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Gravograph LS100 EX

Hey guys,

A couple weeks ago, Lynn, a long time friend and owner of the Crown Trophy's down the street from me asked if I would be interested in a laser engraver that she was replacing with a bigger and newer unit.  You know what I said.

This is a Gravograph LS100 EX Laser engraver.

Power is 30 Watts with a working bed that measures 12" X 24".  If you are wondering if it is capable of doing everything we could ask of it, the answer is yes, because to date, it has actually completed 95% of all the laser jobs our projects have required.  This even includes the panels created by Eric!

It's 12 years old (2011 model) and new was around $17,000.  You can find a used one for around $3,000 to $5,000.  Lynn practically gave this unit to me at just $250.  It works but as you can imagine, being at a professional engraving shop, it has some miles on it.  With that said, it still engraves great and can even cut cast plastic up to .125" thick and thicker with multiple passes.  The power of the C02 laser believe it or not is still right at 30 Watts.

The things that I know I need to replace are the springs that hold the lid up, a couple shims to stop the X axis from running too far left or right and some dust curtains that run along with the Y axis.  Other than that, a good cleaning and maybe a bed alignment.  (I am sure I will find other minor issue that need attention once I dig into it.)

The other thing that I took off her hands ($250) was an industrial strength dust collector.  Lynn said she bought it new five years ago and has never used it.  It has just been sitting in the back room............  "collecting dust".  It's a dust collector after all, doing what it's name suggest, so don't get mad at it! LOL

So far I have not had much time to do anything with it other than collect a few things that I know I will need, like a 4" heavy duty debris tube, dust bag, clamps, surge protectors, etc...  Additionally, I had to hunt down the drivers, owners manuals and a couple support programs like CoralDraw.

I think I am just about ready to start working to get it together, cleaned up and back online.  My plan is to put it on the bench right where the dust collector is sitting now.  The dust collector will be kept under the bench in the cabinets.

As I move forward with this project, I will post up my progress, findings and what I am learning along the way.  This will be a great "Cool Tool" to add to our collection.  In a way, it has always been there.

That will be a great addition to your toolbox! . . . and you can't beat that price!

I should have bought a laser cutter/engrave earlier .... 🙂

Hey guys,

First, I have found that it is much easier said than done to say I have a laser engraver and gonna get it up and running.  Over the past four weeks I have been collecting items, rearranging to make room, modifying and taking care of a ton of minor issues I have put off.  Once it is all up and running I should have a pretty efficient and reliable setup.

Some of the minor issues was creating a back up system of the computer(s) and tweaking the cnc machine to name a few.  Over the past several years the computer and cnc have been working fine but I have been lucky that nothing catastrophically failed.  So while I am in the process of working in the laser engraver, I am taking this opportunity to do some much needed updating and tweaks.

This is a Gravograph LS100 EX thread, so here are a couple photos of the laser prior to breaking it down further.  At this point, I have taken the first two layers of dust and grime off and out of it.

This thing literally had 10 plus years of dust and debris in it. I have spent well over three solid days cleaning it up and have at least another day or two until I feel it is ready to start it's new lease on life.  From what I have seen so far there is no reason this machine will run as good as new.

The 30 W laser is super heavy duty and is built to last.  It's just 30 Watts which is all we need to do engraving.  The vast majority of the cutting will be done on the cnc.

It still cuts and engraves at 30W 12 years later!  Usually a laser tube will start to loose power over time.  Other than blowing it off with compressed air, I have not touched it.  Everything in the rear case was very clean.

Because this is a commercial grade laser engraver and was used like one over the past 12 years, some of the cosmetic pieces and dust shields inside are pretty well worn.

I was planning on refurbishing as much as I could and replacing other parts like the felt dust curtains to freshen it up, but the more I thought about it, I decided to remove the side pieces all together.  Here have the right side removed and cleaned up.

This way it will be much easier to do maintenance to the belts, rods, stepper motors, mirrors, etc....   Talking with the manager at the laser shop confirmed that this is fine, I just have to keep an eye on the dust and debris.  Based on what I have cleaned out of it, I don't think that will ever be an issue.

I have a new lens and a set of mirrors coming in a couple days.  For the record, this laser engraver takes a 19mm diameter lens with a 2" or 50.8mm focal length.  The mirrors also have a 19mm diameter.

I was planning on using an Air Assist but it turns out that this laser engraver never had one installed.  The exhaust blower does an excellent job of pulling the smoke and fumes away from the laser head.  Once I get to engraving, I will look to see if an air assist pump is needed or not.

Speaking of the exhaust blower, I got that set up under the bench!  A four inch industrial strength dust tube connects the dust collector blower (really a sucker) to the back side of the laser engraver.  All the dust and debris will be captured in the 1 micron filter bag.  We will see how it performs with the fumes.

Speaking of fumes, most fumes are just annoying, but some fumes are dangerous.  PCP and other certain plastics can be very hazardous.  Thankfully Cast plastic, like what we use for the panels is safe.  (Note to self, double check all plastics to make sure they are safe for laser engraving.)

