About this project
The laser ink project is a hardware and software product. We are selling a 2 watt solid state laser head with a 3 element glass lens designed to fit onto the Shapeoko 2 CNC. We have also designed our own software "Object Works" to make controlling both the laser and the CNC easy.
Show Off Photo
Step 1 Take Photo
Take a photo with your phone, camera or any other device. The Object Works software supports png, bmp and jpg files. Save the photo to your computer.
Step 2 Upload Photo
Use the Object Works software to engrave the photo this done by browsing to your image file and opening the photo, yes its that easy. Select image effects and your ready to engrave.
Step 3 Laser Photo
Once you have selected the image effects your ready to hit the play button and let the laser do its magic. The ShapeOko 2 supports an area of about 12 by 10 inches.
Step 4 Show Off Photo
Ok the laser is done now its time to enjoy your laser art.
As soon as we ship the first unit all hardware designs will be open sourced. This will include 3D models and eagle files for the circuit boards used to manufacture the laser head as well as a BOM that will include sourcing information. We however do not at this time plan to open source the software this may change.
One Wire Connection
The laser head is connected to the laser controller with a single Cat 5 cable. This makes it really simple to connect and disconnect the laser head from the Shapeoko. Four M5 bolts are used to attach the head and then it is a matter of simply plunging in a Cat 5 cable. The kickstarter video shows the ShapeOko 2 spindle being swapped with the Laser Ink laser head. The video shown for the swap runs at a 2X speed the actual time to swap the head is still less then 2 Min.
Safety, Safety, Safety, Safety
- I hope I got your attention, let’s be clear this is not a toy and should only be used by responsible adults. This laser can blind a user with a directed beam to the eye. Always make sure that your eyes are well protected with proper eye wear. The beam can cause severe burning on the skin, never place body parts in the path of the beam. Make no mistake, the open beam of a solid state laser is very dangerous.
- When materials burn they give off fumes, this can be a problem if using the laser with material such as PVC make sure you know what you are burning. Proper ventilation will also provide an additional level of safety.
- Ok, let’s talk fire. The focal point of the laser can be several hundred degrees which is an obvious fire potential. We do image rastering on wood by burning areas and turning them different levels of black. When using a laser there is always the potential to start a fire.
Never operate the laser unattended. Always have a fire extinguisher close by.
- All laser heads will ship with a pair of the appropriate eye wear.
It's all about software
- The biggest distinguishing feature is not the hardware, there have been many laser diode projects already featured on Kickstarter, Object Works with the Laser Ink project is offering a complete solution hardware and software, built using the Shapeoko CNC. The software has been designed from the ground up and has 2 years of development already invested.
- The evolution of the software began at a maker space in Reno Nevada, the space was donated a non operational Laser. We brought up the laser using Grbl for our firmware. Once we were able to send GCode commands to the laser via the serial interface, we scoured the internet for software to run the machine. We were not able to find decent laser cutting software that was able to generate appropriate GCode and so began the odyssey that is now Object Works software.
- The same software that is currently controlling a 40 Watt laser at the BridgeWire maker space will be used to run the Shapeoko and the Laser Ink hardware. I am planning to do an instructable that will illustrate how to control a full laser using only an Arduino for the firmware and our software.
- The evolution of the Object Works software has been a true DIY experience. Originally we only supported vector cutting, the software was a dedicated to a single laser machine. The design has evolved to a modular framework capable of supporting multiple machine types and multiple file formats.
- In addition to the laser we support CNC functionality allowing for basic 2 1/2 D cutting similar to maker cam. We have simplified the design process by allowing the transformation of vector files into 3d objects more on this later, see below "CNC for the masses"
- Transform your artwork into real world Objects. Most image file formats are supported additionally we support vector files in the form of SVG. STL file formats are currently not supported but we do provide the ability to open GCode and stream it directly to the Shapeoko.
General Software Features
The software provides a control interface that allows any job to be paused resumed or aborted. One very cool feature on the pause is that the laser will be turned off if the laser is operational, If the CNC is being used we will automatically raise the spindle to traverse height. Jobs sent to the ShapeOko 2 are initiated by first hitting the Play button, this will start the instrument.
- Configuration Editor
The configuration Icon is displayed on the main tool bar, it allows the configuration editor to be displayed.
