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Robert Walters
06-17-2014, 4:37 PM
I received my replacement laser cartridge yesterday and was engraving anodized aluminum and the first 1/4" of the x axis engraving was "shadowed".

I inserted a 1.50" spacer and shifted everything over and engraved fine.

I really don't want to "give up" that 1/4" as I align everything to the rulers plus there is a 2" indent where the ruler goes from 1/8" to a 1/16" thick for the auto-focus which works great on my machine and I don't have any 1/16" spacers I could use on a regular basis.

Any suggestions?




Sidenote...
NEVER EVER test a new laser tube using manufactured wood products.
We tried forever to cut 1/8" particle board (just scrap I had on hand), even at 100% pwr, 0.2% speed, 1000 PPI, and it still would never cut in a single pass. Tossed in 1/4" solid wood, and no problem at all! *ARGH* I think I scared the rep when I started ripping apart the particle board with my bare hands and throwing it in the trash, lol.

Brian R Cain
06-17-2014, 6:00 PM
Can you post a photo of the shadowing? When you say the first 1/4", do you mean 1/4" from the ruler or the first 1/4" of engraving, bearing in mind this might be some way further in.

Try running the machine in single direction mode to see if you find the same thing. In the driver, press Shift, Ctrl and 8 together. This brings up a window that allows you to set this. Choose East to West then repeat using West to East and post what you find.

Robert Walters
06-18-2014, 10:52 AM
No pic available right now....

It's like a gradient going from left to right, darker to lighter.

Where lighter is the proper power level,
and darker is like the power is 50% lower than it should be.

1/4" from the edge of the ruler.

If I shift everything (artwork/material) to the right by 1.5" using a spacer, everything is fine.

Dan Hintz
06-18-2014, 12:20 PM
Sounds like a typical problem (moreso with ULS machines as they don't offer the ability to tweak per material, ala Trotec)... as the head slows down, the laser power is reduced in an attempt to even out the power density over time. It's a linear regression, which will almost never work perfectly (and often nowhere even close to perfect).

Brian R Cain
06-18-2014, 2:53 PM
Sounds like a typical problem (moreso with ULS machines as they don't offer the ability to tweak per material, ala Trotec)... as the head slows down, the laser power is reduced in an attempt to even out the power density over time. It's a linear regression, which will almost never work perfectly (and often nowhere even close to perfect).

Wouldn't that have the same effect in any part of the bed? I'm wondering if the drop off in power is due to an beam alignment issue. Have you checked the alignment, Robert? If I remember correctly, you mentioned you bought this machine second hand. Although replacement tubes are sent out pre-aligned and generally pretty good, we don't know whether the original was tampered with at some stage. If that was the case, it's possible that as the carriage moves right into in the near field, the beam is hitting the air assist cone.

If this turns out to be the case, after you've adjusted the #2 mirror, you may need to re-align the cone as well. The bracket it's mounted on is held in place by two screws under the carriage. Slacken these off and move the bracket around until you see the red dot pointer cleanly.

Scott Shepherd
06-18-2014, 3:35 PM
Wouldn't that have the same effect in any part of the bed?

Sadly, no. It only impacts the far left and right sides of the table. That was Trotec's sales pitch years ago. Their trade show demos featured a piece the length of the table and it would engrave at 100% speed from end to end. Something no one else could do without having the edges fade out. I don't recall it being an issue on the M series, but it's been a while since I've seen one of those. I thought the M series ran a bit slower than the PLS and VLS, so the fading out on the edges wasn't an issue like it is on those machine, but I could be wrong.

It certainly could be the alignment.

Kev Williams
06-18-2014, 5:31 PM
Does the ULS driver in this particular machine have a "wood" setting? My ULS driver doesn't, but my LS900 driver does, and it further reduces the edge power to prevent the wood from overburning at the ends. I've had dark ends when doing anodized with the wood setting turned on.

Brian R Cain
06-18-2014, 5:52 PM
I don't recall it being an issue on the M series, but it's been a while since I've seen one of those. I thought the M series ran a bit slower than the PLS and VLS, so the fading out on the edges wasn't an issue like it is on those machine, but I could be wrong.



The speed depended on the specific models. The M-300, V-400 and X-600 ran at 40 IPS. When they introduced the M-360, V-460 and X-660 the speed increased to 75 IPS which is the same for the PLS series. The VLS runs at 50 IPS.

Brian R Cain
06-18-2014, 6:05 PM
Does the ULS driver in this particular machine have a "wood" setting? My ULS driver doesn't, but my LS900 driver does, and it further reduces the edge power to prevent the wood from overburning at the ends. I've had dark ends when doing anodized with the wood setting turned on.

