Session 30 – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times

The Concise RDWorks Learning Lab Series

Welcome to Module 3 of the new Concise RDWorks Learning Lab Series with Russ Sadler. Module 3 will build on the information learned in the previous modules and will be targeted on the differing types of laser engraving methods and the techniques needed to consistently achieve great engraving results. So lets learn how to Speed Up Laser Engraving.

In this Session, Russ shows us how, with a few simple tweaks and a change of mindset regarding engraving. It’s possible to optimise the laser engraving process, shaving seconds and even minutes off typical engraving times.

Release Date: 4th February 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 and to sort out the truths, half truths and outright misleading information that is available on the web.

Six years later with over 3 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.

The Factors to consider to Speed Up Laser Engraving
The Factors to consider to Speed Up Laser Engraving

In this new series, Russ has condensed his knowledge and experience of the last 6 years to provide valuable information and insights into the purchasing, understanding, use, repair and maintenance of the Chinese CO2 laser machines and their key component parts.

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Session 30 – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times

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Session 30 – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times

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Transcript for Speed Up Laser Engraving – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times

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The Concise RDWorks Learning Lab with Russ Sadler.

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Session 30: Optimizing Engraving Cycle Times.

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Many moons ago, I seem to remember telling you that engraving was a big subject.

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Now there is one feature that is common to all types of engraving and that is scan.

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Backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards.

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Whether you are doing it for logos, text or as latterly photographs,

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and the amount of time that it takes to go backwards and forwards and gradually scan down a picture is dependent upon so many different factors.

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And here are the six key factors that will influence the cycle time for an engraving.

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So we’re going to look at these two factors here to start with, and they are tied in with this motor power as well.

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But particularly, I want to talk about these two factors here. So you’ve got a good understanding of what these are all about.

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Right? Let me explain my dodgy drawing here. First of all, what is acceleration?

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How many millimetres per second per second you are changing your speed by?

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I’ve got a simple task for this laser machine to perform.

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I want it to draw a line. It’s a scan line, 300 mm long.

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But the thing about scanning is when you specify in your scanning parameters that you want to run at 300mm a second,

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it will run at 300mm a second over the length of that line.

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But it doesn’t just instantly start off at the beginning of this line,

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300mm a second and stop. No, it has to accelerate up to 300mm a second, then draw the line and then stop.

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Turn around, accelerate up to 300mm a second.

Transcript for Speed Up Laser Engraving – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times (Cont…)

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Draw the line on the way back and decelerate again.

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So there are three phases to drawing a scan line the acceleration, the drawing and the deceleration.

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So let’s just take a look at how this 300mm long line, how long it’s going to take with different accelerations.

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Now, acceleration is the change of speed.

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And it’s the change of speed in this case of millimeters per second per second.

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I’m going to set the acceleration to 300mm, a second, a second.

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And at the end of the first second, I’m traveling at 300mm per second.

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If I was to go on to another second, it would be 600mm a second.

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But I’m not because I’ve reached my goal of 300mm a second speed, which is my line, your speed.

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Now I’m going to draw a line which is 300mm long. Well, how long is it going to take me to draw that line?

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Well, I’m already traveling at 300mm a second and I’ve got a 300mm long line,

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so it’s going to take me one second to draw that line, which is one second across the bottom of that time here.

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Okay. And then it’s going to take another second here.

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To drop back to zero at the end of the line, so it’s taken a total of three seconds to draw my 300 mm long line.

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Now if I change the acceleration only to 150 millimeters a second,

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in other words it’s half the acceleration. It’s going to take twice as long to reach 300mm a second.

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So it’s going to take two seconds to reach 300 mm a second.

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But once I’m at 300mm a second, it’s still only going to take one second to draw my line.

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And there it is one second. But it’s going to take another two seconds to decelerate back down to zero again.

Transcript for Speed Up Laser Engraving – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times (Cont…)

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So here it takes three seconds to draw 300mm line. And here it takes five seconds to draw a 300 mm line.

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So it’s not double the time because I’ve got half the acceleration.

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That’s just an illustration that the faster you can accelerate, the more time you can save on a cycle.

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I mean, you could run this at twice the speed. Okay.

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But the problem is to run it at twice the speed, you’ve got to have the acceleration up to that speed.

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And now comes another issue, which is the motor power itself.

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Now the problem with a stepper motor is the faster the stepper motor runs, the less torque or the less ability it has to drive.

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And so consequently, we’re very quickly going to hit a ceiling where our aspirations, 600mm

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a second at a certain acceleration are not possible because we don’t have the power in the motor.

