Comments on Quick Start Guide and Laser User Manual

[Disclaimer] I see that the description of this category is more focused on the hardware and software feedback of the Snapmaker products, but the documentation is just as important, and I could not find a category that seemed more appropriate than this one. If there is a more appropriate category for this post, I will put it there.

All of my comments below are based on running the 1.10.0 firmware and Luban 3.9.0.

I received my A350 and Enclosure last week and in general I am pretty happy. I set out to try each of the three capabilities. I spent many years during my career proof reading technical documents, so most of what follows will be comments on the documentation provided with the Snapmaker - both in print form and online.

I didn’t have much issue getting the 3D printing capability up and running, but after reading several posts about getting a good first layer adhesion, I will need to go back and do some more research and tweaking.

I skipped to the CNC capability since I found the section of the Quick Start Guide (QSG) for the Laser confusing. More about that later. I was able to make the Cell Phone Holder once I figured out how big the pattern should be - found that in the User Manual (UM) for CNC, but it’s not mentioned in the QSG.

My biggest challenge was with the Laser capability. I initially tried following the steps in the QSG to set up the Laser head and try and make the supplied sample Gift Box.

I understand the need for setting up the Focal Length and appreciated the image of the test lines, but what would have been helpful was a description of which of the test lines represented the correct focal length. My first attempt at performing the Auto Focus procedure failed and the guidance on the display was to pick the best line. But I didn’t know what criteria to use to make that judgement. I later updated the firmware (primarily to enable the Enclosure features) and redid the Auto Focus procedure again and it passed. But some knowledge about how to distinguish between the test lines for “good” versus “bad” would have been helpful.

In the QSG there’s a process for calibrating the camera. But strangely, this is not shown in the UM even though it is mentioned in the workflow list. I would have expected that this would be included in the more in depth UM rather than existing only in the QSG. And now that I understand this better, I realize that there are two parts of calibrating the camera. The first is done using the touchscreen (as shown in section 4.2.2 of the QSG). This burns a square onto a piece of paper. The second part of this process is to use the Luban UI and its Camera Capture feature to view this piece of paper and use the burned-in square to align the nine pictures the camera has taken. But these steps are shown Section 4.3 AFTER you’ve been instructed to Fix the Material to the platform. So there’s a disconnect here. These two parts should be documented in one section, not separately.

Where I really went off the rails with the QSG was Section 4.3 - Prepare the G-code File and Start Cutting. The steps in this section are clearly intended for when you have a drawing of the Gift Box sample that you use the camera to capture and then cut. One of the images in this section shows the Luban UI with an image of the Gift Box in the upper right corner. But the problem is you don’t have such an image printed out. So I scratched my head for a while on this one. I didn’t understand this until I really spent some time going over the Laser UM.

Then it became apparent that there are two ways to cut or engrave. The first is to use a file (like the one provided with the Snapmaker for the Gift Box and use that as your design. The second is to use a printed design and use the Camera Capture feature to get this into the workspace. This is not at all clear from the QSG. The QSG seems to be a mash-up of these two approaches. The QSG should choose one or the other and clearly delineate the steps required to get there. My choice would be using the file as the design since that file exists as part of the sample files.

I did follow the instructions in the Laser UM using the “Setting Work Origin” approach (i.e. using the file as the design) and was successful in making the Gift Box. I did find some issues with what is documented in the Laser UM. They are:

  • Step 4.1 - The first line here is missing the numbered items that correspond to the image below it.

  • Step 4.1 - The UI image shown here includes an area (numbered 2) that shows “Preview Settings”. Luban 3.9.0 shows no such area in the UI unless you click on the “Add” button and import some sort of graphic - black & white or grey-scale.

  • Step 4.1 - The Luban UI shows two buttons above the grided workspace area - “Editor” and “Process”. These are not shown in this step, nor are they described anywhere in the UM.

  • Step 4.2.2 - Cutting Mode - The section mentions Multi-pass and Fixed Power settings, with text that says “… you can set the Multi-pass and Power settings to a desirable level based on the materials you choose.” Some guidance on what settings would be desirable for various materials would be handy to have here. Or, at least, a link to a reference that would provide some general ideas.

