Derby Makers

The heart of Derby's Maker community

Laser cutter software

For designing things to cut or etch

Some common, mostly free software packages used for designing things for the laser cutter. Most are available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Many of these can be used with the CNC router too. The ‘best’ one depends on your background, and what you’re trying to do, but if in doubt Inkscape is probably the best place to start.

Unlike the laser cutter at the Silk Mill, you can’t send job directly from Inkscape to the laser cutter. Instead you need to import into an app called RDWorks (see below). There have been some problems reported in moving designs from Inkscape to RDWorks, so we’ll update with some instructions when we’ve got some experience with it.

Graphic design packages

Vector

General purpose packages for cutting and etching

Inkscape
Probably the most commonly used package for preparing things for the laser cutter. It’s a vector drawing package with some degree of bitap handling. Plugins such as the Elliptical box maker greatly simplify making some complex items.

Bitmap

If you want to etch photos into something then you may need to use a bitmap package to manipulate the photo in ways that are difficult or impossible in the vector packages.

GIMP – the Gnu Image Manipulation Program
Powerul if somewhat quirky image editor
Krita
Aimed more at digital painting and illustration than photo editing

CAD style packages

If you’re used to CAD packages already, and wanting to make things with specific dimensions then yo umay be better off with one of these.

FreeCAD
A full 3D paremetric CAD package, but capable of 2D work as well. The architectural workbench has tools intended for making buildings out of CNC routed sheet that may be equally applicable to laser cutting.
HeeksCAD
Another 3D package capable of 2D work. The linux version is free, but the Windows version costs £10.
Qcad
LibreCAD
2D CAD package

For driving the laser cutter

The laser cutter is driven by RDWorks which is a Windows program. You’ll probably just use it from the PC that’s with the laser cutter, but if you want to install it on your own machine to practice then the instructions are here.

It can be freely downloaded from the manufacturer’s download page. Unfortunately it’s not neatly organised, and so you may have to look through several pages to find it! At the time of writing it was on the second page, described as RDWorks—V8.01.26, and downloaded as a randomly named RAR file.

Installing on Linux

RDWorks can run with Wine but requires the mfc42 and vcrun6 Windows libraries to be installed. Something in some recent versions of linux and/or wine seem to break the installation though. There is a thorough walkthrough of installing linux and rdworks on a fresh PC which helped establish the necessary steps.

Connection to the printer via the network has been shown to work. Connection via USB may be possible, but this hasn’t yet been verified.

NOTE – we’ve now got an install script for winetricks.

Arch Linux

You’re lucky – someone’s created a package. We may be able to use the script to provide an installer for the other distros.

Ubuntu 16.04 (and variants?)

This has been tested with Kubuntu but should work with other variants, possibly including the Mint versions based on it.

Basic installation

We’ll assume here that you don’t already have wine, winetricks or unrar installed. If you’ve already used wine for something else then you may want to look at the advanced options. We’ll also assume you’ve downloaded the RAR file to your Downloads folder, and that it’s called 52571072a0e4a8cd21c0.rar.

  1. Install winetricks, which should pull in all required dependencies, and unrar to extract the installer program. You can use your preferred package manager GUI, or just use the command line:
    sudo apt install winetricks unrar
  2. Run winetricks to install the required libraries. You can do this from the GUI application launcher, or command line:
    winetricks
    This will open a small window saying it’s setting up wine, which may take some tie, followed by a window with a load of radio buttons. Note that to select them you need to click in the circle, not just on the text. If it’s not already selected then pick ‘Select the default wineprefix’ before clicking the ‘OK’ button. At this point it’ll ask if you want to send feedback – decide as you wish, but it’ll only ask this the first time you run winetricks. You should now have another window of radio buttons. Select ‘Install a Windows DLL or component’ then click the ‘OK’ button. You should now see a window with a list of packages that can be installed. Scroll down to find and tick ‘mfc42’ and ‘vcrun6’, making sure you got the right ones, not the similarly named ones like ‘vbrun6’, before clicking the ‘OK’ button. You may get a window with some terms and conditions to accept – mine was in German and I clicked the ‘Ja’ button. This also only appears the first time. When it’s finished installing things you’ll be back at the earlier window full of radio buttons. Click the ‘Cancel’ button, then the ‘Cancel’ button on the next window to get out of winetricks.
  3. Extract the installer .exe file from the RAR archive you downloaded. Right-click and extract in your file browser, or do it at the command line:
    cd ~/Downloads
    unrar 52571072a0e4a8cd21c0.rar
  4. Run the installer. You can either right-click on the file in a file manager and select ‘Open with’ -> ‘Wine Windows Program Loader’ or do it from the command line:
    wine start /unix ~/Downloads/RDWorksV8Setup8.01.26-170927.exe
    This should pop up a Windows-style window saying ‘Welcome to the RDWorks Setup Wizard’. Click the ‘Install’ button to proceed. You should see a progress bar moving quickly as the files are installed, with a pause when it looks like it should have finished, before a window opens with some configuration options.
Advanced options

If you already use wine for other things you may want to install RDWorks in its own wineprefix, essentially its own windows instance.

It should be possible to install RDWorks using PlayOnLinux instead of winetricks. We’ve only tried this when winetricks didn’t work though, and PlayOnLinux got stuck while trying to install the mfc42 libraries.

Fedora 27, Ubuntu 17.10 and maybe others

The process is similar to Ubuntu 16.04 above, but when installing the DLLs with winetricks you also need to install ‘cmd’.

Serial port mapping

This probably isn’t necessary. The preferred options are probably sending files to usb stick, and using the network connection rather than the USB connection, but just in case we’ll note it here. It’s complicated by having changed over different versions of wine, so pick accordingly.

First you need to make sure you are allowed to access the serial port. To do this you need to find which group owns the serial port, then add yourself to this group.

ls -l /dev/ttyU*

From wine 2.8 onwards the ports should be mapped automatically.

For earlier versions you need to edit wine.ini in the prefix directory you used. If you didn’t specify the directory then it’ll be ~/.wine. You need to find or add the [serialports] section and add the mapping to it looks something like:

[serialports]
ComX=/dev/ttyUSBn

Replace X with the next free number, and n with the number matching the laser cutter’s port. Both will most likely be 1.

Known issues

RDWorks seems not to detect the screen resolution correctly, ending up with uneven scaling in X and Y so that squares appear rectangular. This varies depending on the page size set, and the zoom level. It doesn’t seem to be entirely consistent from one machine to another, possibly due to having different screen resolutions, so for now it’s trial and error. We may be able to tabulate combinations that are about right though.

Installing on Mac

There is a forum thread where Mac users have been using Wine Bottler to share a working instance of RDWorks on Macs. We’ve not tried it though.

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