Laser530 Interface PCB

Alright, after trying to bread board the interface between the parallel port and the various bits on the CNC machine I decided to put a board together real quick. I’ve used the well known method of toner transfer PCB etching.

The features:

  • Pulls up on line 10 and 11 for home switches
  • Break out all input and output lines
  • The emergency stop line is on pin 1 and controls two relays controlling power to the machine.
  • Power indicator LED
  • Efficient switching power supply so hopefully we can use a small 12V 500mA wall wart to power the machine.
  • Screw terminals
  • DB25 connector

Let’s look at the diagram.

This diagram has one modification compared to what you’ll see in my photos. I forgot to add the pull up resistors in the actual PCB, so I dead-bugged them on top. There really isn’t much going on, pretty straight forward stuff.

The layout looks as follows with a mix of SMD and regular components.

This is what the resulting PCB before drilling the holes looks like. Yes it’s not perfect but hey, it works and it definitely beats paying and waiting for a PCB.

Now another hour later the PCB looks like this and is working:



Now tonight, hopefully I’ll get some movement in the machine!

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The steppers are alive!

Alright, the stepper drivers came in. As you can see in the videos below I am able to drive both steppers successfully. They use about 150mA when running at about 500Hz.

As you can see I’m using an Arduino Pro (the blue PCB) to generate the step pulses and the step direction, alternating between a high frequency and low frequency and changing direction. The motors both respond nicely. The red PCBs are the EasySteppers.

Tonight I attached all the wiring and tried to get EMC to control the motors, sadly I was unsuccessful. I think I am having issues with the parallel port card. Maybe I’ve got the wrong address or something. I’ll have to sit down tomorrow and troubleshoot this one. I’d also like to make a small PCB that holds a 12V-5V convertor, some LEDs, DB25 and a relay for the emergency stop. Gotta sleep on that one.

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Computer Setup

So I had this old Gateway machine sitting here. It’s a hand-me-down from my wife. It has it’s issues but appears to be working okay with a new Ubuntu 10.04 install. EMC2 installed surprisingly easy. I was settling in for the long haul, expecting tweaks and hacks but no need at all. wiki provides an install script and that literally did everything!

So far so good. I had brought an old video card as I had read that integrated video cards can increase latency. The documentation states that anything below 15-20ms will be great. Anything in the 30ms will be ok, but might be slow. 100ms will not be any good.

I ran the HAL Latency test and the worst case jitter is 23189. Not brilliant but not bad.


Since I don’t have stuff connected yet (stepper drivers boards coming tomorrow) I decided to get the datasheets for the steppers.

The X-axis stepper is a Mitsumi M35SP-11NK (the sheet says 25Ohms, the unit says 8 Ohms)
The Y-axis stepper is a Mitsumi MS35SP-9T (11 Ohm), for which I cannot find a data sheet.

The 11NK – 25Ohm appears to run on 12V or 24V. So I’ll be better off starting considerably lower. Maybe even 6V… LM317 to the rescue.

Oh and of course I’ll have to figure out how to hook up the stepper motors.

One thing I noticed is that the gears have a bit of slop. Meaning that when the stepper starts to turn, the belt doesn’t move for about 2 or 3 steps. Since I’m new to all this, I asked ol’ google about compensating for gear slop in EMC. Which quickly led me to the official term for this problem: “Backlash” and the remedy Backlash Compensation. Documented in the manual under axis configuration BACKLASH.

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Putting it together

Alright, the bridge mount glue has dried overnight and it’s time to put it all together! My daughter was quite curious as to what those gears do. She was delighted to find she could move the table and the laser head by spinnging the ‘baby’ gears. Not only that but the baby gear spins the daddy gear. For those not in the know, that is the smaller gear spins the larger gear,.. not unlike reality 🙂
The Axis
After skim-reading some of the EMC2 documentation I think I figured out how to name the axis. EMC2 uses right-handed coordinate system. ( See section 9.2.1 of the User Manual. ). So making a quick drawing of this I can see that the table will be the X-axis, and the bridge is the Y-axis.
Once I get the stepper drivers I will most likely be looking at this page very carefully. It talks about how to setup EMC2 in a very understandable way (famous last words)
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Bridge mounts and table guides

Good news! The base turned out nice and straight so the 1×1″ pieces of wood glued to the bottom did the trick.

