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View Full Version : Testra Accelerator E upgrade for ULS 25ER



Kay Bengtson
05-03-2011, 5:37 PM
I can report that the Accelerator E from Testra Corporation is now successfully installed in my ULS 25ER. I am able to cut kits again. The unit is well made and the micro stepping feature makes much nicer cuts. Circles are cut much much faster. I have one sheet of parts that used to take 25 minutes to cut but now it cuts in under 4 minutes. Instead of the grinding noises that I was accustomed to now the stepper motors seems to sing or make a low whirring sound. Also the speed of all cuts is twice what it was before so I have to change my old settings to about half what they were.

The was pretty much as advertised, a drop in replacement for the old Gold Box and CPU board however be prepared to drill a hole in the back of the engraving chamber to route a communications cable to the new display panel. The old keypad is retained.

The unit uses serial communications instead of the parallel printer that I had used. The package comes with a Serial to USB adapter but I opted to use the serial port on my Windows 2000 computer. There is no difference in uploading speed for files compared to the old setup. Also, the same driver is used so the only change was to make the port COM1 and setup the 38400 baud rate etc.

The more difficult parts of the new setup are that while the Accelerator is similar to the ULS 25 controller, the menu structure is somewhat different and things like pausing and focusing must be done differently.

Apparently, the E version is very new. The copyright on my display panel was 2011. A downside of this is that the manual doesn't match the keypad that I have because the manual is for the PS series. This means that until I get the updates, I can't change the power, speed, PPI settings on the fly like I used to do. Focusing is somewhat awkward because I can't position it near the origin and must make do with focusing only in the home position. I have been assured that the updates are coming asap so this is expected to be a temporary inconvenience.

All in all, I am pleased with the upgrade. I didn't want to send in my defective gold box in for repair after learning that it wouldn't be warranted afterwards and that there was a significant probability that it would not be repairable. A new one ( built in the late 1990s) would cost $4388 and a refurbished one goes for $2100. I really like the very smooth operation of the steppers, and the much faster cutting speed of circles and curves. Installation took about two hours because of the lack of documentation and the need to plan the display panel cable so it wasn't as simple as the advertised 30 minutes but I have to say that I received the unit in the morning and after lunch, I was cutting again.

Now, I have an almost new machine that can be upgraded even more because the new controller will drive just about any laser available.

Kay

Ron Hartl
05-03-2011, 5:52 PM
Thanks for the update Kay, I'm glad it is working out for you!

Kay Bengtson
05-04-2011, 5:30 PM
Testra reassigned the keys on the keypad with the unit so until I get the actual keypad map, I am doing trial and error work. So far, I have been able to in Pause mode, move the lens carriage with the arrow keys which will allow me to focus anywhere on the engraving table. That is a big relief. I still don't know how to change settings in the middle of a run yet but I have been told that the feature is available. The only other big issue is beam alignment. There seems to be no way to manually fire the laser in the four positions on the bed to check alignment. As of this point, I think what has to be done is sending a single point file moving the lens carriage to the corner specified and then burning a single point. What the settings for that would be are up in the air.

I am a bit miffed that it has been over a day since I have had the hardware and still no updates have been emailed even though I have emailed Testra twice. Seems that paying $2000 should get you more response than this.

Kay

Kay Bengtson
05-06-2011, 1:29 PM
It's been almost five days and still no updates on exactly how to use the new keypad layout from Testra. They won't answer my emails and the phone goes to voice mail which is full. I suspect something has happened there that keeps them from responding, perhaps something of a personal nature.

Since the menu system clearly doesn't allow for beam alignment, I set up a file to cut 0.03" diameter circles at the four corners of the engraving bed. I then put masking tape over the lens carriage and removed the last mirror and lens. By experimenting with settings, I was able to get a burn dot in the same place that the old setup beam alignment did so I figure I will be able to align the beam this way. It is not elegant or as easy as the original but it will work.

