I just mounted an Endurance 10W Plus Pro laser on a Scienci Labs Longmill MK2 CNC. I was asked to make a post about my experience. I have previously used this laser on two other CNCs. Each installation was a little different, and each one had a few problems. I am not an engineer. I am a woodworker. Using g-code was a challenge, although there are many online resources to help you understand it and the Universal g-code sender (which is open source) has a wizard that works very well. I have done a lot of online research and a lot of trial and error.
My first CNC was a Next Wave Automation Shark CNC. Next Wave Automation (NWA) does not require you to use the Universal G-Code Sender. Their controller is proprietary. I bought my Shark in 2015. I bought all the accessories available, and invested almost $10,000 including a new laptop, building an enclosure, UPS, 4th Axis, probe, and a good selection of router bits. I learned by trial and error.
In 2017, NWA endorsed a great reference book about CNC by Randy Johnson, entitled CNC Router Essentials. It is still available on their website. This book used Vectric’s V-Carve and the NWA Shark as examples. I had learned about CNCs through YouTube and similar online resources. The book really helped me to understand the basics of CNC carving, and the many features of the Vectric products. It had numerous illustrations, and really hit the basics of each section of V-Carve software.
Shark had a 2W laser at that time, which I bought, but never used because it was not a great laser. They later added a 7W laser that was only a little better. I wanted a more powerful laser than Next Wave sells. They absolutely will not help you to install a third-party laser on a Shark, even though their laser selection is very limited, so I was on my own. I was able to mount my Endurance laser on the Shark with the information George provides on the Endurance websites. The performance of this Endurance laser on a Shark was marginal, and I believe that is because of the way the Shark was designed.
I next mounted my Endurance 10W laser on a Bob’s CNC. The folks at Bob’s CNC do not help at all to put any laser on a Bob’s CNC. In fact, their firmware version turns off the Arduino Uno’s PWM laser controls. You have to search online for a process to update the firmware and move some contacts to be able to use the PWM module on the Arduino Uno controller. When I had a problem, tech support (Bob) asked for the firmware settings and stated that this was not their firmware, and refused to offer any support. Again, George and Ilya from Endurance were very helpful, and I learned about g-code commands and it has performed very well.
I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that Scienci Labs has very detailed documentation for adding a third-party laser to the Longmill MK2. This is an incredible CNC, very reasonably priced, and Scienci Labs has their own controller software called gSender. The frame is extruded aluminum, and it assembles very quickly. The gSender controller software is designed for the MK2, and has features and preloaded firmware that allows you to be up and running very quickly. There is a separate section on adding and testing the laser in the software in the settings icon.
Of course, George and Ilya from Endurance have been very supportive, and helped me with each installation to understand how their PWM box works. The gSender software is available free from Scienci, and can be used on other CNCs that use the Arduino controller and universal g-code sender software. It is already set up to run the Longmill MK2. The controller box has a Spindle/PWM pin and ground. You just attach the wires using quick-connect plugs, and run it to the Endurance PWM box, and hook it into the line 2 connections, checking for the proper polarity of the connection. There is a well-illustrated section on adding a third-party laser on their website.
The laser worked when the PWM box was on full mode (mode I,) but would not work on PWM (mode 0.) I contacted Endurance, and sent them pictures, and then made a video that shows my laser burning very well on full power, but blinking very rapidly and not burning at all on PWM mode.
George and Ilya indicated that the laser was properly hooked up. There is a tech specialist who does the laser questions at Scienci. He saw the laser reference on my contact request to Scienci, and sent me documentation on their PWM signal. He responded within two hours of my request. He could not explain why the laser would not burn, and was flashing rapidly (approximately 150 times per minute.)
The answer was in the Scienci laser documentation. I needed to change 3 g-code settings:
$32=1 (This turns on the laser mode.) $32=0 turns the laser mode off when you are sharp carving.
$31=0 (Spindle minimum)
$30=1000 (Spindle maximum)
Before you change ANY settings, go to the command line, and hit $$ [Enter]. A list of your firmware settings will show. Take a picture of these settings or record them all so you can go back to them if you need to. Always do this before changing firmware settings.
