The new shapeoko 3 is now out, so why don’t we put a laser on it! We have had great success with the original shapeoko 1 and 2 upgrades, so it is not much different. We have had the opportunity to upgrade a Shapeoko3 in the lab and it runs GREAT! It is a really stiff machine and the components are all built well and in the USA! Good job to the guys over at Carbide 3D on putting out another great Shapeoko kit. Now lets get started!
We will walk you through the electronics hook up, the mechanical assembly, and the G Code needed to run. It should take only a few hours total from unboxing to running.
*note* You will need some minor soldering skills to complete the electrical portion of the instructions.
*note* We are upgrading the SMALL version of the shapeoko3 in these instructions. If you want to upgrade the larger versions then you will need to mount the driver on the Z axis differently as they moved the electronics enclosure to the side of the machine.
We have made a custom 3D printed mount for the shapeoko 3 so the laser can fit right next to the Spindle without needing to take the laser off whenever you want to carve. The mounting kit is located in the shop and contains everything you will need to get your laser on the Shapeoko 3 and running. This is in ADDITION to the laser kit you ordered and is specific for the shapeoko 3 CNC. It includes:
- Power Extension Cord: For extending the power to mount the driver on the electronics box.
- Laser Mount: To put in the spindle holder for the laser.
- Laser Mount Screws/Nuts: To mount the laser on the laser mount.
- Laser Driver Mount Screws/Nuts: Screws to attach the driver to the electronics enclosure.
- Zip Ties: To clean everything up for cabling.
- Zip Tie Holder: To place on the Z axis gantry to hold the laser cable in place and out of the way.
If you rather download and print out the mount yourself, then it is located open source here:
For the driver we chose to mount it to the back of the electronics enclosure because it looks a bit cleaner. You don’t need to mount the driver. You can just keep it next to the machine on the table and it will be fine. You just need to zip tie the cables so they don’t interfere with the axis motion.
Electrical Hook Up
The new board from Carbide is closed source, but they have provided some details on how to set it up. You just need to solder a couple of wires to the board, or put in a connector on the space for the header under the FAN connector on the right of the board. The left middle hole is the LASER “+” signal and the bottom right hole is the LASER “-” signal. Give yourself enough wire to go all the way to the laser driver, screw it in the terminals of H2, and you are good to go!
Here is the carbide board with the connections. Connect the laser driver input to the “Laser +” and “Laser -” signals on the Carbide board:
For newer Shapeoko 3 machines, Carbide is shipping new boards. The new PWM connection is:
Here is the back of the laser driver. Connect the carbide board to the control signal input H2 screw terminal. If you have the molex mini fit cable then connect to H4:
Software – Controlling the Laser
To run your shapeoko 3, use whatever software program you want to generate your G Code. You can use our software on our page here or any other G Code generating program.
Your shapeoko 3 probably comes with 0.9 GRBL firmware installed. The G Code needed for the laser is the same as for the spindle:
- M03 (turn laser ON)
- M05 (turn laser OFF)
For power control, you will use the command, “M03 SXXXXX” where XXXXX minimum will be 1400 and maximum will be 12000.
- M03 S12000 (turn on 100%)
- M03 S6000 (turn laser on 50%)
- M03 S1400 (turn laser on minimum)
You can also do basic power control by varying the feedrate with this method. When you are engraving, use the speed of the machine to determine how “dark” the engraving is. Example:
- Faster -> Lighter Engraving
- Slower -> Darker Engraving
Running your laser Shapeoko 3
Your machine came with the Carbide control software to run you machine. Unfortunately, this produces a slight delay for the spindle on command of M03. They are expecting the large spindle to need to speed up before the machine moves. This is not the case for the laser, so it will leave marks at the beginning and ending of your lines.
There are a lot of different “sender” programs that will work with your machine. In the inside of your machine is something called “GRBL” that directs how the machine moves and interprets the G Code file. The G Code file is the “instructions” and GRBL just needs some program to “send” it to the GRBL that is in the firmware of your control board.
