Monthly Archives: January 2021

Laser Etching Tips – Things I’ve Learned The Hard Way

Getting a great finished product isn’t always easy.  I like to think of these processes the same way you might think of a meticulous old machinist or a pilot going through his checklist.

Working through these things slowly and methodically will help you achieve better results.

Let’s get started, shall we?  My first piece of advise is to treat every job like it is the first job you are ever doing.  Be slow and work purposely making sure not to forget ANYTHING.  Let’s roll!

1. Inspect the piece you intend to etch on.  Make sure it is smooth, flat, sanded, has an even coating of whatever you put on it and is prepped to your satisfaction.  Poorly prepped parts will spoil your final product.

2. Second of all you need a GOOD, FLAT, SECURE surface.  Etching a grid on it is really beneficial for keeping your work piece straight.  Cut on a waste board and clamp that board down to your work surface if you can.

Use Your Grid Lines!

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Ortur YRR Rotary Roller Set Up

Ortur YRR Rotary Device

Picked up one of these Ortur YRR Rotary Rollers  to supplement my Ortur Laser Master 2.  There are a lot of videos online showing you how to assemble it as it comes in a kit form but not much information on how to make it work in software.

That’s why you have me.

I spent a couple days researching how to set it up and never really found an “AHA” video or webpage but after viewing a dozen or more items I had a good idea of what to do.

I’m going to set mine up in Lightburn which is a pay program ($40). If you have a GRBL laser cutter, Lightburn is worth every penny.

Connect your Ortur Rotary Roller to the Y axis with the supplied extension cable.

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Macs with the New M1 Chip – Be Advised

I’m old enough to remember when Mac used propriety chips in their computers.   They were called “PowerPC” or PPC.  Proprietary chips mean proprietary code to run them. .  Such as it was with the old OS X operating systems.  Right around 2005 Apple announced it would transition to Intel chips which most of the rest of the world was running on already.  It opened up a new world of software and hardware to the Mac.

People found they could run OS X on Intel PC’s (aka Hackintosh).

Now here we are again 16 years later and Mac has gone their own route and selected another proprietary chip, the M1 which is ARM based and not X86.  When you think ARM, think Raspberry Pi.

The advantages to doing this are MANY.  Apple controls the hardware build and can write tight code for that specific hardware.  The chips are FAST.

THE DOWNSIDE HERE IS THAT YOU LOSE LEGACY COMPATIBILITY.   That old hardware you have connected to USB may not work anymore.  That old hunk of software you love may not work anymore.  Or the software you love may have to run on top of something called “Rosetta 2” which allows Intel apps to run on ARM OS’s.  So there could be hiccups with that as well.

So lets get to my experience: Continue reading

Ortur Laser Maker 2 Review

No shortage of reviews for the Ortur Laser Master 2 and as always I won’t bore you with the things you can read anywhere else, like what models are available and what the real laser power is, etc.  You can get that info anywhere.

This is MY shakedown and I like to bring up the things the layman and weekend hobbyist might come up with.

First of all the cheapest place to buy one is Gearbest. You can get the top of the line (20 watt) for about $290.  So I ordered one.  And I waited and I waited and I waited and the status on Gearbest still showed it not being invoiced.  A lot of people on a lot of forums were saying they waited for months.

You can however just order one on Amazon and have it in 2 days.  This is what I eventually did.  The downside is that it costs like $120 more.  I can live with that.

I got the box which was well packaged and the kit was complete.  Assembly takes 30 minutes or so, however if you were building your 2nd one it would take about 10 minutes.  Translation:  The instructions are small and hard to read.  I ended up watching an assembly video on YouTube which made the process much, much easier.

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Ortur Laser Master 2 Air Assist

Ortur Laser Master 2

I got one of those Ortur Laser Master 2, laser engraving machines.   This is not really a review of the machine but suffice to say that I think it is awesome.

It is not the end all, be all machine for laser engraving for sure but it is WAY more than enough for most hobbyists.  Also it will do things that technically it isn’t supposed to do thanks to the ingenuity of community of people behind it.

Rather this post is about adding Air Assist to the laser.   In short if material is too thick to cut and takes many passes an air assist system will speed things up and produce much cleaner cuts free of smoke and burning.  In the picture below you can see evidence of burns in the lines and especially where the lines are close like in the “E” and the top of the logo.

Slight burning marks on logo and prominent on “E”

Here is the exact same cut, using the exact same settings, with Air Assist in the pic below.

Same settings with Air Assist

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Logic (Level Shifting) and Shit

I ran a strip of WS2811, 12 volt LED’s in my home for years with a program from Bruhautomation which has kind of long since been obsolete and the author has archived the project.  Served me well for years.

The new kid on the block for controlling LED’s for effect lighting is WLED by Aircookie.  Awesome project.   For some reason though the hardware I’ve always used to drive the LED strip wasn’t working reliably with my new WLED setup.   Weird things like having the first 3 LED’s light up uncommanded while the strip was powered off and other things like not retaining the color or brightness from the last known state.

Translation:  Data corruption.

The data signal that powers the LED comes from the ESP8266 chip and is a 3.3 volt signal.  For a long run of lights to keep things working correctly we may need to amplify the signal to 5 volts.

This is where something called a Logic Level Shifter comes into play.

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WLED for Home Effect Lighting

LED Effect Lighting

We’ve all seen those decorative LED strips in the big box stores.  They are either controlled by a remote (who needs another remote control?) or by an app.  I am here to tell you that the cheap Chinese lights and their apps are essentially spyware.

So to be safe we want to use an Open Source solution to power our lights. Enter, WLED by Aircookie.  Before we go down the rabbit hole I want you to realize that this isn’t the typical geek project.

It is EASY!  Anyone can do this.  But to make it easy you’ll need a few things that could be optional if you cannot solder or you don’t have a drawer full of electronic geek stuff.

BEFORE I TALK TOO MUCH AND SCARE YOU OFF WE ARE GOING TO DO THIS ESSENTIALLY:

  • PLUG IN A CHIP TO A COMPUTER
  • OPEN A PROGRAM AND FLASH THAT CHIP WITH ONE BUTTON CLICK
  • HOOK UP 5 WIRES

There are a lot of different LED strips and your selection will depend on what you are doing.  Because I put a 4′ strip behind a workbench I used 5 volt strips.  If you are doing a pretty long run, a 5 volt strip might not power all your lights without additional power injection.  12 volt strips MIGHT also require a level shifter on the data wires to get the signal down stream.  Your ESP8266 chip will send a 3.3v data signal out.  To make a long run you might need 5 volts.  A level shifter turns a 3.3 volt signal into a 5 volt signal.  But I digress.  Let’s keep this simple.

On to the Build Of Materials:

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LED Strips For Lighting and Effects – What NOT To Get

I have a real cool LED strip that I installed a while back.  Details of that build are here.

My Living Room Arch LED Strip Installation

I just built a work/hobby room up and decided to put some effect lighting in there as well.  I did a little research and of all the LED lights that you can buy in Lowes, Target, Walmart, HomeDepot only the Monster Smart Illuminessence lights line at Walmart seemed to be available quickly and they seemed to possess the ability to be flashed by an Open Source Firmware called Tasmota.

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