Discuss upgrading laser controller hardware/software

I now officially hate LaserCut and EasyCut (the software which drives the lasers).
While they “work” the import function is random at best.

The issue is that the board driving the machine is kind of married to the software. I have not been able to find another software to drive our board (MPC6515).

There is a pretty nice laser software called LightBurn that has actually emailed me back (gasp) about various support of boards. It looks like Ruida makes controller boards that are much more compatible with various software packages.

I’ve found the latest Ruida board from a company CloudRay on Amazon in the $400 range.


I believe this would bring our controls in the 2000’s and should work with much more modern software.
The Lightburn folks have a Makerspace discount that I’m digging into. I’ll play with the free demo and test the import functionality.

I wanted to get a conversation started before proposing a vote. I think $500 would get the hardware and software. I really feel the software issues are inhibiting the usage of the lasers by less patient people.


Do the lasers already have discrete stepper drivers in them, so we would just be replacing the motion controller? or does the current motion controller have the stepper drivers integral to it?

I’ll look into it Tuesday.

I understand the frustration with sleazycut. (a common pet name for lasercut / easycut) However it is a known evil in a way. And is functional, routinely causing me to stand in front of the computer giving it the finger in rage.

When the laser was recently rebuilt, weren’t other controllers looked at at that time? And if so why did we decide to use the same pain in the dick hole controller then instead of upgrading when we needed to purchase a controller?

Second, the last time it went down for a relatively minor repair, it was down for around 3 months. Before I could support this I’d want some contingencies.

Namely, can we confirm all other parts are fully working before we open it up to replace items. Things always come up, but I’d want to have done everything we can to identify those things before hand as possible. I’d also like a time estimate visible and posted ahead of time so everyone knows how long to expect it to be down.

I’d also want to make 100% sure that the small laser is 100% usable and the workflow is clear before we tear into the large laser. It isn’t a substitute for the large laser, but at least people that need to work on small project can still do so.

It would also be good to have a group of 3-4 people that help out in the whole process. This way in the future any issues that come up don’t fall on a single person to deal with.

I’m going to be a very hard sell without all of that.


Welcome to the next episode of ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’

The stepper drivers are separate from the controller. We installed a replacement z-driver during the upgrade.

See the manual at this link https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bS1WwfbnrimtzfdVJp_wIUHrciqTzmLG/view

This discussion needs to accept this is a re-engineering task. Not a drop in controller replacement.
When confronted with a dead controller on the small laser the redesign was seen as possible, but would be a multi month development effort to bench test and assure the hardware and software work well together. We already had a long down period and didn’t want to make it longer.

The project is multi part.

  1. Select a widely supported replacement controller for the MPC6515 control and linked display. There are many choices. I do not recommend picking one tied to a particular software package. That is just trading the sleazycut trap for another linked controller software pair. Definition of insanity. Doing the same thing and expecting different results.

  2. Select and obtain software to generate the gcode from .dxf and other formats. Include in this outputs from Fusion360 and all other widely available low cost or free graphics packages.

  3. Purchase and bench configure the controller selected in 1). Included in this are mountings for the display and controls. I smell a 3D print design requirement. Including eStops, Key switch, X,Y,Z motion buttons and z-datum homing. Probably a bunch more I didn’t list.

  4. Configure the software to match the controller physical parameters including acceleration.

  5. Test the pairing to assure that it works better than sleazycut.

  6. Document the installation.

  7. Train and recertify Hive13 members on laser operation.

Do Note: The current laser control panel is an integral part of the MPC6515 controller set up, the entire interface of operation must most likely be redone.

Yes, theoretically one could reverse engineer the control panel and link it to a new control board. Be my guest.

Software replacements for sleazycut should also include well supported opensource solutions.

I would suggest considering the Smoothieware compatible AZSMZ Mini Ver2.1 which has an optional display panel an can be configured to drive a laser cutter. It has both a usb interface and an optional wifi to send gcode. Cost for controller and LCD is under $75 delivered.

And this is why, I didn’t bite on this project last year.

Dave Velzy

PS - I’d do this to the small laser first as a proof of concept.

That way we don’t have the big laser down for an indefinite = infinite amount of time.


If we go GRBL, much of this effort, documentation, and knowledge can be shared with the shapeoko. Having a single codebase for CNC tools, and compatible workflows seems advantageous to me.

Amen to Dave V. Proving team Dave will conquer all dilemmas and make all tools their bitch.

Seriously, well put Dave V. Let’s make a small laser not suck while trying to keep the large one as functional as can be done with Sleazycut.

-Dave B.

I have been growing more vocal about something needing to happen with the small laser.

That something was either :

  1. having a functionality added to it not on the large laser i.e. rotary attachment.
  2. being converted into cash via CL or other option.
  3. being converted into empty floor space by setting fire to it and pushing it into traffic on Spring Grove Ave.
  4. converted to a test bed for changing our the controller on the large laser.

