Session 5: K40 Xtreeem Laser Cutter; Optimising Laser Machine Performance

K40 Xtreeem Laser Cutter Upgrade Series

Welcome to Session 5 of the all new K40 Xtreeem Laser Cutter Upgrade Series with Russ Sadler. In this Session, Russ sets out to calibrate the system and fine tunes the acceleration parameters. So, let’s find out how fast he can run the K40 Xtreeem after all these K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades!

Release Date: 14th June 2022

Over the last 6 years, Russ has built up a formidable YouTube following for his RDWorks Learning Lab series which currently has over 200 videos.

The original RDWorks Learning Lab series on his “Sarbar Multimedia” YouTube Channel, follows Russ as he tries to make sense of his new Chinese laser machine. He then sorts out the truths, half truths and outright misleading information that is available on the web.

Six years later with over 4.5 million YouTube Views under his belt. Russ has become the go to resource for everything related to the Chinese CO2 laser machine user or wannabe user.

K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades - Optimising the performance
K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades – Optimising the performance

In this new series, Russ has condensed his knowledge and experience of the last 6 years to provide valuable information and insights into developing practical K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades. Resulting in his total remodelling of the K40 Xtreeem Laser cutter machine. Making it into a powerful, compact laser cutting and engraving solution for those on a budget.

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Session 5: K40 Xtreeem Laser Cutter – Optimising The Performance

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Session 5 – K40 Xtreeem Laser Cutter – Optimising The Performance

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Transcript for K40 Xtreeem Laser Cutter – Optimising Laser Machine Performance

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The K40 Xtreeem Laser Cutter Upgrade Series with Russ Sadler.

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Session five: Optimizing the Performance. Well, we did achieve what we set out last time.

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We’ve got the machine working now.

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But there’s still probably this session and maybe one more to finally drag this machine into working reality. Now in the last session,

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I stepped you through the vendor settings and the user settings.

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We did a few quick tests and the last test that we did, didn’t go very well.

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There was a problem at the beginning, if you remember, when the machine went BZZZZZZ before it started working.

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Now that BZZZZZZ meant that I had chosen wrong settings when I just threw some numbers into my vendor settings in my user settings.

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So today we’re going to try and explore what went wrong. Why did those numbers not work?

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So hopefully today’s session will be all about giving you an understanding of how this machine actually works.

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There will be an ideal set parameters for you to run your machine in the most efficient and fastest way possible.

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Now, as I mentioned in a very, very early session, the stepper motors on this machine are very small.

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There may be some serious limits to how fast I can actually push this machine.

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And if that does become a problem. I’ve got a turbocharger here, which I can use.

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But first of all, let’s see what the machine is capable of in its standard format, right?

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Well, let’s start at the beginning. This machine has got two ways of operating.

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One of them is cutting and the other way is engraving.

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Now I know they both burn lines, but let’s just say that we start the head, over here and we want to draw that line.

Transcript for K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades – Optimising Laser Machine Performance (Cont…)

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This one, we’re going to cut. This one,

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we’re going to engrave. This is part of a series of lines that will go backwards and forwards for engraving, but I’ve only just drawn one line.

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When we come to cut. The head will move across here to that point there.

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And it will stop.

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And then it will start off again as if it was at the traffic lights, and it would gradually accelerate up to your cutting speed, which may be say.

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Ten millimeters a second. So by the time it gets to here, it might be running at 10 millimeters a second.

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Okay. And then run along that line at 10 millimeters a second.

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But before it gets to the end of that cut, it starts to slow down because there’s a corner coming up, you’ve got to put the brakes on.

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So it puts the brakes on and slows down, at that point and stops and then the head returns

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to home. Here, we’ve got accelerating from zero up to 10 millimetres a second.

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Well, when we’re engraving, we’re likely to be running at, say, 200 millimetres a second, just as an example.

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It’s a big difference from cutting. Now you will remember that we fiddled with things called the acceleration factors.

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Those acceleration factors are built into the vendor settings, so that the computer

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can understand how long it’s going to take to get to 200 millimeters a second.

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Because you don’t want a line that starts off at zero, gradually accelerates up to 200 millimetres

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a second gets to the right density and then has to slow down again.

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Now with engraving it’s different. What happens, this head then moves out to here, for example, and it says, Oh, so you want to go to 200mm a second?

Transcript for K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades – Optimising Laser Machine Performance (Cont…)

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Well, it’s going to take that amount of distance there to accelerate up to 200 a second.

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And then it’s going to take that distance there to put the brakes on and come back to zero.

