded like a perfect match for some of my ESP8266 work
This is very much a fun project I threw together in an hour this evening while cutting useless machines. The internals definitely reflect this, thrown together with sticky tape and bits. I used a rechargeable battery for a power supply but some strain relief on the cables would be preferred. Ultimately this system should tie into a larger screen to show the current time but that's future work.
|Big Red Button Simple Box|
|On/Off switch on the back of the box|
|Very messy impromptu internals including rechargeable battery|
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 12 March 2019 10:19 PM
04 March 2019
I did say that this Oversized Chess Piece
was the start of something bigger and here it is. There are a few tweaks and changes such as the arrow points on the base to show the forward direction and these are about 20% bigger again.
What good is an incomplete chess set I hear you ask? This one has been made specifically for one of the puzzles at Escape Asylum
. We recently went to visit and completed Riiitual
, escaping with time to spare. We've done a few different escape rooms and I think I liked this one the best, it was definitely challenging, the puzzles fit the theme of the room well.
The only thing that let it down slightly was a plastic chess set with some manhandled broken pieces. Being a local nerd with a laser cutter I thought it only fitting to offer some decent wooden replacements that can take the punishment. Once I got started there were quite a few things that could be upgraded so I've now made a few new props for them which I will never be allowed to show you.
If you want to see exactly what I've been making you'll have to book yourselves in to Riiitual
, just don't forget to take a few of your smartest friends with you. I'm keen to try their other rooms before I'm called upon to make props for them :P
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 04 March 2019 10:09 PM
28 February 2019
The first time I ran a kickstarter I just kind of launched it and told a few people once I'd done it, the whole thing funded in 24 hours which was great news. This time around I was a bit more prepared, I contacted people in advance, sent out some samples for review and generally made people aware that it was going to happen. This time I was 100% funded in 1 hour 58 minutes.
I realise I was only asking for a paltry £1000 each time and it doesn't really bear any relevance to the amount required to complete the task but it's still nice to see that people were keen to be involved this time. We hit nearly £4K in 24 hours which is a promising start, now I need to push it a bit to keep up some of that momentum. In general though it looks like it's going to be another successful campaign and I'm going to have another busy month.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 28 February 2019 08:52 AM
26 February 2019
I just launched my new kickstarter campaign for the second set of fractal puzzles, now is a good time to jump on board and grab yourself an early bird bargain.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 26 February 2019 08:10 PM
25 February 2019
With my Kickstarter campaign ready and waiting for approval from Kickstarter I can positively say that my new puzzles are going to launch any day now. With the puzzles so close I can also announce that there will be another set of four puzzles based on the Peano curve and variations of it known as the Wunderlich Curves.
Curves 2 and 3 are very standard puzzles compared to the original set of four, I simply found the repeating sections and subdivided the puzzle accordingly, it makes them just as tough as the originals to solve. The Peano curve and Wunderlich Curve 1 were quite a bit harder to create and I had to wait for inspiration to strike. The repeating section on those puzzles is obvious but it was hard to find 13 different ways to split the puzzle without making it too simple. I'm sure you'll appreciate the solutions I found and enjoy their fiendish new complexities.
My extended family were subjected to timed testing a few weeks back and nearly all of them gave up within the hours allocated, just one uncle and aunt persisted until they had solved their first puzzle in 2 hours. I have high hopes that this new range will meet the expectations laid out by the first set.
Now would be a very good time to follow me
on Kickstarter if you would like to snap up some of the early bird puzzles sets
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 25 February 2019 08:22 PM
20 February 2019
|Note how most of the LED's have stopped working|
There was a single row of leds mounted under the gantry on my laser cutter, over the years the LED's have slowly stopped working and they were in a bit of a sorry state. I'm going to be installing a new camera into my laser cutter at some point and lighting is always important so it was a good time for an upgrade. Instead of one strip of light that moves and creates ever changing lighting I thought it would be better to put two static strips one the Y rails.
|Removing the 24V wire from the loom up to the gantry|
|The old strip lights are pretty disgusting from years of cutting|
I pulled the LED strip off the bottom of the gantry, it was pretty badly stained from years of laser cutting. The new lights are weatherproof, silicone coated so they should stay cleaner and functional for a lot longer. They are wired into the existing switch so they can be turned on and off from the outside of the machine.
|The new lights are wired into the existing switch|
|A quick test of the new lights to confirm they take less than 1A|
The existing power supply is only rated for 1A at 24V so it was worth taking a few seconds testing the lights to make sure they didn't draw too much current. In hindsight I would have made the strips slightly shorter (less bright and less current).
|Drilling a new hole to run the wiring through|
|The left wiring is fed into the loom alongside the flow sensor|
I had to drill a new hole to route the wires on the left hand side of the machine. I used a step drill bit to ensure there were no sharp edges to the hole when I was pulling the wire through. The wires were then routed down the back of the laser and alongside the water sensor wires
|Silicone covered lights held down at the ends with gaffa tape|
|The right hand light feeds through the limit switch hole|
The strips have a self adhesive backing but where the ends were terminated with heat shrink they weren't sticking to the rails. Liberal use of super sticky gaffa tape holds the ends down. The new lights are super shiny and provide a nice even light across the entire surface (or at least to the human eye they do, no doubt they'll give massive bright patches on the new camera but that's a future problem).
|The new lights in all their shiny glory|
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 20 February 2019 09:25 PM
12 February 2019
I made this bishop as a sample piece, hopefully this is the start of something bigger and I don't just mean an oversized chess set. It's made from 6mm birch so it's nice and sturdy and it was finished with a lasercut disk of felt on the bottom. I can't decide if I should do the other pieces with black paint or brown wood stain but I'll probably try both.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 12 February 2019 10:51 AM
10 February 2019
Last summer I ran a moderately successful kickstarter campaign
, where I did a production run of the fractal puzzles I designed
several years ago. Since then I've had numerous requests to design more fractal puzzles and after a fair bit of research I have discovered four more space filling curves that lend themselves to fractal puzzles. I'm going to be kickstarting these in the next few weeks so now is your chance to follow me on KS
and snap up one of the early bird deals as soon as they get launched. I will obviously post to the blog here when the campaign goes live too. In the meantime, stay tuned.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 10 February 2019 02:14 PM
07 February 2019
The laser upgrade
went remarkably smoothly and the laser cutter was functional but there were a few minor changes and improvements that needed to be done.
Fixing the screen image
|Image flipped on the controller|
The first and most noticeable tweak for my new Ruida system was to fix the screen display. Most of my cuts are symmetrical so it was a day or two before I noticed that the image on the screen was mirrored. The laser cutter was cutting the correct way so I knew this had to be a simple setting on the controller. In the menu system is an option called 'Screen Origin' we have to set this to 'Top Right' so that the controller knows it's cutting from the same corner as the laser.
