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X-Carve Upgrade

X Carve Laser Upgrade side

The X-Carve is the new upgrade for the very successful Shapeoko product by the Inventables company.  Keeping up with their success with the Shapeoko, they have made some improvements to the entire system, making this a very powerful CNC for hobbyists and industry alike.

We have sold many kits for this machine and decided it is time for us to get one in the lab to tinker with and show everyone how easy it is to laser upgrade!

There are now three machine configurations that Inventables offers, the 1000mm large version. 750 medium version, and the 500mm version.  We opted for the 1000mm kit and have made some cool parts to make the upgrade seamless.  We did ours in under 1 hour and were laser engraving test pieces that turned out perfect!   We have instructions here on how to complete the full build and are also offering the X Carve Kit for sale in our shop that includes all of the printed pieces and mounting hardware.

*Update 10-5-2015* New X Carve Model Changes for Laser
Inventables have started shipping the new X Carve to customers.  The instructions here have been updated to reflect changes with the new machine.  The only difference is the electrical portion with the addition of the X Controller and the lack of the terminal block in the back of the X Gantry.  We have modified our X Carve mounting kit with a longer 11′ cable for the laser control.

Purchase Mounting Kit HERE

X Carve Mounting Kit 600

Mike Merzke at Merzke Custom Woodworking has made a great video showing his installation of the laser kit to his X Carve.  View it here to see how easy it is to upgrade.

Now that you have seen how easy it is, let’s get started!

Mechanical

Laser Mount

We have plenty of 3D printers in the lab cranking out parts 24/7, so we decided to design a quick mount for the laser utilizing them.  The mount can either be placed in the hole where the router sits, or it can be placed on the side of the router so everything can stay on the machine.  It is up to you which way to go.  The mount can be used either way, just turn it over.  If you want to remove your router you will get a little extra eye protection as the holder will block some of the laser light.

Laser Mount X Carve

DOWNLOAD THE LASER MOUNT

We decided to go with the “keep the router on” way of mounting it next to the router.  We will show you pictures of how to put it together in the build section of the instructions.

Driver Mount

If you have the larger version (1000mm) you will need to place your driver on the gantry because the laser cable is not long enough.  If you have the smaller version, then you can either leave your driver on the side of the machine or you can put it on the gantry, it is up to you!  We designed this mount so it can be quickly released for when you are not using your laser.  Sometimes it gets rather messy when you are using the router, so it is advisable to take the driver off the machine when carving.

The mount has two pieces:

  1. A bottom piece that will get bolted onto the Z motor.
  2. A top piece that gets bolted to the bottom that provides the base for the driver to “click” and lock into.

Here is the bottom:

Bottom Laser Mount X Carve 2

DOWNLOAD THE BOTTOM DRIVER MOUNT

 

Here is the top:

Top Laser Driver Mount X Carve

DOWNLOAD THE TOP DRIVER MOUNT

 

Electrical

There are now two versions of the X Carve.

  1. Original X Carve Machines with the Arduino Uno – Shipped Pre-October 2016
  2. New X Carve Machine with X Controllers – Shipped after October 2016

We will cover the electrical instructions for both here in this section.

Original X Carve with Arduino Uno

The X Carve still uses the Arduino UNO and the G Shield electronics like on the Shapeoko 2.  The Arduino that the Inventables ships comes with a pre-installed version of GRBL 0.9j, which will work fine for most applications using the laser.  We will need to hook up the output from the Arduino G Shield to the laser driver to provide the signal to turn it on and off.  You will need to connect the following:

  • Pin 11 Labeled “11” on either Arduino or GShield to Laser Driver Input “+”
  • Pin 14 Labeled “GND” on either Arduino or GShield to Laser Driver Input “-“

gShield-v5 GRBL 0_9 Laser Hookup

 

The X Carve already has these cable connected for the spindle control for the 24V spindle.  The wire for the Laser “+” is YELLOW and the Laser “-” is the BLACK wire.

