This will be my first cnc that will have both cutter and laser.

(Ciaran Whelan) #1

This will be my first cnc that will have both cutter and laser. So am making sure I select the right components.

I hope the Cohesion3D board is capable to run both tools (spindle and laser) for different timber jobs. If not I am open to suggestion for anything better and as simple.

My application is to use spindle to shape wood boards for cheese platters, then laser etch the company logo/branding after the boards are cut to shape.

This is the laser I have in mind. It is not a cheap Chinese diode laser, however it is from a reputable company specialising in lasers that go on CNC machines.

I will be looking to use external drives. I have two nema 23 motors for Y axis, and one each for X and Z axis.

I have not selected a spindle yet but open to suggestion.

The machine I am building is a CNC Sphinx from open builds.

Is LaserWeb/CNCWeb the right choice in software for my application?

(Roberto Fernandez) #2


(Mike Thornbury) #3

Both your choice of machine and laser are sound choices. Yes, laserweb/cncweb will work as Gcode controllers.

The rating JTech have given their unit is accurate - it’s what would be described as 15W on AliExpress :slight_smile:

I use a similar spec diode module rated at 5.6W (selected diodes, run slightly higher amps = higher output).

But… smoothieware isn’t great at raster engraving. Do some research on it - My experience is that it’s much slower than other controllers doing raster engraving/etching. Other than that, it’s a good board for CNC, but I would personally chose the AZteeg over Cohesion. Same firmware, better board.

For what you are doing, you don’t need external drivers. An integrated board using DRV8825s or similar will give you more than enough power for a small wood CNC. I’ve got an Ox and use Smoothiebiard, TinyG, GrblCNC and they all work great. The additional hassle of integrating external drivers is t worth it, IMO.

I’ve also found that just looking at the controlling software without taking into account the rest of your toolchain can throw up problems. Laserweb isn’t necessarily the best host software for raster engraving on a diode with smoothie. I wouldn’t settle on it until you have your machine up and running.

Have a read of these:

My current laser prototype is using an Arduino Due-based 3.3v-friendly grbl shield with Pololu DRV8825 drivers running G2Core and it knocks the pants off Smoothie.

But, YMMV. I’m a Mac/Linux user with a bunch of micro controllers performing server/buffer/bridging duties and my needs are not necessarily the same as yours. I do little raster work, nearly everything is vector. My CNC is all sheet goods making assemblies that become 3D objects, rather than 2.5D shaping.

I design using Fusion360 and output directly to the machine, or dump Gcode into chilipeppr with a raspberry pi directly attached to the controller on the machine - there are so many ways to skin a cat.

As I’m not a raster expert, take everything I say with a pinch of salt. CNCZONE is a great place to get info, as the biggest forum of like-minded hobbyists on the planet.

(Ciaran Whelan) #4

@Roberbike Do you have both the spindle and laser always wired up, or do you need to swap out wiring each time? Are there any links or videos I can watch to see how these are connected up?

What software are you using for this type of multi use build?

(Ciaran Whelan) #5

@Mike_Thornbury Many thanks for your detailed response.
I have just looked at the controller you mentioned. Am I to look at the AZteeg CNC controller?

I was not thinking of using Smoothie at all, I was more thinking to use GRBL on the board. However I am seeing people on the facebook group were having issues with the C3D. So this is already sending warning signs.

I have used 8825 drivers on my other CNC (MPCNC) on a CNC Shield. However that foam shaping CNC is using small NEMA 17 stepper motors. I have seen on the Open Builds forums that people are using external drivers with the larger NEMA 23 motors. Hence I thought I would be better to use external drivers.

My Sphinx build is 600 on the Y axis and 750 on the X axis with 100mm on the Z axis.

For my own work I model using Fusion as well. However this machine I offered to build this CNC for my workmate so long as he purchases the components and any software. However he is not as tech savvy as me, so am looking for the most simple route for him on how to use a single machine that can use the spindle to shape timber boards, and use the laser to etch the brand/logo on the timber.