The Ruida controller is actually capable of understanding the difference between the lid switch input and the water flow input. It would be possible to split the two inputs before they go into the laser psu but this is a suitable compromise for the moment.
|The WP line connected to pin4 CN5, led #9 is lit|
|Setting up the water protection from RDWorks|
The controller needs to be configured to use the water protection inputs, this has to be done from within the RDworks software. File->Vendor settings (password RD8888) allows you to see the settings on the machine and you can read/write the water protection settings.
|The error that occurs when you start a cut|
Once configured this is the error message you get when you start a cut without the safety switches engaged.
|Z limit switch hiding in the darkness|
Lightburn has some interesting features where it's able to automatically adjust the height of the bed if you tell it the material thickness. The controller needs to know where the zero point for the Z axis is before it can do that, some lasers have an autofocus probe mounted to the head to sense the thickness of the material. My laser cutter only has a limit switch mounted on the Z axis, when that white collar moves to the top of the rod then it triggers the switch. The trouble is that it doesn't take into account for the honeycomb or the knifebed sat onto of the bed. The switch doesn't trigger until after the metalwork crunches itself into the nozzle.
|A well positioned saw blade triggers the Z switch|
The solution was to make the bed trigger the sensor a lot lower down. I was thinking about mounting a bracket onto the side of the bed but it's all at a very tricky angle and I would probably have to dismantle the Z axis to get to it. As I looked at it I realised I could slide a thin strip of metal between the bed and it's own brackets that would stick out under the switch. I ended up using a saw blade wedged into the gap to trigger the Z switch at a suitable height. (Don't forget that the telescopic tube of the Z axis gives you a wide range of suitable heights)
|Setting the Z focus manually for the last time|
The Z axis is now capable of zeroing and limiting before it crashes into the nozzle, that doesn't mean it's actually in focus though. The focus is a few mm below the zero point but there is an easy way to calculate what the offset is. If you adjust the focus manually you can read the offset from RDWorks and you can use that value in the controller. Now when you use the autofocus button the laser bed will move all the way up to the zero position and then back down until the surface of the bed is on the focal point. I may adjust this to be 2.7mm lower because I most commonly use poplar plywood.
|Current position and new focus depth|
|While you're under the beds give it a good cleaning|
While you're playing around under the laser cutter you might as well give it all a good clean, this was the state of my metal bed after about 6 months of cutting. I used a bbq cleaning tool with a nice metal flat edge which was great for scraping all the build up residue that had clung to the bed.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 07 February 2019 02:54 PM
|Leetro MPC6515 Control System|
Since I recently upgrade to a ruida controller I figured I should sell the spare parts that I no longer need, a second security dongle
is always handy or a brand new control panel
should your buttons be wearing out.
Finally I'm listing a complete Leetro system
, sure the ruida controller is better than the leetro system but if you've got a limited budget then you can snag a bargain and any kind of DSP controller would be an improvement for a K40.
|Lasercut 5.x Security Dongle|
|PAD-03E control panel|
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 07 February 2019 01:13 PM
06 February 2019
|6mm ABS inner core of shields|
This project turned out to be quite the collaboration between makers. I was asked by Eldritch
to cut some thick ABS plastic that was going to go inside a pair of ballistic shields. There is a growing crossover between LARP
and new rules being developed to cope with both. These shields don't have to follow the normal, foam rules, and actually need to be stiffer and stronger to withstand all the incoming ball bearings. The possibilities of windows in shields now becomes an option so I cut some 6mm perspex for windows and wooden surrounds to hold them all into place on the shield.
The shields then went on to Eldritch
who covered them in a layer of foam, bolted all the parts together and generally turned them into functional shields.
|Shields at the Eldritch workshop|
These shields look great however nice shiny shields don't really fit into the post apocalyptic style game they were destined for, that's when the owners took over and did a pretty epic job of weathering the shields ready for the event. Junkyard Grizzly
took one shield and Dust Monkey
took the other adding their own personal style. These things look amazing and fit right in to the Metro style game
they were destined for.
|Junkyard Grizzly Weathered Shield|
|Dust Monkey Weathered Shield|
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 06 February 2019 09:55 PM
05 February 2019
To go with the saxon helmet we made a super simple shield. It's literally just a circle of 3mm birch with a handle cut through the middle. I had a vacuum formed shield boss left over from the roman shield
we made previously. The details were just drawn on with low power lines which made it easy for Eli to paint. He even got to wear my chain mail shirt to finish the look off.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 05 February 2019 04:12 PM
03 February 2019
|Simple helmet design covered in scales|
Homework last week was to build a helmet for the school battle reenactment. We joined a few strips front to back, left to right and around the circumference, filled in the quarters and then covered it all in cardboard scales. We cut a whole sheet of scales on the laser and painted them metallic silver, leaving them all connected at the top made them easy to apply to the helmet.
|Sheet of laser cut scales|
|Handy head model|
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 03 February 2019 09:30 PM
02 February 2019
|The new light fittings|
The light in our lounge is pretty dim, really we should replace all the lights with better ones but we're waiting to redecorate everything at the same time. The idea suddenly hit upon me that I should replace the shades with something better (and laser cut). The old fittings basically block out a large chunk of the light being produced so I copied the size and shape but reproduced them in semi transparent materials. The new light fittings, three of them, allow much more light to actually enter the room making it appear much brighter.
|The old light fittings blocking most of the light|
The fittings were made from 6mm clear acrylic which was double stacked for strength. Double sided carpet tape was placed around the edge to affix the polypropylene to the front. Simple but effective.
|Curved former for the polypropylene|
|Light fitting ready to be placed on the light|
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 02 February 2019 05:06 PM
31 January 2019
|Coolflow DTX from Hydratech, good for lasers|
We're having a bit of a cold spell in the UK (I'm aware the US has it worse too) but we're not used to cold weather, temperatures dip below zero and we all panic a bit. One of the things that people always forget is that the glass tube in the back of their laser cutter is water cooled. If the water freezes it will expand inside the tube and cause the glass to smash, that's going to leave a hefty bill to replace the tube. Putting some antifreeze in with the coolant is easy to do and it's going to save you the worry. If your laser is in the garage and isn't warm and snuggly inside your house it's well worth doing.
If you have the CW3000 you're going to need 2.25L of antifreeze and if you have the CW5200 you're only going to need 1.5L. The internal reservoir of the CW5000 series is smaller because it actively chills the coolant. Small quantities can be purchased via ebay and the usual sources at sensible prices (or from laser importers at inflated prices), 5L bottles can be bought directly from Hydratech
On the back of the chiller is a drain outlet (the bottom left corner), simply unscrew this cap and drain the approximate amount of liquid into a measuring jug. Dispose of the water in the usual way. Then simply pour the antifreeze back into the top of the chiller. Once the chiller is turned back on you should see the coolant start to circulate through the laser tube.
Thanks to Graham from DeathZap Studio
for prompting this post after our conversation on the subject
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 31 January 2019 01:35 PM
26 January 2019
|New laser bench with sheets stored underneath it|
I've had my new laser cutter resting on it's packing create for several months, I recently ordered 100 sheets of Birch plywood, 800x600mm and I still had about 50 sheets of poplar left from the last order so all of that needed a new home inside the garage (rather than the utility room). I rummaged through the scraps and planks in the shed and I already had enough parts to make a new small bench so I took my trusty little helper and we made a bench one day (you can tell the girls were out because we made it in the kitchen to avoid the rain).