Here is the wiki page with all of the sender program available:
We like to use the “universal G Code sender” as it is the standard for the previous shapeoko machine and has a very large user base. It is located here:
Here are some instructions on running the shapeoko3 with Universal G Code Sender:
Picture Engraving Instructions
The firmware that comes with your Shapeoko 3 will not be able to do very good picture engraving. It stops for EVERY pixel to adjust the intensity. Now, this might work if you turn your laser power on your driver really low and you are willing to wait hours for your engraving to finish but I think you might have better things to do with your time. This is why the new firmware was developed so the intensity of the laser can change without stopping for every pixel. So, in order to set up your X carve for photo engraving you will need to follow a few steps.
1. Get PicLaser Software
Buy the software PicLaser in our shop to convert your .BMP file into G Code to run on your machine. You can get the software here:
2. Get PicSender
You will need this sender program because it can handle the large files that are required for picture engraving. It also has a nifty way to save your parameters, which we will discuss next. You can get the program from Picengrave.com here: PICSENDER PROGRAM
3. Save Your GRBL Settings
When you re-flash your Arduino with the new firmware, you will have to re-enter your settings for your machine into the Arduino again. PicSender has a nice feature that allows you to save and load parameter files into your Arduino with one button. Click on the top right orange/yellow “GRBL” button to access this feature.
If you are using Universal G Code Sender then enter the command “$” and press enter. It will show your settings in the console window. Write these down on a piece of paper for later.
4. Put the J Tech Photonics 0.9g GRBL Firmware on your Carbide Control board
This version of firmware was developed so you can do variable intensity photo engravings using the PicLaser software. The G Code generated from the PicLaser program will give a different power level for each pixel of an image. Note that this version will still control your router as well. Everything will still be the same.
To Download our version click here: DOWNLOAD J TECH GRBL 0.9g
You will need an uploader program to load the firmware on the Arduino. We use X Loader and can find it HERE.
*Note* for newer Carbide Boards: When you load the firmware to the board you need to hold down the PROG button on the carbide board. It is located by the limit switches and is labeled “PROG”. If you don’t press this X Loader will hang forever trying to load the firmware.
When using our version of GRBL, the intensity value will be a number between 0 and 255. So the laser command will be:
- Laser ON 100%: M03 S255
- Laser ON 50%: M03 S127
- Laser ON 10%: M03 S25
- Laser OFF: M03 S0 (or M05)
5. Upload your old GRBL settings
Since you just re-flashed your control board, you will need to put your parameters back on it. Hopefully you saved them from step 3! Using PicSender you can load them to your controller with the GRBL button on the top right. If you are using Universal G Code Sender then you can enter them in the command tab. Note, many will be correct. You just need to update the ones that are different from step 3.
You will also have to send the command:
$N1 = F4000
To set the default feedrate.
If you don’t have your settings file, here is ours to use: DOWNLOAD Settings File
6. Use PicLaser to generate your G Code file
Import your image into PicLaser and make sure you have the correct settings. Under the “change settings” tab you will have”
- FeedRate: The speed of the engraving
- Pixel Resolution: This is the spot size of the laser. The laser will be turning on for each pixel, so each pixel needs to be the spot size. For the 2.8W laser I use 0.008″ or (0.2mm).
- Max Laser Value: 255
- Min Laser Value: 0
- Laser OFF command: M5 (or you can use M03 S0)
- Laser Control Command: S (you can put M03 S, but really the firmware is only looking for the S)
Choose if you want it horizontal, vertical, or 45 degree, outlines, and where the file is going to be saved. Make sure you choose GRBL button for the format.
Save your settings. You can look at the original image size and the engraved image size. If you want the engraved image size different, don’t change the pixel resolution but rather change the original image. If you want it larger then start with a larger image. Save your G Code and your are ready to load.
7. Load into PicSender and run
Set your 0,0 location and press send to run the file. Your machine should have a constant feedrate motion without stopping for every pixel. You will need to play around with the feedrate for different materials, but soon you will have the hang of it and making really cool pictures on wood and other materials.
