I started with the well known Universal G-Code Sender, and Inkscape 0.92, testing some of the laser plugins available. Installing and using the plugins is not that difficult, but for someone so inexperienced as myself, it can be tricky, specially if things start to go wrong, as its always difficult to know where the problem lies... Is it the machine? The plugin? Maybe I’m doing something wrong… And in fact, when things did go wrong I felt a big frustration because there was a lot to look at and I had no idea where to start looking. Fortunately, there’s something called Internet, and with the help of some kind people I was able to solve a lot of those problems. The main one being the size (dimensions) of the objects I intended to engrave not corresponding to the actually engraved ones (e.g. a rectangle 50x100mm was engraved as 25x60mm) after a lot, and I mean a LOT of hours researching I came to find out that it was somewhat related to the 0.92 Inkscape version, and in fact when I downgraded to the version 0.91 it all went fine. But the best thing was yet to come as I stumbled upon the laserWeb open-source project which dismisses the need of an Inkscape laser plugin as one can import directly to it an svg file and even assign different operations (cut, engrave,…) based on the stroke color. It also has bitmap-raster and multi-layer features. I can’t stress enough the amazing job the developers have done, LaserWeb its really a powerful toolchain that saves one a lot of work and problems to deal with. I’ll probably make an in-depth article or video on this tool and all it’s features, but there are already some fantastic tutorials out there as this one which really helped me a lot.
Down below are some of the first engravings I’ve made, and as you can notice still have some imperfections, that I’ll be discussing.
The engraving inside the red square has some noticeable imperfections. At this point in time I cannot say what has caused these imperfections. I can only point some probable ones. First hypotheses, and the one I would prefer to have happened, for obvious reasons, is that the wood sheet may have moved during the engraving process due to the motors acceleration/deceleration as I didn’t lock it down. Second one is that the machine is loosing steps, and I don’t even want to start thinking about it, really. Keep in mind that the engraving was not done top to bottom or bottom to top, the machine went up to engrave the right ear then to the bottom left and etc, and I wasn’t watching it for the whole time, in fact I had to leave the machine doing its thing to go and answer the bell lol. One thing I can tell you is that the engraving was done in horizontal lines ( and if one zooms in the photo the lines are visible), fortunately the LaserWeb app let’s one choose to make diagonal lines for instance at a 45º angle as in the other two engravings (green and blue) which delivers a pretty much better quality .