The bench works well, it's a little bit wobbly but it does bring the laser up to a nicer height for working at. As you can see I still have to plumb the extraction in to the existing outlet rather than opening the garage, especially in the cold weather, everything takes time.
|My helper for the day|
|Child shown for scale|
|Laser in place on new bench|
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 26 January 2019 10:13 PM
25 January 2019
|Door strip between the raised wooden floor and the kitchen tiles.|
I made this door strip
18 months ago very much as a test piece. Even then it was showing signs of wear so the fact it lasted all this time was great. The wood had warped a little and it had lifted on one side. The front edge was a little cracked from being stood on (it was too long) and the whole thing was pretty grubby from general use. I reinforced the underside of the strips with some 1.5mm birch (it was only made from 0.8mm originally), I also reinforced the stack of pieces too. The whole thing was sanded, reglued and varnished and it's like new again but this time done as a proper job. Lets see how long it lasts this time around.
|Grubby door strip, halfway through sanding|
|It's so long clamping it flat to the dining room table was the best option.|
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 25 January 2019 10:35 PM
23 January 2019
Here is a picture of the cake toppers actually in the cake too. It's another cake made by Dinkydoodle designs
and the toppers are cut from 3mm mirrored acrylic.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 23 January 2019 08:32 PM
22 January 2019
I was asked to put together a handful of simple box shapes which are going to be decorated and turned into war gaming terrain. I worked from a simple diagram and made as many boxes as possible from 4 sheets of 2mm mdf (600x900). The trick is making the finger joints mesh together to cut as efficiently as possible.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 22 January 2019 10:35 PM
21 January 2019
So far in this series of blog posts I've talked about setting up the ruida controller
and wiring it into the laser cutter
, now is the point where it needs to be tested to ensure that it actually works as intended. In the previous post I failed to mention that the power connector needs to be rewired but it's a straight forward swap of GND and +24V. Once the controller can actually be turned on we're ready to start testing.
Testing Automatic Features
Safety is all important while testing the machine, there are moving parts and laser beams during this whole process so care should be taken. The big red emergency stop on the machine is always close to hand, the key switch similar. The safety interlock lid switch for the laser is still wired directly to the high voltage power supply so the laser will not fire with the lid open or the water pump off.
The first test is to ensure that both axis move in the correct direction. The controller was set up to initialise the X and Y axis to the back right hand corner when the machine is turned on. When the machine is first turned on make sure the X axis is moving to the right and the Y axis is moving to the back, if not then instantly turn the machine off. These settings can be adjusted using the 'Direction Polarity' for each axis if need be.
The second test is to ensure that the axis stop when they reach the limit switches. Manually pull the laser head to the bottom right hand corner before turning on the machine, this ensures that the X axis will hit the limit switch before the right axis. When you turn the laser cutter on the head should move to the origin and stop, if the limit switches don't register then the stepper motor will make a horrible grinding noise, simply turn the machine off and investigate.
Testing Keypad Control
Once the limit switches are working, the machine should datum upon start up. Then you will be able to drive the laser head around using the arrow keys on the keypad. Ensure that the head moves in the right direction according to the arrows.
The Z axis doesn't automatically datum, the Just Add Sharks machines only had a limit switch to detect the highest Z point, not an autofocus probe. Press the Z/U button in the middle of the arrow keys to switch the Z mode. Pushing the left arrow should make the bed move upwards and the right arrow should make the Z axis move downwards.
That basic testing proves that the Axis are wired correctly and are moving in the appropriate directions. There is one last keypad test that we can do to prove that the laser is going to fire. Put a piece of test material under the laser head and close the lid to engage the safety interlock. When you push the 'Pulse' button on the keypad the laser should fire for as long as you hold the button down.
Switching to Lightburn Control
Lightburn has a 'move' tab on the top right hand side that allows you to control the laser cutter from within the program. This panel allows you to specify precise movements of the cutting head which makes testing incredibly simply.
Place a ruler horizontally under the X axis of the laser cutter, align the red dot with 0mm. Set lightburn up to move the head a distance of 20mm, move the cutting head led and check that the dot is now on the 20mm mark of the ruler, simples. You can repeat this for the Y axis and the Z axis by placing the ruler vertically against a fix point on the laser and moving the bed up along side it.
With this testing complete we're able to move on to some proper cutting and files. The laser cutter is now ready to run under Lightburn using the new Ruida controller. The next part to this series will detail some of the tweaks and changes required to get back to a fully functional machine, hopefully that won't take quite as long to write up.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 21 January 2019 01:09 PM
07 January 2019
A friend wanted some stamps to ink a pattern onto some material she's working with. We weren't sure if wood or rubber would be better for it so I cut a set of both. The backs were finished will little handles to make them easier to stamp, I left it all unglued so it would be easier to post.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 07 January 2019 11:15 PM
04 January 2019
|The RDC6442G controller from Ruida|
This is going to be quite an image heavy post describing the rewiring needed to convert between the Leetro controller and the Ruida controller. It is also pretty straight forward on the old Just Add Sharks laser cutters because all of the wires are clearly labelled. The controller was prepared in the previous step
in order to make this conversion process as smooth as possible.
|The Leetro (Pad03) panel on the left and the Ruida panel on the right|
|The view from inside the laser looking up at the control panel|
The control panel is an easy place to start, both panels have just a single cable that runs down to the controller, both panels are a very similar size, with the Ruida panel being slightly smaller underneath so it will fit in the hole left behind easily. The Pad03 panel clips into place so you'll need to reach up inside the machine to work the clips loose. The cable runs down the inside of the laser and is cable tied onto mounting points inside the metal work.
|The bundle of wiring loom cable tied into place|
There tends to be a lot of excess wiring on these machines, a 2m long wire will service 10 different models of laser so the long wires tend to get doubled back on themselves and cable tied into a bundle. Before cutting your cables loose consider wrapping them loosely with a new cable tie. This will keep the bundle in some semblance of order and once the new cable has been passed through the bundle it will be very easy to tighten all the ties quickly.
|The Ruida panel in it's new home on top of the laser|
|The Leetro controller in place next to the stepper drivers|
In my machine, the Leetro controller is mounted vertically in the side of the cabinet, I'm able to use the same mounting holes to hold the Ruida controller in place. They're a little wide but the Ruida can rest on the bottom screws and the top screws stop it from falling forward.
|The laser connection on the Leetro controller|
|The laser connection on the Ruida controller|
The first connector I rewired was the laser control connector. It's a simple 3 wires and all are clearly labelled.
- GND from the Leetro becomes GND on the Ruida, this is the base voltage level for the electronics.
- LAS becomes L-On1 on the Ruida, this turns the actual laser beam on/off
- DA becomes LPWM1, this is the amount of power to use for the laser beam as a PWM signal.
- WP1 is the water protection input, I have temporarily left this unconnected
- L-AN1 is the analogue output to control the power of the laser beam, see below
There are two options for setting the power of the laser beam. PWM which is a modulated square wave and potentially more precise and an analogue signal where the voltage varies between 0 and 5V. I have chosen the PWM
pin from the Ruida, a while back I upgraded my High Voltage Power supply to something that works better with a PWM input. The standard power supply on these machines should be able to accept either input.
The Ruida controller has the option to drive two different laser beams, CN6 is an identical connector that would connect to a second high voltage power supply.
|X & Y stepper motor connectors on the Leetro|
|X,Y & Z connectors on the Ruida Controller|
The next set of connectors that's easy to convert are the X,Y and Z stepper motor connectors. A stepper motor requires two digital inputs, the first tells the motor which direction to turn and the second instructs to motor to move a single step.
- DC5V from the Leetro becomes +5V on the Ruida, this is the upper voltage level for the signal.
