Software for Laser Engraving and Cutting
There are a few programs we use here at J Tech Photonics, Inc. with our laser upgrade kits to generate the G Code needed to run a program on your 3D printer or CNC machine. We support the vector graphics editing open source software from Inkscape for use with the Laser Tool plug-in. For photos, we support PicLaser from picengrave.com for use with PWM inputs for variable intensity photo engraving. Here you will find how to download and install these programs as well as tutorials on how to use then to generate G Code programs for your laser upgraded machine.
The folks over at Inkscape have developed a very good vector editing software program that also allows for extensions. We have updated and modified the original laser engraver plug-in to allow for multiple versions of on and off commands for different printers and CNC machines. If you are installing the newer version of 0.92, I would suggest making a clean install or you might run into problems. Just uninstall your older version before upgrading. We have both versions listed below.
For Inkscape version 0.92:
To download Inkscape: www.inkscape.org
Click here to download the plugin: J Tech Laser Tool Plugin V 2_2 for inkscape 0.92
For Inkscape version 0.91:
To download Inkscape: www.inkscape.org
Click here to download the plugin: J Tech Laser Tool Plugin V1_10 for inkscape 0.91
This plug-in will convert a path object in inkscape into a G Code file for use in your laser upgraded machine. Put the contents of this .zip folder into the “inkscape\share\extensions” folder. Once it is there it will show up under the “extensions” tab in inkscape. If you are on a mac, here is how to install the extensions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StNTZ1xeW0o
The new plug-in allows for multiple commands for laser on and off for all the different versions of printers as well as the ability for multiple passes for cutting. Here is a description of the features of the plug-in.
- Laser ON Command: The command for turning ON the laser. For example, M03 or M106.
- Laser OFF Command: The command for turning OFF the laser. For example, M05 or M107.
- Travel Speed: The speed of the machine when the laser is OFF in mm/min.
- Laser Speed: The speed of the machine when the laser is ON in mm/min.
- Laser Power: If you have PWM control, then you can adjust this. For J Tech firmware and most 3D printers use a number between 0 and 255 (255 being full power). For GRBL 0.9 and 1 standard, use a number between 0 and 12000 (12000 being full power). If you don’t have PWM, keep at max power (either 255 or 12000).
- Power On Delay: This will turn on the laser and wait to move until the delay is complete. It is used to heat up the material and initiate the burning process. Delay in ms for 3D printers and seconds for GRBL.
- Passes: If cutting, this will repeat the entire path by the number of passes. If engraving leave as 1.
- Pass Depth: This will move Z axis down by this amount for each pass. For example, 3mm piece of material with 3 passes might use 1mm per pass to cut all the way through.
- Directory: The directory to store the file.
- Filename: Name of the file.
- Add numeric suffix to filename: Adds a number to the name in case there already is a file with the same name in the directory.
- All Units: Change the units to either mm or inches. This will make everything in inches or mm.
- Live preview: Shows the path being generated.
- Apply: Click to run the converter.
Using the Plug-in
We have made some instructions on how to use Inkscape for engraving text and other objects and using the plug-in to generate the G Code. We have also shown how to import images to make outlines of them to engrave.
Check out the tutorials and check back to see if we added more!
Known inkscape bug: Lines going down from the drawing to Y0 location. If you have lines in your engraving, then the output G Code had a problem with some of the processing. Don’t worry! This can be fixed. The problem is that there are a few lines that the space didn’t get put in between the Y coordinate and the feedrate. To fix, just use a text editor and “find and replace” your feedrate command and put a space before it. Example: If your feedrate was 100, then find “F100″ and put a replace as ” F100″. Do this for both the laser feedrate and the travel feedrate. Everything should work after this!
PicLaser Photo Engraving
We have partnered with the guys over at picengrave.com to add photo engraving capability to our laser upgrades. For best results this software requires PWM laser power control to be able to work. It will vary the laser power on a per pixel basis to generate the photo image in 256 shades of greyscale. Check out the software before you buy a license to make sure it works on your machine. It now includes an image editor which allows you to create dithered images as well.
Laser Etch Black and White Image Engraving
The Inkscape plugin is great for outlines, but when you want to perform fills it is lacking. Laser Etch SW solves this problem!
This software is a fast way to perform image engraving in black and white for things like Logos, ID Tags, QR Codes, PCBs, and general image engraving. It is not like PicLaser Lite where it will engrave “Shades” of grey, but rather just black and white. It uses an “optimized” rastor approach to perform the engraving by speeding up the machine when the laser is off, making it sometimes more than 50% faster than normal rastor based engraving methods.