I tried all the combinations of keys possible during a run to try to discover the Power and Speed keys but none worked so I have to assume that they didn't implement those functions and as such, I won't be able to change those settings on the fly again. That is disappointing but it is outweighed by the really fantastic speed enhancement and smooth cutting.

The Accelerator E also had a different placement of the origin relative to the engraving bed so I had to loosen the rulers and put down tape, cut a rectangle the size of the cutting area and realign. No big deal.

Considering the alternatives, I am still pleased about this product even if they don't support it or implement all the features of the old CPU. If they eventually do respond, I will report that too. They may be able to update the firmware and fix these shortcomings.

Kay

Richard Rumancik
05-07-2011, 12:45 PM
Kay, I came across Testra many years ago when I had this idea of building a laser engraver. (It is probably better that I didn't follow that route.) At that time, they had a generic electronics "front end" that seemed to be suitable for building an engraver (control panel, motor drivers, and power supply). My understanding is that they did some initial work for ULS - perhaps as consultants - and designed some electronics and software for them. Presumably at some point ULS took over the design and then handled further engineering work internally. But that initial work for ULS probably gave Testra the knowledge to come up with this replacement package for the older ULS electronics.

I suspect that Testra is not a big company - maybe a couple of fellows working out of a small shop - so you won't get 24/7 service from them. I suppose it is probably like a lot of small companies - too much to do and not enough time and resources to handle everything. They probably have a good product but don't have the staff to adequately handle product development, customer service, software maintenance, quality control, manufacturing, procurement, etc etc. You'll probably get the answers and help you need but it looks like you'll have to be patient. But keep us posted on how you make out. Having an option to upgrade older lasers is a good thing and although $2000 isn't spare change it is not a bad deal if it can provide several more years of use.

Kay Bengtson
05-07-2011, 2:09 PM
Richard, I think you are correct about the size of the company. I figured that in when I was making my decision. Initially, I was sent a video showing how much smoother and faster the new controller cuts compared to the old one and the video is representative of what the controller does in my machine. In that respect, it is a joy to behold. I have some sheets that are cut with mostly circular parts and it was brutally slow to cut before but now cutting is fast and no longer do I hear those groaning sounds of the steppers. Now they whine and sing like well oiled gears whirring. It's been days and I still am shocked at the speed. Sure, I have all new settings to deal with too but it feels like a new laser cutter.

All in all, I still would recommend this product but you do have to be prepared to figure a lot out for yourself. What I got in my package was just the controller and a bunch of cables. Not one piece of documentation. I took my time and reasoned out what cable should go where and was successful. Had my X axis home sensor not been dirty, I would be running even sooner than I was. I found out much later that there was supposed to be some photographs sent along with the package but they were left out by mistake. Another issue is that putting the enclosure back on the box isn't really possible because of the nest of cables. I could force it but then I worry about causing more problems. It isn't very neat to look at but since it is behind the unit, I don't see it.


Kay

Kay Bengtson
05-15-2011, 12:25 PM
I did get a reply from Mr. Hart indicating that he was swamped with work and would eventually get the new keypad assignments to me. I suspect there might be some reprogramming involved for what seems to me like some important features were inadvertently dropped. Still, I can function with the setup I have with only a few inconveniences which is adequate for the time being.


BTW, I just finished a job that used to take 8 hours in half the time because of the cutting circles and curves as fast as straight lines. This will make my productivity go up quite a bit.

Kay

Kay Bengtson
05-24-2011, 9:26 PM
I spoke to Mr. Hart of Testra Corporation again today and he indicated that the programmer for the E series version left out some keypad assignments and is tasked with an update. I will be able to install it myself according to Mr. Hart.

I have been working with the new controller at the double speed it produces and found that some settings don't make nice parts at high speed and once I had a belt skip a tooth. As a result, I changed my schemes to basically use one speed setting that seems to run the lens carriage for cutting the best and then cut back on power for thinner materials. It still cuts faster than before with the old controller even at half the IPS because of the enhanced circle and curve cutting algorithms. With the micro stepping, I can recut the same pattern with confidence and with multiple passes, I can cut 1/4" contest balsa with no worries about flaming the edges or charring. Sadly, balsa just doesn't come as uniform as it once did so I find bands of denser material often run though even the expensive material. That is when multiple passes come in handy.