X Carve Laser Connections sm

You can use the screw terminal H2 on the back of the laser driver to connect or you can buy a Molex Mini Fit Jr cable to make it cleaner and connect it to H4.  We are including this cable in the X Carve Mounting kit for sale in the shop.

 

High Current Compliant Laser Driver Back View 800

Here is the electrical wiring diagram that shows the connections from the Arduino and G Shield to the laser driver.  Our X carve kit had us install the Red and Red/Black wires to the back screw terminal strip on the Z Gantry.  If you do not have these wires, then use any wire to make the YELLOW and BLACK wires from your G Shield go to the laser driver.

X Carve J Tech Laser Wiring Diagram pwr

New X Carve with X Controller

The new X Carve comes standard with the X Controller and no longer has a screw terminal on the back of the Z axis gantry.  This makes it super simple to connect the laser driver to the X Controller.  Simply connect the Molex mini fit Jr. 11′ cable included in the X Carve Mounting kit from the laser driver to the X Controller, routing it through the chain (or just zip tie it to the outside) all the way to the X Controller connector.  There are two signals you need to connect to:  SPINDLE PWM and GND.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wire the cable to the X Controller:

  • Red Wire (Laser + Signal) to SPINDLE PWM on X controller
  • Black Wire (Laser GND)  to GND on X Controller

Here is the wiring diagram for the new X Carve:

new-x-carve-j-tech-laser-wiring-diagram

Laser Commands

Using the pre-loaded GRBL from Inventables

If you bought the X Carve with the electronics included (like most people do), then they shipped an Arduino UNO with GRBL installed already.  You either have GRBL version 0.9i or 0.9j which Inventables branched from the main GRBL github development site.  Both of these will work fine for most applications, but will leave a slight delay when trying to engrave pictures with PicLaser software.  If you just want to cut things and do black and white engraving, then you will have no problems.

To turn on and off the laser the command is:

  • Laser ON:  M03
  • Laser OFF:  M05

If you want to use power control for the laser (via Pulse Width Modulation) the laser command is:

M03 SXXXXX

Where the “XXXXX” is a number between 0 and 10000.  So, some examples are:

  • Laser ON 100%:  M03 S10000
  • Laser ON 50%:  M03 S5000
  • Laser ON 10%:  M03 S1000
  • Laser OFF:  M03 S0 (or M05 will work as well…)

Using the J Tech Photonics GRBL version 0.9g firmware

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.

You will need to have your settings updated as well.  Here is the settings file we use on our machine:  DOWNLOAD Settings File

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)

 

Running The Laser X Carve

We recommend not using Easel to control your X Carve when using the laser.  If you are using the Inventables firmware in your machine (the firmware that came with your X Carve) then you can use Easel when routing.  If you updated your firmware to the J Tech version, we recommend using another program for both routing and laser engraving.  You do not need to switch firmware between laser engraving and routing, all firmwares will work with both.

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:

http://www.shapeoko.com/wiki/index.php/Communication_/_Control

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:

https://github.com/winder/Universal-G-Code-Sender

Universal G Code Sender

If you are planning on doing pictures, then PicSender will work great to control the machine.  You can get it here:  PICSENDER PROGRAM

PS Screen Shot1

Picture Engraving Instructions

The firmware that comes with your X Carve 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:

PicLaser Product Photo Porsche -800

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.

4. Put the J Tech Photonics 0.9g GRBL Firmware on your Arduino or X Controller

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.

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 arduino or X Controller, you will need to put your parameters back on it.  Hopefully you saved them 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 Upgrade Instructions

So now that you have the overview on how to complete the upgrade, lets get into the details on how to put it all together.  These instructions show the 1000mm kit installation.  On the 500mm X Carve you can either put the driver on the side of the machine or you can mount it on the Z axis.  You will also probably not need the power cord extender.

Let’s get started!

STEP 1:  Remove the Z motor bolts.

Make sure you have your hands below the bolts as they can fall into the X axis rails and are REALLY difficult to get out in case you drop it.  Trust us, we know from experience.