It is clear that the available-to-download Laser UM is based on a previous version of Luban code. And that many changes and UI re-arrangements have happened. This makes the UM very difficult to use as a guide since it doesn’t reflect what a user will actually see. I know from working in the field for many years that it is hard to coordinate User Manual content with code that changes often up until the actual release date. But when the software and manuals are this far out of sync, it’s very difficult for users - especially new users - to figure out how to make the software work.

The more I look at the UI and try and figure out how things should work, the more questions I have. For example, if using the Camera Capture feature to bring in a design, you can drag the design into the center of the workspace. But while editing circles are shown around the periphery of the image, you cannot rotate or scale the image. Wouldn’t that be a logical next step? How would that be done?

Rick

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Thanks for typing this up. I haven’t gone through the Laser setup yet, appreciate your experiences, I’m sure it’ll help me out when I do.

Brent

While I was actually able to use the laser to cut out the Gift Box, it was not at all straightforward as it should be. I spent lots of time bouncing between the Quick Start Guide, the online User Manual and what I could actually see on the Luban UI. To save you some time - once you get to it - here are the set of steps that should get you to a result.

This set of steps is predicated on using a file (like the Gift Box) as the pattern to laser cut (not engrave) and using the supplied 1.5mm wood that comes with the Snapmaker 2. This is also based on the 1.10.0 firmware and Luban 3.9.0.

I am not addressing the engraving process with this set of steps. That will come later - I hope - since I DO want to use this capability.

I did discover that the Preview Settings as shown in the online manual only shows up if you use the “Add…” button in the initial Editor UI screen to select a B&W or greyscale image from your computer (or the internet). If you use the Gift Box file (from the Case Library), this Preview Setting section does not show up.

So, here are the steps:

  1. Fix Material to the Platform

  2. Measure Focal Length (using the Auto Focus process)

  3. Open up Luban (if not already running) and connect to SM2. This is not essential at this point, but will be necessary once you load the g-code to the workspace.

  4. Click on the Laser Icon (left hand side of Luban UI)

  5. Click on the Case Library icon (the one with the triangle, circle & square in lower left corner) and select the Gift Box file by clicking on the “Load” button.

  6. Resize the pattern to match the wood provided - the supplied wood is 200mm x 200mm. Do this by putting in “200” in either the “W” or “H” box found in the Configurations/Transformation section on the right side of the UI. Press enter and BOTH the W and H values should now be 200. This is assuming that the lock icon is shown between the two values. Zoom out to see the whole pattern. It should still be centered on the origin of the workspace. The UI should now look like this:

Note that at the top of the UI the “Editor” tag is highlighted.

  1. Click on the “Process” button shown in the Actions section on the right side of the UI. Once the software has completed processing, the “Process” tag on the top of the UI will be highlighted and the Configurations section of the UI on the right will change to show new subsections - “Vector” and “Working Parameters”. The Actions section will also change - now showing a Preview button, an Auto Preview checkbox (which should be checked), a Generate G-code button, a Load G-code to Workspace button and an Export G-code to file button. Not all of the buttons in the Actions section are enabled at this point other than the Generate G-code button. The UI should now look like this:

  1. For the Gift Box sample, leave the Working parameters as they are:

    • Print Order = 0
    • Jog Speed = 3000 mm/min
    • Work Speed = 140 mm/min
    • Multi-pass = enabled
      • Multi-pass Passes = 2
      • Multi-pass Pass Depth = 0.6 mm
    • Fixed Power - enabled
      • Fixed Power = 100%
  2. Click on the Generate G-code button in the Actions section of the UI.

  3. Click on the Load G-code to Workspace button in the Actions section of the UI. After the software has generated the g-code the UI will change again significantly. There are now three vertical panes of the main UI:

    • Left - this pane contains the Connection, Console, Laser and Fine Tune Work Origin sections
    • Middle - this pane contains the workspace grid. Note that at the top of this section are four icons - Play, Pause, Stop and Close
    • Right - this pane contains the G-code Files, Enclosure (if equipped), Control, Macro and G-code Inspect sections

The UI should now look like this (note that not all of the Left or Right panes of the UI are visible without using the slider on the right hand side):

Some notes about some of the button controls in this part of the UI:

  • In the Connection section (left pane) - the button will either be “Connect” or “Disconnect” meaning pressing the button will perform that action.