Turning on the laser mode is more than just a simple switch turning on to recognize the laser is in place. The Scienci documentation sent me to a reference (see below) that outlined a series of “m” settings that make the system respond differently in laser mode when the CNC stops or changes direction or moves up away from the work, and then comes back into position. In laser mode, these “m” settings keep the laser from causing stray pattern marks in the target as you move from one letter to the next, or burning at the start or end of a line as the CNC moves up (on the Z axis) or back down. The same command during sharp carving may delay the next motion to allow the spindle to increase the rpms before initiating the next cut.
Here is the reference document: Grbl v1.1 Laser Mode · gnea/grbl Wiki · GitHub
The spindle max is preset to 255 in gSender. This is the proper setting if you are using Lightburn software. Vectric uses a spindle max of 1000 if you use their workaround process to set up your laser as a custom configuration in V-Carve or Aspire. Spindle speed of 1000 is full power for the laser. Spindle speed of 500 is 50%, and so forth. On all three of my machines, the spindle speed for sharp carving is not controlled by the CNC. You set the speed using the speed control on the router. So you do not have to reset the spindle max or min to the previous settings for sharp carving.
The newest version of Aspire has a special laser toolpath that uses 100 as 100%. You set the laser power from 0 to 100% power in the toolpath so the spindle maximum should be set to 100 for this toolpath. You may need to play with this to get your laser to work properly depending on which laser toolpath you use. If this does not make sense just reading this paragraph, just play with it and you will understand.
With the Endurance PWM box, you can change the laser strength on the fly during the engraving process. All of my laser toolpaths are set at full power when I build them in Aspire. I use the Endurance PWM box to dial in the laser output I need for each project. This is a very useful tool when you are doing test burns on new woods, or other materials.
By changing the three settings noted above, and setting the proper focal length for the laser, I got a beautiful result on poplar at 15% output the first time. This 10W Plus Pro has a double TEC cooling system, and comes with an air nozzle and a compressor. Always use air assist. This laser has the power to engrave stainless steel without using Cermark or similar laser marking spray. The end result is a very dark brown or gray color. Using the Cermark spray produces a permanent deep black engraving. Cermark is very expensive. There are other brands that are a little less expensive. I buy it on Amazon. They all seem to work well. The spray is easy to apply and gives a great result that wears well. I engrave 304 stainless with my Endurance Plus Pro without Cermark, and I am very pleased with the result. The Niagara Engraving font in Vectric Aspire is my favorite. It is easy to read, and looks great.
So this has been my experience mounting an Endurance 10W Plus Pro on several different CNCs. I hope there is some useful information in these pages. Endurance has a great product, and their service and support has been great.
I recently moved up to the Endurance 10W DPSS laser for engraving stainless steel. This is a more powerful laser because of the DPSS technology (Endurance website has great information on DPSS) and gives a deeper engraving that is ideal for the projects I make. I like the 10W Plus Pro for general use, but the DPSS is the best for stainless steel. It still uses the Endurance PWM box to adjust the output. The actual laser control box is fully automatic, no displays, nothing to adjust, and cooling is automatic. Air assist is vital. I dedicated my Bob’s CNC for the DPSS laser. The gantry on the Bob’s CNC is not as strong and it was not great for inlays and other heavy sharp carving work, and it is slow for good sharp carving. I do inlays and sharp carving on my Shark, and the new Longmill. But the Bob’s CNC works great for the DPSS laser. (I have a fume extractor that works very well. I built it from a furnace duct helper fan. It is a gentle suction flow. There is no need to pull all the heat out of your workshop in the winter with a fan that is too strong.) I mount the 10W Plus Pro on the Longmill when I want to use it. It works great.
Endurance has two websites, Endurance laser and Endurance robots. There is a lot of great information on these sites. And George is very patient and always ready to answer your questions. I have learned a lot from Endurance Laser.
Satisfied Endurance Laser Customer