printing to Gravograph LS100Ex laser cutter

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Matfie
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printing to Gravograph LS100Ex laser cutter

Post by Matfie » Mon Nov 28, 2016 7:00 pm

Hello

I've been looking at using QCAD at my work (a school) as we currently use 'Techsoft 2D Design' software which is pretty standard in schools in the UK but has a few problems, at least in the version we have (major one is young students, click click click and only one undo!). I like QCAD and I like that there is a community edition (which I can use at home, on my non-windows laptop)

Anyway, I've just got around to trying QCAD with our laser cutter, which is a Gravograph LS100Ex and uses a driver called 'L-Solution' but I'm not really having much luck cutting anything out.

The software we have seems to be a standard windows printer driver, which can be configured to do various things according to the colours that are sent, and I think that the techsoft software must be sending vector commands to the printer driver, but I don't think QCAD can do that, or can it? At least, the only way I can get the laser to activate is to select the rastering option. Has anybody ever used QCAD successfully with this kind of system?

also, its a bit annoying that QCAD claims that printing is only available with the Pro version after 15 mins of use.. it doesn't actually seem to be that case, since I can print just fine on my home system (3.15.5.3 CE) and also on another laptop which has the 'trial' plugins removed - I assume that this is because the 'multi-page' printing is only in the Pro version?

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andrew
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Re: printing to Gravograph LS100Ex laser cutter

Post by andrew » Tue Nov 29, 2016 9:35 am

Matfie wrote:The software we have seems to be a standard windows printer driver, which can be configured to do various things according to the colours that are sent, and I think that the techsoft software must be sending vector commands to the printer driver, but I don't think QCAD can do that, or can it?
QCAD prints like any other vector application, by drawing lines to the printer device instead of the screen device. You could try creating a PDF with QCAD first and then printing that to your special printer driver.
I assume that this is because the 'multi-page' printing is only in the Pro version?
Correct. QCAD Professional overrides the standard printing tool with a more advanced printing tool. If you want to use the QCAD Community Edition, simply uninstall all trial add-ons.

Matfie
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Re: printing to Gravograph LS100Ex laser cutter

Post by Matfie » Wed Nov 30, 2016 10:40 pm

Hm, I've had no luck fiddling around though didn't get much time to do so .. I can export to a PDF and it looks fine, but the PDF application is not able to to any better than QCAD when printing. When I print direct from QCAD I can't get the laser to see anything unless it rasters the image (which takes a long time to do). I know the Techsoft software can do plotter output (we have a vinyl cutter) and I suppose it prints the same way as that would happen but I don't know enough about printing these days.

The other wrinkle is that the rastering is only supposed to recognise the black, but it does any colour and I don't know why. At least there could be an issue with the IT dept who have a policy in place to promote black/white printing (it is overrideable but I don't know if this has caused a problem). In any case, if I can't use QCAD to laser cut that will be a shame, since I was hoping to be able to design some of my own personal projects at home.

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Husky
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Re: printing to Gravograph LS100Ex laser cutter

Post by Husky » Wed Nov 30, 2016 11:13 pm

Hello Matfie,

I don't know this Gravograph LS100Ex or what the software is able to read - what means I'm fishing in muddy water ...

But let me ask you a few questions:
1. Your Software is able to read pdf's but only in black and white. Correct? Have you printed your drawing in QCad in a black and white mode?
2. Your software is not able to read dxf, dwg or svg files?
3. Have you tried to explode (break down to simple entities) your drawing before printing/sending to the Gravograph? There is a lot of cnc software out there which is plain not able to read splines or polylines ...
Matfie wrote:In any case, if I can't use QCAD to laser cut that will be a shame, since I was hoping to be able to design some of my own personal projects at home.
That would be really a shame ... :wink:

4. Is "Techsoft 2D Design" able to read QCad drawings? If yes you can do your personal projects at home - load it in Techsoft 2D Design - and print it or send it to your Gravograph ....
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Matfie
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Re: printing to Gravograph LS100Ex laser cutter

Post by Matfie » Thu Dec 01, 2016 11:58 pm

1. Your Software is able to read pdf's but only in black and white. Correct? Have you printed your drawing in QCad in a black and white mode?
sorry no, this is incorrect .. I exported a PDF from QCAD and loaded it into the PDF reader that Windows 10 supplies and tried to print it from there. The PDF was rendered in colour and displayed in colour.

