New Laser Engraver Controller

Retna Engave Controller

Full Spectrum Engineering is about to release it’s new Retna Engrave laser engraving controller.  It is initially targeted at the hobby and DIY market.  There are Chinese controllers available, but most people are quickly underwhelmed by the software that comes with them.  The Moshisoft and Newlydraw interfaces are quite quirky.  Note: The image above is probably an old version.

Henry Liu, the head of Full Spectrum, and I have been chatting back and forth since the beginning of my laser project.  He is very sharp and seems to have good pulse on the low end laser and DIY laser community.  We hashed out most of the controller options out there from DSP to FPGA and both decided that the XMOS chip might be the perfect device for the job.  Once he decided to go full force with the XMOS, I stopped working on mine, knowing that he could do a better job.  He is sending me one of his controllers to try out next week.

Currently the controller runs as a printer driver for Windows.  This means that basically any program can use it to cut or engrave.  He also has a Mach3 plug-in coming soon and eventually an  open API where others can create new applications for it.  It falls short of full open source, but it is a good option for many of us.  The controller hangs off an existing DB25 parallel connector, so it is an easy upgrade for anyone currently using Mach3 or EMC2.  The firmware is also upgradeable over the USB connection.

Attaches to existing port

Here is an example of the quality of the engraving it can do.  He has the source image for anyone to use as a challenge to the quality of his controller.

He should have some videos out soon.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

14 Responses to “New Laser Engraver Controller”

  1. macona

    Any idea if it has any extra IO for things like activating a solenoid valve for air assist?

  2. bdring

    I think initially the options are limited with motor control and laser control. The XMOS has a lot of I/O and he has upgradeable firmware via USB.

  3. Tech Fortune laser engraver Technology Co | Delta WoodWorking

    […] New Laser Engraver Controller at Buildlog.Net Blog […]

  4. Full Spectrum Engineering

    There’s 5 available general I/O on the board but there are no buttons in the software to configure these. We may add some options to toggle these in a future release but this is pretty low priority.

    Also we see no reason for fast computerized switching of things like an air assist. You can just turn the air assist on at the beginning and off at the end of the cut cycle. This can be done with a single physical button switch which is located on the front panel of our Mini40 lasers.

    Mach3 plugin driver has been completed and available in beta form.

    The controller as is supports 5 axis coordinated motion with 12 time synced outputs, one of which is used for laser output.

  5. macona

    I disagree. Just like coolant control on a mill you should be able to control the air from the computer. People do forget! And if it is in an environment where multiple people will use the machine the lens is going to get gunked fast from people forgetting to turn it on.

    For example at TechShop Portland we had a 3HP exhaust fan in the ceiling of the shop where the laser exhausted to. Switch to turn it on was dangling right over the top of the door of the machine. Countless times people forgot to turn it on even with it right in front of their faces and big signs saying turn it on.

    If you have it set up with mach are you thinking of using it with mills and lathes?

  6. Full Spectrum Engineering

    I still don’t see the advantage of computer controlled air. The water/air pump/exhaust all need to be on all the time in our opinion. So you should just wire the on button of the laser to turn everything on.

    The way we do it our lab is hook up the laser/water/air pump/exhaust to a single power bar. That way if the laser is on then the rest are on.

    If you made it computer controlled then you would need to plug into an outlet AND supply a relay.

    We’ll probably add it in later as it’s not a big deal.

    Yes with the Mach3 driver you just run mach3 like the smoothstepper or parallel port except it is USB.

    5 axis milling/lathe works fine.

  7. macona

    I dont use one of those little air pumps and the ones we had at work we had hooked to shop air (No oil in the lines, Powerex Scroll air compressor). The Epilog had a solenoid valve built in controlled by the computer and I added a solenoid to the machine. The controller had a output specifically for the air solenoid.

    Adding a relay is no big deal. I have tons of SSRs laying around. If you dont add it I will just tie into the step lines to the motor drives with a delay-off relay. It will turn on air when the machine starts moving as shut off after a specified time.

    One thing I hope you will do is have backlash compensation when using it for mill/lathe. Smoothstepper has promised it and has never delivered. Also if you can still use the parallel port for general I/O that would be nice. My milling machine uses two parallel ports for all the I/O that is going on. Also close loop spindle feedback.

    Cant wait to see a review of this unit. Would like to try it on my mill too (Knee mill, larger than a bridgeport)

  8. Full Spectrum Engineering

    Here are the screenshots and videos of the software:

    This is preliminary and I will update these to something more informative as time goes by.

    As you can see, a single push button will cut out a vector file or convert a bmp to a laser cuttable raster format.

  9. deviker

    Their quality is very good and I might buy a controller from them but I like the idea of having a full open source/hardware CNC laser even if the quality is not as good.

  10. Mono

    I agree with Macona, you do need computer controlled air assist. I sometimes set up a vector job with thick chipboard that takes 3 hours to cut so I leave the job and go and do something else while it cuts. The computer will stop the air pump after the job is processed stopping it from wearing out prematurely as I might not get back to it for another hour.
    I’m not worried about fires as the only thing that can burn is the job material and the air takes care of that by blowing out the flames.
    For me I think it’s mandatory to have.

  11. Northwood

    Certainly you can detect when the thing is in motion. Do we need to go back to Forrest M. Mims, III again and learn how to build a break beam detector or light actuated circuit?

    This is a simple open source, low power design, with no moving parts if you use a solid state relay. Check The Engineer’s Mini Notebook: Optoelectronic Circuits. Open to page 40.

    A more refined version can be found in EMN: 555 Circuits on page 40.

    All components are readily available at Radio Shack. Use EAGLE or KiCAD to do the circuit board. Use surface mount components to reduce the requisite area and use DIP-8 packages so that the timer/op-amp chips may be easily replaced in the event of the inevitable failure.

  12. Full Spectrum Engineering

    We’re open to opening up part of the controller to make it work for you.

    It’s pretty open right now as is with pinouts for the pins.

    We could open it up at the low level protocol but you won’t be able to use our print drivers or our trajectory planner.

    Both of those components are non trivial to write.

  13. African mango plus

    “you can try which is a freelance site, and has all kinds of technical people. Not sure how much it costs though.”…

    “Put a job specifation on sites such as, and in fact use them all, you should get a few people interested, ask them for examples of their work before awarding the contract”…

  14. mahmood Alizadeh

    I AM Production CNC IN IRAN And
    I Need The Controller For My CNC Machine
    Thanks and Best Regards