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  1. #1
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    Apr 2020
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    Laser Capabilities with Mach3

    Howdy Folks ...

    I have seen so much advertising for adding a laser to CNC machines. Especially to Mach3. I have a full functioning 4x4 home built CNC. Before I go too far into adding a Laser, I have a basic question:

    Can you engrave a graphic on to a work piece using Mach3? This would normally be a JPG along with text.

    Yes or No would be appreciated with just a little basic reasoning. If it can be done, could you point me to somewhere that has some more info. No one ever seems to mention this aspect of the upgrade.

    Thank you very much in advance.

    Bobby

  2. #2
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    Nov 2008
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    Re: Laser Capabilities with Mach3

    No not in Mach 3. I hear that the combination Mach 4 and Ethernet smooth stepper has some laser functionality.
    There are many controllers for lasers but the combination of a cnc router and laser is a speciality of those all in one machines where the heads change from cutting to laser engraving.
    If you have a cnc router and need a laser then get a laser cutter.


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  3. #3
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    Re: Laser Capabilities with Mach3

    Hi,
    Mach3 does have some laser commands but probably no enough for wht you want.

    Mach4 and an Ethernet SmoothStepper has a full suite of laser commands including vector/rastering for images.

    Craig

  4. #4
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    Re: Laser Capabilities with Mach3

    I used Mach 3 with my laser just on off controlled via the spindle port pin fine for cutting but engraving needs more control. I moved over to UCCNC and it has an excellent laser plugin that does fantastic engraving. Recently there has been a Lightburn Plugin that now makes it much more versatile as it has the correct M10 and M11 commands as well as the Q for power to control the Laser for virtually any file you want and will generate the correct GCode needed.

  5. #5
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    Re: Laser Capabilities with Mach3

    So for the lightburn plug-in, how easy is it to get those M10-M11 codes into the gcode? There could be hundreds in a vector path cut and thousands in a raster scan cut?


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  6. #6
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    Re: Laser Capabilities with Mach3

    Lightburn generates the GCODE with the M10, M11 and Q commands and if you follow this link it explains a little better probably than I can. https://www.forum.cncdrive.com/viewt...hp?f=14&t=3376

  7. #7
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    Re: Laser Capabilities with Mach3

    Thanks but that thread isn’t clear. When it says uccnc is it talking about the software they provide like Mach3 or a card. Which card (driver)? It also says lightburn doesn’t export gcode but uccnc required gcode.
    It also talks about grbl at one point.

    I guess it comes down to what the user plans to do. Operate the laser and X-Y like it’s a laser? Or be able to cut and engrave in the same gcode file? Or switch between laser and milling using the same setup? Lightburn isn’t designed for cnc routers. Uccnc is.

    I still think two machines are best.


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  8. #8
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    Re: Laser Capabilities with Mach3

    Yes UCCNC is software like Mach 3 and one can use various controller cards like ESS Smoothstepper or CNCDRIVES own ones like ETH300. As I said for engraving UCCNC has its own plugin which allows engraving of photos etc. UCCNC can do cutting just like that of MACH 3.
    But when cutting with a laser you need the spindle output to be off whilst it moves to different cutting positions which is where the M10 and M11 commands come in again both Mach 3 and UCCNC can use these you need to have CAM software like Inventor or Fusion 360 post processors to output the Gcode correctly.
    But what I was eluding to was that Lightburn which is probably the most common software used with virtually all Chinese lasers can do so much more and really is a graphic program very similar in look and feel like Inkscape this outputs Gcode directly but until recently was non compatible with UCCNC. There has been a recent update of UCCNC that now has a plugin that manipulates the Gcode that is spat out of Lightburn into the correct M10 and M11 commands needed and for engraving the most important one Q commands to control the power of the laser. You are correct ideally having two machines would be great but if one is tight for space then a laser added to a CNC machine is a great space saving solution and being able to use ones existing CNC table is a great cost saving.

  9. #9
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    Re: Laser Capabilities with Mach3

    Ok understand. You have a normal cnc design and you post it normally using: vectric, fusion or what ever CAM program you like.
    You have an engrave or vector cut you post using lightburn and the special plug-in that adds the Q and M codes to the gcode. Then some header code is added that tells the controller (or control software) what version your going to send it?
    So you probably can’t have the laser positioned off from the spindle and cut with the main spindle and do some laser engraving, all in the same program.

    This question comes more frequently lately. I hope no one gets hurt from an unprotected laser.


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  10. #10
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    Re: Laser Capabilities with Mach3

    Hi,

    Yes UCCNC is software like Mach 3 and one can use various controller cards like ESS Smoothstepper or CNCDRIVES own ones like ETH300.
    This is incorrect...UCCNC software requires one of CNCDrives own motion controllers, the UC100,UC300,UC400 or ABXEE. UCCNC cannot run an Ethernet SmoothStepper.

    CNCDrives do however have a Mach3 plugin and a Mach4 plugin. Thus you could use a UC300 say with either Mach3, Mach4 or UCCNC.

    For laser operations I would not recommend any of the CNCDrives with either variety of Mach, although the evidence is that they perform laser ops well with UCCNC.

    If you are considering Mach then get Mach4 and an Ethernet Smoothstepper, laser ops on Mach3 are rudimentary at best. All development on Mach3 ceased seven years ago
    and while still many use it it should be considered obsolete, it will stay exactly as it is now.

    Craig

  11. #11
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    Re: Laser Capabilities with Mach3

    I looked at Mach4 to Ethernet smooth stepper from a previous post and Mach doing vector cutting looked decent but Mach to engraving seemed way too complicated.

    Since posts like this are mostly about engraving (do to low wattage units) I’m not sure Mach 4 to smoothstepper is ideal. I guess if you had this setup then it’s fine.

    That’s why lightburn looks interesting. It’s designed for engraving. As long as you can use the same controller with other CAM software for routing. I use this lightburn for my laser cutter and it’s very good.


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  12. #12
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    Re: Laser Capabilities with Mach3

    My bad yes Joeaverage is correct the controller card has to be one of CNC drives own as he mentioned. Mach 3 will work with CNC drives card like the ETH300. Here is my DIY CNC with the laser attached and yes one can machine and engrave but not at the same time but all you do is load a different profile for milling versus laser without having to remove ones workpiece. You then have setup different offsets and all works just fine.
    20211002_080548_HDR (2) (960x1280).jpg

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