01 Remove Motor Bolts sm

 STEP 2: Get your parts ready

There should be a TOP piece and a BOTTOM mount piece, 4 x 1/32 1 1/4″ bolts and 4 nuts.  (*Bolts and nuts are included in the X Carve Mounting Kit)

03 parts sm

 

STEP 3:  Attach BOTTOM and TOP mount pieces

Screw in the four bolts and put the nuts on as well.

04 attach bottom to top piece sm

STEP 4:  Place mount and use motor bolts to keep in place.

Make sure you re-tension the Z axis belt when doing this.  Find something to get leverage to tension the belt and then tighten the bolt.  After tension and getting the first bolt in and tightened, then finish the other three bolts.

05 place on top of motor screw holes sm

 

STEP 5: Loosen the screws on the laser driver.

Give just enough room so that the laser driver can “click” into the holes in the top mount.

02 Unscrew slightly the LD screws sm

STEP 6: Place Laser Driver on mount.

You might need to wiggle it into the correct holes and possibly turn the nuts on the bottom mount in the correct orientation for it to fit.

07 Place Driver into large holes and push forward to lock in place sm

STEP 7: Lock the driver in place

You should be able to push the laser driver forward so it is sitting in the smaller cutout and firmly in place.

08 Laser driver should be pressed forward to lock in place sm

STEP 8: Wire the extended power cable.

This is needed on the 1000mm version and can be also on the 500mm version if your wall outlet is far from your machine.  Our X Carve Mounting kit includes the extender cable shown below.  If you print out your mounts then purchase it in the shop here.

09 Power Extension Cable sm

Use the provided Zip Ties in the X Carve mounting kit to attach the extender cable to the wiring chain.  Plug in the cord to the laser driver and push your X stage all the way to the most positive side of your machine (to the right).  Make sure you leave enough slack so it does not impede any movement of the machine.  If you want, you can also put it inside the wiring chain.  We already had ours put together, so this was an easier method, but does not look as good…

10 Zip tie the power cable to the wiring chain sm

STEP 9:  Wire the laser driver input cable.

New X Carve with X Controller:
There no longer is a screw terminal in the back of the gantry anymore.  The cable in the X Carve mounting kit is now 11′ and can be routed all the way back to the X Controller.

Wire the cable to the X Controller:

  • Red Wire (Laser + Signal) to SPINDLE PWM on X controller
  • Black Wire (Laser GND)  to GND on X Controller

Older X Carve Machines

We include a Molex Mini Fit Jr. cable in the X Carve Mounting kit so you can quickly disconnect the laser driver from the mount and re-connect.  If you want to use the screw terminals, you can do this as well.  If you are printing the mounts out yourself then you need to buy this cable from our shop.

On the back of the Z axis gantry, there is the terminal block with the wires from the controller.  There is a RED wire and a RED and BLACK striped wire for the SPINDLE CONTROL.  In our case we do not have the 24V spindle so the other side of the terminals were not being used.  Connect the laser driver input cable to the laser driver and connect the other end to the screw terminals on the back of the gantry.   Here is the connection:

  • Laser Driver “+” (RED WIRE) to X Carve (RED WIRE TERMINAL)
  • Laser Driver “-” (BLACK WIRE) to X Carve (RED and BLACK WIRE TERMINAL)

11 connect the laser driver input cord to the spindle terminals on the block sm

STEP 10:  Attach laser to mount.

Decide whether you want to have the laser on the side of the router or in place of the router.  Note, the mount we designed is for the DeWalt 611 mount that has screws on the side.  If you have another mount, then you will need to figure out how to attach it to either the mount or to the back plate.  The dimensions of the laser heatsink are located here for your reference.

In this picture, we are showing how to mount the laser and the laser fan upgrade for mounting on the inside of the mount (with the router removed).  If you want to put it to the side next to the router, then simply attach the laser to the other side of the mount.