The driver for the M-300 will be similar to yours, Kev. Using the image enhancement feature helps but to do so, you need to run some tests first with each material you use to find the minimum power required to get clean engraving at maximum speed, then make adjustments to the Density and Contrast settings. It's all explained in the manual which you can access in the driver by clicking on the ? icon, which from memory is located at the top right of the driver. You only need to do the testing once then save the settings for each material.

Robert Walters
06-20-2014, 8:55 AM
The alignment is off in the factory tube, so I'm going through the process of compensating for that and realigning the mirror. *SO* close, about 0.5mm left to go between all four corners.

I realize that I probably don't need to be that accurate, but it's not like I will be realigning all the time, and I'd like to know that the laser is hitting evenly and consistantly across the whole table.

Once I get the realignment finished, I'll recheck for the 1/4" loss.

I'm a wee bit annoyed the $1200 replacement tube is off like this though,
I can see it's off center from the portal hole by at least 1/8".


SHIFT+CTRL+8 does nothing in my driver on any screen.

Not sure about a WOOD, but do have a rubber stamp setting.

I never had this issue before the replacement tube, so maybe it could be the alignment.

Brian R Cain
06-20-2014, 9:11 AM
"SHIFT+CTRL+8 does nothing in my driver on any screen."

Just had a look. Go to the advanced tab and press Shift+Alt+8. Sorry about that.

Robert Walters
06-22-2014, 4:19 AM
First off...
The beam coming out of the replacement laser cartridge was off center by (what I would consider) quite a bit.

I spent a few hours compensating for this by readjusting the mirror alignment. I am close on all four corners.


Second...

I'm not sure what to think now, I'm seeing additional artifacts of various kinds coming out of the woodwork:

In the photos that follow, the left edge of the 3/4" MDF is sitting flush against the machine's left ruler.

Each "section" engraved is 3" long; the first two are 1" tall, the next three are 1/2" tall.

The first 1/4" of each engraving is crap.

In the "RIGHT TO LEFT", the left edge of the "E" is missing parts.

L2R and R2L both have "meteor tails" equiv to the direction of travel of raster engraving.

BIDIRECTIONAL has a tail on it's left side.

I believe (hope) the vertical banding seen in all of them is the MDF itself.



I NEVER had any of these issues with my previous tube.
From what I've read, I would kinda expect this from a chinese machine, not a $1200 tube.


1. Overall view:
291763


2. I couldn't pick this up in the like I wanted to, but those two dark bands have a significant height difference that you can easily feel.
291764

3. Same settings as #2, just shifted the artwork over 1/4".
291765

4. comet streak on right side of "RIGHT"
291766

5. comet streak on left side if "RIGHT" and on left side of "BIDIRECTIONAL",
The "T" and "O" have a pixel shifted over to the left; misfire?
Still have that strangeness on the first 1/4" from the left edge:
291767

6. More comet streaks on the right side of all three shapes:
291768

7. Mid portion of circle is shifted left, not sure what's up with that.
291769



Brian,

Not exactly sure why you asked for the L2R/R2L, but there ya go ;)

Scott Shepherd
06-22-2014, 8:49 AM
I can't help you with the issue, but I will say that you can have issues with a factory tube. Years ago, they came out with a new driver. When they did, it changed something that affected parts I ran weekly at the time. I called and they told me it was no way the driver. So they started sending me parts. Nothing fixed it and no one would listen that it was a driver related issue. They sent me a new tube. I tried to align it and I couldn't get it aligned. It was way off. I was told basically that I didn't know what I was doing. After many failed attempts to align it, it wouldn't align. They sent another tube. Same thing. After a day or two, they shipped me a new tube and told me that they went back and checked the alignment fixture and someone had moved something critical and all the beams aligned on it recently were off. They sent a new tube out, it lined up instantly and there was no issue.

It didn't solve my problem with the driver, then after replacing just about every part in the machine, a tech was in the area and came by. He watched it run for about 30 seconds and said "that's a driver issue". He went back, put me in contact with the programmer, and I had a fix the next day.

My longwinded point is that just because it's new doesn't mean it's right. It kind of looks like a tickle setting to me, but I'd certainly send those photos to ULS and get their input.

Robert Walters
06-22-2014, 12:29 PM
I'd certainly send those photos to ULS and get their input.

Some were sent to the local Rep AND to ULS after posting here.


I'm fully aware that NEW != GOOD (been there, done that).
At $1200, I expect perfect alignment at the very least.