If you have recommendations on software I am completely open to this as well. We did have in mind Lightburn and Vectric Pro. (again not fixed on this).

Am I to assume that the Software is only to provide Gcode, then I still need to run the Gcode through a Gcode sender?

We have not purchased any control board of software, so at this point I am really open to suggestion on the simplest method and work well on the above workflow I have described above.

You mentioned the Arduino Due, is this the one you recommend over the Azteeg?

I also saw another controller from Panucatt called the Gradus M1 Pro which is for CNC.

I have not heard of cnczone, so I will have a look there and join.

For now you have responded with a much more concise and helpful reply than I have from anywhere else I have asked a few questions. And for that I thank you very much for taking that time out your day to respond.


(Roberto Fernandez) #6

@Ciaran_Whelan hello. I have 2 machines.
1 laser diode with a ramps 1.4 running grbl 1.1 and 1 Cbeam cnc machine with a 1.1 kw spindle and mks-sbase runing smoothie firmware.
Only have 1 pc connected to both machines running LW. I created different perfils in settings. Depend of the work, I connect to the laser o to the cnc, but no at the same time.

(Mike Thornbury) #7

@Ciaran_Whelan I wouldn’t recommend any smoothie-based board for laser engraving. But, if you had to have Smoothie, an AZTeeg is preferable to a Cohesion 3D.

Personally, I prefer TinyG/G2Core, and you can run that on a 328-based Arduino (TinyG) or Due (G2Core).

The Due is preferred as it is 32-bit, faster, more memory, better functions, but there’s also the Zero (I haven’t touched on, let alone tried). For the Due and Zero you will need a 3.3V-friendly CNC shield.

The grblShield from TinyG people works fine, but there are others on Aliexpress, from Protoneer in NZ, etc.

You can run your spindle and laser on the same controller - use the ‘coolant’ pin to turn the laser on and off, implement PWM/TTL if your laser controller supports it (the jtech certainly does). I’m in the middle of a tech note on PWM for grbl/TinyG/Smoothie right now, but being pulled in different directions, it will probably be a couple of weeks before it’s finished.

External steppers are fine - just a lot more work and unneeded for such a small machine. Unless you’re intending on a lot of metal work, most integrated controllers capable of 2.5-3A will be more than adequate for most implementations. A lot of DIYers have more money than sense :slight_smile:

As he’s not the most tech-savvy, you want the easiest and simplest implementation and toolchain you can offer.

A GRBL-based controller, CNCweb/Laserweb with a decent CAM app, like CAMBAM would be my choice. My 86-year-old Dad can manage that.

If you want to future-proof, get a Due or Zero and run GRBL1.1 with a 3.3v shield, then you can always upgrade to smarter firmware later on if you want. The difference between GRBL1.1 and G2Core is significant when you are pushing speed. I like the ability to send wirelessly, so the TinyG/G2 with John Lauer’s Serial Port JSON Server running on a cheap OrangePi and ChiliPeppr makes for a great and reliable path from design to production.

It’s hard to give you a ‘best’ ansewer, as there are so many choices to be made in hardware, firmware, electronics, but I think if you look at what the Shapeoko people offer, you can’t go too wrong - they are selling to first time users.

They used to use TinyG, now Grbl. They now recommend Carbide3D Motion and Carbide Create, but that’s because they are bought out by Carbide3D - it’s free and worth a look. I’ve downloaded it but not run it up yet.

For me, my favoured option is always simplicity. I like an integrated board because I can mount it on the back of the Y-axis, keeping all the control and power cables short, simplifying wiring (only DC power for the board/steppers and AC for the spindle through the power chain). My steppers aren’t huge and the DRV8825 drivers more than keep up with the power.

For software, if it’s 2.5D (sheet goods) I use SketchUp and Cambam, for 3D I use Fusion and Cambam, for Laser/raster I use Photoshop and Cambam, for vector I use Adobe Illustrator and Cambam. I have a bunch of other software like Vectric, but rarely use it, but for some it’s a better solution. (I’m a Mac/Linux guy - I only use Windows for CNC. I create on Mac, send to Win for CAM and sending to CNC).