the black/white issue is that the laser driver should behave differently for different colours, but I can only get it to respond if I tell it to respond to black. Then it responds to all the colours as if they are black, but only rastering.. (ie, this is somewhat irritating)
2. Your software is not able to read dxf, dwg or svg files?
thats about right I think. I didn't try to export as SVG and load them into Chrome (which might be able to do that), will try that next week if I get a chance. We might also have other software that can edit SVG (Illustrator? I'm not sure..) so this could be an option
3. Have you tried to explode (break down to simple entities) your drawing before printing/sending to the Gravograph? There is a lot of cnc software out there which is plain not able to read splines or polylines ...
well, the techsoft software does handle complex drawings (it has bezier curves and polyline equivalents) so the driver should be able to handle that. There was a combination of things in the drawings I tried to send; some simple lines and circles also.
4. Is "Techsoft 2D Design" able to read QCad drawings?
Not really, it uses a proprietary file format. Actually, it can import some DXF files but I have found it sometimes messes them up which is another reason I'm evaluating other software :? I didn't investigate if the files it messed up were newer versions of DXF (I only found out recently that there are several)

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Clive
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Re: printing to Gravograph LS100Ex laser cutter

Post by Clive » Fri Dec 02, 2016 2:29 pm

Hello Matfie

Techsoft's 2D Design software will work fine with .DXF files for laser cutting. In order to lasercut the colours and stroke weights need to be correct, otherwise the machine will just run in raster mode as you say.

Firstly can you submit a file which gets messed up and I'll have a look at it for you.

Secondly what laser cutter are you using and what colour values and line weights does the software state that you should use please?

Clive
For the best support please state your operating system, QCAD version and add any supporting DXF/DWG files, screenshots etc...

Matfie
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Re: printing to Gravograph LS100Ex laser cutter

Post by Matfie » Mon Dec 05, 2016 11:27 pm

Hello Clive, thanks for your response. Apologies for my tardy response, we are not supposed to be on forums at work and also I was busy most of the day :)

The Techsoft version we have (v2.09) fails on many types of .DXF file such as this one
splines.dxf
(103.35 KiB) Downloaded 142 times
which has some splines in it. You may note that it is an old version by now but it is unlikely that the school will upgrade this version - we already have a site licence from many years ago when there was more money for D&T, and unfortunately the modern version 3 release is only available via a subscription model, which the school is not inclined to pay for in the current climate.

The Gravograph LS100Ex laser driver handles 'thin' lines as cutting, so far as I can see. The techsoft program just draws in hairlines normally, or it can do lines with width as required.

Today in QCAD I made a simple drawing of two layers: one 'cutting' with line weight of 0 and coloured red, and one 'engraving' with line weight 0 and coloured green since those are the colours we use. A square and a circle in each layer but I did not manage to get the laser driver to act correctly for either. I have tried line weights of various sizes up to 1mm and the only way I can get this to do anything is if I choose for it to raster. (I suspect a bug in the driver, which is incidental - it rasters 'areas' rather than the chosen colour - if there is a green circle then it will do that also - this just means we raster in a separate step)

I neglected to save the file to my dropbox, but here is another I created in the same way on my home system (alas, no laser here :)
test.dxf
(21.52 KiB) Downloaded 123 times

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Husky
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Re: printing to Gravograph LS100Ex laser cutter

Post by Husky » Mon Dec 05, 2016 11:57 pm

Husky wrote:Hi Matfie,
Matfie wrote:The Techsoft version we have (v2.09) fails on many types of .DXF file
You have an original Techsoft dxf which proper works with your Laser (I'm not sure about this spline.dxf because it is without green and red layers)? If yes please share it with us - maybe a direct comparison will show the differences. Thanks.
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Matfie
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Re: printing to Gravograph LS100Ex laser cutter

Post by Matfie » Tue Dec 06, 2016 7:28 pm

Hi

The Techsoft software does not use .DXF files natively, it uses its own proprietary format but can import/export drawings to .DXF in a limited way. I investigated in more detail today and a file it exported was noted as R11/R12 DXF when I loaded it into QCAD. I took this as a hint, and examined the other .DXF files I was failing to import. They were R15 and R24 format which explains the problem - Techsoft 2D Design cannot understand them and it crashes on some part.

So, I loaded them into QCAD (with no problem) and saved them as R12 format and indeed, they will then import into the techsoft program although it messes up the fonts (eg for dimensions) which is not too serious though it means its a one way translation and I can fiddle with the colours and get something cut, which is something at least.

I also exported the drawing as .SVG and tried to do something with that, but no luck .. I can display the image in IE, Edge and Chrome but printing didn't seem to work. Neither could I do anything with Adobe Illustrator which seemed to load the file but I don't know how to use it.