  • In the Laser section (left pane) - the Laser Power button is either “Open” or “Close”. “Open” means pressing this button will turn the laser ON. “Close” means pressing this button will turn the laser OFF. I find this a bit confusing. I would rather have the button read either “On” or “Off” depending on its actual state, not the state that pressing the button will create. But that’s just my opinion.

  • In the Enclosure section (right pane) - the three buttons are “LED Strip”, “Cooling Fan” and “Door Detection”. Their buttons are labeled either “On”, or “Off”. But like the laser this is what will happen if the button is pressed, not the current state of the LED, Fan or Door Detection. Again, just my opinion. While preparing this set of steps I ran through most, if not all, of these steps and thought I saw that the states of these three items - LED, Fan and Door - did not agree with the actual state of these items in the platform. Flipping them off and on seemed to correct this, but I think this might be a software bug.

  1. Using the UI buttons in the Control section (right side) move the laser head to somewhere approximately in the center of the wood that will be cut from an X and Y axis perspective and 5 to 10 mm above the piece of wood on the Z axis. These controls are similar to the controls on the touchscreen where you can adjust the movement amount to get to the desired position.

The image below shows the portions of the left and right UI that are being describe in steps 11 and 12.

  1. Set the laser power to “2%” by entering that value in the box at the bottom of the Laser section. Then turn on the laser by clicking on the Laser Power button (which should show “Open” at this point). Note that if you have an enclosure, either disable the Door Detection (for the moment since it’s much easier to gauge the position of the laser head with the doors open) or close the doors so that the laser can be energized. You should see the laser’s dot on the wood at the center of the piece. This is where the Work Origin will be. If it is not where it should be, use the buttons in the Control section to move it to the desired position. Once you have the laser in the right place, click on the Set Work Origin button in the Control section. Note that I am not addressing any of the controls in the Fine Tune Work Origin section (left side) - I have yet to understand these.

  2. Assuming that the laser is high enough off of the platform to avoid any items holding down the wood, click on the Run Boundary button. Watch to see that the laser head does not go beyond the wood in either the X or Y directions front, back, or to either side.

  3. If you disabled the Door Detection while positioning the laser head to the Work Origin, enable it now and close the doors. And turn on the Fan if it is off. Otherwise be prepared to deal with the smell of burning wood.

  4. In the upper left corner of the middle pane of the UI - where the workspace grid is shown - find the “Play” button and click it. This will launch the process of cutting out the Gift Box from the wood sample.

The result of my following these steps was the Gift Box as shown in the manuals. But the laser did not burn all the way through the wood in various places. I had to use an Exacto knife to cut through the remaining portion of the wood (you could see the lines on the back side). I expect that at some point I will understand why this happened.

I did not take copious notes while actually performing these steps, so should you use this set of steps and find errors, please post them so that myself and others can take advantage of your discoveries.

Also, should you have discovered - like I did - a set of steps that are useful when using other parts of the Luban software, please post those. Maybe we even need a new forum category (hint, hint) to collect the process steps that people have discovered.

It seems clear that the Luban 3.9.0 UI is significantly different from what is shown in the online User Manuals. I am particularly interested in using the laser to engrave wood using either greyscale or B&W images, so if you have steps that work for those, cough them up (please).

For example, if you want to engrave an image on the piece of 1/2" or 3/4" wood using the laser, how does that change the set up of the focal length and the Work Origin settings? Or does the SM2/Luban take care of that automatically?

My fingers are tired, I’m signing off for now…

Rick

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Thanks, I’m going to be working on getting our laser module setup so this is very timely.

No worries. Let me know how it goes. And keep me informed if you make any discoveries that I didn’t stumble upon.