Tonight I worked on the guides for the table, ensuring it moves along only one axis. In the picture you can see the guides are multiple pieces of wood. If I had to do that again, I’d make them out of one piece. The table can get hung up on them if they are not flush, nothing the sander can’t fix.
You can also see the clamps holding down the newly cut bridge mounts. The bridge slides into the slots that I have cut, allowing for easy adjustments if necessary.
PC – CNC controller
I placed the parallel port and an old video card in the old PC I have set aside for this project. The PC came on and started booting the EMC linux live CD. I’ve added the video card because some of the posts on the EMC forum indicated that integrated video card sometimes induce latency. Latency is not good as EMC needs this to be as low as possible to guarantee good motor control.
Sadly I ran out of time to work on the project for tonight. So I won’t know what the latency for this machine will be. The stepper motor controller cards should arrive on Thursday. I can’t wait to see this thing move 🙂
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Laser Safety – Labels

Of course it’s always good to label stuff you make especially if it could potentially hurt someone.

So surf on over to and make yourself a proper label.
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NewEgg is FAST

Well how about that. Ordered yesterday, arrived today. This was shipped from within CA so that helps 🙂

The connection with the CNC laser cutter will be made through a parallel port. (Wow that takes me back a few years) The interface cards I ordered all take TTL level (0-5v) signals as input. A quick check on the parallel port specifications shows me that it also uses TTL (0-5v) which makes my life extremely easy!
Each port has 8 outputs and 5 inputs (don’t ask me why only 5 inputs, seems odd to me).
2 output pins for x-axis (step + direction)
2 output pins for y-axis (step + direction)
1 output for laser
1 input for home-stop sensor on x-axis
1 input for home-stop sensor on y-axis
Which means, my current design will fit on one port.
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Table progress

Alright, made some good progress tonight. I routed a hole for the table stepper and gears with the little dremel. This was a bit of an exercise in patience as the dremel appears to be designed for smaller tasks, but it worked as long as I routed thin layers at a time.
The tensioner has been put together much like it was in the Scanner tray.

All in all this looks like it will work well. The only concern I had is the base, it being wood means its not in the slightest flat. Looking at that for a minute I realized I should glue 2 wooden 1×1″ across the bottom to take out the warp. It’s drying now, tomorrow we’ll see if they hold.

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Shop time and safety talk

I tried to do this without buying hardware but I came to the conclusion that my time is worth something too :), not to mention my eyes. When working with lasers like this (which I believe should be classified Class 3B) please wear goggles, it’s simply not worth loosing your eyesight over.

So I set of to get the following items.

Stepper motor drivers
Sparkfun (Colorado) sells what seems to be a great unit the EasyDriver. $15 (need 2)
Laser holder and lens
AixiZ (Texas) sells laser holders. I got the 12x30mm one with a glass lens. ($20)
Laser Driver with TTL
I could go an modify the constant current laser driver from my previous post, or I could simply spend $6 on these and be done.

Laser goggles
Of course I should really not skimp on the laser goggles for 650nm laser light, and you should not do so either especially for only $30 at WickedLasers.
Printer Port
Last but not least the printer port. A quick search of the Linux EMC forums tells me that this card will do great, and it has two ports to boot! ($12)
Hopefully that is all that I will need for this little project. ( $78 )
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The diode laser

The laser

I used to own a large (and overly noisy) dell tower pc, it was clunky heavy and didn’t actually perform as good as the price tag suggested. So I wasn’t to sad the day it died on me. Luckily for me I ended up keeping the DVD RW drive. Looking at the label it’s a NEC ND-3450A, which happens to be a 16x speed drive. For some reason every time you read about a DVD laser hack the 16 speed is mentioned. Not sure why. Anyway, after taking the thing apart I found two lasers. I hooked the bigger one up to a constant current source and voila! It works 🙂

Constant current source at 164mA

Laser diode running at 100mA and 2.23V.

As you can see I bread-boarded this one, the circuit was taken from this excellent thread on how to create your own laser driver.

and a closeup of the breadboard.

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