As another experiment, I did an export to PDF from QCAD directly and then printed the PDF, which did work this time though for some reason was about half as slow as printing the same drawing directly from the techsoft program. That may be an option for me also, if it is reliable.

and finally, I was still unable to actually print directly from QCAD. The .DXF and .PDF files are attached
test2.pdf
(15.48 KiB) Downloaded 107 times
test2.dxf
(102.71 KiB) Downloaded 129 times
The laser machine we have at school is:
http://www.gravograph.co.uk/engraving-m ... s100ex.php

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Husky
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Re: printing to Gravograph LS100Ex laser cutter

Post by Husky » Tue Dec 06, 2016 8:41 pm

Hi,
Matfie wrote:So, I loaded them into QCAD (with no problem) and saved them as R12 format and indeed, they will then import into the techsoft program although it messes up the fonts (eg for dimensions) which is not too serious though it means its a one way translation and I can fiddle with the colours and get something cut, which is something at least.
Maybe Techsoft is using it own Font set or it is on a different computer ... Try to figure out which Fonts are used in Techsoft and use the same Fonts in QCad.

Here are two test drawings. One is Attribute Controlled by Layer settings - the other one has customized entity Attribute settings. Both saved in R12. Please check it out with your Techsoft software. Both are working on the same way?

test_R12_colorthrulayer.dxf
(19.3 KiB) Downloaded 118 times
test_R12_colorcustomized.dxf
(19.13 KiB) Downloaded 156 times
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hungerburg
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Re: printing to Gravograph LS100Ex laser cutter

Post by hungerburg » Thu Dec 08, 2016 12:45 am

Looking at the product page, the system seems tightly vertically integrated, that is, no talk about interoperabilty, but promoting its own software instead. You seem to have a (third party?) application that can use some (first party?) driver to its full capacity, unlike any other windows application that you have tried, after all. Maybe the driver takes instructions outside of the Microsoft specified command set? How to find out?

Matfie
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Re: printing to Gravograph LS100Ex laser cutter

Post by Matfie » Thu Dec 08, 2016 9:10 pm

Husky wrote:Try to figure out which Fonts are used in Techsoft
it can use any system fonts. Thats not so important right now though as if I'm cutting out at work then I don't usually need the annotations
Husky wrote:Here are two test drawings. One is Attribute Controlled by Layer settings - the other one has customized entity Attribute settings. Both saved in R12. Please check it out with your Techsoft software. Both are working on the same way?
Yes, it imports the two to the same drawing. They don't have the concept of attributes per layer, so when imported if the line is red then its red. I do use layers in a limited way sometimes (to make a fixed background with instructions) but not often. As always, access to modern features is another reason to try QCAD!
hungerburg wrote:Looking at the product page, the system seems tightly vertically integrated, that is, no talk about interoperabilty, but promoting its own software instead. You seem to have a (third party?) application that can use some (first party?) driver to its full capacity, unlike any other windows application that you have tried, after all. Maybe the driver takes instructions outside of the Microsoft specified command set? How to find out?
Ah, yes .. we have an older version of Gravostyle but I don't know if it was ever used and does not install on windows 10 so I can't try it now. I didn't see anything about .dxf files there though. I can ask the support people if they have ever used QCAD, they have been pretty ok at responding to my queries in the past.

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Husky
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Re: printing to Gravograph LS100Ex laser cutter

Post by Husky » Fri Dec 09, 2016 8:01 pm

Matfie wrote:
Husky wrote:Yes, it imports the two to the same drawing. They don't have the concept of attributes per layer, so when imported if the line is red then its red. I do use layers in a limited way sometimes (to make a fixed background with instructions) but not often. As always, access to modern features is another reason to try QCAD!
Ok, what do we have:
QCad Pro is able to save in this required R12 Format which works for the Techsoft software. Unfortunately QCad CE is only able to save in a R15 Format,
Using Layer for CAD drawings is common practice - no problem with QCad CE or Pro,
Using customized Attributes overwriting the Layer settings is good to have - but it should be only used in exceptional cases. Personally I use it only for Blocks - but that would be another story ... :wink:
If you need to prepare a QCad drawing for an import in Techsoft you can work with layer - just before saving it for Techsoft you can select ALL entities on a layer and change the Color and Lineweight in one go with the "Property Editor". In that case it doesn't matter how many entities are in your drawing need a color / Lineweight adjustment - it takes only a couple seconds for this adjustment. Works in QCad CE and Pro equally.

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