Kay

Bert Wilson
05-28-2011, 6:32 PM
Kay,

I have installed a testra system into my ULS-25PS but the arc and spline cuts are still not smooth??? I am printing from AutoCad using the ULS drivers that were sent from ULS. Any ideas here? The machine slows down and twitches the whole way thru the arc cuts just like the old system. Also, thanks for the baud rate note in your post! worked for hours trying to get the PC to post to the laser before I read it :)

Thanks,

Kay Bengtson
05-28-2011, 7:08 PM
Kay,

I have installed a testra system into my ULS-25PS but the arc and spline cuts are still not smooth??? I am printing from AutoCad using the ULS drivers that were sent from ULS. Any ideas here? The machine slows down and twitches the whole way thru the arc cuts just like the old system. Also, thanks for the baud rate note in your post! worked for hours trying to get the PC to post to the laser before I read it :)

Thanks,


Bert,
I'm using AutoCAD and the ULS 1.07 driver too. I see some of my arcs are not smooth cuts when the speed is too fast. When slowed down, the controller will smooth them out. I talked to Mr. Hart about it and he indicated that was the issue. I only see the non smooth cuts on very small arcs such as less than 1/8" in radius. The larger circles and arcs cut pretty well but I have to say that the old controller did a better job on these. I also found that some multisegment polylines seem to be not smooth then I changed the shape to a couple of arcs and the result was smooth but I only saw that twice so far.

I did see that on small ellipses, when the carriage was going from lower left to upper right, that the sawtooth effect occurred but not on the other three quadrants. For that, I would say it is due to the firmware. I expect that Mr. Hart's programmer will address these issues and we will get an update.

Kay

Bert Wilson
05-28-2011, 7:22 PM
The circle I am talking about is 2'' dia @ 20-30% speed.. Just seemed odd that the new system does this when that is one of the key selling points??? Also the Testra site says somthing about a up-graded driver? do you know anything about this?

Kay Bengtson
05-28-2011, 7:47 PM
The circle I am talking about is 2'' dia @ 20-30% speed.. Just seemed odd that the new system does this when that is one of the key selling points??? Also the Testra site says somthing about a up-graded driver? do you know anything about this?

Drop down to ~5% speed and lower the power accordingly and see what happens. Their driver is rather complex, I got a demo version and found it had so many settings that I figured it would take me forever to master it. Plus they want $495 for it. Not gonna happen.

Yes, it is odd that circles are one of their selling points and some circles are the problem. I'm not totally sure but I suspect it is integer round off error in an algorithm in the controller firmware. It also could be that the stepper motors can't handle the 2x speed that the controller puts out. I asked Mr. Hart to drop it back to the old speed.

Kay

Bert Wilson
05-30-2011, 9:17 PM
Kay,

I adjusted the feed rate again but it made no real change. Here is a video of what I had in mind about smooth cutting arcs.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0NEHAIwvts

Would be nice to get a firmware update that drives it like this.

Bert

Kay Bengtson
05-30-2011, 10:06 PM
That is how my unit cuts with the accelerator and about that fast.

Kay

Kay Bengtson
05-30-2011, 11:15 PM
I was thinking about your comment about distorted circles etc and recalled that initially, I thought my system really went south after the accelerator was installed but found that it shook the lens loose. You might check that. Circles and arcs really move that carriage around fast.

Kay

Bert Wilson
05-31-2011, 9:07 PM
That is how my unit cuts with the accelerator and about that fast.

Kay

Nope, Not even close. The cut is not distorted. The machine looks like it is cutting the circle from hundreds of straight lines to form the arc??

Kay Bengtson
05-31-2011, 9:13 PM
Nope, Not even close. The cut is not distorted. The machine looks like it is cutting the circle from hundreds of straight lines to form the arc??