Rick

Hello, I received my Snapmaker 2.0 350 recently and I ran into a lot of the same problems as you did, and honestly I am a bit concerned that this thread is over a month old and has not been acknowlegded by support in any way …

I would love some information on how to choose the right calibration line as you mentioned above since I always get the error that the right line could not be chosen automatically, and my results with trying to cut plywood so far have not been satisfactory.

Here are some additional issues I have that I am stumped on:

  1. Fine tuning work origin:
  • Does this only concern the Z value, or can the X and Y values of the work origin also be set? I tried doing it with the jog pad, but when I try to run the “fine tuning work origin” task it always tries to do it at a very inconvenient place at the far left of the work platform. It is not possible to properly attach the material there since it is over the edge of the work platform, so the material may not lie flat, which means that the test results will be worthless
  • This line in the instructions within Luban: - I don’t know, how DO I do it with the 200mW module? I don’t have one and I haven’t seen instructions for it either.
  1. Cutting plywood
  • While the example project (the little gift box) with the plywood that came with the Snapmaker turned out fine (it didn’t cut through 100% but enough that with the help of a sharp knife I could get it out), my own tries with some plywood that I bought myself didn’t work quite as well by far. I have birch wood plywood that is 1 mm thick and I haven’t been able to find good settings for cutting it yet. While it is hard to get it to cut 1 mm deep, the cut lines get very wide (over 1 mm ironically) if I try to add more than one pass, which looks very ugly and also very different from the results I got from the gift box. It doesn’t help that I have no idea if the calibration is off or not due to the problems described above, so I have no idea if it even makes sense to continue trying or not

I was sure that I wasn’t the only one who experienced the shortcomings of the manual. But honestly, there haven’t been that many posts in reply to my original one. So I’m either way too picky or people are just finding out how to work with - or work around - the shortcomings of the existing manuals. And I agree that it’s sad that nobody from Customer Support has stepped up to offer anything in the way of agreement, plans, or dates when a more accurate manual will be available.

I’ve gotten help offline from some of the folks who post a lot and seem to have a handle on specific aspects of the machine and/or software. While I want to learn more about using the Laser and CNC capabilities my main focus for the moment is getting the 3D printing capability up to snuff. Since I have more experience there that’s been my focus.

After the holidays I’ll resume my quest to understand (and use) the Laser and CNC capabilities. Right now I have too many Christmas presents to make so that’s where my efforts are going.

I have no doubt that there are folks in the community that could help people like you and me understand the details of the software, but there doesn’t seem to be a vehicle for spreading that kind of information. And it doesn’t look like Customer Support or the Snapmaker Tech Pubs group are taking the lead here.

If you achieve any enlightenment please share.

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The other option is that people, myself included, have completely given up on the manuals entirely. That’s certainly my case, since I’ve completely given up on Luban, which is about as not-ready-for-almost-any-time as I’ve seen in a shipped product.

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Actually, I’ve been looking around to see if the manual has been published as a GitHub repo together with other aspects of SM: https://github.com/Snapmaker

The closest is the GCODE documentation repository which is readable here: https://snapmaker.github.io/Documentation/

@staff, is there a User Manual GitHub repository so the community can assist you with fixes?

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So, which line IS the ideal line for manually setting the laser focal length? I had the same problem :frowning:

I ended up just picking one that I thought wasn’t too dark and not too light. I had some success cutting the gift box - laser went all the way through the wood all the way around.

I’d still like to know how to do it properly.

The thinnest line indicates the correct focus. It can be confirmed by looking left and right about 4 lines and checking those lines are equal sized.

I chose the one marked in green. And the yellow marked lined 4 to each side are the same size.
image

I almost chose the one immediately to the right of the one marked in green, but comparing the size of the lines 4 away from that there’s a big difference. In that case the line 4 to the right is noticeably wider than the one 4 to the left.
image

This focus test was done on paper, which is notoriously hard to engrave as it doesn’t brown well like wood and also isn’t perfectly flat, which is why some of the lines are not complete or are missing.

I’m only here to point out that there’s a camera in the laser head and this criterion is an excellent candidate for a computer vision implementation.

Just sayin’.

I know right. I had to turn the camera off and go back to manual focusing because it appears to always pick +5mm or -5mm on whatever firmware I’m on. It totally should be doable.