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And then it’s that same distance again to accelerate up to speed.

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It’ll then draw the line, stop and decelerate.

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OK, so there is what I call dead space, dead time, dead distance.

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It’s over travel, when you’re doing engraving.

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So if you think you’ve got an A4 format machine that you could do A4 format engraving with, I’m afraid you’re going to be very,

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sorely disappointed. Because when you do engraving, you always have to leave space at the edge of your engraving to allow for this overrun.

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If you don’t, the controller will tell you that you’ve run out of space.

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It can’t run the program because either you’re too close to this edge or too close to that edge.

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So my little test pattern that went wrong was running at, I believe, five hundred millimetres a second.

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Then we were running at 200 millimetres a second. It was perfectly OK.

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It was only when we forced it up to 500 millimetres a second, that it became incorrect.

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Now I hate to throw maths and formula at you guys, because, hey, I’m not, I’m not a mathematician or a scientist.

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So what I’m trying to do here is to decode what is a very simple formula anyway,

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called Newton’s second law of motion, which basically says force equals mass times acceleration.

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How does that affect us? What the hell has that got to do with this machine?

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Well, it’s got a lot to do with this machine and a lot to do with the problem that we’re going to try and solve. Here

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we’ve got a stepper motor. “F” the force that’s driving this head backwards and forwards.

Transcript for K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades – Optimising Laser Machine Performance (Cont…)

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Here we’ve got a mass. The head itself.

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I’m going to try and keep this fairly simplistic, and you have to imagine that there’s no friction in the system at all at the moment,

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but friction also adds apparent mass to the system as well.

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But let’s not get too complicated. And then we’ve got this thing called “A” acceleration.

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So here are our engraving lines that we just discussed. This line here is engraved at 400mm

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a second, 300mm, 200mm and 100mm a second. Because this up here, this axis is speed.

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This axis along here is distance. So the unit of acceleration is, for example, millimetres per second per second.

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So what this means is if I put 10 millimetres per second per second acceleration.

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It starts off zero, and after one second, it’s reached 10 millimetres a second.

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We’re starting off at 10 millimetres a second for the next second. So we add another 10 millimetres a second.

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So the speed is now increased from 10 millimetres per second to 20mm a second 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 all the way up to 400 millimetres a second.

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But it’s done it at a steady rate of acceleration, because the force is constant.

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The mass is constant.

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And so therefore the acceleration will be constant. I’ve just put numbers in here just so that you can easily see how it works.

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A mass of 10 with an acceleration of 10 will require a force of 100 to create that acceleration.

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If we reduce the force to 50 and the mass stays the same, the acceleration will be halved.

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Five. So I won’t be able to accelerate as quickly if I’ve only got half the force.

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When you understand how simple that formula is. It gives you a little bit of a visual understanding of how acceleration works.

Transcript for K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades – Optimising Laser Machine Performance (Cont…)

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So what we’ve got here is distance. Remember what I said to you about this line?

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It takes a certain amount of time to build up to 100 millimeters a second,

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and then it takes a certain amount of time to decelerate from 100mm a second back to zero, speed.

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But if you take a look, this same length of line running at different speeds.

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Look, I require a much bigger distance here if I run at 400 mm a second, than if I’m running at 100mm a second.

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So I’ve got a lot more dead time, overrun when I run faster because the acceleration is constant.

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What we’re trying to do with this machine is the fastest speed that we can run and the fastest

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acceleration. So that we can get to 400 as quickly as possible and decelerate as quickly as possible.

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That way, we lose the least amount of time for every scan line. Because remember, there are thousands of scan lines in an image.

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And that’s where your cycle time is going to be won or lost. Its acceleration, not speed.

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But there is a relationship between speed and acceleration, which is even more complicated than what I’m just showing you here.

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200mm second. There wasn’t a problem. It’s the same motor, it’s the same head.

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Something has changed because it didn’t work when we put the speed up to 500 millimeters a second.

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But it did work when we ran it at 200mm a second. Why?

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Because this diagram here shows that there is no relationship between speed and acceleration.

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Provided I’ve got a constant force, I can accelerate up to whatever speed I like.

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Let’s just take a look at what this 400 300 actually means to our system.

Transcript for K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades – Optimising Laser Machine Performance (Cont…)

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My little stepper motor over there has got a little wheel, say it’s about 13 millimetres diameter.

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Let’s not get too picky. It’s about 40mm circumference.

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It’s a nice round number for simple mathematical calculations. Okay, now in 100mm a second.

