What with International Arduino Day (and Hackerpsaces Day) on Saturday, my part-time laser sales project Just Add Sharks, which is a partnership between me and super-laser-cutter-blogger Martin Raynsford thought we’d Hack one of our Blacknose laser cutters with an Arduino Pro Mini. Martin, who is de facto Chief Engineer at Sharks (my roll is nodding duck) has long exhibited something of an obsession with Etch A Sketch having done an Etch A Sketch mouse controller way back before either of us had ever used a laser.
Martin’s big idea for our Just Add Sharks Blacknose A3 laser cutter evaluation and show model was to by pass the Lasercut 5.3 control board and use an Arduino instead to pass X and Y information to the stepper drivers and laser tube power supply. Martin set up a nifty little handheld wooden version of the Etch A Sketch controller, complete with the two knobs as you’d expect which he can use to actually move the laser head around. When the Arduino detects that the operator has moved the knobs it sends a signal to the laser tubes power supply to fire the laser for a short burst. If you keep moving the knobs the laser continues to fire. The power can be set low so only a mark is made on the surface of the work piece or high so it cuts through ply wood!
You can read a lot more about how this project works on the Just Add Sharks “Engineer’s Blog“. Martin and I will be showing this project at the Nottingham Hackspace Arduino day on Saturday 29th March and at the UK Maker Faire in Newcastle on the 26th and 27th April.
Now if only we could control a Blacknose laser cutter using Buckaroo!