- PULX/Y/Z becomes PUL on the corresponding X/Y/Z connector
- DIRX/Y/Z becomes DIR on the corresponding X/Y/Z connector
With the X,Y and Z connectors switched over it would be possible to drive the axis on the laser but it's best to add in the limit switches for the next step. These need a little bit of rerouting to connect to the new controller. When remaking the wires it's useful to have a wire end crimp tool
, this allows you to put ferrules back on the wires, keeping it looking professional.
|The Leetro controller has 3 wires for limit switches but most aren't used anway|
The leetro controller only really uses two wires for each axis, one goes to the limit switch and one returns from it. It doesn't really matter which way round these two go but they are consistently coloured with blue as GND. There are several other wires but these are technically redundant for both setups.
|The Leetro controller has the Z+ limit and the Z Origin connected to the same switch|
|The Ruida controller doesn't have the Z Origin so only the Z+ limit is connected|
On the Z axis the green wire for ELZ+ was removed and the label switched to the remaining brown wire.
- GND from the Leetro becomes GND on the Ruida, this is the base voltage level for the electronics.
- ELZ+ becomes LmtZ+, this signifies when the Z axis has reached it's limit switch
|A common GND signal for both the X and the Y axis|
The X and the Y axis follow a similar convention, all of the extraneous wires were removed. CN4 on the Ruida only has one GND connection though so the GND wires for both the X and Y were routed into this pin with a new ferrule connector.
- GND from the Leetro becomes GND on the Ruida, this is the base voltage level for the electronics.
- ELX- becomes LmtX-, and relates to the min X position and origin point.
- ELY- becomes LmtY-, and relates to the min Y position and origin point.
That is all of the wiring required to make the laser cutter functional again. I powered up the laser cutter in stages, deliberately leaving the laser power connector disconnected until I was sure that the XY and Z axis were functioning properly and moving the right amounts. In the next post I'll talk through that process and some of the minor kinks I discovered along the way.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 04 January 2019 10:04 PM
03 January 2019
Christmas is a very relaxed affair in our house, we used to run around between in laws but now we just head to some local friends for the day, this means we get time to play with presents and do things like making last minute gifts. I held out hope right until Christmas eve but Kim's present just didn't arrive so I took the opportunity to make it myself on Christmas day.
This necklace is actually a ring keeper, you can hook a wedding ring over the necklace without actually taking the necklace off (check out the video below). It's made from 2 layers of 0.8mm ply, glued and sanded so it's only 1.5mm thick but it's strong enough not to break, it actually has 6 layers of birch in that 1.5mm. The ring keeper idea was inspired by Morag Hickman
and the clasp inspired by Shiny Shiny
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 03 January 2019 10:39 PM
02 January 2019
Sometimes I find it hard giving all the widgets and doohickeys meaningful names. I like Christmas foil decorations but this year I've been struggling to keep them hanging from the ceiling, they just keep pulling through the blu tack. Most things can be fixed with a laser cutter though, literally 90 seconds of drawing and cutting and I now have a handful of gadgets cut from 2mm perspex scrap. The string from the foil wraps through the gaps in the disk and the whole disk presses into the blu tack. In theory this should spread the weight load and stop them falling off the ceiling. It's working so far.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 02 January 2019 08:19 PM
01 January 2019
My friend Duncan has started making beautiful hand crafted kitchen knives
and he asked me to cut some boxes for him. He even sent me a base box to work with because time was short, I made a few tweaks and included a flip top lid on the top of the box and sent them back in time for Christmas. The wood was stained on both sides and I tried some different colours. All in all a very satisfying collaboration and I'm sure the next set of boxes will be perfect.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 01 January 2019 02:53 PM
23 December 2018
The first step towards upgrading a leetro based machine is to acquire a replacement controller. I opted for the Ruida 6442G
to make it the same as my other machine. I bought my controller through ali express from Cloudray
, it's currently $266 USD for delivery to the UK it took 3 weeks to arrive and cost around £250 GBP once customs and duty had been paid on it. I would probably recommend buying it through cloudray ebay
instead, it's £260 but it'll arrive within a few days. Cloudray
is my current part supplier, they've been pretty good so far. A delay suited me nicely with the Christmas rush on fractal puzzles
and other products.
The kit of parts as it arrived was very complete. The controller and the screen were protected with bubble wrap and anti-static bags. Other parts include two USB cables to go from the controller to the edge of the laser, one for USB sticks, one for the laptop connection. An Ethernet extension to go the the edge of the laser and all the screw terminal connectors for the internal parts. Additionally there is an Ethernet cable to go from the edge of the laser to the network and a USB cable to go from the laser to the laptop.
The internal USB cable is Type B plug to Type A socket which means you need a Type A plug to Type A plug between the laser and the PC. This is a personal bug bear as A to A cables are not advisable in the USB standard and can be looped back into itself in a USB hub and cause electrical problems, but it appears to be a fairly common laser connection. My laser only has one USB hole currently cut into the case so I'll be using it for the USB storage connection and temporarily connecting straight from my laptop to the laser using a 3m A to B cable (the same as it currently does). I'll buy a B to B extension
when I get round to cutting out more holes and ultimately I'll be using the Ethernet anyway.
As mentioned previously it's a busy time of year and I wanted to minimise disruption to my workhorse laser so I found a separate 24V power supply and connected the controller and display on my workbench. This allows me to communicate to the controller, through the USB, from my laptop so I can configure the system before I connect it to my laser. Because this is a machine upgrade I already have the machine settings in my Leetro configuration files, it's just a matter of matching the two things up.
X and Y Axis Settings
The X axis settings are the easiest place to start.
- The maximum travel of the axis is something you should already know, in this case 900mm.
- The step length is the same as the pulse unit and it is the distance the axis travels in a single laser step.
- I prefer my laser cutter to 'home' to the zero position upon start up so I've ticked enable homing.
- The direction polarity should be true, to ensure that the laser moves to the right hand edge when it's trying to 'home'.
The other settings may not exactly have direct equivalents but the figures can at least be used for guidance. The Ruida controller splits into two sets of speeds and accelerations, these are for when the machine is doing work or for when it's being driven manually, in which case it can be a little faster and less accurate.
- The maximum speed would be equivalent to the quick speed and determines how fast the machine can move. On the leetro this was set to 200mm/s and this value refers to both axis, I've set it to 350mm/s on the Ruida because it only refers to the lighter and faster X axis.
- The maximum acceleration is set to 700mm/s^2, this would equate to the work-acc on the leetro machine which used to be 500mm/s^2. I'm keen to see how well the machine copes running slightly faster.
- The jump off speed is how fast the laser moves when it starts, if this is too high you get a big 'clonk' as the head tries to go from stationary to moving instantly. I've copied the start speed value, of 3mm/s from the Ruida controller.
- There is a second set of Jump off speed and acceleration values, these refer to the axis speeds when moving the laser manually using the keys on the keypad. I've kept them the same as the other values, the big difference between the Leetro and the Ruida is the slow speed control when moving the laser manually, the top speed is already fast enough for me.
- The E-Stop acceleration refers to how fast the laser slows down and stops in case of an emergency. I left this with the default value, I'm used to the Leetro coming to a dead stop, skipping steps and ruining your workpiece in an estop scenario, if the Ruida comes to a managed stop then it's already an improvement over the Leetro.
The Y axis settings are going to be very similar to the X axis, on the Leetro controller they share the same values. I've taken the liberty of setting up X and Y slightly different on the Ruida. The Y axis has more mass because it has to move the X axis around, I have set the maximum speed and acceleration to closer to the original values.
