How to run a Laser from Smoothieware

Several people have expressed interest in alternatives to the MPC8530S and Laser Cut 2017

Here is the one environment that I know of with any potential.

The SmoothieBoard is a 32 bit controller It’s operating environment is
The Smoothie environment is software configured for 3D printing (Delta and Cartesian) , CNC routing and Laser control

Clone Smoothie Boards with a display are in the under $75 range from China.

This Link describes how to replace laser controllers with a Smoothie Board.
Unfortunately none of the Lasers listed are like ours.

Software Options for driving the Laser Gcode are documented on this page.

I’ve got a Smoothie Board that was destined for a Hive13 Delta Printer, If I ever got to it.

If someone is committed to the effort of exploring this path to laser control, I’ll pass the board to them for software development work.

Let me know your interest via this discussion track.

Dave Velzy

This sounds like a good idea.

I used a smoothieware board on a 3d printer i was upgrading for someone, it was a good system.

Dave V -

My initial search points to SmoothieWare as our best bet. My concerns, as mentioned last night, are about timing and testing.

Does TheHive really want to keep the machine down longer in order to make these improvements? Do we want to use the small laser as a test bed? If so, do we wait until the big laser is back in action?

Alternatively, we (read: I) could kick off a project on the small CNC to test out a smoothieboard and limit downtime for all projects.

I can’t commit just yet, but I think this would be a fun project… A good reason to start bringing 6 packs to the space :slight_smile:

I’m curious how as to the benefits of this over grbl, as discussed previously, or the plans discussed previously.

I strongly disagree with clone boards from China.

Jeff - I’m posting on minutes of researching, but i think the benefit is that we can test the board and many features (like grbl).

Smoothie has grrbl mode built in -

However, it’s my understanding that grbl is only 3-axis? Therefore, we’d be unable to test on the shapeoko.

It does look like this will provide many software options for either tool:

I for one, am not strongly opposed to clones - but we can vote on which path to follow.

Please read through the GRBL discussion.
Shapeokos run on GRBL from the factory.

Sure, I can read that post.

Either way, smoothie is still a candidate that meets the Grbl requirement and allows for us to upgrade the laser platform.

Before we make assertions about viability we should put together requirements.

The shapeoko is CURRENTLY running GRBL, haha. My understanding is that all it takes to get it working is cleaning it off, combing its hair (cable management) and plugging everything in.

Alternately, the roland CNC I have been working on also has a GRBL controller. if someone wants to play around with it checking out different laser oriented front ends/G-code senders, just let me know. (I have seen a few places where people have put laser diodes on roland machines to use for etching, we could make that happen).

*Please note, I am 100% comfortable with the smoothie board approach, we do have two other machines running GRBL in the space though, so if laser got the same treatment, it would likely improve our base of people capable of servicing all 3.

Requirements for Software and Controller Upgrade to the Laser

  1. It makes the Laser Work better than LaserCut 2017 - Example: Able to handle more complex vector paths - meaning not as likely to choke as EasyCut5.3

  2. Control Hardware must be commercially available with a support community. Example: More than one maker.

  3. Software solutions must be commercially available or preferably opensource. An installed software support community is preferred.
    Example: The software has a) years of installed history, b) continuing upgrade and support c) manuals and tutorials

Winning arguments put together a recommended combination of hardware and software including a strategy to integrate recommendations into the laser at Hive13.

This means someone may propose a solution that you do not prefer. If so, you are free to propose an alternative. If you see a problem with a proposed solution, you may point it out. Civilly. You get a vote, not a veto.
I’m starting a Page on the Wiki to record alternative proposals.


We should flesh out technical requirements as well.
This can go together in a decision matrix on the wiki and we can narrow down to a more concise and direct vote using that matrix.

For example: What steppers are we driving?
I suspect the big laser will require more power to drive the steppers than the smoothieboard can provide, but I’m not sure. So we should put together the technical requirements and THEN go hunting for solutions.

