View Full Version : Hello, and Used Epilog Woes

Darren Wilson
07-22-2015, 7:12 AM
Hello Sawmill Creek,
This is Darren, in Melbourne, Australia. This is my first post, unfortunately looking for looking for help/guidance...
I currently mfg Tool Control Trays from EVA and PE foams on my CNC router. Just started in March of this year, and it is keeping me very busy outside my normal "job". I decided to take advantage of some tax breaks offered at the end of this last financial year and purchased a second hand Epilog 36EXT engraver, to add my logo to the trays, add part number/socket sizes, engrave name badges for toolboxes and possibly mark with cermark. The tube is weak, and was well aware of this before purchase. As I was only really looking to mark foam and laser plastic for now I wasn't fussed, and planned on replacing the tube later in the year.

Monday I finally got time to level it and struggled with USB set up to start testing. I got through a few marks on foam, the main reason I wanted it and was happy enough. I also tried some quick tests on laser plastics, acrylic and anodized aluminium, and found that at speeds above 50% the marks were blurred and fuzzy regardless of power settings and certainly not anything I would be able to sell, but 50% and below were quite nice and more that acceptable although intermittently there was still a bit of slant/waviness on some marks. From this forum and Google, I sorted out that the culprit could be a dirty encoder strip, and quickly moved to clean the encoder strip and sensor. Upon reassembly the engraver would not fire in raster mode. I fired the laser manually ran few more jobs... Still no fire on raster. I read somewhere to execute Calb. X-Axis after cleaning strip and sensor and did, to which I think the gantry moved to X/Y-home and then laser head moved right and stopped at end of rail. The LED display read something like calibrate X and it stayed that way for over 10 minutes until I cycled power. Upon restart, the gantry was already at Y-home, and the laser head moved slower than normal to X-home, slightly fwd, then quickly to end of travel on the right. Not a hard slam but none the less to the stop and then slightly back. At this point I am able to move the gantry and laser head by hand and it will not boot up completely, LED display hangs on Firmware number. I disassembled the cover on gantry and inspected the encoder strip and reader for any debris. This is when I noticed a small gold thread out from the photo diode on the sensor. I called the local Epilog Dist. in Melbourne and spoke to a tech about the problem and arranged to pick up a new Laser Head PCB @ $335 the next day. The next morning I drove to the warehouse to pick up my new laser head PCB, while there I started an account and also consulted with the technician I spoke with the day before. I showed him a video of my start up, (https://www.dropbox.com/s/85xe68fflawsddw/2015-07-22%2001.36.02.mp4?dl=0 ) to see if he had encountered this problem in the past and how to troubleshoot if the new PCB did not fix the issue. He mentioned that he may have seen the problem before, he could not recall for sure, but said that there was no way to troubleshoot the issue, aside from changing components!?!? WTF? I left a bit puzzled by the shotgun approach to maintenance and raced home to fit the new PCB in hopes it solved the problem.
Well, you guessed it...This didn't fix it.

I called the Technician back and left a message and waited for his return call, mean while back to Google and the forums. Wasn't long till I stumbled upon an Epilog Service Training Manual (2006), and read through it. What I think I have learned is that the encoder strip is used only for firing the engraver in raster mode, and the 3 functions of the laser head PCB are to read the encoder, contains the X-home Switch and Auto Focus Sensor Switch. The Rotary Encoder integrated on the X-axis Servo is used for boot up and all X-Axis commands and If either Axis “slams” during the e boot sequence, it indicates a problem in the encoder of the axis that slammed. There was also a diagnostic table listed that can test inputs from X-Axis Linear Encoder CHA/B, Y-Axis Encoder, X-Motor Rotary Encoder, X-Axis Home, Y-Axis Home, Focus Plunger-Up, and Table Down SW, via SW2 and LEDs D5/D6. By this time the tech, had emailed me back with price of new Encoder Strip, ($307) pay up front and 7 days to arrive from US, but no guarantee this will solve the problem, could be X-axis motor, etc and a suggested a service visit to have thorough look for Troubleshooting... $145+gst/hr!

Wow, now it can be troubleshot?

I replied to his email, and kindly suggested we disregard the encoder strip and look towards the X-Axis encoder as that is what the service manual I found online was pointing to, and asked if he could possibly provide any guidance in troubleshooting in using the troubleshooting table. Unfortunately it was late in the evening and did not get a reply yet. However, I went ahead and check the signal inputs using the troubleshooting table, and found that they were all making it to the board, at least the LEDs were flashing as per the table. Weather the signals were valid/in range etc. I don't know but at least all the signals were there. I also swapped the x/y servo amplifiers, with no change. Pressing the reset button on the controller board, caused violent slam of Y-axis to front of machine and Y-axis off message on display. I have a feeling that something got out of whack when I tried to calibrate the x-axis while there was not a valid input from laser PCB due to the sensor I damaged.