Z Axis Settings
The Z axis has similar settings to the other axis but much slower, the Z motors have to move the entire bed up and down so can't achieve the same top speeds. The Z axis on my old machine has always been quite clunky and jumpy so I'll take this opportunity to adjust the values. The acceleration values on the Leetro controller don't really add up anyway, if you hold the keypad down the laser moves into a fast speed
- The Z axis on my machine can drop down 400mm into the machine body.
- The Z axis start speed is much higher than the other axis, that's probably what makes it clunky. I've dropped this down to 1mm/s, I also reduced the top speed to 8mm/s.
Empirically these changes to the Z axis make it seem a little slow but if I use Lightburn to drive the Z axis I can specify a distance to go. I'll only be using the keys to go up and down short distances while I manually focus the laser and I can use the Lightburn controls to go down further if I want to engrave on the top of a box.
Cut and Engraving Parameters
Lasercut 5.3 has settings for cut and engrave parameters but they don't really match the Ruida settings. They refer to things like corner acceleration and ranges of engraving accelerations. The Ruida settings appear to be much simpler but I assume the controller works out the more complex values from these simple inputs. I took these settings from the previous X and Y settings and a combination of the default values.
That's as far as it goes for setting up the controller without attaching it to the machine. There were a few other changes that needed to be made once it was connected to the machine but at this stage the controller is ready to be attached to the laser cutter. In my next blog post I'll talk about wiring this thing up to the the machine and occupying the place of the Leetro controller.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 23 December 2018 09:34 PM
21 December 2018
Over the last year there has been a steady rumbling in the laser cutting communities and significant amounts of love being voiced towards a new piece of software on the market. Lightburn
is layout, editing, and control software for your laser cutter. It's software that talks directly to your laser cutter and replaces the slightly dubious and buggy software that the controllers are shipped with. It's in very active development and all the reviews are good, it got to the point where I could no longer ignore it and I felt I should check it out.
Initial investigation of the screenshots show a familiar interface, all well polished and functional. Lots of additional buttons compared to the standard Lasercut 5.3 interface I'm used to. It appeared to have better control over the laser cutter itself as well as support for material libraries, camera control and sensible move functions. It imports svg files directly, so no more faffing around converting to dxf first and there is a free trial
version so you can make sure everything works before you commit to a purchase.
With all these good things going for it, you may be wondering why I haven't been using it all year. Well there is only one minor drawback, it does not connect to the Leetro controller. There are a couple of commercial projects
that talk to the leetro controller and even an attempt to reverse engineer the software
but most of these projects seem to have stalled and Leetro
were never exactly helpful when we had problems with their system so I suspect it may be some time,if ever, before Lightburn can include it in their list. All is not lost though, the MPC6535 is an obsolete controller anyway and there are much better options available.
If you rely on a laser cutter for your day to day business, the idea of taking it out of action just to test a new controller is a little bit daunting. Every few days you'll have to put the old one back in to clear your workload. You may remember that in September I started importing these new machines
for people. These machines came with a Ruida controller
, as requested by me, and that finally allowed me to check out Lightburn
for real and I was totally blown away.
The software starts with a familiar feel, allowing me to quickly set up layers and operations for cutting. Sending them to the laser was easy and I was cutting in no time
at all. I ran into a little bug with the calibration of my new machine which caused the engraving to be misaligned and it took me just a few seconds to find how to fix it in the support documentation
. Lightburn is fantastic and I'm definitely sold, all the new machines after that have been imported with Ruida controllers.
It should be noted that Lightburn
isn't solely responsible for vast improvement on the new laser. The new machine was totally built for speed with an RF tube so the hardware is significantly better. The Ruida controller is also significantly better than the Leetro controller, the colour screen and UI makes controlling jobs and operation much easier (no more pressing the esc key before using the keypad). Lightburn
is the front end of the system, it's the piece of software you use all the time and it is good.
It might seem unfair that I'm comparing my old laser running Leetro\Lasercut against my new fancy system running Ruida\Lightburn but this blog post is really just an introduction to a series of blog posts. I liked the new system so much I decided to upgrade my big old machine too and like most of my projects I thought it would be sensible to bring you all along for the ride.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 21 December 2018 08:56 PM
19 December 2018
Bit of a semi complete project this one but it was something quick I did this morning. A friend wanted a score card flip board, 5 rounds, scores 1-10. I knocked this set together and looped in some number cards quickly to show it functioning. The cards will ultimately be laminated and I don't have a laminator so it's been sent out with printed number sheets to be cut and laminated at the other end. Hopefully they'll do a better job with the hole punch than I have done here.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 19 December 2018 08:21 PM
14 December 2018
Another cake related request, I made a set of three plastic cake stands of various heights and diameters. I didn't photo the other because they were still in the protective plastic. As you can see, these all had a scout theme using their fleur de lis logo. The tabs for the verticals were cut in the wrong place so the whole thing has to be wedged together slightly but this has the advantage that, once together, the stands are very sturdy.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 14 December 2018 11:22 AM
13 December 2018
I made this trumpet and cornet cake toppers by request this week. They're scaled appropriately to each other and cut from Gold and Silver mirror acrylic. Only the trumpet will stand upright in the cake which is why it has the additional spikes (both still have their protective cover on for posting).
Sorry it's been a bit quiet around here recently, I've had a busy month with Christmas orders and Craft fairs. I keep meaning to write some more technical articles but it's tricky finding the time, hopefully the new year will bring some new enthusiasm, I have plans.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 13 December 2018 08:39 PM
05 December 2018
I was contacted to make some stencils for fabric painting, much the same as this super massive stencil
. These are just A4 sized test pieces with an intricate triweave pattern and a diamond pattern. I believe they may be destined for a Batwoman cosplay.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 05 December 2018 02:26 PM
18 November 2018
Another build for 'From Shadows', this time they wanted a device that could be used to track down other devices scattered around the field. I came up with a solution that used the ESP8266 to create a wifi network (nodes not shown) and these gadgets that scanned for wifi networks and reported the RSSI. The closer you are the stronger the signal strength and you know you're heading in the right direction.
The gadgets were supposed to have a modern mystical feel so I made them from fluorescent perspex, the sheet was sprayed with black and the details cut through. The whole front panel was lit from behind with UV led's so the glow only shone through the cuts. I also felt it would be good if the gadgets had to be held in both hands, under the thumb prints are two tactile switches which need to be firmly pressed to keep the device on. I think this might have caused a bit of thumb ache from the players while they were initially looking for the nodes, it certainly made taking a photo of the screen difficult.
The screens displayed information about the nodes being searched for. When the node wasn't in range the gadgets showed the internal time (this proved to be very useful as the gadget time drifted away from the real world time). When the nodes were in range the gadgets showed four 'readings' of mystical energy, but only at specific times of the day (hence the rtc). I think it worked moderately well, the batteries lasted the duration in both gadgets and nodes and readings were supplied at near enough the right times.
The whole thing was vacuum formed again for waterproofing and sturdiness.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 18 November 2018 08:32 PM
14 November 2018
I delved into the realms of a Cyberpunk LRP system this weekend just gone. It was good fun and there was lots of opportunity to make techy objects for the game. This game featured airsoft weaponry so strength is another issue to consider The first item is a shield unit, energy shields take an hour to recharge once they've served their purpose. This unit times the hour for you, leaving one less thing to remember while you're running around doing everything else.
The unit is made from a mixture of acrylic and wood, the whole thing has been vacuum formed with a sheet of HIPS plastic to make it waterproof and robust to being shot. A large clip on the reverse makes it easy to attach to other pieces of kit (quite a lot of people wore military gear with lots of webbing/straps). The lower silver panel is actually a push button, it was intended to require a firm squeeze to operate to prevent it from being triggered accidentally.