Step By Step Instructions:
We were upgrading the normal size shapeoko3, but we will also cover what is needed for the XL and the XXL machine. We assume you have purchased a laser and driver combo kit and also the mounting kit for the shapeoko3.
Step 1: Assemble the laser to the Shapeoko3 laser mount.
In this step you will put the laser on the laser mount. Note that this also shows the installation of the recommended fan upgrade. We placed our laser on the right side of the spindle mount, so you need to have the holes on the mount on the left when placing the laser on the plastic mount. Put the mount on the bottom, then the fan upgrade and use the #6-32 3/4″ screws to attach it to the mount.
Step 2: Put laser mount on the spindle mount.
Remove the two screws holding the spindle in the holder and place the laser mount in. Put the screws through the mount and tighten with an Allen wrench.
Step 3: Run laser wires to back of electronics cabinet.
Step 3: Remove the electronics circuit board.
Carefully take off the electronics enclosure and remove your circuit board. There will be some thermal paste behind the board, so watch our for it or you might get messy… We labeled all of our connectors so you can easily replace them back once you are done soldering.
Your enclosure and board might look more like this:
Step 4: Solder the Molex Mini Fit laser control cable to the Carbide board.
Put the Molex Mini Fit Jr. cable that came with the mounting kit in the correct holes on the front of the carbide board. Make sure the RED and BLACK are in the correct holes. This image is from the FRONT of the board.
Turn the board over and CAREFULLY solder the wires to the board.
Step 5: Mount the Driver on the back of the Electronics Enclosure
*note* You don’t have to mount the driver on the machine. You can just put it next to it on the table… We thought it would look cleaner if it is on the back of the enclosure but it is easier just to leave it on the table.
If you choose to mount the driver it depends on which version of the Shapeoko3 you have. We have an early one, so our enclosure has some holes already drilled that we decided to use. If you have the new black enclosure, then you will need to drill some holes to mount the driver.
Our enclosure has four holes in it already and looks like this:
For our shapeoko3 we extended our fan screws to be able to mount the driver to the back of the enclosure. Take apart the driver board and change out the fan screws to the longer screws. Then attach it to the enclosure.
Put the driver board back on the mount.
In this case the driver is mounted backwards because there are holes for the fan. In the case of the new black enclosure you will mount it with the J Tech Photonics on the bottom.
For the new standard kit the enclosure is now black and fully enclosed. You can take the four outer screws from the driver off and then use the bottom plastic base plate that says “J Tech Photonics” on it to measure where the holes should be. Drill 4 holes that will fit #6-32 screws. Use the included 4 #6-32 1 1/2″ screws in the mounting kit and replace them in the driver to be able to mount it to the back of the enclosure. When using the new black enclosure, make sure the Fan is facing the outside so there will be airflow to the driver.
Step 6: Plug in the cables to the laser driver
You are going to now connect the cables to the mounted driver. Make sure to put the laser and the control cables in the correct positions.
Connect all the cables to the driver. If you mounted yours to the black enclosure then you will have the “J Tech Photonics” side facing the other way.
*note* we don’t show the power cable connected. It goes between the fan and the input control cable. You can just run it next to the power cable for the shapeoko 3.
Step 7: Running the Laser
We put a piece of the 24″ x 12″ shielding in front of our machine. It fits pretty nice!
Now you are done! Look under the section “Running your laser shapeoko3” and “Picture Engraving Instructions” on how to use your new laser machine!
Now you are ready to start creating!
Remember Safety First!
The laser used in this project is very powerful and all safety precautions must be taken. Use proper safety eyewear to prevent injury to eyes. This is a project and J Tech Photonics, Inc. is not responsible or liable for any and all damage or injury caused to people or property. The use of these instructions to make a laser cutter is under your own discretion and all safety precautions should be followed. J Tech Photonics, Inc. is not affiliated in any way with ShapeOko or Carbide 3D and they may change hardware and software at any time making these instructions invalid.