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View Full Version : TL-403 Controller U Axis Reversal Remedy?



Jordan Layman
08-28-2017, 2:33 AM
Hi! I run a makerspace / fab lab in Santa Cruz, CA where we have a Redsail CM1290 100W Chinese Laser, TL-403 Controller.

We love the thing but the most nagging issue we have encountered is this:

When the machine starts, it seems to set the bed height (U Axis) to 0. What happens is you can then only move the bed in one direction, either up or down depending on what the direction is set to. We discovered, deep in the settings (Menu --> Integrate --> Axis Set --> U Axis) there is a way to switch the direction so you can then switch the direction and properly focus. Thankfully we have this trick or we would only be able to go one way ever...

Are we missing something here? Does anyone have this same machine and have the same problem? It's totally lame to have to teach new users this 15 step ritual to adjust the focus... It would be really great to disable this zeroing that occurs...

I have spent a good time with the TL-403 Controller manual but no solution has appeared... Here is a link in case anyone wants to torture themselves with it.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1UUDHOicC7GZnRXME5HQkRTNEE/view?usp=sharing

Very grateful for any assistance here.

PS this community has been the best resource for us here. You guys are awesome and I'm stoked to have joined.

Matt McCoy
08-28-2017, 9:47 AM
Bed height should be the Z axis. From what I understand, the U axis is for CNC boring.

Jordan Layman
08-28-2017, 4:47 PM
Thanks Matt! Here is what the manual says:

Support 5 axises motion control(X Y Z U V, XY is for laser cutting control, Z is
feeding axis, U is lift axis, V is for the second laser cutting head).

I am fairly certain we have it wired up correctly...

Matt McCoy
08-28-2017, 5:13 PM
Thanks Matt! Here is what the manual says:

Support 5 axises motion control(X Y Z U V, XY is for laser cutting control, Z is
feeding axis, U is lift axis, V is for the second laser cutting head).

I am fairly certain we have it wired up correctly...

That's interesting. I've only run across it in CNC spindle applications, but was curious how it applied to lasers. The info I kept coming across was that the U axis is a feed or rotational axis. Hope you post back, if you find out more info.

I did see this:

"Maybe I can hook up the Z axis of the laser to the U axis of the controller and get it to work that way."


http://diylaser.blogspot.com/2011/10/you-say-z-but-i-say-u.html

Steven Yates
08-31-2017, 12:24 PM
Make sure the table is clear, especially under the cone. Press the decimal point key on the keypad. It will ask you to confirm (I forget what it says exactly and I'm not at home right now). When you press enter to confirm, it will raise the table to the home position, then lower it by the amount in the Focal Point seeing. You are now free to move the table up and down from there.

This is based on my experience with my Redsail X700. I hand cranked the table up a few times before I figured this out. There is a multi-step way to do this through the menu also, but the decimal point key makes it nice and easy.

Steven Yates
08-31-2017, 4:58 PM
Be sure you left your U Direction setting in the correct position. If the table starts going down when you try this turn off the power and fix the setting then try again. There is no limit switch at the bottom so it will not stop and you won't like the sound it makes when it bottoms out.

Jordan Layman
01-09-2018, 10:59 PM
Make sure the table is clear, especially under the cone. Press the decimal point key on the keypad. It will ask you to confirm (I forget what it says exactly and I'm not at home right now). When you press enter to confirm, it will raise the table to the home position, then lower it by the amount in the Focal Point seeing. You are now free to move the table up and down from there.

This is based on my experience with my Redsail X700. I hand cranked the table up a few times before I figured this out. There is a multi-step way to do this through the menu also, but the decimal point key makes it nice and easy.

Steven, I was never notified of this comment! It's a huge step forward, however the behavior you expressed is not quite what we are experiencing.

What happens for us when we push the decimal is that it moves the bed a specific amount of steps (we can change the value in settings, it's "Focal Height"). It can only be 1-65mm and it goes in the direction that U-Axis -> Axis Dir is set to. We do not experience it "raising the table to the home position" it merely goes the specified millimeter distance and then stops.