A rotating ring of blue LED's shows that the shield is in operation, one button push and the unit switches to orange recharging mode. In this mode the whole rings lights slowly over the course of an hour, when the ring is half lit then you know it's been 30 minutes. After an hour it switches back to blue rotating lights.
The unit is powered with a rechargeable battery bank
, the batteries were tested before the weekend and managed to power the unit for a whole 72 hours so 48 hours at the event should be fine. Once home again it can be plugged into any USB socket to recharge it.
I didn't actually get any video of the final unit in operation but here is the prototype which will give you the idea.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 14 November 2018 12:02 PM
12 November 2018
I took these strandbeest kits to EMF camp
, I blogged about them coming soon
and I've been selling them at craft fairs and on my webstore
. I just realised that I've never explicitly stated that they're available now. Get there while there is lots of time for Christmas, rather than two weeks before and we're all left hoping the postal service does it's job.
The kit features the ESP8266 micro controller so it's a great little project for learning about those. The device starts it's own wifi network and then serves up a webpage to your browser which you can use to steer the walker around. It's open source software so you can modify it as you require, but the Wemos D1 is supplied, tested and programmed, so even if you don't know anything about software you can make it work.
If you've already got a plastic kit then you can purchase the electronics on their own as an upgrade.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 12 November 2018 04:23 PM
I've been doing a few craft fairs recently and wanted something a little bit more 'gifty'. These 'shut the box' games have turned out really well and have been a surprise hit with kids too. The concept of rolling a number on the dice and then flipping down a number of tabs equal to that total is very similar to the 'number bonds
' they are being taught at school (7=1+6 or 2+5 or 7+0). The tabs have little pins that sit into the vertical bars and the lid works the same way with the walls of the box. They're up in my etsy store now
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 12 November 2018 12:37 PM
03 November 2018
I found some images of some very overdue projects, these projects came in while I was in the middle of my kickstarter fulfilment
and absolutely sucked up every last moment of my time. I even ended up taking a pile of parts on holiday with me just to get them completed in time, definitely a mistake I won't be repeating. It's a collection of 20 owl heads
, and 55 remote control cars
, 200 hours of work with a 4 week deadline, with one week on holiday and kids home for the holidays. :(
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 03 November 2018 10:44 PM
I had a local craft fair this weekend, I wanted to add a few extra/new items to my range so that my stall would be very different from last time. I've seen lots of variations on this wine box so I thought I would make my own version. The living hinges at the top allow the sides to be pulled close and the lid closed, it also a great place to put a handle. The fretwork patterns down the sides make them unique to me as well as the custom labels attached to the side. (svg here
I didn't sell very many and I'm not sure any were going to be used as wine bottle boxes, one lady wanted to put plants in it and another was going to put fairy lights in hers. Neither wanted the the custom labels so I'm pleased they were only held on with blue tak. It's definitely given me food for thought with the next craft faire looming.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 03 November 2018 09:48 PM
28 October 2018
By which I mean Halloween of course, I seem to have missed a few of the previous years
but now that the kids can carve their own pumpkins it was fun to do it again.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 28 October 2018 09:25 PM
27 October 2018
I've read a lot about the two different methods over the years and I've always had my own opinions about the subject but now I actually have two different lasers with two different red dot methods I feel like I can publically add something to the discussion based on my own experience.
The red dot on a laser cutter is a single point of light that shines down onto the work piece to show you were the laser cutter is going to cut. It makes it a lot easier to line up scraps of material with where the laser intends to perform a cut. Because the laser head is cone shaped you can technically predict where the laser will be and some of the really cheap K40 lasers do away with the red dot entirely, but I think it's always worth paying a little bit more money to have it included.
There are two distinct methods for putting a red dot on the work piece, the first involves fixing a small laser diode to the cutting head to shine directly down onto the material. Most of the affordable laser cutters (<£5k) appear to use head mounted red dot lasers. The laser diode needs power which means routing wires up to the cutting head but you should never purchase a laser cutter without air assist so there should always be a conduit to run the wires along. The diode adds weight to the cutting head which will reduce the maximum speed of the machine.
The diode is aligned by setting the correct focal height of the laser cutter and firing a test dot onto surface of some material, the laser diode is then physically moved until it points at that mark. The diode may drift over time but on your own machine it's easy enough to remember that the dot is a few mm to the left of the cutting beam. One of the advantages of this method is that the dot will move left or right as the Z axis goes up and down, because of this you can get a pretty good estimation of focal height by ensuring that the dot is directly below the air assist cone. Some laser cutters actually come with two separate diodes, when the dots are in the same location then the Z height is set correctly (at least until the diodes drift a little).
The second approach is to use a beam combiner, a 45 degree partial reflector lens is inserted into the cutting beam path, at this intersection a small red diode laser is shone into the beam path at right angles where as the main IR beam passes straight through the lens without being affected by it. The two beams then take the same path via mirror 1,2 and 3, down to the material. The whole unit remains stationary at the back of the laser cutter so it's easier to wire in and access. The laser head is simplified by only having to have air assist connected to it, it's lighter too meaning it can move faster for engraving.
Beam combiners seem to be the ideal solution and lots of people swear by them, there is an extra lens to clean but that is a trivial task and easily done with routine maintenance. The suggestion is that the red laser dot can be used to align the invisible IR beam but now that I've started using mine I would dispute that. The red dot actually led me into a false sense of security, because the red beam was right in the middle of the target area I concluded that the cutting beam but also be. When I took some time to actually investigate the system I discovered that the two beams were not perfectly aligned to each other.
The picture above actually shows five dots (I should have taken a picture of just the two). The red dot is obvious, the other four dots are alignment marks from the four different corners of the bed. As you can see no two dots are in the same position, the cutting beam is not aligned correctly and as you can see the red dot is not actually close to any burn mark. The red dot and the cutting beam still make it down onto the material so the assumption was that everything was working as intended. I aligned the cutting beam in just a few minutes (there are lots of guides online to help with that) but it took a further 20 minutes to get the red dot into the same position. The problem is that the red dot has to enter the combiner at the exact same location as the cutting beam as well as the correct orientation so that the beam follows the same angle. The red diode just isn't mounted well enough with enough adjustment to allow that to happen (a better bracket sounds like a future project to me).
My overwhelming feeling is that if it takes longer to align the red dot than it does to align the cutting beam then it's really not a very elegant solution. There is also a question about the beam combiner absorbing some power from the laser beam and if that effects the amount of power actually reaching the head (another future experiment I guess). That still leaves me on the fence which is a boring conclusion, it's probably best to work with what you have because it's a bit of a faff to change it.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 27 October 2018 07:56 PM
23 October 2018
In the near future I'm going to be doing a few more cyberpunk events so while it's probably a neon dystopia these things all share the same issues. Techno gadgets need to glow/flash/move or other things for a whole weekend in a place where access to electricity may be limited and changing batteries round all the time can be a pain.