Mine cuts smooth curves and circles except the ones that are less than 1/4" diameter when sometimes they get a little bit distorted on one side. Mostly though, it cuts just perfectly and even at 5% speed, instead of 25% my overall cutting time is half as it was because circles and curves cut so much faster. On the old controller, it did have some problems with curves like you said but only slightly. I use a 180 PPI setting. What do you use?

Kay

Bert Wilson
05-31-2011, 10:17 PM
Mine cuts smooth curves and circles except the ones that are less than 1/4" diameter when sometimes they get a little bit distorted on one side. Mostly though, it cuts just perfectly and even at 5% speed, instead of 25% my overall cutting time is half as it was because circles and curves cut so much faster. On the old controller, it did have some problems with curves like you said but only slightly. I use a 180 PPI setting. What do you use?

Kay

Here is a video of my machine cutting the sample part. The large circle is 5.5'' in dia. and the small ones are around 1.5'' or so. I also included a spline that is cut last, note the speed change on the spline cuts. The straight line feed rate is twice what the circles are cut at?? Like I said any cut other than a straight line slows way down. Turn the volume up on your speakers and you can hear the stepper motors as they struggle to cut the arcs. The PPI is 500 and I have gone down to 100 PPI.. I have sent several emails to Mr. Hart but it seems he is too busy to answer them :confused:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TOvKMaPhEc


Bert

Mike Mackenzie
05-31-2011, 10:38 PM
Bert,

What driver version are you using? Have you checked the Vector sorting section in the advanced tab have you tried using the enhance settings. Are you drawing in Corel or Autocad?

Bert Wilson
05-31-2011, 10:47 PM
ULS 2004-06-25 WIN XP/2000 v1.07M, Vector sorting? AutoCAD program

Kay Bengtson
05-31-2011, 11:05 PM
At 10% speed my unit would be cutting very much faster than that. I'd get those speeds at ~1.2% setting. The flashing is odd too. Mine seems to just glow. As for the sound, it seems like your motors are struggling, at 10% my system would almost sing. Could it be that one of your steppers is failing? What version of AutoCAD do you use?

Kay

Bert Wilson
05-31-2011, 11:13 PM
No, both motors are good. As I said it cuts lines very well in all directions? I am running AutoCad LT98. I use this same PC and CAD system to run my vinyl cutter and arcs are no problem there?

Bert

Kay Bengtson
05-31-2011, 11:38 PM
Tell him about this thread. I mentioned it to him also and he thanked me that I posted it.
I found that the best way to contact him is by his cell phone number. He rarely answers my emails.

Kay

Mike Mackenzie
06-01-2011, 1:28 PM
Bert,

The vector sorting and enhancements is in the advanced tab of the driver make sure that the setting is set to enhance and sort. Also are you plotting polylines?

Bert Wilson
06-02-2011, 8:54 AM
Bert,

The vector sorting and enhancements is in the advanced tab of the driver make sure that the setting is set to enhance and sort. Also are you plotting polylines?

Polyline yes, My driver has no enhance and sort option? I will capture some screen shots and post.

Bert

Dan Hintz
06-02-2011, 9:33 AM
Polylines... lots of on-the-fly calculations, potentially a lot of nodes, etc. Ugly little buggers track...

Mike Mackenzie
06-03-2011, 1:12 PM
Bert,

My Bad They took out the curve enhancements for the Uls 25ps and 25E. If I am not mistaken they have the curve enhancements in there driver (testra). I would forward this video to Testra and ask them there has to be some setting that can be adjusted or set.

Kay Bengtson
06-03-2011, 2:40 PM
My ULS 25ER cutting balsa with the Testa Controller at 4.0% speed.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7Iw5pc4F1U

Kay

Bert Wilson
06-03-2011, 5:44 PM
Thanks for the vid Kay! Wow yours cuts much smoooother. I will try and make contact again with Testra about this issue.