Your driver issue...
That's the one thing I love about VMs ESPECIALLY on Windows,
Before making changes, take a PRE-INSTALL/UPDATE snapshot.
Make your changes.
Take a POST-INSTALL/UPDATE snapshot.
Try things out.
Then you can revert back and fourth as you please.


There is a tickle setting on the control panel and DIP Switches in the laser cartridge.
I'm told the control panel setting are insignificant and it's the DIP switches that matter, they also happen to be behind a "WARRANTY VOID IF REMOVED" sticker.


There is also a TUNING slider, but I have no clue what it does.
The docs I've come across don't go into any real detail.

I'm still reading the OEM docs, as it gives more non-proprietary technical details than the normal docs.

Dan Hintz
06-22-2014, 3:22 PM
Get a replacement tube and be done with it. They sent you a bum one (likely someone mistakenly pushed it past the optics alignment step without verifying it).

Robert Walters
06-22-2014, 4:16 PM
They sent you a bum one...


Good to hear, I just wanted to make sure they can't come back and say
"Oh, you didn't calibrate or adjust this or that" for the new tube is all.

Brian R Cain
06-22-2014, 8:47 PM
Hey you guys, I'm on vacation and it's hot here. The Dog hasn't stopped panting AND the cat has been giving me no end of grief. Add to that I'm having to type with my sweetheart' s silly Kindle thing that has a mind of it's own what it I tends me to say.

Firstly, how are able to determine the new tube is way out of alignment? Did you check to see where the beam was hitting the#2 mirror in comparison to the previous tube?

When I were a lad, tuning compensated for backlash In the motion system so the bidirectional strokes lined up. As the belt and gear wears, it's possible to tweak the tuning to get cleaner engraving. Raster a black-filled rectangle at low resolution and compare how successive lines align. Tweak the tuning to improve it.

The reason for asking if there was a difference between right to left and left to right engraving was to see if you had an issue with the laser or the alignment or something else. I'm of the opinion that only a charlatan would intentionally send out duff tube, and if you've one, and know for sure, tell the world.

For expediency' s sake, I'd take Dan's advice and change it. You paid you money expecting a result. Let ULS sort it if your new tube Isn't playing ball.

Robert Walters
06-22-2014, 10:39 PM
My old tube DID work, but at very low power (10% or less) and none of these things I'm seeing now.

In this pic, you can see the red dot is not centered in the window

291807


As far as I can tell, the red dot and main laser are aligned for the most part.

Due to being skewed from the source, I did the best I could in four hours to compensate and align all four corners to the center as best as possible, it's close, but not perfect.


I have emails into ULS and the rep with most of the photos I posted here.


Ah, so "TUNING" is actually software backlash compensation - that I understand.
Ok, I'll rerun at low resolution and see what I can see.

Robert Walters
06-23-2014, 4:12 PM
A replacement laser cartridge order has been placed with ULS.
I'm guessing it will be here tomorrow.

Trippy though...
The tech said to be sure to have the old tube ready when UPS arrives,
as they will take it with them when they drop off the replacement.

I didn't know UPS ever waited around long enough to repackage an item,
I thought they just did drive-by delivery and aimed for the front door =)

Dan Hintz
06-23-2014, 7:02 PM
The tech said to be sure to have the old tube ready when UPS arrives,
as they will take it with them when they drop off the replacement.

I didn't know UPS ever waited around long enough to repackage an item,
I thought they just did drive-by delivery and aimed for the front door =)

I would question this... highly. As you said, drivers don't wait around for you to unpack and repack... if the package isn't ready to go, they're on their way to the next set of rounds.

Scott Shepherd
06-23-2014, 7:20 PM
Shouldn't be anything to repack if you have the box the old one came in. Just pack it up and have it ready. He brings a new one, he picks up the packed up old one.

Robert Walters
06-23-2014, 8:30 PM
Dan, Steve,


There is no box, I had to return my original dying tube in that box, $1200 exchanged.

Since this is now a warranty replacement, I think they are issuing a calltag for the return unit at the same time they do the one day shipping. Which is kinda strange, but maybe it's to save on having an extra pickup fee.

I had a calltag once before on a laptop once. The driver actually had the shipping label and arrived at a specific time. Though that might have been FedEx for all I remember.

Robert Walters
06-24-2014, 4:04 PM
*ARGH*

The order for the replacement tube was placed yesterday before noon.

I JUST found out ULS is just shipping it out today, NEXT DAY AIR.

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT

*heavy sigh*

Robert Walters
06-25-2014, 2:17 AM
I would question this... highly. As you said, drivers don't wait around for you to unpack and repack... if the package isn't ready to go, they're on their way to the next set of rounds.