I've recently picked up several of these USB powerbanks from Poundland
(worth noting that they are £2). The teardown review
was relatively positive so I thought it was worth a try. The first blinky LED project I've got running on it has currently been going for 48 hours non stop so I've made the decision to build one of these into the project rather than AA batteries (project details in due course). It's always worth designing with low power in mind and there are a whole bunch of tricks
you can do to reduce the power consumption but I'm looking forward to getting these into projects.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 23 October 2018 02:08 PM
21 October 2018
My friend Ed was making these pancake pawns on his 3D printer for sale on Etsy
(not available currently). They're cute and he's got a wide range of them now so I wondered if I couldn't make something similar on the laser cutter which would be faster to produce. The laser cut version were definitely faster and had the option of adding colour but they're a little bit large and I never got round to shrinking them down to see how small they could go (The new laser would probably excel at the details though). It's another one of those projects that would go a lot further if I was actually interested in D&D myself :)
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 21 October 2018 10:29 AM
18 October 2018
I made a second hive set
for a friend, this time I used Indian Rosewood dye
for the second colour. I like the colour in general and think it will make a great addition for my puzzles
and other items. In this case though the colour is a bit too subtle (after sanding) and I would have liked something stronger. It's another nice set complete though and a gift for a friend.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 18 October 2018 07:00 PM
17 October 2018
I have two different treasure chests for Vale, a small one
where I keep all of my own personal resources and a larger one
for the whole camp. There are 5 of each different resource but 6 different crystals, I built 5 sections across for crystals because the pure black kind were quite rare and had alternate uses (these were kept in their own box
). Without going into two many details, the secondary use of these black crystals has all but gone from the game and now they are as common as the others so I have rejigged the layout of my boxes to make room for them. Thankfully the upper three crystal types are significantly narrow than the others so I was able to fit three rows into the space of two and the boxes remain nice and neat without significant revamping.
I also took the opportunity to put a false flaw into the bottom of the big box. They're more common but we still only end up with 20 max and they never fill the section completely.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 17 October 2018 10:49 AM
16 October 2018
I made some quick and simple boxes for Vale this weekend. They were designed to hold a few items at each of the nodes around site. The lid is slightly oversized to make them water resistant, which given the weather was a sensible idea. I decided to have a quick doodle on the lids though so that each one would be unique and because I love the way that line artwork draws on the laser I took a video of it doing it's thing. (I should really be doing this on the new laser but I'm still getting up to speed with it and sometimes it's faster to go with what you know)
I accidentally doubled up all of the designs when exporting to dxf and lasercut doesn't figure to point this out as a problem. I stopped the cut after 2 patterns and reloaded the whole thing. Each box lid had a little bracket in the corners to stop it from sliding off and wedge it into place.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 16 October 2018 10:45 PM
Bit of an odd one today – while helping my dad clear our some of my old books we found this pamphlet from 1986 – “The Story of Pye Wireless” by Gordon Bussey. I can’t find any other references to it on the web, and it seems well researched with some nice photos. So, to make it more widely available I’ve scanned it and made a copy available.
by Iain at 16 October 2018 07:26 PM
09 October 2018
EMF Camp always throws up lots of interesting opportunities and discussions. Apparently in the world of DIY cosmetics there is a shortage of presses for powder compacts. I laser cut a few samples from my acrylic off cuts with varying 'gap' sizes between the tin and the press. The downside to EMF is that I have no idea if these were actually any good for purpose but it was an interesting morning and discussion anyway.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 09 October 2018 09:23 PM
08 October 2018
One of the EMF projects that didn't make it to completion were these edge lit badges. It uses a similar technique to my own EMF badge
(black spray paint over fluorescent perspex) except this time the UV led and coin cell is built into the badge. The reason it didn't get to completion is because the led needs a hole all the way through the badge but the LED has to be covered otherwise the eye can't see the subtle fluorescing (the LED is too bright). The prototype used a piece of black tape but it's not exactly an elegant solution. I also tried to cut the whole first, then engraved through a black label over placed over the whole thing but I couldn't get it to cut clean enough.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 08 October 2018 09:01 PM
07 October 2018
While I was making my wooden crates
I ended up having a conversation with a neighbour about a pallet I was eyeing up. Turns out they were keen to make a Wedding Schedule Pallet
but didn't know how they were going to burn the words on, laser cutter to the rescue.
I ended up fashioning a whole new pallet from half planks, it was easier to cut some planks short to deal with the damage caused by plank removal. Each plank was sanded smooth (but not too smooth because I wanted to keep the rustic effect). Planks were masked with paper tape and then put under the laser. I tried two different lettering effects, the brown letters were simply engraved, the black letters were outlined and then spray painted black through the masking. In the end the plain engraving looked nicer. The whole pallet was engraved really quickly and as you can see the wedding was yesterday so I can post it up today :)
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 07 October 2018 07:48 PM
04 October 2018
I made a lot of different fluorescent coloured badge cases
for EMF camp this year, I always like to keep some of the rarer materials for special people. I made these badge cases for the core team working on the Cybar installation. It's fluorescent orange perspex which has been sprayed with black acrylic paint. The laser then cuts through the paint and into the material so when the material shines under the UV lights the letters glow through the paint.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 04 October 2018 09:08 PM
03 October 2018
A lot of my ESP8266 work creates a local access point rather than connecting directly to the internet so I thought I would release this source code that allows me to do that. It's a simple arrangement that opens an access point and creates a webserver. Once started you're able to change the SSID and Password for the access point from within the browser and if it all goes wrong you can revert to an open network with a known name with a few well timed button pushes. (source here
A lot of my gadgets only use a local access point, I have this fear that if I gave the 'cake owls
' full access to the internet someone will figure out how to hack them remotely and there will be a botnet of cakes before I can stop it. The devices also need to be user friendly because I can't assume anything about the technical skills of the people using them. The admin web page provides a friendly way to input a new SSID and Password for the network but. If the user forgets these values then the user can restart the device within a specific time frame (indicated by the on board LED) and the device will start a known network with no password.
There are several other wifi managers
that allow the device to connect to home networks as well as start local access points but I needed reduced functionality for my own gadgets.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 03 October 2018 11:23 AM
02 October 2018
I've been meaning to make a set of Hive Game Tiles
for some time, it's quite simple to learn and it's very portable. I intend to introduce new people to the game too so I thought it would be quite useful to have a brief movement hint on the back of each tile too. These tiles were cut from 9mm Poplar ply, stained mahogany for the red tiles and then sanded a coated with some acrylic lacquer. The first red tile was sanded back a bit too hard but once I made all the tiles the same I quite like the look. The insects are engraved and then outlined, the text is just a low power cut using a Hershey font. (svg here
Each tile was sanded to within an inch of it's life using 800grit wet and dry paper, this makes some really fine sawdust that snuck into all the gaps of the tile. After becoming light headed from blowing the sawdust out of the gaps I realised that I now have an airbrush/compressor that can do that for me. I took a video of all the process too because it's quite satisfying to watch.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 02 October 2018 07:00 PM
28 September 2018
Here is the video of my two laser cutters cutting the same tile side by side. It prompted a few people to ask 'how come the 30W tube is much faster than the 100W tube?'
I picked the new laser cutter
based upon speed. It had a few specification stats that suggested it was fast and the photos showed a fairly lightweight head etc. Now that I have the laser in my possession I can see all the design decisions that make it fast. In the case of these Carcassonne tiles
I only need the full power of the laser when I'm cutting the tiles out.
The low power engraving lines are done with minimal power, only 8% of the 30W tube. The metal RF tube gives me much more control over the low end power, the head can fly around at 100mm/s, twice the speed of the larger machine. The engraving can be done at 1000mm/s, again nearly twice the speed and empirical evidence suggests that it is actually moving at that speed.