Bert

Kay Bengtson
06-12-2012, 4:55 PM
I thought it might be useful to post an update. In the year since I installed this controller, I have mixed results from it. It does cut circles faster than the stock ULS controller but not anywhere near the speed advertised. In fact, it cannot go faster than 4.0 % speed and make a non distorted cut or etching. That corresponds to an 8% speed setting on the ULS controller. On balance, I cut my kits about 75% faster than before so in that respect, I am pleased.

However, the promised firmware update never happened. Testra did not respond to my repeated emails about it and now their email service is refusing all emails. I suspect that they are going out of business even though they now advertise that this controller will handle even more ULS laser cutters. As a result, I am left with a rather awkward setup. I cannot adjust settings on the fly. I must focus with the lens in the extreme left top home position instead of the 2" 2" location on the cutting bed. I do not have the mirror adjustment and manual fire procedures so I had to cobble one to get my laser tube remounted. All of these problems were to be addressed with the firmware upgrade but that seems not to be possible now.

If anyone has managed to get Testra to respond, I'd appreciate some feedback. Right now, I feel a bit stung.

Kay

Lee DeRaud
06-12-2012, 6:28 PM
Testra did not respond to my repeated emails about it and now their email service is refusing all emails.Have you tried calling them? There's a live human at 480-966-8428 as of about five minutes ago...

Dan Hintz
06-13-2012, 8:15 PM
Thanks for keeping us updated, Kay... always good to keep track of what companies are still alive and kicking, which ones are likely in the final throes of death, and which ones are alive but complete zombies to their customers.

Kay Bengtson
06-14-2012, 3:11 PM
Have you tried calling them? There's a live human at 480-966-8428 as of about five minutes ago...

I have called in the past but only the cell phone number was being answered at that time. When I did get through, the responses were incomplete and did not instill confidence. He was aware that he shipped a product with no manual and apparently that not all the stated functionality was implemented. The comment on the web site that the unit is a drop in plug in only applies to their original product and for the ULS 25ER, it takes a day and includes drilling a hole for a comm cable to be routed to the display/keypad. ALL with no documentation. I connected the cables going primarily by which ones fit the existing connectors. I was eventually emailed a manual for the original product but almost half of it doesn't apply to the ULS 25ER. I got no indication that a new one for my unit was forthcoming. It's been a year. At least, he could have documented what the keys do with the firmware I have but he didn't. Instead, I figured it out by trial and error. On that last call, he didn't know what keys were mapped to which functions and said he would find out. He never got back to me. I found that he did not seem to want to talk to me which was very awkward. So I went back to emails which worked better before I bought his controller. The idea of calling now seems ridiculous. I have lost confidence that the new firmware, if it does exist, would not cause more problems than it solves. BTW, I developed a hardware/software product using an embedded microprocessor that did real time data acquisition and also wrote the drivers for it. I even wrote programs in FORTH which he and his team used to program this unit so I am not some twit that needs to be shined on but I do know that they released a product before it was even tested.

Lee DeRaud
06-14-2012, 3:33 PM
The idea of calling now seems ridiculous.Suit yourself. It just seems to me that it would be more satisfying, even if unproductive, to direct your rant at the people who are actually causing the problem.

Kay Bengtson
06-14-2012, 3:47 PM
I really take no satisfaction in ranting to a vendor. Having been one and having done many many hours of tech support, I know what it is like to be on the end of an emotional phone call. I started this thread because I thought I had found a superb product which would be useful for others on this forum to know about. I still wish the product would live up to it's promise. However, for reasons that I cannot fathom, the company doesn't want to support it's product. My comments here to bookend this thread were to finally say that sadly I cannot recommend Testra products. It means that I have resigned myself to a hobbled system that is far from what it could be but still I feel that it did allow me to continue in business with my very limited budget.

Kay

Lee DeRaud
06-14-2012, 4:47 PM
As I said, suit yourself.

But the main reason companies stay in business selling shoddy unsupported products is because their customers let them get away with it.