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The faster the motor runs, the less powerful it becomes. So we’ve got a very strange set of circumstances here which play together.

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There is no way that I can begin to describe that situation to you on paper.

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We’re going to have to go to the machine and we’re going to have to experiment with these three factors.

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We can’t change the stepper motor power. We’ve got a certain stepper motor.

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But what we can do, we can play with the engraving speed and the motor acceleration.

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And that will, in fact, affect the cycle time. Right, we’re going to start off by taking a quick look at the head that I’ve got

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on this machine and the sort of head that you might have on your machine.

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Now this is a fairly typical head that you would have on the machine.

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And if we take a look at it, the weight of it around about 300 grams.

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I’ve completely redesigned the head to make this into what I call a lightweight head.

Transcript for Speed Up Laser Engraving – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times (Cont…)

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All we’ve really got on here is the lens tube and as little mass as possible to

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just hold a very lightweight mirror plate in place as opposed to this heavy one.

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With all these big brass fittings on it and this big lump of aluminium here and this big fitting down at the bottom.

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So everything has been lightened so that this is roughly a third of the mass of this one. You might say, well, what’s the benefit of that?

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The reason why I’ve changed the head is because Isaac Newton told me to. Look here’s Newton’s second law of motion.

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It clearly says force equals mass times acceleration.

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OK, so it’s a formula. What on earth does that mean? Well, look, I’ve got a stepper motor on this machine, which is the force,

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and at the moment it is doing a job and we know that if I was to use this head.

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The machine would be set up and capable of driving this head backwards and forwards at, say, 600mm a second with a certain amount of acceleration.

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So let’s put this head into the equation and say force of one.

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And it doesn’t matter what the numbers are. Force of one with a mass of one gives me a certain acceleration.

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So the equation is balancing look, one times one equals one, which is exactly what the equation says.

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Now, if I can reduce this mass by 50 percent, then here’s what the equation looks like.

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I can reduce the mass by 50 percent to half.

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If I keep the force the same without asking the motor to do any more or less work, then I can make the acceleration twice as fast.

Transcript for Speed Up Laser Engraving – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times (Cont…)

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So in my situation here, where I’ve got a force of one because I’ve not changed the stepper motor.

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I’ve gone down to naught point three three,

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so I can multiply the acceleration by three. So I could put three times as much acceleration into this head as I can into this head.

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So that immediately gives me the opportunity to run the machine and generate much faster cycle times.

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OK, let’s go and look in RDWorks. We need to go to file.

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Vendor settings, and you will get the opportunity here to put in a password, which is RD8888.

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Enter. And now it lets you into a magical secret part of the software.

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So we need to read. And there it goes. And now the numbers that are in this chart here, are the numbers that are in my machine.

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This is vendor settings and in vendor settings most of the numbers in here are safe numbers that

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the vendor ,the seller thinks you shouldn’t exceed. Right now over on the side panel here you find we’ve got a tab called user.

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Now in user, you’ve got all sorts of other settings.

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Now these are settings that you are allowed to play with, the vendor settings are basically safety limits that you cannot play with.

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So the vendor says, Yeah, I’ll let you go up to say, 100mm a second maximum speed.

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You can put a thousand millimeters a second speed in here,

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but it won’t allow you to go to a thousand millimeters a second because the restraint has been defined by the vendor at 100 millimeters a second.

Transcript for Speed Up Laser Engraving – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times (Cont…)

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So you can put what numbers in you like here, but if the vendor settings are wrong, they will have no effect on your machine.

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So that’s an important, that’s an important fact

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you must understand. If you want to fiddle with these numbers, you may well have to go into your vendor settings and make big adjustments.

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It doesn’t mean to say that the machine is going to explode and burst into flames.

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So we’re going to be interested mainly in the X scan because when you’re doing a scanning operation, the movements in Y are very, very, very small.

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And you don’t have any serious acceleration problems. So we’ve got maximum speed 2000

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Wow, that’s very high.

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Normally on your machine, you’ll probably find that that set to something like about maybe 500, 600. 2000 is a dream.

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So I’m not worried about it, because I’m going to go maximum on this machine, we might be able to get up to 1500….

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Might. So let’s not worry too much about that number.

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Just make sure that it is high. OK, and then we’ve got acceleration here, set to 40000. 40000?

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You may well find that yours is set to 20000.

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Now, I know that this machine has already been set to quite reasonable limits for the weight of the head, the mass of the head.

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So we might not have too much change to make on this machine, but we’ll give it a try.