The configuration editor allows you to adjust and change the grbl firmware settings, both grbl 8 and 9 are supported. The firmware for the Laser Ink Project will however require grbl 9. The configuration editor has the ability to read an existing grbl configuration directly from the firmware and save it to a file that can then be used to upload the configuration on another Shapeoko. In addition to firmware settings many general software configuration setting are modified here. Both software and firmware configuration settings are saved to the instrument definition and are reloaded every time the software is started.
- Vector Cutting
For vector files the user will be able to select lines and polygons based on the color defined in the original art work. Multiple passes over one set of colors is possible. When laser cutting, it is important to do the interior cuts first and then do the outside cuts, our software allows the colors to be defined in any order allowing the user to correctly set the order. The image below shows how color selection is done to allow for the correct ordering of the cuts. If we are doing work using the CNC we use the same color selection table. Each cut will be based on a stroke color coming from the original vector file. For CNC cuts each cut can have a Z Depth which is how deep the cut will go and cuts can be defined as inner outer or center. Inner and outer cuts will only be applied to polygons, lines can only support center cuts.
- Photo Engraving
It is so cool to be able to take a picture and then engrave that image to wood, leather or acrylic. We have put a lot of work into the photo engraving software to make it truly easy for users. It is the image processing features that truly stand out with the Object Works software.
The image processing software developed by Object Works supports many features.
- Set Size of final image independent of original pixel resolution
- Full support for thresholding
- Full support for image rastering
- Full support for dithering
- Image scaling from original image is automatic using advanced scaling algorithms
- It is possible to engrave small thumb nails 1 inch by 1 inch to test setting
- Color images are directly converted to a monochrome black and white image which is what the laser uses.
Below is a short video of the software
Sometimes Easier is Better, CNC for the masses
The Shapeoko is a fully functional CNC able to render complex 3D models. Unfortunately the process to get from design to a rendered object involves multiple software packages and a steep learning curve. The Object Works software attempts to mitigate this by focusing on using vector files for the main design input.
The software is optimized to use vector files for the CNC. The design process to cut materials on the CNC is the same as using the laser. We accept SVG vector files to do 2.5D CNC carving. Each color can be assigned to a standard inside, outside and center cut, we also support pocket cuts. It is important to note that all line segments will default to a center cut the other modes will only be applied to polygons in the original SVG file. Additionally the user will be able to set material information such as start height and dimensions.
On the Backs of Giants
The Shapeoko 2 provides the instrument x, y, and z platform. This is a separate item that can be purchased at Shapeoko.com and has a huge user base. The Shapeoko platform is a popular kit successfully built by thousands of makers in the DIY community. For the Laser Ink Kickstarter project it provides an amazing platform for our laser head. Most laser projects do not have a Z axes, while this is not necessary it is actually a nice bonus. These small laser heads have an advantage when it comes to doing detailed image rastering because we are able to control power over such a small range, however when it comes to cutting material they are quite limited. The advantage of pairing a Laser and a CNC is that the Shapeoko is able to cut thick material such as wood and even aluminum. We can then use the laser head to do the engraving after the material has been carved.
The Shapeoko 2 instrument is not sold by Object Works, but a complete kit, including spindle and tools to build the ShapeOko 2, can be purchased for just over $600.
Why do we need funding
- The biggest reason is proof of concept. If we reach our funding goal we know that we have a viable product and are ready to proceed to the production stage.
- Your funding will allow us to purchase electronic and laser components in quantity allowing us to offer this at a very reasonable price.
- We currently have 2 3D printers. We expect depending on order quantities we will need at least one more 3D printer.
- Finalize design of circuit boards. Set up QA process.
- Hire additional help.
- Order boards in quantity there by reducing cost.
Risks and challenges
We have been closely watching our supply chain and feel that this was necessary to be able to offer a fair price for the Laser Ink Laser Head. That being said we still have additional details to work out.
The actual laser head enclosure has been 3D printed. Assuming that our Kickstarter Campaign has moderate success we plan to 3D print the laser head enclosures. If however we exceed 150 units we will consider other manufacturing methods such as possibly injection molding. If we make such a change it may negatively impact our production schedule causing potential delays.
FDA regulatory compliance is required for all laser products sold in the US. We believe based on our preliminary investigation that we qualify for a variance based on the fact that the Shapeoko is a kit. This may cause un anticipated delays in shipping.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Support this project
- (40 days)