Open Source Replacement For EzCAD

[Bryce] obtained a fiber laser engraver to use for rapid PCB prototyping last Fall. But he was soon frustrated by the limitations of the standard EzCAD software that typically comes with these and similar devices — it is proprietary, doesn’t have features aimed at PCB manufacturing, only runs on Windows, and is buggy. As one does, [Bryce] decided to ditch EzCAD and write his own tool, Balor, named after the King of the Fomorians.

The controller board in [Bryce]’s machine is a Beijing JCZ LMCV4-FIBER-M board, containing an Altera FPGA and a Cypress 8051 USB controller. So far, he hasn’t needed to dump or modify the FPGA or 8051 code. Instead, he sorted out the commands by just observing the USB operations as generated by a copy of EzCAD running know operations. A lot of these engraving systems use this control board, but [Bryce] want’s to collect data dumps from users with different boards in order to expand the library.

Balor is written in Python and provides a set of command line tools aimed at engineering applications of your engraver, although still supporting regular laser marking as well. You can download the program from the project’s GitLab repository. He’s running it on Linux, but it should work on Mac and Windows (let him know if you have any portability issues). Check out our write-up from last year about using these lasers to make PCBs. Are you using a laser engraver to make rapid prototype boards in your shop? Tell us about your setup in the comments.

24 thoughts on “Open Source Replacement For EzCAD

  1. Master Oscillator Power Amplifier (MOPA) [1] LASER-Fiber Engravers are expensive. Here’s a 30W desktop unenclosed MOPA-Fiber model for $3.8k USD, and that’s cheap.[2] [Bryce] uses a 20W version from LIT LASER [3] but they don’t list prices, you have to Email them.

    * References:

    1. Laser power scaling – MOPA

    2. OMTech 30W Laser Marking Machine for Metal and More, 8×8 Inch Fiber Laser Engraver, Solid State Laser Metal Etching Machine with EzCad2 Galvo Lens Red Dot Guide 100,000 hr Laser Source (FM7979-30) $3,799.99

    3. LIT LASER

    1. I’m not sure that 30W one is a MOPA. I think it’s basically the higher-power version of the one I have. The only MOPA you will get for < $4k is a bare 20-30W source from Raycus (who make some MOPAs now), e.g. the RFL-P20MX which can be had for around $3k. You could then combine it with the other commodity parts (lens, galvo scanner, control board) and with some shopping and the use of a clone controller board, you could put it all together and have your own MOPA for under $5k.

    1. Thank you! The project is continuing to develop rapidly. The developers of Meerk40t and I have been in contact, and I’ve also shared reverse engineering data with LightBurn who are independently working on support for these lasers, so hopefully there will soon be some good alternatives. We’re also looking for sponsorship (e.g. a MOPA laser to work with) for adding support for some more advanced machines and features like 2.5D and color engraving.

    1. These machines don’t really have model numbers unfortunately, or brand names; but the major parts do. Mine uses a Beijing Golden Orange (BJJCZ) LMCV4-FIBER-M control board and a 20W Raycus laser source. The FBLI-B-LV4 board also seems to use the same protocol.

  2. Very exciting! I’ve been wanting some more arbitrary control over the laser for some material processing experiments on my fiber laser. Also I have been playing around making some very thermally conductive PCBs with 1mm DBC AlN substrates on my 20 watt fiber laser (both removing copper and cutting shapes (which does take a bit). Hopefully I’ll have time to do a writeup on that process soon!

  3. I’ve been using EZCAD3 for a little over a month now with my 60W JPT M7 MOPA 2.5D. It’s has kinks and is frustrating, but I’m not finding it as glitchy as some say. That being said, I look forward to the day Lightburn supports EZCAD3, but that’s even further down the pipeline than their EZCAD2 support. I would welcome an alternative and applaud the efforts here.

    1. It uses a subset of regular g-code. Basically, it is designed to be compatible with the output of FlatCAM. There are a lot of features in G-code that it doesn’t support and Z axis is just used for turning the laser on and off.

    1. It supports a narrow subset of SVG. In particular, it does not support any SVG transforms, which some SVG software will use liberally without showing it to the user. It doesn’t support any 3D formats for 2.5D engraving, but could be adapted to that purpose

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