Here is how it looks for mounting inside the router hole:

12 Attach laser to mount sm

13 Attach laser to mount sm

 

Here is how it looks if you want it on the side of the router mount:

15 Mount for outside spindle holder sm

STEP 11: Attach the laser mount to the router mount.

Use M4 x 16m (or longer) screws to attach.  The X Carve Mounting kit will include these screws.

14 M4 bolt and nut for mounting sm

To mount INSIDE the router mount:   Use the bottom two screw holes and place the laser mount between the two plates.  You need to pry it open a bit to get it to fit.  Put the M4 screws in the bottom two holes of the router mount.

14 mounting inside the spindle holder sm

To Mount on the OUTSIDE of the router mount: pry open the router mount slightly and place the laser mount in between the two plates in the bottom two screw location.  Put the M4 screws though and tighten.

16 Mount for outside spindle holder sm

STEP 12:  Clean up the laser and fan cables.

We include a little zip tie holder in the X Carve Mounting kit that can be placed on the gantry.  This will be used to hold the zip ties and the extra cable from the laser and the fan.  Place it in the location in the picture.

17 attach zip clip sm

You can roll the cables up and then zip tie them down.  Make sure you leave enough room for them to reach the laser driver before you put your zip tie tight.

18 clean up cables and zip sm

STEP 13: Zip tie connections to the laser driver.

You want to have the cables zip tied so they can stay in the proper location for when you remove the laser driver when you are using the router.  This way, when you put the laser driver back on it is easy to hook it right back up!

For the laser output and the driver input use a zip tie on the front leg of the driver mount.

19 Zip tie laser and input to mount leg sm

 

For the power, remote reset, and the laser fan use the back driver mount leg to zip tie the cables to it.

20 Zip tie power and fan cords sm

STEP 14:  Wire to the Controller

New X Carve Machines
Take the Molex Mini fit cable from the X Carve Mounting kit and wire it to the X Controller if you haven’t already from the previous step 9.

Wire the cable to the X Controller:

  • Red Wire (Laser + Signal) to SPINDLE PWM on X controller
  • Black Wire (Laser GND)  to GND on X Controller

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Older X Carve Machines:  Wire the Arduino/G Shield YELLOW and BALCK wires to the RED and RED/BLACK wires.

Take the Yellow and Black wires from the Arduino and remove them from the screw terminal.  Do the same for the Red and Red/Black wires.

24 Take the red-redblack and yellow - black wires off controller sm

 

We chose to solder the wires together.  You can connect them however you want, but just make sure you connect:

  • Arduino Pin 11 (YELLOW WIRE) to the (RED WIRE)
  • Arduino GND Pin 14 (BLACK WIRE) to the (RED and BLACK STRIPE WIRE)

25 solder them together sm

You are now DONE!

Here is what your machine should look like if you put the laser in the router holder:

22 Mounted in spindle complete sm

Here is what it should look like if you mount it next to the router:

21 Mounted with spindle complete sm

 Additional Upgrades:

We put a FEIN Turbo vacuum on our machine to suck the fumes out, and we mounted two lasers to our X Carve so we can do testing here easily with both the 2.8W laser and the 3.8W laser.  You can see ours doing an image engraving in the picture.  Of course you can add laser shielding to your X Carve for more protection!

X Carve Laser Upgrade

 Running your X Carve with a Laser

Make sure you set your focus to no more than 3″ from the work surface.  It can be anywhere between 1″ and 3″, but we normally put ours at 3″.  Make sure you have all your safety equipment and goggles on before you start your laser.  Always keep a fire extinguisher available as well close by.  We have not had any problems, but it is always a good idea to know where on is when using lasers.

For sender programs, we recommend using Universal G Code Sender to control your X Carve if you are not going to do any image engraving.  If you are planning on doing images, then use PicSender.

You should not need to do anything to change between using your router and using your laser.  Just make sure you have your laser driver turned OFF so you don’t accidentally burn something when using just the router.

 

 So there it is!  Now you are ready to start creating!

Buy your laser upgrade kit now!