Dan,

I finally got a tracking number and I see something called "UPS Returns Exchange: Requested" on it.

Then I found this:

"With the UPS Returns Exchange contract-only solution, UPS delivers a replacement item with simultaneous collection of a return shipment--the UPS driver will deliver the replacement only after receiving the return item."

http://www.ups.com/content/us/en/bussol/browse/ret_exchange.html

Dan Hintz
06-25-2014, 6:16 AM
Dan,

I finally got a tracking number and I see something called "UPS Returns Exchange: Requested" on it.

Then I found this:

"With the UPS Returns Exchange contract-only solution, UPS delivers a replacement item with simultaneous collection of a return shipment--the UPS driver will deliver the replacement only after receiving the return item."

http://www.ups.com/content/us/en/bussol/browse/ret_exchange.html

Sure, they'll take a package in your posession when they drop off the old one... it's no different than scheduling a pickup. But that's not the same as the guy waiting around for you to open up your new package, swap out the contents, reseal, and then sending him on his merry way. He's not going to wait that long, because he has his rounds to do. He may be kind enough to swing back by if his rounds take him along your path again, but he won't wait.

They are expecting you to have the old cartridge already packed up and ready for shipment when the new one is dropped off...

Brian R Cain
06-25-2014, 7:31 AM
Sure, they'll take a package in your posession when they drop off the old one... it's no different than scheduling a pickup. But that's not the same as the guy waiting around for you to open up your new package, swap out the contents, reseal, and then sending him on his merry way. He's not going to wait that long, because he has his rounds to do. He may be kind enough to swing back by if his rounds take him along your path again, but he won't wait.

They are expecting you to have the old cartridge already packed up and ready for shipment when the new one is dropped off...
I suspect they are a bit more relaxed than you imagine. A few years ago after a bomb was sent via one of the couriers they wouldn't collect anything unless the driver could see that the contents matched those on the paperwork. Packages had to be left unsealed before collection. It's anyone's guess how the driver would know the difference between a laser cartridge and a bomb mind...

Robert Walters
06-25-2014, 8:07 AM
the guy waiting around for you to open up your new package, swap out the contents, reseal, and then sending him on his merry way. He's not going to wait that long


Actually, he is...

"Your customers don't have to worry about finding proper packaging or prove that they sent the item back. We reuse the delivery packaging for the return item and the driver scans the return package at the point of exchange."

Dan Hintz
06-25-2014, 1:51 PM
Actually, he is...

"Your customers don't have to worry about finding proper packaging or prove that they sent the item back. We reuse the delivery packaging for the return item and the driver scans the return package at the point of exchange."

If that's true, I'd say "It's about time!". I've never seen them wait, so if they are, I wonder what kind of premium price their placing on such package pickups...

Robert Walters
06-26-2014, 3:58 PM
Ok, here we go...

Well, the UPS driver came, waited till I replaced the box's contents and left.
He said that was the very first one of those he has ever seen/done.
There was a return label and even a strip of sealing tape in the box.

After the fact...
ULS Support told me it's 1-2 days for processing an order, THEN 1 day shipping.
So instead of waiting around the next day, be sure to get that tracking number first.

Well, it seems that my diode (red dot pointer) was NOT aligned with the laser on both of the replacements I had received, and actually worse on the 2nd unit; 0.020" off in the TL corner, and 0.050" off on the BR corner.

So while I had been attempting to align the mirror based upon the diode (the only thing I can actually SEE),
that mucked everything else up and why I was seeing most of the artifacts that I was.

I ended up hitting the limit of the "pivot" screw attempting to align everything to compensate for the offset in the laser beam not being centered. I ended up backing off the pivot adjustment screw a huge amount and starting the entire alignment process all over from the start. Honestly, it made it MUCH faster; from 4 hours to 30 minutes.

Instead of putting tape over the outside of the carriage, put it on the inside. This way you can always see the sharp edges of the opening insead of having to guess as your eyes go blury on you when you've been at this for a while.


To align what you can't see...
Move the carriage to the TL corner (near field) and burn a small dot. Align that burn so it's centered.
Move the carriage to the BR corner (far field) and burn another small dot.
Keep doing this till you can align both burn marks to as center as possible.
Then, verify the TR and BL (diagonally opposite) are in alignment too.
I got all four corners aligned within 0.010" of each of them being centered.


Left and Right Edge Artifacts
Well, that's by design as I found out. They actually train their techs that the laser can't respond lineally when it's about to hit a brick wall, so it begins tapering off, spikes (the dark band I have been seeing), another taper off, then a waterfall drop, all WITHIN the working area. So basically you can't "bleed" to the edge of working area.