So far I am unable to come up with a sequence of steps that really allows this to be helpful but I did discover that adjusting that "Focal Height" parameter allows for the bed to be adjusted by that amount upon starting the machine. So the problem is less obvious. Users have a lee-way of 65mm to go up and down when the machine starts.

Definitely appreciate this improvement a lot. Very grateful.

Kev Williams
01-10-2018, 2:25 PM
FWIW, Z axis on all my engraving machines refer to the tool head/spindle up-down movement. Seems that with lasers, Z refers to table up-down, and U refers to the tool/laser head movement. None of the typical lasers this group deals with- that I'm aware of- have any sort of computer controlled laser head vertical movement. I'm sure larger spendier lasers do, but any reference to U-axis movement is moot on 'our' machines...

Jordan Layman
01-10-2018, 5:24 PM
Kev, I realize I neglected to make a response to Matt's reply above Steven's. We did switch the motor control to Z and while it also made horrible noises and lots of jitter, the overall functionality was exactly the same; It would zero itself out on start up and not travel in one direction. Considering the "Focus Height" parameter is not associated with any axis and causes the U axis to move, I think it's wired how they expected us to have it.

I still would love to be able to "Home" the U axis like Steven said but for now this will totally alleviate the challenge. Sawmillcreek 4 Life!

Bill George
01-10-2018, 6:40 PM
Trying to follow so your object to set focus distances automatically? Or just Zero out the table (Z)?

Jordan Layman
01-10-2018, 9:07 PM
Bill,

We are trying to have the bed simply be able to go up or down (U-axis in our case). Currently it can go down as far as you want, and up 65mm. If you restart the controller, you can go up again 65mm but that's stupid.

Kev Williams
01-10-2018, 10:48 PM
"Horrible noises" will happen if one of the stepper wires or connections is compromised-
been thru this with 2 of my machines, My Chinese Triumph-
376030

and my western (French, actually ;) )Gravograph LS900...
376031
in each case these wires broke within the drag chain...Pretty sure both are ground wires too..

I've also had the Z-steppers on 2 of my NH3400's go crazy because of a loose wire in a connector.

As for the bed only going up 65mm... interesting-- my LS900 has a plunger type autofocus (which I rarely use), and in 'normal' state my table will move either way to the limits. I have the plunger extension removed, but even so, the main threaded rod hangs about 1/2" below the bottom of the lens, and every so often I'll push the rod up. When I do this, the microswitch is 'on'-- and when I move the table with the switch 'on' it will only move about 2", then stops. It's a failsafe limit set by the controller because it's expecting the switch to go into the 'off' position sooner or later.

That all said, does or did your machine ever have an auto-focus? If so, could be the same thing is happening...

Jordan Layman
01-11-2018, 12:42 AM
This sounds like a very important clue, Kev. Where is the microswitch setting located?

Bill George
01-11-2018, 9:25 AM
Before making changes is this a brand new machine and its never worked right? Or has it been fine up until this point? Kev had issues with wiring only after the machine(s) had been running for years. Limit switches do wear out or get moved out of adjustment.

Jordan Layman
01-11-2018, 7:51 PM
Bill, The machine has been in use for 2.5 years. This has always been the behavior of the machine. We are a makerspace so new people are always being trained. The goal is to make the machine as easy to understand as possible.

It does look like it had a plunger focus tool at one point but I don't think it was ever used. Perhaps that connection is perpetually open, causing the behavior to constant...

Bill George
01-11-2018, 8:16 PM
Never worked correctly since day one, wonder why it was not addressed under Warranty?

Get it setup so when you start or reset the table goes level with the top of the frame or whatever your using for a Zero level. Adjust micro switches or software as needed. Make a manual focus tool (spacer) or have the user make one as their first project and manually focus from that. Having auto focus and a lot of new users is a accident waiting to happen. Having taught for 12 years I can tell you that from experience. Granted they were suppose to be HS grads... before they got into my classes, but you would be surprised. ;)

Added later: Does the laser head move up & down in some way?

