The heart of Derby's Maker community
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.
General purpose packages for cutting and etching
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.
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.
We’re working on getting VisiCut working well with the cutter, as when it works it’s much more user friendly than RDWorks. Please ask us on the forum or in person at one of our meetings if you want to help testing this.
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.
A much improved English version of both the manual and the program text is free to members of the RDWorksLab.com forum. It can’t be redistributed without written permission, but if you’re going to be using RDWorks it’s well worth signing up to get them.
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.
This has been tested with Kubuntu but should work with other variants, possibly including the Mint versions based on it.
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
sudo apt install winetricks unrar
wine start /unix ~/Downloads/RDWorksV8Setup8.01.26-170927.exe
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.
The process is similar to Ubuntu 16.04 above, but when installing the DLLs with winetricks you also need to install ‘cmd’.
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:
Replace X with the next free number, and n with the number matching the laser cutter’s port. Both will most likely be 1.
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.
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.