‐‐‐‐‐‐‐ Original Message ‐‐‐‐‐‐‐

I’ve updated

to more closely align with a decision matrix. We can flesh that out, boil it down, and then put it into a decision matrix. We can then hammer that decision matrix into shape and have a proposal to the membership from it.

I’d like to insert LightBurn as a possible software solution.(just not with our current hardware).

While it is not open source, it is crazy cheap for a Makerspace and the author(s) actively interact with people on their forums. Looks to support most of the things we want to do. We can test out a trial software free and I’m happy to work on this.

I wasn’t sure if this was worth a separate page on the wiki or a sub part of the existing software controller upgrade page.

I’ve added lightburn to the wiki page under “candidates”

Cool. I added the URL.
I’m not married to them but I don’t mind paying for software. Tends to get supported a bit better. :slight_smile:

The board in question is the AZSMZ – It is not a clone. It is made by a Chinese reprap hacker. Folks on forums may have different opinions, but having worked with the board for 3+ years on 2 printers, I’d say it’s unique and only the $250+ smoothieboard pro and duet boards are better.

It runs smoothie. It is not a clone, as it is not a copy of anything. It does use the same stepper pinout as an azteeg 32 bit mini, and basic footprint too, to simplify connection and retrofit. his alpha was based on azteeg 32, but it didn’t work so well, so he rebuilt it, and now it’s his.

It’s not a copy at all, under the hood in the current revisions. The designer also has many other original designs too for IOT devices. He’s a smart guy, and was an active community member (sadly, he’s been trolled too much simply because of the misconception that chinese=clone). He just happens to be a Chinese hacker living in China, and his English is decent (good support). I have an extra one if you want it.

check out the forum at “sawmill creek” for current retrofits of lasers and cnc. Smoothie is alive and well, but documentation is out of date on smoothie site. Many people there have our machines. They helped me choose the new powerful tubes, power supplies, mirrors, and other upgrades you now enjoy. Also check pro sign maker forums. They use smoothie as well.

Also look at open PnP

Smoothie is the ONLY open source platform, despite its problems, that can run a full speed pick and place machine. That saya a lot. I believe duet could do it too, but it would require too many changes, whereas smoothie will do it out of the box with a simple firmware change and addition of open-pnp software and cameras.


Curated code with strict revision control to prevent bugs
open source
Not too fancy – less uC wasted on color animations and what-not, it does what it does and can dedicate 100% to that
Laser, CNC, PnP, and Robot use.
Community firmware
Getting started tutorials are great
Arthur keeps the official Git updated and well maintained, but new features depend on community forks.
LPC microC is great silicon. Much room for growth and very robust and reliable.
Easiest platform to configure. It’s a simple readable text file anyone can handle, not code.
Uses a RTOS, no constant recompile flash recompile flash like marlin, grbl, etc.


Official repository is strictly controlled by one hard headed dude obsessed with preventing tangled buggy code.
Official repo is way behind.

Tutorials are dated

Original folks have lost steam and haven’t updated the official site with much
Need to compile community forks or features to get new versions. I.E. TMC2130 spi control (I’ve done this. Hodapp actually knows the exact commands and repos :wink: )
All or nothing solution. May require a lot of rewiring, logic shifting, optoisolation, shielding, etc. THIS IS THE BIG ONE FOR ME.

I would consider the last part carefully. When Brett and I repaired the laser board a few years ago, we were impressed by the sophistication of logic shifting, isolation, ground planes, tab reliefs, busses, etc. A lot was considered, and, yes, everything was a compromise, but there are many discrete components on those boards, and even board relief cuts that make it possible for a 5V USB to eventually trigger a 40000V trasient and a 25000V continuous current. That ain’t trivial. Some of that is on our controller board. Some of that is dependent on the modularity of the seperate power supplies and isolated grounds. Ask Brett, Brent or some other folks to help – electrical nerds with experience in discrete electronics and electricity with killing potential.

The big laser has these components

  1. X, Y, Z Stepper Drivers - Longs CNC Micro-Stepping Stepper Motor Driver DM860A 2 phase or equivalent

  2. Stepper Motors - Nema 34 Motor-Nema Stepper 2-Phase