Solution?
Offset your material/artwork by an inch on the X-Axis (shift to the right by an inch).

What I plan on doing is ordering another X Ruler ($30 english, metric, or blank) which is EXACTLY 1" wide, and has the notch in it for the autofocus, and just place it up against the existing rulers. If I have to, I can tape them together so it doesn't shift as I un/load material or just bump it, and remove it completely when I don't need to raster/bleed to the very left/right edges.

There is no way to tell the machine it is only 23" wide (to compensate for the offset).
The right-side limit switch is only active during the homing sequence.


M300 vs M360
Wiring harnesses are the same in both.
Drivers are the same for both.
No way to automate blower (when jobs start/stop) on the M300, needs a M360 CPU to do so.
No computer controlled air-assist on the M300, needs a M360 CPU to do so.
Serial port control of the Z-Height, needs a M360 CPU to do so.
Color coded Height control (ALT+SHIFT+1), needs a M360 CPU to do so.

Well, there goes my ideas for automating the blower and the color coded LaserOrigami thing.

I'm going drinking tonight :cool:

Scott Shepherd
06-26-2014, 4:27 PM
Robert, that's exactly what I talked about, the thing not be aligned right from the factory. Bizarre how that can happen, and happen repeatedly.

We can't engrave full blown, 100% speed right to the edges either. I offset everything about 3/4" in on the Universal if I plan to run at 100% speed. If I have to do anything that requires precut blanks, then I always make a fixture that starts at 3/4", or I'll do just as you said, I plop down a 6" acrylic scale I made that's exactly 1" wide and I bump the work against that. VERY irritating and for the life of me, I don't know why ANY manufacturer would make a machine that doesn't engrave to the full advertised table dimension. Telling me I have a 24" table is meaningless. They should say it's a 24" table but you can only engrave 22" wide pieces. Like you, I found out the hard way.

Now you now why we own a Trotec. Not saying that to be a smarty pants, but honestly, a lot of things went into getting us where we are today and many of those things took experiences like yours and looked at other machines to see how they were working. I still remember seeing the Trotec at a trade show engraving at 100% speed, the complete length of the travel of the machine and it was razor sharp. I'm not saying Trotec is perfect either, but they do solve some issues other people seem to ignore.

Go have that drink. If I were near you, the first round would be on me as we swapped laser alignment stories :)

Dan Hintz
06-26-2014, 4:56 PM
Telling me I have a 24" table is meaningless. They should say it's a 24" table but you can only engrave 22" wide pieces.

But you can cut 24" pieces, so they can still make the claim. I still believe it should be mentioned in the literature, though...

Robert Walters
06-27-2014, 12:47 PM
Thanks Steve =)


In case anyone cares...


The left/top edges of the MDF are flush against the machine's rulers.
The artwork is 3" wide, with it's left side at -0.250", basically a bleed.

292045


On the ruler...
The dark band between 9 and 11 is the spike the laser gets when it begins to hit a hard limit,
after that there is the tapering off, then the waterfall drop where you see the white area.

292046

Scott Shepherd
06-27-2014, 12:56 PM
The important question is did the new tube solve your streak issues that you were seeing next to the text?

Dan Hintz
06-27-2014, 7:55 PM
On the ruler...
The dark band between 9 and 11 is the spike the laser gets when it begins to hit a hard limit,
after that there is the tapering off, then the waterfall drop where you see the white area.

292046

Woh, woh, woh... are you saying that black vertical line at 9.5mm is not in your original image? If so, that is not right, and the tube should not be doing something so drastic.

Robert Walters
06-27-2014, 8:42 PM
Woh, woh, woh... are you saying that black vertical line at 9.5mm is not in your original image?

Sorry Dan,

That solid vector line was from a previous test, not an artifact.

The darkish band under it is though. That's the laser "spike" the tech was speaking of.

You can see the effects of the "spike" clearly here between the 4 and 6 marks on the ruler:
http://www.sawmillcreek.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=291764&d=1403423157

Kev Williams
06-27-2014, 11:09 PM
I think you may have a controller issue rather than a tube issue... it appears the timing of the decel and the timing of the power reduction is completely messed up. The spike isn't a power spike, it's the result of the machine's speed lowering but the power isn't--until an 1/8" later, then it's okay for about .100", then too much edge power for about .080"...

In short: What I'm seeing is, the power changes are late in relation to the speed changes.

Knowing that an RF tube is capable of firing accurately 3600 times per inch @ over 100" per second, I'm thinking your problem isn't the tube...