You have both a Z axis and U axis? Two motors , two controllers?

The U axis is the only motor with both upper and lower limit switches and would make sense that would be table up/down. So where is the Z motor? Wrong the U axis moves the head up and down for focus according to the manual page 84.

Seems difficult to understand 4 axis on a laser engraver. U according to the info I found above U was for moving the head up and down for focus, therefore Z must be the table, IF the machine does indeed have 4 stepper motors.
Pictures would be nice, and there is lots of setup info near the end of the manual, those could be set wrong?

Jordan Layman
01-11-2018, 11:06 PM
Bill,

We use a spacer tool all of the time to focus. We make a new one every time we teach the safety course. The bed does not automatically do anything ever... there is no "Home". It does not return to a position. Home is just the position it is in when the controller starts. That's the problem really. You can't go any further up (except we got it to return by 65mm now) from wherever you begin.

I have inherited the laser from the prior administration so I can't speak too much to past decisions but some people have been here since the beginning so I do have some knowledge.

Like I said before, the U is addressed in the manual as the axis to raise and lower the bed, which is the main method for focusing the tool. The Z is referred to as the Feed Motor or such. Wire feed perhaps?

The laser head can move up in down a little bit if you loosen the nozzle but this is not mechanical, just a reality of the way it's constructed.

I can take some photos.

Bill George
01-11-2018, 11:36 PM
Bill,

We use a spacer tool all of the time to focus. We make a new one every time we teach the safety course. The bed does not automatically do anything ever... there is no "Home". It does not return to a position. Home is just the position it is in when the controller starts. That's the problem really. You can't go any further up (except we got it to return by 65mm now) from wherever you begin.

I have inherited the laser from the prior administration so I can't speak too much to past decisions but some people have been here since the beginning so I do have some knowledge.

Like I said before, the U is addressed in the manual as the axis to raise and lower the bed, which is the main method for focusing the tool. The Z is referred to as the Feed Motor or such. Wire feed perhaps?

The laser head can move up in down a little bit if you loosen the nozzle but this is not mechanical, just a reality of the way it's constructed.

I can take some photos.

The information I stated was directly from the User Manual you posted. I spent well over an hour reading it. Look at the page number 84, and on. U is for moving the head up and down. If its Not that way then you have the wrong manual. Yes pictures.
From the Owners Manual.....

Focus Length (mm): Press the ―Number‖ keys to change the focus length. When this parameter is set. Press ―.‖ Dot key in standby interface, a message box will be shown that if reset focus length. If press ―Enter‖, the laser head will go down controlled by U Axis. When sensors close to the material surface, reach the designated position, a signal is given to controller, then it controls the laser head move up to the focus position.

Jordan Layman
01-12-2018, 12:08 AM
Bill, I appreciate you taking the time!

OK yes, I see Page 84 has the info about sending the axises back to Origin. However: U Axis is currently set to 'Open' but that behavior does not occur.

I suppose you are correct about the U purpose, I found that too:"laser head will go down", not the bed... I literally have no idea how this could even happen with our setup.

I could find barely any reference to the Z axis purpose. Only in reference to "Double Table" mode. Obviously assuming that's the table...

When we set the Z axis to control the bed, it behaved the exact same way. Other than the horrible crunching noises... it would not go back up, only down...

I am not really sure what photos to send, here is the head and the rail. For photos of the settings, we will need to wait until a class finishes.

376109376110376111

Bill George
01-12-2018, 8:34 AM
It could move the head up and down by moving the TOP of the frame holding the Y rails but I doubt that. My guess the book is wrong and you only have 3 stepper motors or 4 (perhaps Y has one on each end). One for the table up/down commonly called the Z, left to right X and top to bottom Y. If you can pull off a panel to check that would really help. Now if you only have the Z or U axis and its all the same you can do some troubleshooting and corrective setup.

To use the axis that has the limit switches as the Z table up/down you would need to make sure the limits are working correctly.