Number 4 is the new addition to that list and I’m equally happy with every one of those options. Anyone wanting to start projects any of those would have my full support.

I second Will’s list of options there… that said I think our team of likely leaders for such a controller change project overlaps fairly heavily with the group of members who committed to working on the Gigabot or have other CNC projects in the works (Roland/shapeoko), or are otherwise working on major hive improvements (Cable/hose reals, metal shop reorg/improvement, etc).

It seems a huge mistake to take this on now before at least the shapeoko gets buttoned up… we don’t want another 2 years of a CNC machine half finished on a media cart taking up space in the fablab.

We could put together a plan of action:

1- shapeoko
2- small laser
3- big laser
4- big CNC (probably not necessary. I’m not in favor of changes, but I’d like to discuss it)

In this we could get approval so we can start on it when we’re done with other projects.

Great discussion.
I will work on the small laser now. Trying to get it up to speed, maybe fixing the Z sensor error (now going to full down when the puck is sensed).
Then I’ll dig into using the small laser as a test bed for upgrading the controller. Just figuring out what could be done.

My immediate concern is getting the software side of the big laser more useful. If that is a one pager that says “try multiple times to import your DXF” so be it.
I know there is pain in using the big laser that I would like to lower. Right now people don’t use it because it is possessed by the devil. (well actually a few people use it a good deal that have learned the tricks {and are in league with Satan}).

Wait wait wait… Does this mean I might not see this error message again?


we will make a special screen for you.


This picture wins the internet today. I think that we need to permanently have this as the wallpaper on the laser computer.

I am all for upgrading the laser software for sure.I have a few recommendations given to me over the weekend when talking to a few people at Gencon. I will get them complied up and posted here within the next few days.
TO bring up Will B’s list

That something was either :

  1. having a functionality added to it not on the large laser i.e. rotary attachment.

The large laser has a rotary attachment, but its not the best in my opinion. But I do like the idea of adding more functionality. This should be a new conversation

  1. being converted into cash via CL or other option.

I dont really think this is a good idea. There is alot of changes we can make to this to make it more used, and this size new doesnt go for much new now a days, but it would go for alot less as old as it is. (if the hive decides to do this, I would be interested in buying it.)

  1. being converted into empty floor space by setting fire to it and pushing it into traffic on Spring Grove Ave.

I think we have plenty of equipment that this could be said about.

  1. converted to a test bed for changing our the controller on the large laser.

This isnt the worse idea, but I still prefer option one,

i think us “downgrading” to a lower power laser wouldnt even be a bad idea; It would allow other options such as fabric “engraving” and such easier.

This is a great discussion!

I support the idea of having a vision of standardizing on a protocol that is widely supported in modern software.

I like the idea of taking a phased approach to getting to this goal, starting with machines that are not in high demand establishing a body of experience so that when we tackle the high demand machines we can get in and out fast.

I agree with Kevin about the risk of having too many open Hive projects at once that all require the same small number of members to do them. I really wish that I could be more involved in helping move these things forward but I kinda feel like the idiot in the room with a lot of this stuff. I will continue to look for ways to make myself useful in the projects.

Daniel, I’d be interested in hearing more about this thought. I briefly tried engraving denim and it was super touch and go. It seemed really challenging to find a speed and intensity that you could actually see the results but didn’t burn the fabric to smithereens. These kinds of projects are actually more in line with what I want to do with the lasers rather than simply cutting stuff. I have a feeling there wont be a lot of enthusiasm for replacing the laser but I’d like to know more to hopefully achieve a better outcome than when my limited experiments achieved.

Currently the rotary setup only works with the large laser, and requires being setup each time you would want to use it, they put back, and reconnecting everything correctly or the next person is hosed.

Doing that is flat out stupid if we have another device sitting 3 feet away not being used ever. If we can get or make the rotary work in the small lawyer and have it forever live there until the fire death of the universe, I’m in.

Alternatively, if the laser tube could be changed from CO2 to CO-Not2 and can cut / etch metal. Or some similar business, great.

Otherwise, Brad you have my blessing to start investigating options that can be done on the little guy that could transfer to the big laser.

Having a clear plan and vision of what will be done will be the first step in the shebang.

Dave, simply put the lower the Watt the laser the less power, meaning the less burn. So the weaker the laser is, its better for easily burnt fabric. The large laser for example can only be lowered to around 10 - 15% before it doesnt shoot anymore. so 15 watts for a 100watt laser? Down to a 9watt with a 60 watt laser for example. I am still looking into what watt lasers are used for clothing regularly.

Will, isnt that about any tool in the hive though ? use it put it back and resetting everything correctly. For the Rotary tool, That is one plug that needs to be exchanged though, its simple. Not to mention something that would be noticed just by moving as an axis wont move.