The 30W laser can easily handle the 3mm poplar ply wood at a sensible 35mm/s, the 100W machine can do it at >50mm/s. I have to use the > symbol because at 50mm/s the laser head is moving at it's maximum speed, the laser power is only set to 50W. If the laser head tries to move any faster it will occasionally skips steps while moving and if the cuts are misaligned to the engraving the whole tile is ruined.
All of these tweaks make the whole thing a lot faster. The other minor thing I've been asked about is why I cut the grass blades before engraving the grass area. The laser beam is focused to the surface of the material, when I cut on the engraved areas the laser beam is slightly out of focus. Doing it this way round keeps everything nice and crisp. A secondary advantage is that the engraving takes away all the smoke marks made by the low power cut.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 28 September 2018 08:11 PM
27 September 2018
I finally dialled in my new laser cutter
this evening, I had some minor issues with the bidirectional engraving lines not quite lining up. I also spent some time testing out speeds and powers to see exactly what it's capable of, now I just need to figure out how to take better pictures in the evening.
The tile on the left was cut on the old laser cutter (100W glass, 600x900mm) and the tile on the right was cut on the new machine (30W metal, 300x500mm). Both tiles are actually very comparable, the 100W obviously makes deeper and darker lines. The engraving colours are close enough and with a little more effort could be identical. The 100W slightly breaks through the sheet on the corners where the head has to slow down to change directions. There are more cut marks on the underside but that's because the 100W honeycomb is filthy.
Even with these two tiles being so comparable there is one hugely significant difference. The old laser cutter cut the tile in 2 mins 13 seconds and the new laser cutter cut the tile in 58 seconds. That's over twice as fast, tomorrow I shall video a side by side comparison of the two cutting.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 27 September 2018 09:07 PM
25 September 2018
I use the Wemos D1 Mini
for all of my wifi based projects, such as the remote control Strandbeest
and the Stranger things light board
. It's a powerful little board that exposes the ESP8266 via a USB to Serial converter and it can be set up to run from the Arduino environment
. It's also really cheap and can be bought
for less than $2.50 so if you want to make something remote controlled it's a bit of a no brainer. The trouble is that the board doesn't have any mounting holes so it can be hard to attach to a project.
While looking to affix my board securely to my projects I realise that there was a gap to the left and right of the ESP8266, either side of the antennae that didn't appear to have any copper or tracks running through the area. The board is only a 2 layer design so it should safe to drill directly through the PCB and use this as a solid fixing point. A quick test later on a sacrificial board showed that this was indeed possible and although adding screws next to the antennae may restrict the maximum range, the maximum distance I require is 25m and it seems to still run fine. I used a 2mm drill bit to make the holes and I routinely use M2 x 6mm machine screws to fix the boards to my projects.
Once some suitable mounting holes were identified I had the problem of drilling holes in dozens of boards for my kits. I've talked about jigs
a lot before and this is no exception, making a jig to hold the boards in place and show me where to drill the holes is the best way to ensure each board will fit into any kit. It's also the fastest way to drill 100 boards in a single sitting.
I started off with a single board design, by flipping the wemos upside down and I can use the ESP8266 board and metal can to align it into the jig. This ensures that even if the ESP board is slightly offset the holes will still be equally spaced on either side of it. I scaled my jig to eventually hold four boards at a time, allowing me to drill more holes between changing boards over. I'm sharing the files for the jigs so that other people can drill similar mounting holes should they need them (svg here
) (dxf here
Here are some assembly photos for the 4 board jig, I added some feet onto the bottom using scraps of wood but I have now included some feet into the spaces cut from the jig.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 25 September 2018 01:34 PM
24 September 2018
Given that I have to clean my extractor fan every six months I'm surprised that I can't find a post about it. There is a grill over the front of the extractor fan which clogs surprisingly quickly when cutting wood but this time round, cleaning the grill didn't seem to improve the extraction so I had to dig a little deeper.
Inside the extractor fan is a large impeller blade, this sucks are in to the middle of the fan and flings it out to the edges, it rotates around the edge of the fan and then out the hole at the bottom. The smoke contains vaporised wood particles which is surprisingly sticky, this coats every surface inside the laser and eventually reduces the efficiency of the fan.
The impeller blade is held in with a single bolt in the middle. The motor shaft and corresponding hole in the impeller are 'keyed' so that they turn together. Do not lose this key when you take the blade out. With the blade removed it is a lot easier to clean up the blade and areas of the housing that are normally under the blade. I just ran a wire brush over everything until it looked clean enough. I hoovered the dust out at regular intervals.
As you can see once the whole thing has been cleaned it looks a lot nicer but more importantly it works a lot better. All that is left to do is close the fan back up and reconnect it all to the laser again. Next time I'm in the machine I'll get a picture of the external grill to show how quickly that clogs.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 24 September 2018 09:48 PM
18 September 2018
My new laser cutter arrived at the start of last week, I feel a little guilty for not posting it sooner especially as I've been teasing it on Twitter all week but here it is, in all it's glory in a single post.
It's a 500x300mm cutting area with a 30W metal RF tube. Everything about this machine is designed for speed and in quick initial testing I've managed to take it up to 1000mm/s and it seems to run fine without skipping steps.
The laser head is super light weight and the belts are nice and thick which helps to avoid bounce when changing direction.
Mirror 1 has a beam combiner for the red dot light, another bit of weight off the gantry.
Proper linear screws on the Z axis make for very smooth vertical motion and inductive limit switches on all axis to avoid mechanical wear.
Finally the laser itself is a 30W metal RF tube. There are a lot of websites which offer information about Glass vs Metal tubes
, now I have both I can compare to see which is best.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 18 September 2018 10:26 PM
16 September 2018
Saving my best for last were these signs that were mounted on the containers to indicate who was exhibiting inside them. They were engraved onto Fluorescent Acrylic so that the caught the UV lights positioned all around Cybar. My initial intention was to side light them with my own UV led strip but that didn't arrive in time so I was lucky that there was enough UV left to go round. The photographers clearly liked them too and there are some amazing shots floating round out there.
There were 6 signs in all, I could swear I've seen a 'puzzle hunt' image somewhere and my own 'chop shop' sign which didn't fluoresce quite as much as the others due to it being blue.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 16 September 2018 05:24 PM
15 September 2018
Last on my list of big props for EMF Camp are these pair of central reservation barriers
they're quite common in cyberpunk street depictions so I thought it would be cool. More Sheets of MDF were cut down to the right sizes, a jig saw was used to cut out the end angles. The sides were reinforced with pallet wood to give it strength, in case people decided to sit on them. The Polybius logo was embossed on each side using a router with a 45 degree bit. The paint effects were achieved by applying successive layers of grey paints with a paint scraper rather than a paint brush. The darker colour around the base was spread using a rag and wiped down to blend with the greys. Obviously the orange Polybius was added using spray paint and a laser cut stencil.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Raynsford) at 15 September 2018 06:40 PM
14 September 2018
In the many glass cabinets at Cyberdog were lots of laser cut acrylic bangles and spectacles. I thought it would be cool to make some of these things up at camp but in the end I spent the whole time cutting badge cases (literally 12 hours a day). I did make this one prototype though which somebody loved enough to take home again. The arms were bent using a hot air gun, although I have done 'off focus' laser bending before it's definitely quicker doing it this way.
by email@example.com (Martin Raynsford) at 14 September 2018 01:40 PM