Highlight FDA Laser Kit 800

Purchase Mounting Kit HERE

X Carve Mounting Kit 600

Remember Safety First!

445nm Laser Shielding Measurement 500x500

We sell laser shielding to block laser radiation and reflections!

 Laser Safety Goggles 445nm

Laser Goggles are also a must!

Disclaimer

 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 X Carve or Inventables and they may change hardware and software at any time making these instructions invalid.

12 Responses to X-Carve Upgrade

  1. Reginald Jones January 1, 2016 at 5:00 pm #

    I need to be able to laser cut 1/8 thick to 3/8 thick balsa. Which wattage lasers can handle that?

    Also how long for delivery if I order by Jan 15th?

    • jtechphotonicscom March 10, 2016 at 11:58 am #

      All of the lasers will be able to cut balsa wood. The higher the power the faster (and less passes) you will need. The 3.8W laser kit will be the best at cutting.

  2. Evann January 17, 2016 at 11:26 pm #

    Hello will your 3.8w laser kit work with the x carve i am very interested and I want to buy this setup i believe you guys are the first to do this to the x carve

    thanks

    • jtechphotonicscom March 10, 2016 at 11:34 am #

      All of our laser kits will work with the X Carve. Yes, I think we are the first for this. We have been selling upgrade kits for four years now and have been successfully upgrading the Shapeoko kits before the X Carve.

  3. Steven March 6, 2016 at 2:59 pm #

    Which parts do you recommend taking off while using the router? I see the laser driver is easy to remove and reattach, but the laser itself seems more difficult. Is it safe to leave the laser attached while using the router? Will the dust not clog the lens?

    • jtechphotonicscom March 10, 2016 at 11:50 am #

      Hi Steven,

      You can take both the driver and the laser off if you want, especially if you are doing a large routing project. It is not that hard to take the two screws off the router mount for the laser mount and remove everything.

      If you are just doing small routing jobs, you can keep the laser on the machine. I put a bag over the laser to protect it. If you leave it with nothing protecting it, then make sure you give the lens a little clean with some alcohol and a microfiber cloth (like you would use with your glasses) before you use it again. If the lens moves while routing, you can put some PTFE tape on the threads to make it stay in place better. If you do this, make sure you watch out for the spring when taking the lens out.

  4. Michel Lauzon March 8, 2016 at 8:57 pm #

    Just got my laser 2 week ago iy was supose to be use with my i3 printer but decided to wait for the x-carve that should be here by the end of the month. And foud todays these tutorial. I just hope i made the right choise for my carve i decided to get the new x-controler. from my basic electronic knowledge i think i see all the necessary pinout but there is no arduino on this one they made their own controler but look like it’s loaded with the same version has the arduino will the 0.9g GRBL Firmware work? or should i change my order to a less powerfull controler on the xcarve?

    thank you

    • jtechphotonicscom March 10, 2016 at 11:41 am #

      Yes, the laser will work with the new X Controller. Connect the laser “+” signal to the front panel “Spindle PWM” on the X Controller. Connect the laser “-” signal to the “GND” on the X controller. You can use the installed firmware for most things. Full power will be M03 S10000. 10% power will be M03 S1000. If you want to do grey scale picture engraving, our firmware should work as well. Make sure you copy your settings in GRBL before you upload the new firmware. We will be testing this out soon on our own X Controller to verify everything works.
      Here is a picture of how to install: X Controller Laser Connections

  5. kishon diaz March 25, 2016 at 3:02 pm #

    Can it cut aluminum

  6. Brandon Bellefleur April 22, 2016 at 7:55 pm #

    Hey!

    I want to engrave cork with the laser, and I can’t decide wether the 2.8 or 3.8W laser would be best. I would take the 3.8W one because it would go faster, but do you think it will be too intense?

  7. Yasser April 29, 2016 at 12:01 pm #

    Hello

    I read this many times, but the wiring between Arduino and laser and other wires not clear for me, can you please upload a diagram for this connections it better.

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