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Now on our user settings, we’ve got cut parameters which we’re not interested in.

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What we’re more interested in is these things here, which is sweep parameters.

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They call it sweep, but it’s basically scanning. OK, so we’ve got a start speed, which is low.

Transcript for Speed Up Laser Engraving – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times (Cont…)

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That’s not a problem. Start speed? Mm a second. Then what we’re interested in is this x acceleration.

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Now, at the moment, the X acceleration is only set to 20000. And remember, we’ve got a limit in the vendor settings of 40000.

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So what are we’re going to do, to start with is just

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use the settings that are in the machine and see what we’ve got. Now, to help me in this task what I’ve done.

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I’ve drawn a little test rectangle here and I’ve got it set to 400mm the second to start with, scanning with a power of 25 percent.

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But what I’ve done here, I’ve got the interval set to point five. My box is a 100 mm wide.

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The head is probably going to travel across this way to start with and finish up over

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here, at a point where it can accelerate from zero up to 400 millimetres a second,

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which is the speed that I’ve asked it to scan at. It will then scan across here at 400mm a second turn off,

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but it’ll carry on traveling this way and decelerating to zero from 400 millimetres a second.

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Then it will accelerate back up to 400 millimetres a second and scan this way.

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So at the end of every stroke, there’s going to be this over travel. To try and see the over travel,

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I’ve got a little trick. There are two tricks that I could use, but this is the easiest one for you to understand.

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In my bearing here, I’ve got a little groove. I’m going to sit this drill in the groove so that it can just move backwards and forwards.

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Once the machine is running, you’ll see what I’m going to do. I’m going to try and find the point at which the bearing stops.

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In other words, I’m going to use this like little end stop. If you’re going to try this, don’t do it from here.

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Look, you’ve got a laser beam coming across here, and you’ll very quickly find out that laser beams appear to be warm.

Transcript for Speed Up Laser Engraving – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times (Cont…)

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So make sure you put your hand over the back of the head and do this adjustment. And I gradually just find the point at which that drill just touches

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the head. Now I’m letting my program run to the end because I want to find out how long it took to do that program.

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So we’ve got to put several pieces of information on here 400 millimetres a second.

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We know that the acceleration was 20000 millimetres per second squared.

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And now what we got to do is find out what the over travel is. So I’ll just measure that over travel,

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and that’s about six point four. So the next thing we’ll do, we’ll try and run this at 800mm a second.

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Just touching, just there. So we’re now running at 800mm a second.

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So we’ve doubled the speed. But we haven’t halved the cycle time.

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And in practice, to be honest, I don’t think I can run engraving at much more than 800 millimeters a second.

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We will go faster than that. We will see where this thing finishes up.

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Let’s try running at 1200 millimetres a second. OK.

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So immediately you heard there something going wrong, and I’ve just press the pause button.

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Because it’s lost steps. It will not run at twelve hundred millimetres a second with that acceleration.

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Press reset.. OK, so now we’re back in order.

Transcript for Speed Up Laser Engraving – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times (Cont…)

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You heard something went wrong. It’s not dangerous. It’s just you need to stop the machine.

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So we change the speed back to a thousand. Yes.

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It runs at a thousand. And the over travel is now twenty nine point eight and the cycle time is 11 seconds.

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But hang on. It was 11 seconds when we’re at 800mm a second.

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So we’ve gone 200mm a second faster,

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we’ve got more over travel. But we finish with the same cycle time.

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And this is one of the points I wanted to make to you that the amount of over travel

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and the speed will cross over at some point in time and the faster you travel,

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the more over travel you have, the more wasted the time you have. Because of the acceleration,

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up to a thousand millimetres a second. Now what we’ll do now,

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we will keep a thousand millimeters a second and we’ll see whether we can push

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the acceleration up to decrease this time and get a benefit on the cycle time.

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Look, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll change just the four, backspace, to three.

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Thirty thousand. Write.

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And now we’ll will read what’s in memory.

Transcript for Speed Up Laser Engraving – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times (Cont…)

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Now we’ve got it. Now bear in mind, at a thousand millimetres a second, we were right on the verge of the power of the motor.

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We’re nowt going to ask it to accelerate even faster. It’s going to fail.

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I can absolutely tell you it’s going to fail. But let’s give it a try.

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There you go. We will leave the acceleration. And we will now back the speed off to 800 hundred. So at 800 at the higher acceleration works fine.

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Fourteen point eight. Now we’ve managed to get the cycle time down to 10 seconds.

