Epilog Laser – Lighted Carriage hack.

February 13, 2012

I love my Epilog laser! but it is not without its quirks.

The first and biggest quirk (are you listening Epilog?) Is the lack of proper Mac support. There is simply no excuse for that kind of nonsense, but I digress…

The second biggest quirk of the Epilog is that it can be very hard to see what’s happening on the bed when cutting and engraving. Often I have found myself shining flashlights or plug-in trouble lights through the viewing port at the top trying to scrutinize the goings-on below.

That never actually works, because the area you most want to illuminate is the area being worked on, and unsurprisingly, that area is right below the moving optics carriage and therefore perpetually in shadow.

Well hell, I bought my engraver used and never enjoyed a warrantee, it’s time to hack that puppy!

If you want to illuminate the space immediately underneath the carriage, the obvious place to put your light source is underneath the carriage. To get away with this without colliding with any moving parts, you need a pretty small light source. Enter my favorite LED strip. I have a 12×16 engraver, and this strip just happens to be precisely the right width to cover the entire rail. Woot! it costs $13 bucks and it runs on a straight 12V with no support circuitry to speak of. Surely there’s 12V inside the Epilog somewhere, right?

Wrong. Observe the Epilog with the side cover removed…

See that multi-tap power supply at the bottom? It supplies 3.3V 5V and 48V, but no 12V. You could get all fancy and add internal regulators or the like, but I wanted to be minimally invasive, so I ran a cable out of the vent openings seen on the bottom and secured it with a cable tie.

The cable seen here is 14 gauge stranded two conductor speaker wire which is gross overkill, but what I had on-hand in stranded (more on that in a minute).

From this point, the routing is more complex, the trick is to route it along the inside of the curve of the air hose up to the carriage, cable tying it to the air hose at intervals. It’s very important to test all your zip tie locations and other fiddly business by moving the carriage along it’s entire travel, as collisions and binds may not be obvious from only one position. Since the power cable gets moved a lot, you’ll want a stranded cable to supply it power. It’ll end up looking something like this.

Now that the part of the cable that moves is over, you can splice in a pair of smaller gauge solid core wires to connect to your LED strip. Soldering wires onto the LED strip seems trickier than it is, here’sthe best way I’ve found so far. Take a small wire (about the gauge of hookup wire) strip a bit off the end and fold it over into a hook like so.

Solder the two sides of the hook together to give yourself a little tab of solder, like this.

The resulting blobby is easy to solder onto the tin tabs of the LED strip. You can use either side, it doesn’t matter.

Peel the adhesive back off your LED strip, slap it on the bottom of the rail, splice and heat shrink your connections, then add a DC power supply and switch to taste.

Tada! If you do any experimental work with your laser, this light makes your life much easier.

Hey Epilog, how about making this standard equipment? And better Mac support while you’re at it!

 

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