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We’re going to have two and a half revolutions of that wheel,

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per second. And so it goes all the way up to 400mm second where we’ll have 10 revolutions per second.

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Now when we convert those revolutions per second, by multiplying those by 60, we get speeds at 150 through two 600 RPM for the stepper motor.

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Here’s our numbers 150 RPM through to 600 RPM.

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Let’s look at this graph of the stepper motor output torque.

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This is the “F” value in our equation. And look, the force is not constant.

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The faster I run the stepper motor, the less force I get, so the less acceleration I’m going to get.

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So if I try and run this system at 400 mm a second, I’m actually running at 600 r.p.m. and at 600 rpm, it says

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0.2. When I started off at 100 millimetres a second, I was up here at nearly 0.5.

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So I’ve lost 60 per cent of my power, by the time I get to 600 RPM or 400mm a second.

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When I change the speed from 200 to 500, I’m asking the stepper motor to go beyond what it’s capable of.

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So if we decrease the acceleration to say five, then we should only require a force of 50 half the value.

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So provided we don’t go above 450 RPM, which is about 300 millimetres a second, we should find that this system is capable of doing what we want.

Transcript for K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades – Optimising Laser Machine Performance (Cont…)

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500 was asking it to do too much, so speed does have an effect on the end result.

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There’s a balancing act to be performed. OK.

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How fast do you want to run? And how much acceleration for that speed,

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you can use. Because you might be able to run at that speed. But it will take this amount of time to get to that speed.

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So roughly, we’ve got one third of our cycle time in acceleration, one third doing the job and one third braking.

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So effectively, we’re only using 33 per cent of the available time to do the job, the other 66 per cent of the time is wasted.

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We’re not doing anything.

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Now, if this gets twice as long, for example, and we’ve still got room on our page to accept this distance of acceleration, then that ratio changes.

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We’ve got twice the distance, but we’ve still got the same amount of time at each end of dead time.

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So the efficiency of engraving becomes better as it becomes longer.

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My other machines are more powerful and I can use much greater accelerations.

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So basically I halved whatever I thought I could use on those machines and threw them into here.

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I’ve got no idea how these relationships combine with each other. It’ll all be just by simple experiment.

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Let’s go back to 200mm a second. I want you to just take a look carefully at

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how much of the travel there is on this pattern. How far does the head go beyond the pattern?

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Just make a note of that. Maybe two, three millimetres, maybe three millimetres? Let’s change it to 300 millimetres

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a second. Look at the amount of over travel, maybe five, six millimetres now? Because we’re running faster.

Transcript for K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades – Optimising Laser Machine Performance (Cont…)

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We’ve got more over travel, more distance, the faster speed we go.

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Let’s put it up to 400 millimeters a second. It doesn’t like it, does it?

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That means that probably it’s lost its steps now.

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It doesn’t know where it is. So every time you get a problem like this, you must do a reset so the machine knows where zero, zero is.

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How do we run the machine faster? The answer is we’re going to have to slow down the acceleration.

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We don’t need to go back to the vendor settings because remember, the vendor settings are only absolute limits.

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We’re busy playing with the user settings, which are already less than the vendor settings. Processing / Sweep Parameters.

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So first of all, I must go and read. Now I can go in there and I can change that 20,000 to let’s just change that number to 10,000.

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So we’ve got a Y-Acceleration of 15,000. So we’d better change that as well to something like about 10,000, OK?

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And then we should be able to write that. And then just to make sure that the numbers have stuck, I always like to do a read again.

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And there they are, they’ve remained the same. We halved the acceleration now.

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So that means first of all, our 400mm a second should work perfectly.

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Nope! Escape / stop.

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OK, so I’ve dropped the acceleration to 5,000, speed is still 400.

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Wow. Ah, could you see how it lost steps there and changed position. So it’s still right on the edge of being unstable.

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So let’s reduce the acceleration even more, to say 3,000.

Transcript for K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades – Optimising Laser Machine Performance (Cont…)

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Again, it’s lost steps because it’s jumped out of position. So we do a reset. Now it’s still running at exactly the same speed.

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But look at the casual way in which it’s doing that. Huge amount of over travel.

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We’re getting up to nearly 100 per cent over travel.

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In other words, we’re now getting to this point that I described earlier about one third of the time

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doing the job and the other two thirds of the time accelerating and decelerating.

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Let’s see what happens when we change the speed. Up to 500mm a second now?

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Yeah, you see, we’ve done it again.

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We’ve exceeded the limits. Stop. I hope

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you can see it’s not dangerous if I play with the limits and I get it wrong.