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And all we’ve done. 800mm a second, nineteen point eight, 11 seconds. Exactly the same,

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800mm a second, and that’s fourteen point eight as opposed to nineteen point eight.

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Because we’ve got a greater acceleration,

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we got to the run speed faster in a shorter distance and we’ve managed to get another second off the cycle time.

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I mean, most people won’t want to run,. I don’t think at 800mm a second.

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My guess is that they’re probably going to be closer to 600 mm a second maximum.

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Because you just haven’t got enough power with 70 watts to produce decent engraving.

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Let me push the power up to 99 per percent because remember, I can do that on this machine.

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800mm a second. At the moment, we’ll leave the focus exactly where is.

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We’ll drop the table down by about 3mm

Transcript for Speed Up Laser Engraving – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times (Cont…)

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It’s not exactly dark, is it?

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Let’s try it on a piece of plywood. Full power at 800mm a second. Let’s change the speed to 600 millimetres a second.

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A slight difference in the colour, by dropping it down 200mm a second.

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Let’s just change the pitch between the lines, because at the moment this is half millimetre pitch and I’ve just about filled that up nicely.

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So they’re about a half mill wide lines at the moment to get an even, quite nice even engraving. If I go to point two.

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I’m going to be over burning the lines.

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And so consequently, you’d expect that double burning would give me a darker burn, from point five to point two, but we’re still on 600 mm a second.

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There is a very, very small change in the colour. We’re now up to 28 seconds for something that can be done in 11 seconds.

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And we got no benefit to show from it.

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Now you’ve been through enough of the early engraving to try and understand why I’m not getting a colour change.

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If I drop that to 200mm a second, I probably will get a different color.

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Now, the amount of over travel we’ve got now that we’re traveling very, very slowly, is almost nil.

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It’s no more than about two millimetres.

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So look 400 at 30000 was a slight change of colour, but we had five mm over travel. 67 seconds down to 37 seconds just for a 200mm

Transcript for Speed Up Laser Engraving – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times (Cont…)

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a second change. I doubt whether we shall want to run this machine at more than 600 millimeters a second.

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So it would make more sense to try and wring the absolute maximum acceleration out of this machine, rather than play with acceleration for high speed.

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So I’ve pushed the acceleration up now to 40000 and we’re going to bring the speed to 600 and see what happens.

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Six hundred mm a second, 40000 millimetres a second, a second – thirty eight seconds.

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So we’ve got greater acceleration, faster speed.

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And it’s taking a second longer. OK.

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I think my point is proven there is an optimum combination of speed and acceleration that will give you an optimum cycle time.

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So that’s one of the things that you need to play with.

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Now the other thing that I must point out to you and I did mention this before is this. There will be exactly the same over travel,

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nine millimetres of over travel, 600 mm a second, 40000 acceleration and cycle time.

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Every time you do a scan, you’ve got nine millimeters of over travel each end, which is wasted time.

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But look how many scans we’ve got. Compared to the number of scans on this one.

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And that’s where your extra time it’s the dead time at the end of the stroke.

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So even though you might like to see pictures on your machine the right way up, turn them on their side.

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Make sure the aspect ratio is always landscape and not portrait.

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Size of picture will have an effect on the cycle time.

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Orientation of the picture will have an effect on the cycle time. The resolution of the picture cannot be changed.

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This is point one. And therefore, you have to have a point one line interval. That applies to bitmap pictures, but it does not apply to text.

Transcript for Speed Up Laser Engraving – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times (Cont…)

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If you’re doing filled text, it doesn’t matter about the resolution.

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What you’re really interested in, then, is maybe the speed of your text, depending on the size of the text.

200
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If you’ve got large text, you can do what I’ve done here, which is drop the focus down.

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You could increase the size of the line spacing if you increase the size of the line spacing from point one to point two,

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you’ve almost halved the time that it’s going to take to do the job.

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I can only give you all these demonstrations of this information, at the end of the day.

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The decision will be yours on the optimum speed that you could run your machine at.

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Every machine will be different.

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But I’ve given you hopefully the tools and the demonstrations to show you how to go about wringing the absolute optimum from your machine.

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It looks as though on this machine, the optimum acceleration is 30000 and not 40000.

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Well, the answer is thirty seven seconds.

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So the acceleration is making no difference when we get down to these very small numbers,

Transcript for Speed Up Laser Engraving – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times (Cont…)

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so we may as well play safe and set this machine back to thirty thousand and know that it will run all

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the way up to about 800 millimeters a second and not compromise what we’re doing here at slow speed.

Transcript for Speed Up Laser Engraving – Optimising Engraving Cycle Times

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