If I was building a new machine for a new user, I would think seriously about keeping it simple. With most controllers you have the option of adding external drivers, should you need them - I never have.

I would also think about something like a Shapeoko 3 - $1500 gets you a lot of machine, with all the wrinkles sorted out and support at the end of the phone (if you are in North America - here in Asia support is something for other people :confused: )

I just priced up the Sphinx and by the time you add all the bits, it’s the same price as a Shapeoko. I would go with the Shapeoko if it was for a first-time user. Resale is easy for used Shapeoko should you decide to upgrade at a later date and it’s a fully-formed and supported product, rather than a DIY.

The S3 with a 33"x33" cutting area (much bigger than the Sphinx) with a DeWalt router, all electronics, controller, software in XXL size is $1800. Without the router it’s $1699

(Ciaran Whelan) #8

@Mike_Thornbury Thank you for such a detailed response.
Because we have already purchased all the plates and extrusion for the CNC Sphinx, we must continue with the selected machine.

I have most of the mechanical parts already arriving, and soon the NEMA23 stepper motors. I have been looking in to the TinyG board you have recommended. I use DRV8825 drivers on my printer, but I am not clear that the drivers will be adequate for the High Torque: 345 oz*in motors.

Will the TinyG with the DRV8825 drivers cope with this?

I still have my eye on the Panucatt Bigfoot drivers that would go with their GRBL Gradus CNC control board


Control Board:

I have been looking further at the laser head and driver from J Tech laser. However to get it here to Australia will cost me $787 AUD for a 4.5W. I really like the safety features on it and the driver and laser look far better than that of a Chinese type laser.

My thoughts are that this is very expensive for a 4.5W laser to land here in Australia. I would like something that is maybe in the $500 AUD price range, but equally of good quality of the J Tech laser.

You mentioned that you are using a 5.6W diode laser, do you mind advising which one this is?

I meant to mention that I did look at the Due board, and it doesn’t look like it fits the Arduino CNC Shield Premium to go on the board like on an Uno.

(Mike Thornbury) #9

The DRV8825 can handle 1.5A per winding, easy, and up to 2.2 A per coil with additional cooling (so 3A to 4.4A for your type of steppers). The TinyG board is heavy copper and the DRVs are bottom-heatsink modules, so either an additional under-mounted heatsink or just a fan on the underside is fine.

More importantly is what you are using it for - it’s rare that you will drive the steppers at 100% for any length of time… I’m also using 345oz steppers and everything is as cool as, bro :slight_smile:

The Bigfoot is no more powerful than the DRV8825 but that and the Gradus are a solid and value-packed combination - you won’t go wrong.

If it was me, however, I would be looking to future proof with a 32 bit board, but at the price point of that combo, it wouldn’t worry me - you can always repurpose it if you want to upgrade later.

The TinyG guys sell a shield for the Due and there are copies from China.

I recently bought some really nice diodes from Russia - nominally rated at 4.5W but perform like a Chinese 10W laser (there is no laser diode made more powerful than 6W - they lie - all of them). Beautiful pcb, too. I’ve only played with it off the machine so far, as I’m building a new machine, but the price was too hard to turn down: - Details about 4.5W Engraving Laser Head with thermal protection, PWM, NUBM08 455nm 445nm

You will need to sort out a lens and cooling - it doesn’t come with any. I am using a 404020 heatsink with a high cfm 404020 12V fan and haven’t triggered a thermal overload yet. And you can buy ‘G2’ lens sets with screw mount from China for a few bucks.

My 5.6 was from Endurance Lasers as a kit, but requires a bit of electronic and mechanical fettling - it’s not a by-the-numbers kit, just a box of bits.

And, I have to add a disclaimer I am working with George of Endurance, so I can’t ‘recommend’, just say it all works and is solid engineering.

If money is a concern, get the eBay one - it will more than cope with your engraving at a high speed. Get the extra bits from AliExpress and all will be jake. Check out his reviews on laser pointer forum - his name is x-wossee pretty much everywhere on the Internet.

