Confused about what to buy

Discussions and help on this commercial controller.

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Confused about what to buy

Postby educa » Sun Apr 22, 2012 8:28 pm


I'm currently almost 50-60% done with installation of the "mechanical" part of the machine.

Now the problem starts about what control system to use.
EMC2 would be an option, but I can only accurately steer it with a very expensive pc here and most cheapo's don't get me the needed fixed timings.

So.... you start to look for a dsp solution.

However, I do have a few specific problems.

Please allow me to explain.

My machine is hax 48x24" travel and around 8" in Z
I use 3.1Nm steppers on all axes and these are driven by microstep drivers in 1/25th step mode (well I can configure, but in 1/25th step mode I have exactly 0.02mm travel per step on my x and Y axis while still being able to theoretically achieve 1m/s speeds)
My Z axis has a lot less travel per step since the Z is spindle driven and X and Y are belt driven.

Since I don't use the same travel per step as the buildlog machine, I wonder if you can actually setup these dsp controllers so that they adapt to the specifics of my machine. (being 0.02mm travel for 1 step)

I also do like the fact that you can print directly from coreldraw, but in reality I would like to be able to make engraving files myself.

Like on emc2 I could write Gcode files with some embedded extra codes (made by Ben Jackson) to also do raster engraving within the same job.

Is there a dsp solution available out there which enables me to create a file which can do both vector cutting and engraving in 1 job? I know it can be done directly from coreldraw, but I would like to be able to create those files myself from software (I'm a coder so thats not a problem if the dsp would understand some kind of file format which enables this)

I do believe that a DSP solution could be a lot easier for me then trying with emc2 , but then I would have to know at least if I could let the controller engrave and cut in 1 job based on a file which I can programmaticaly generate (and not from coreldraw or using the printer driver that comes with the dsp, but direcly creating the file itself)

In that case it would also be important to be able to set the desired laser power and ppi settings + speeds from within this file.

Hope I made it clear what I'm looking for and hopefully somebody recognises my needs and knows a solution for it.

Kind regards,
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Re: Confused about what to buy

Postby educa » Sun Apr 22, 2012 9:53 pm

Little update, but I see that for the retinaengrave I can find a 25 page manual (software stuff) at ... Manual.pdf

but.... no hardware manual explaining the hardware and connections ?

Or am I blind on 1 eye ?
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Re: Confused about what to buy

Postby Greolt » Mon Apr 23, 2012 12:46 am

No you are not blind.

I have asked this question before and was told by FSlaser, that there is no hardware technical manual.

The Retina Engrave controller is not supported, unless it comes in a FS laser.

I asked a few pertinent questions and this was reminded in every email I received in reply.

As was a reluctance to sell the controller on its own.

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Re: Confused about what to buy

Postby StigOE » Mon Apr 23, 2012 8:13 am

It's not a problem to buy RetinaEngraveUSB on your own, but as was said, support is a bit lacking. It's also possible to set an arbitrary number of steps per inch and set up a job with both engraving and cutting in one file. If you search their forum, you'll find a link to a diagram showing which pins go where.

Why would you want to create a job file by hand? You don't have to use CorelDraw. AutoCAD works, InkScape works mostly. For engraving, basically any program where you can print would work.
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Re: Confused about what to buy

Postby TLHarrell » Mon Apr 23, 2012 6:38 pm

Only issue with RetinaEngraveUSB is it is not a standalone controller solution. You would still need a computer, and the recommendations are for a fairly decent box. My aging CAD system with 3GB of RAM and a Core2Duo running XP Pro was not up to the task.

With RetinaEngrave, you can print from pretty much anything. I use it with Autocad. There is a setup file with a lot of parameters that can be tweaked, but few of them are clearly documented.
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Re: Confused about what to buy

Postby educa » Mon Apr 23, 2012 8:10 pm

Of, iw its not standalone then it makes not too much sense.

Actually, I wanted to make my own engraving electronics to do both vector cutting and ratering.
Not by using a custom printer driver, but by reading in files.

Currently I have looked into creating it on atmel atmega controllers, but max speed there is 20Mhz and that is just a little too slow for the high speed raster engraving.

However, There also exist faster microcontrollers.

I just need to find one with high enough speed, preferably 32 bits math and acces to hardware interrupts
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