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The machine just doesn’t work. Let’s try 450 shall we? Look at the huge sweep, the dead area at the end.

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So 450 works and we’re actually, we actually are running the speed of the scan at 450,

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even though it looks as though it’s a very leisurely pace. When I look at the screen, it tells me that that took 18 seconds to produce that pattern.

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OK, so we’ve gone back to our 30,000 acceleration, 10 times greater.

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But this time we’ve reduced the speed to 200mm a second.

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I mean, the head looks as though it’s moving faster, but there’s less over travel, which gives the impression that it’s moving faster.

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Really, what I’m trying to show you is that acceleration is a very important factor.

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It plays all sorts of silly games with your mind. You think,

Transcript for K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades – Optimising Laser Machine Performance (Cont…)

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let’s wind up very fast. Thirty thousand. But hey, if I do that, I have to compromise.

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I have to use a slower speed. If I want to run fast, I have to pull my acceleration down from 30,000 to 3,000.

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But in doing so, that pattern takes 18 seconds.

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But I can run it slower, faster at eight seconds.

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Because I’ve got less over travel at the end. If you understand how it works, you can make the decision of how you want to set your machine up.

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So really, if I want to run this machine efficiently at the moment, I’m going to run it at a limit of 200 millimetres a second.

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Now, before we go anywhere else, what we’ll do, we’ll just look at the current settings on this device.

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At the moment, I’ve got this set to one amp, which is Switch one, two and three off off on.

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I’m going to change this up to 1.9 amps. I’ve got no idea whether there’s a safe limit for this motor or not,

165
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but we’re going to run it at one point nine amps and see what effect it has. Nothing!

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So we’re now stuck with the only real alternative. Let’s go in here and make this stepper motor bigger.

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We’ve got two problems, really. These wires go right the way back to the stepper driver, and I don’t really want to unravel all of this.

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So I’m going to take the lazy step and join the wires down here.

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There we go. So we’ve got off. Now that’s problem number one. First of all, this is a much heavier, stepper motor, probably three times the weight.

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But something else is a bit of a problem as well. And that’s this, there is no obvious fixing for it.

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I’m going to have to be a bit brutal and take that off there I think. I’m going to have a go at trying to press it off.

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OK, well, I’ve managed to fit the large motor in, it’s temporarily,

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it’s in with a, just a quick connect system. Um to prove whether or not everything works alright.

Transcript for K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades – Optimising Laser Machine Performance (Cont…)

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To be honest, it’d better work OK. Because when I took this motor out, I’ve completely messed up the bearing,

175
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trying to get the little brass fitting off, because it was just press fitted onto there.

176
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So once I’d got the fitting off, I reamed It out 5mm and put an M3

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screw in it to fix it to my shaft. So I won’t have the same problem again. If this doesn’t work,

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I’m held up for a few days while I organize another motor.

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I know they’re paired up correctly, but the polarity may be wrong with the connection, so this may or may not go in the right direction.

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So when we turn it on, we shall have to be careful. We want it to go that way and hit this end stop.

181
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Oops so it’s going the wrong way. I will have to create an artificial zero when I turn on.

182
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Right, so it thinks it’s got zero there now.

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At least I’ve got the machine working, which means I can now go in and change the polarity in the vendor settings.

184
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Read and X-Polarity, direction polarity is positive.

185
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We’re going to change that to negative. We’re going to have to swap the keying over as well, I think. So,

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we’ll just write that back. Wow, that’s moving around pretty quickly, and that should be the same as the previous motor in terms of calibration.

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Turn the power on. Twenty per cent, four hundred that will do, OK.

Transcript for K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades – Optimising Laser Machine Performance (Cont…)

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Oh, keying is the wrong way. That’s a small problem we can deal with. Ha ha ha, our Y is still correct, but our X is now substantially different.

189
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So let me just crudely measure it, so it should be a hundred.

190
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In fact, it’s 200. So read, into here 200 is what we finished up with.

191
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OK. Right? It should give us 100 by 100 now.

192
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There we go. So X is now ninety nine point nine two.

193
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I think we call that 100 shall we? So we’ve got that calibration back.

194
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It’s working again. Good news. I’m going to read it again.

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Put that in. And then write it back.

196
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So left key, right key. Go into our user settings.

197
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Read. And we’ve got our X and Y set to 30,000. Remember that didn’t work before, it was just, it went bonkers.

198
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OK, so let’s just see whether it will scan this at 30,000 by 400.