(Mike Thornbury) #10

@Ciaran_Whelan I wrote that on my phone last night, so didn’t give a full answer to some things.

Firstly, sorry for assuming you are in the US - I know those Aussie customs buggers go in dry on you lot. NZ doesn’t give a hoot. And I’ve just given up on shipping/exchange rates - it costs what it costs… I live in Brunei and post is slow, expensive and unreliable… luckily most losses are covered by the shipper, but it’s the time that’s the killer. FWIW, we are the same time zone as Perth.

There are a few Oz-based laser integrators.

The CNC Grblshield from china (suits 3.3V Due and 5V Mega)

If you’re looking at the Panucatt Grbl shields, go to the source and support a kiwi and buy from the bloke that designed it in the first place:

He posted the designs and every man and his dog just copied and made them commercially - where it was designed for the hobbyist.

(Ciaran Whelan) #11

@Mike_Thornbury the first three links to the Australian Ebay stores you provided, do I need to buy all three?

It seems the first link you provided was for a complete 5.5w laser and driver, if so that is very affordable.

The next two links seem like a laser diode and a driver separately. Is this right in assuming this? If so, the 6w one would need to be in some sort of heat sink and have a fan as well?

If one of those is what you recommend then that is what I will purchase. If I go for the 6w one that will allow for me to purchase a good quality fan and heat exchange block. My question then will be where do I purchase the alloy heat block assuming that and afan is all I need with the driver board?

(Ciaran Whelan) #12

As for the CNC shield, I have one of those spare, but I wasn’t sure if this would fit the 32bot Arduino Due that you recommended.

(Mike Thornbury) #13

@Ciaran_Whelan no, just examples of Aussie sellers. The complete unit claims to be Australian, but looks Chinese. I suspect the ‘made in Australia’ means ‘put together in Australia from Chinese parts. But… it has the right numbers and is a keen price. That’s all you need, plus a 12V psu.

The others are if you want to put one together yourself.

If it was me… get the complete module, learn how to use lasers and you will be better placed when you buy your next, customised one.

And no, the grblshield won’t work with a Due without modification, but Bertus (the designer) has a solution - again, though, just go stock to start with - maybe use some of the new Pololu drivers - there’s lots of info on their website on the new drivers

(Ciaran Whelan) #14

Regarding the Due board, what shield is meant to go on it for CNC? I will be running 2x Y axis motors, one X and one Z.

At the moment it is a toss up with the Panucatt Gradus M1 Pro with the bigfoot drivers (drivers can be easily swapped out if they are stuffed), TinyG with integrated drivers, or the Due board with whichever CNC board needs to go on it.

(Ciaran Whelan) #15

@Mike_Thornbury based on your feedback and also spotting that the laser here in the Australian Ebay store looks to be Chinese but just assembled here in Australia, I decided to go on your recommendation to get one from George. I’ve followed your recommendation and looked at some reviews and got a discount of 40% off today, so went ahead and got the Endurance one.

Now to work out a control board based on the three options above.

(Ciaran Whelan) #16

I’ve also been keeping an eye on G2Core which looks very interesting.

Looks like this will go on any board that runs GRBL.

(Mike Thornbury) #17

Right now, as you already have it, I would go with a UNO and your existing GRBLshield with whatever Pololu drivers you want. I posted the link to the Due grblshield in the previous post

G2 Core only works on SAM21 boards - Zero and Due. - right now, but I think it will run on any 32 bit.i am playing around with various 32 bit boars right now. I’ll let you know how I get on.

(Ciaran Whelan) #18

Apologies… I completely missed the link to the shield for DUE that you posted.

My only gripe with that board is that it only has outputs for 3 stepper motors.

(Ciaran Whelan) #19

I’ll stick with my Uno and CNC shield that I have at the moment until I hear from you regarding a recommendation on 32bit boards. I’ll be ordering those 4 stepper motors tomorrow, wiring in the mean time.

(Mike Thornbury) #20

Yeah, for a laser the three steppers is fine, but no good if you want to mill.