Wondering also what the wires are taped to the air line going to the nozzle? Was there either a small micro switch or optical sensor on that at one time? If its been bypassed or jumped to make the machine work then that also could be part of the problem.

Steven Yates
01-18-2018, 11:22 PM
Steven, I was never notified of this comment! It's a huge step forward, however the behavior you expressed is not quite what we are experiencing.

What happens for us when we push the decimal is that it moves the bed a specific amount of steps (we can change the value in settings, it's "Focal Height"). It can only be 1-65mm and it goes in the direction that U-Axis -> Axis Dir is set to. We do not experience it "raising the table to the home position" it merely goes the specified millimeter distance and then stops.

So far I am unable to come up with a sequence of steps that really allows this to be helpful but I did discover that adjusting that "Focal Height" parameter allows for the bed to be adjusted by that amount upon starting the machine. So the problem is less obvious. Users have a lee-way of 65mm to go up and down when the machine starts.

Definitely appreciate this improvement a lot. Very grateful.

Jordan,

See if this menu sequence homes your table.
Menu
Integrate
Back Set
Manual Back
4-U Axis

On my X700, this raises the table until it hits the limit switch.

The menu sequence is not exactly convenient.

Pressing the decimal point on my control panel asks me if I want to reset the focus length. If I press Enter to confirm, it homes the table as with the above menu option, then lowers it by the value set for focal length. Are you saying yours moves just in one direction by the amount of the focus length?

If that is the case, then I'm wondering if your table limit switch is stuck closed, or at least seen that way by the controller. Try this in the menu:
Menu
System Test
Input IO

On mine, switch 8 shows as red when the table limit switch is closed (bed at high limit), and green when it is open. Does yours look like this? If you press and release the limit switch while on this screen, you should see one of the input values (#8?) change. If you see nothing changing, then it's very likely your machine thinks the bed is stuck at the top.

When you press the decimal point and the table moves by the amount of the focus length, is it going up or down? If it's going up, you may have the axis direction reversed. I know you said you changed this setting a lot as the only way to move the bed. My U Axis direction is set to positive, and the two settings below that are both negative.

Steve

Bill George
01-19-2018, 9:31 AM
So do you indeed have both a Z and U axis or are they one in the same?

Steven Yates
01-19-2018, 12:02 PM
The U Axis is used for raising and lowering the table. The Z Axis is not used. I believe the controller manual describes the Z Axis as being used for material feeding.

Matt McCoy
01-19-2018, 3:31 PM
...It does look like it had a plunger focus tool at one point but I don't think it was ever used. Perhaps that connection is perpetually open, causing the behavior to constant...


...If that is the case, then I'm wondering if your table limit switch is stuck closed, or at least seen that way by the controller. Try this in the menu:
Menu
System Test
Input IO...

I see the harness and indents on the head where the plunger was probably attached. The behavior is similar to when the focus tool becomes dirty and sticks.

Bill George
01-19-2018, 7:25 PM
We might never know unless the poster comes back. I think the whole Z axis thing, along with the manual is a error. What Steven has posted above and he owns one is more than likely the way it needs to be. Toss in what Matt posted above and I think that's where to start troubleshooting.

Jordan Layman
01-26-2018, 1:32 AM
OK of course I was not getting notifications for these responses again!

Alright, Steve you are spot on. I managed to set up the bed to home automatically on startup. Someone had turned off the Back Set - Init settings for U axis.

Bill, Thank you a ton for your diligence in looking into the problems.

All of you guys are awesome.

Steven Yates
01-29-2018, 11:59 AM
Setting the machine to home the U-Axis at start up sounds like a horrible idea to me. If my honeycomb table is in the machine it is going to crash into the cone the next time I turn on the machine.

Since about the only time I need to be able to raise the bed much above where I cut last time is when I switch from material that requires the honeycomb to one that doesn't, I'd rather do a manual back in that situation rather than raising whatever might be in the machine toward my lens cone everyone I turn it on.

Steve