Introduction: Lightburn With Camera - Laser Object Alignment and Tracing
Lightburn is a powerfull tool for laser engraving and laser cutting. But sometimes you struggle with the exact positioning of an object or of an image on an object.
To get this as best as possible you can add a Lightburn camera and use it with this great software. You can use a camera from Lightburn, similar camera from other sellers or use a webcam or even an old smartphone).
- Laser engraver compatible with Lightburn
- Lightburn software
- Lightburn compatible camera(maybe with USB extension cable)
- Stand/holder for camera
- Notebook or desktop PC
Step 1: Chose Your Camera
There are various cameras available directly from Lightburn from 60° angle until 160°. The bigger your workspace or the closer the camera is mounted to the bed the wider the camera has to be. As I wanted to stay as close as possible to my workspace I decided to get the 160° camera.
If you have an enclosure you can measure the distance from camera to bed and buy the appropriate camera for your needs. Other cameras like webcams or even smartphones work usually as well.
Step 2: Stand for You Camera
I you don't have an enclosure you have to make or buy a stand for your camera. It should be steady and the positioning must be repeatable to get best results.
As I have a 3D printer and my frame uses standard 20mm frames I bought the 3D printable file for the stand for Ortur Laser Master 2 from RowdyRoman at Etsy. The file contains a full print-in-one for large bed printers and a splitted version for smaller ones. I could easily print the splitted one with my Prusa MK3s. I used PLA but every other filament type will do. For those without a 3D printer thy provide a printed version, too.
After printing and removing the supports the stand snapped togheter really snug. Great! Then insert it to the frame, mount the camera and your done.
Step 3: Alternative Stand From Endurance Lasers
For those who want something different you can buy an aluminium stand for example from Endurance Lasers. They provide high quality lasers as well as a lot of accessory and add-ons and have a great customer support!
Step 4: Calibrate the Camera
As most cameras have some distortion you have to calibrate the camera for your workspace. So chose Tools/Calibrate Camera lens in Lightburn and follow the instructions. There are some presets for various camera types there but they did not work for my setup so I did a full calibration.
The calibration is an easy step by step walkthrough but have a look at the pictures and do it correct. The first picture has to be made with the circles pattern card flat on the bed but the others need an angle to the camera! So if you get weird ratings make sure you do it right.
Step 5: Calibrate Camera Alignment
If you engraver has a limit switch like Ortur Laser Master the alignment is easy and repeatable. If not as on most laser engravers you have to find a "Zero position" which you can repeat every time. You can do this by moving your laser head to a specific position and mark it. Zero point is set by startup of the device or with "G92 X0 Y0" in console. I did a macro for that.
I printed a small "laser head positioning system" - just a simple block which I can use to repeat the laser head position. As this is not ultra precise and if I need this precision I calibrate the positioning in a second step with some figures on simple paper.
To calibrate the alignment chose Tools/Calibrate Camera Alignment in Lightburn and follow the steps. It will burn a test grid and you have to chose the specific points it engraved. Once done your camera is perfectly aligned.
Step 6: Using Your Camera for Alignment
If everything is setup you can use your lightburn camera to perfectly position your engraving on every object. To do this chose Camera Control tab on top right in Lightburn and click Update Overlay. Lightburn will now provide a picture of your workspace in the software so you can position your engraving.
Still make sure to use the Frame option to doublecheck the positioning and make sure everything is in order!
The text on my example pencil is about 3 mm tall, so very tiny but worked great.
Step 7: Using Your Camera for Tracing Drawings and Pictures
You can even trace every picture and use it as template for engraving. To do this click Trace on the camera tab in Lightburn. It gets you a picture and traces the imaged. You can chose a specific part to trace and edit it with the usual functions. If you click OK you get a vector paths of the image. You can further edit them and ungroup to delete unwanted lines etc.
If you just burn it you get an exact copy of what you traced. Now you can put other object to engrave on your workspace, click Update Overlay and position the engraving on the object. If you burn it you get the hand drawn picture on your new object.