This Instructable from Zen Toolworks is going to cover how to use your Zen Toolworks CNC machine with a laser engraver kit from Jtech Photonics.
- Zen Toolworks CNC machine. Our complete kits can be found on our WEBSITE
- Jtech Photonics Laser Kit. We are using this one: LASER-KIT
- Proper safety Goggles. Can be purchased from Jtech Photonics HERE
- If making an enclosure (we recommend doing so), the laser protective viewing glass can be found HERE
#1 Importance when working with Lasers is SAFETY. Please review the safety and disclaimer information.
This Istructable is for reference ONLY so use it at your own risk.
Step 1: Construct an Enclosure for Your Machine
While this step is not required, we highly recommend creating a full enclosure for your Zen Toolworks Machine to provide extra safety when working with Lasers.
The type of enclosure you make is completely up to you, just make sure to use materials that will not allow the light from the laser to pass through. Wood is a great choice for this. We made ours out of 1/8" MDF. Also be sure that the enclosure is tightly sealed so as no light shines through the cracks.
The viewing window is important so you can see what is going on inside. We decided to hinge our window for convenience of taking the work piece in and out, but you could just as easily lift the entire enclosure over the machine and set it aside.
Another addition you may want to add is an E-stop switch under the hinged window. This way if for some reason the door is lifted during machine operation, the entire system would shut down to protect the user. A simple spring loaded, push button, On/Off Switch would work.
Lastly, we cut a hole in the side of the enclosure to insert a vacuum hose. This way we can run the vacuum while operating the laser to pump any smoke/fumes outdoors.
Step 2: Add a Wood Base to Your Zen CNC
Zen Toolworks CNC Machines are made from a PVC plastic material. This material can release harmful fumes if burned. That is why it is important to add a piece of wood (we used MDF) to your machine's build platform. Simply cut a piece to size, mark 4 holes and bolt/secure it in place.
This is a simple yet important step for your safety!
Step 3: Mount the Laser
Now it is time to mount the laser up to your machine.
We made a simple adapter plate from a piece of Aluminum that bolts up to the spindle mounting holes on the Z-Axis. Then added 2 holes for the laser module, and bolted it all together. There are many ways you could go about this step, but this seemed to be the easiest and most efficient.
You may want to add a cooling fan beside the laser module in order to aid in the cooling efforts of the laser diode. The cooler your laser stays, the longer it will last.
Step 4: Connecting the Laser Control Board
The next Step is wiring the laser to the laser board and the laser board to your CNC Control Package.
Because we offer 2 different types of control packages at Zen Toolworks, we are including connection methods for both control boards.
Mach3 Control Package
- Following the diagram included (the one with the blue board), connect the laser's wires to the laser board's "Laser" Terminal. Be sure the red wire goes into the positive terminal and the black wire goes in the negative terminal.
- Now, use the same diagram to connect the blue board to your laser board's "Control" terminal. We will run a ground wire from the ground port on the blue board to the negative side of the control port on the laser board.
- Lastly, connect P17 (Shown in Photo) on the blue board to the positive side of the control port on the laser board.
Arduino Control Package
- Following the diagram included (the one with the green board), connect the laser's wires to the laser board's "Laser" Terminal. Be sure the red wire goes into the positive terminal and the black wire goes in the negative terminal.
- Now, use the same diagram to connect the green board to your laser board's "control" terminal. We will run a ground wire from the "spindle negative" pin on the arduino shield to the negative side of the control port on the laser board.
- Lastly, run a wire from the "spindle positive" pin on the arduino shield to the positive side of the control port on the laser board.
Step 5: Software Configuration
In order to properly control the laser on/off for engraving or cutting purposes, we need to configure your control software.
If you are using our Arduino Control Package, there is no need for configuring. The laser can now be turned on/off using commands M3/M5 accordingly.
Mach3 Control Package
- Open up your typical Mach3 Profile, or make a copy of the profile and rename something like Zen_Laser, so you have a separate laser engraving profile.
- Go to the Config tab --> Ports and Pins
- Once the new window opens, choose the "output signals" tab.
- Change "Output #1" to enabled, with Port #1, and Pin #17. (Shown in picture)
- Now navigate to the "Spindle Setup" Tab. Change all options to be the same as those shown in the photo.
Your Mach3 software is now ready to control the laser on/off !
Step 6: Create a File to Engrave
This step can be done many different ways, and with many different software options.
The main idea is to create gcode from a 2d Vector art graphic and use M3/M5 commands to turn the laser on/off.
We will be using Inkscape for this tutorial as well as the plugin called LaserEngraver.
Inkscape can be downloaded for free HERE
Once installed, you can then get the laserengraver plugin HERE
After everything is downloaded and installed, follow the steps in the video to create the file for your laser engraver.
Step 7: Run the File
Now with the proper gcode file, you can go ahead and run it in either Mach3 or your GRBL Controller software of choice.