Sorry for the long winded first post/winge... but has anyone experienced this type of problem? If so what was the solutions that resolved it. Is this typical of what to expect from Epilog? Most of the post I've read here mention exceptional over phone technical assistance and troubleshooting. I don't have a problem paying for trained person to service equipment with specialized tooling and proper troubleshooting to diagnose and fix a problem. I do take issue with paying someone to throw parts and my money at a problem in hopes that one enough of it will fix it. I may be wrong but I kind of get the feeling this is what is going to happen.

Kind regards,


PS - I can hear the Trotec rep saying "I told you so"

Chris J Anderson
07-22-2015, 9:38 AM
Hi Darren,
I'm in WA, and I wish you all the best trying to get epilog service in Australia now that they have changed their distributor.

I have still never had a response from Alfex on my enquiry for parts (stepper motor) on my rotary attachment, so I just sourced them through a mate who does lots of automation work, plus I saved about 80% of the price.

I wish I could tell you who to contact, but I don't know what I'll do next time I have an issue either.

We used to haver an awesome asian bloke in perth, but he left a Month ago to work at a printer place, so now the sales guy there is the new 'techie'.
If I had his details I would pass them on, but sorry I haven't got them.

Epilog have never shown any real interest in our problems down under.

Project Engraving used to be the distributors (they are now Trotec), so it may be worth you contacting them and asking if they have an experienced ex Epilog techie that could help.
Even if you pay at least you move forward.

Hope it works out mate...

Scott Marquez
07-22-2015, 6:11 PM
Is calling Epilog USA an option?
From the stories of great customer support, that's what I would do.

Darren Wilson
07-22-2015, 10:32 PM
Hi Chris,
That is a bit disheartening to hear. Was your service better with Project?
Tortec did say they have Techs familiar with Epilog machines available, and as I said I don't have an issue if someone is coming to do real troubleshooting, but I to just come out and change parts till something happens...that's not on. I might go ahead and give Trotec a call and talk to one of their techs. Most likely still going to have to get parts from alfex tho.
I still have not go a reply to my email from yesterday arvo...


Darren Wilson
07-22-2015, 10:39 PM
Hi Scott,
I don't see why I couldn't call Epilog in the States, but was hoping I could get great support locally...
I will try that tonight, I believe their hours are 0600-1800 do you know if that is correct?

Where is Washington are you? I lived in Everett, for 12 years, been out here in Oz since 2008. Love the Pacific Northwest... miss my beers :)


Darren Wilson
07-22-2015, 11:06 PM
Further to my own troubleshooting....

As I mentioned, the controller board, LEDs showed that encoder signals were reaching the board and this morning I tested my X and Y servos motors and rotary encoders. The windings were good, hall effect sensors working properly, and the sequential rotary encoders are counting away. I would say it is safe to take them out of the equation. They are both the same Maxon 283869 servos with a Renco Encoder on top. Only difference is the mounting base and gear. I will swap the bases and reinstall x to y and y to x to further ensure they are not the issue.

I tested my old laser head PCB signal to control board, and verified that it is not sending signal... LEDs do not flash. I also identified the the damaged optical encoder module as an Avago HEDS-9200#300, and will order a new one from Mouser ($25+shipping) and fix my old laser PCB board. Yeah spare parts!

I'll check my email and see if I have heard back from my Tech.

Stay tuned.


Darren Wilson
07-23-2015, 9:39 AM
Well just got off the phone with Epilog in Colorado, explained the problem, what I have done so far, and they are saying its the motherboard as it will no longer boot up. :(
I guess I will see if there is one available in Melbourne tomorrow.

Scott Marquez
07-24-2015, 2:35 AM
Hi Scott,

Where is Washington are you? I lived in Everett, for 12 years, been out here in Oz since 2008. Love the Pacific Northwest... miss my beers :)

I live in Central Washington, the dry side of the state.
Best of luck on the laser repair.

Darren Wilson
07-27-2015, 8:06 PM
Thanks Scott, enjoy the summer... Stay cool:cool:

Darren Wilson
07-29-2015, 2:39 AM
New Motherboard = functional engraver, a lot lighter in the wallet now but up and running :D Thank you Jordan at Alfex, your support was brilliant!

Now figuring out how to drive this thing, and hopefully bring in enough to get a tube replaced...