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We had to have 3,000 at 450 last time. Wow.

200
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Look at that. Well, he he he . So now we’re running 30,000 and 400mm a second, which we couldn’t do before because we just didn’t have the power.

201
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Remember, we’re really limited by speed. We’ll leave the settings at 30,000.

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Let’s push the speed up to 600.

203
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Let’s go to 800, so we’ve got, we’ve got some overrun there, as you can see, but it’s not terrible.

Transcript for K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades – Optimising Laser Machine Performance (Cont…)

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And let’s go to a thousand. Has anybody ever seen a K40 run at a thousand millimetres a second?

205
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I don’t think so. Wow.

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I think we’ve got to be impressed by that. Vendor settings. Max Speed 1000, at the moment, but there’s no reason why I can’t go, read change that to 1500 and write

207
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that back. Now I’m allowed to go up to 1500 if I want.

208
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Are you curious? I certainly am. Now our speed is definitely 1500.

209
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OK, so 1500 does not work. Not at that acceleration.

210
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But of course, it may well work at a lower acceleration, but hey, I don’t think we’re going to need 1500.

211
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So if we go back to a thousand, which was my target, basically. Let’s take a little bit more of a careful look at how much over travel there is.

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What we’ll do, we’ll set our zero here and we can compare over travel to there.

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So it’s about 10 millimetres onto that pattern. Vendor settings, what can we run X up to for acceleration?

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Maximum acceleration, 30,000. We’re already there.

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So let’s make that 50,000 shall we? Now, remember, that’s not what’s going to happen.

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That’s just now a new limit. Over to the user settings:X-acceleration 30.

217
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Let’s take it up to 40 shall we? Well, it didn’t fail. Let’s look at 50,000.

218
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There it is, 50,000. Now I’ve put a black mark on there, roughly where the over travel was at 30,000. We’re now at 50,000. You see,

Transcript for K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades – Optimising Laser Machine Performance (Cont…)

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we’ve reduced it by probably three, four millimetres. I don’t think we’ll push it any more than that.

220
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I think for an acceleration X of 50,000 and a speed of a thousand

221
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millimetres a second. I should be able to approximately check that with the scan speed on this machine, but just to be sure what we will do.

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100mm’s wide scan. Let me put the power up to something that shows, because remember at this high speed the exposure time hasit disappeared to almost zero.

223
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And let’s watch this baby run. Well, at the moment, I’m pretty well impressed with this little piece of kit.

224
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I’m just editing the video and as I said, I should be able to.

225
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I should be able to establish the speed that we’re drawing that line at. Well, we can see our scan lengths from here to here 100mm,

226
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which I set it, so that I could do just this sort of test.

227
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We can now step forward one frame at a time.

228
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And my frames are 50 frames a second, so that’s 20 milliseconds for every frame.

229
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And now, look, we can see that we’re just about on the beginning of the line.

230
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So one frame two three four five frames get me to the other end of the line.

231
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Five frames 100mm. And they’re 20 milliseconds per frame, so a 100 millimetres is taking.

232
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five of those, which is a hundred milliseconds equals 100 millimetres.

Transcript for K40 Laser Cutter Upgrades – Optimising Laser Machine Performance (Cont…)

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Now, it’s not going to take a rocket scientist to multiply that by 10.

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And that gets us up to a thousand milliseconds, which is one second.

235
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And if I multiply that by 10, I get up to a thousand

236
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millimetres. So there it is, a thousand millimetres a second, proven.

237
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I can sleep peacefully tonight. Okay, so you’ve seen a K40 running at a 1000 mm a second.

238
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It may be able to go faster a little bit, but I don’t need to, because I don’t have the exposure time with the power to use these sorts of speeds.

239
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It was just a challenge, a thousand millimeters a second.

240
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And I’ve met that challenge and I’m very happy. Now, just for a final direct comparison between what we had and what we’ve now got.

241
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450mm a second took 18 seconds before.

242
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Let’s just see what it now does with this new motor on. There’s our comparisons.

243
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What we had to start with, the very best that we could do is 200mm a second, with a high acceleration of 30,000 and we got down to eight seconds.

244
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But we can now push that down to five seconds because we’ve been able to push the acceleration up to 50,000 and the speed up to 450mm a second.

245
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Which is about as much as I probably ever want to use on this machine.

246
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So I’m extremely happy with the outcome of this project. Next time, we’ll start doing some real work with it We’ll do some cutting

247
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and we’ll do some engraving. We’ll see what this machine can really do.

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Last updated August 26, 2021

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