The Dust collector blower is on a set of caster wheels and has a handle to remove it easily from under the bench and roll it outside.  If this does become an issue, I would only need to add an additional 10' section of 4" tubing.

Another very import aspect of the laser engraver is the space it will be sitting in.  (And this is where the laser engraving thread goes sideways a little, but necessary)  I had to rebuild the shelf in this area and add aluminum "L" angle under it because the material is Polly (Starboard).

Now I have a dedicated space ready for the Laser engraver once it is fully refurbished.  All the wires now run under the bench in an effort to keep things as clean and neat as possible.  It will also be super easy to clean cnc chips up with little to no cables on the top bench.

Here are a couple more photos of cables heading south and over.

The vacuum for the cnc is also under the bench now.  I had to cut a hole for the vacuum tube also.  One other thing I did was add a remote vacuum switch to the front of the computer stand box so I don't have to keep going under the bench to turn the vacuum on and off.

The computer is now also under the bench and out of the way.  I added a powered USB hub on the computer stand for convenience.  (These are all things I wanted to do but didn't have time until the laser opportunity came about)

While cleaning the dust out of the cnc control module, I discovered that there was a USB port on the main  PBX-RF control breakout board!

At first I thought it was a USB alternative to the 25 pin printer port, but after reading up on the Probotix PBX-RF breakout board, it is the preferred method to apply power to both sides of the isolation chips.  In other words, one side gets power from the USB plugged into the computer and the other side gets power from the CNC power supply.  What does all this mean?  I still have to use the 25 pin printer port.

Last but not least, I took some time to rebuild and configure my main cnc computer, build a back up cnc computer and also created a backup hard drive.  The cnc computer is completely off line and is still an XP machine which works great for what I am asking of it.  As it is, the CNC, laser engraver and all my programs were all developed to work with Windows XP.   Until I take the dive into all new equipment and programs I am kinda stuck with XP, but it all works great!  (At the workshop, not sim related)

I added a couple other programs like DipTrace and CoralDraw.  In order to run the laser, I had to install CoralDraw which is what got me started on this important side project.

The power supplies have been upgraded to 700w and brand new EGVA NVidia GeForce 6200 256mb graphics card have been installed.  (The cards are new but over 15 years old!)  The cnc computer and it's back up are identical in every way.  If the shop primary computer fails, I can plug the shop back up in and be running again in less than 3 minutes.

And in case of Armageddon, I have a second backup hard drive off site in a secret undisclosed underground location.  (Really my main worry is a fire at the workshop, you never know.)

And that pretty much covers what I have had to do to in preparation of  getting the laser engraver on line.  Almost there!

One last photo to show exactly where I am ATM.  Usually I don't post "hotdog factory" photos, but here's one.

Another update soon!


Hey guys.

Here is another update on the laser engraver restoration project.  First, I got the protective Acrylic lid to stay up.  Turns out that the springs in the hinges that hold the lid up were totally destroyed and busted into several pieces.  Ever see anything like this?

I was lucky to find some replacement springs for around $1.50 each, two springs per hinge.  Finding the correct springs could be a long trial and error process, let alone an expensive process.  For now, these Hillman springs will work fine.

Now the lid stays put when lifted up!  I found that the springs have to be an exact length and an exact strength.  I had to add a couple .125" Nylon spacers to find the correct balance.

Another area that I spent some time on was trying to save the original incandescent light with it's aluminum mounting bracket.

I was able to successfully remount it within the laser housing but later I discovered that it would not light up and worse, it had a short causing it to heat up to around 150 degrees!  Not good.

I opted to scrap the original light with mounting plate and replace it with LEDs.  This turned out to be a much better solution because I am now able to mount strip lighting at both ends and control the lighting with a PWM switch.  The previous single light was on all the time when the laser was on.  Now I am able to dim the light or turn it up full bright or turn it off completely.

I opted to mount the light PWM just inside the left side of the laser case being careful that it cleared all moving parts.  Here it is all lit up!

Left side......

Right side......

I went ahead and replaced the head mirror and the lens because they were both pretty dirty.  Cleaning mirrors and lenses is possible but as cheap as these replacements were, I just swapped them out.  I have replacement mirrors for the other two mirrors but I am going to hold off on changing them out because they require fine tune adjustments that I am not ready to dive into yet.

Here is the new head mirror and lens in place. (Only the new mirror is visible)  Easy replacement process.

At this point, I think I can say "Phase 1" of the Laser restoration process is complete.  Everything that I can physically see and fix has been restored and or cleaned.  And everything that is needed like drivers, blowers, power protection, etc.... has been put in place and is working.

The next steps if everything is working and tuned properly should go fairly easily, but we all know how that can go.  At this point, it is me that needs work and fine tuning.  In other words, I have to get myself up to speed with how to run this thing!  I have been through the 100 page LS100 User Manual a couple times and I am fairly familiar with it but still need to get some hands on with the laser system.  (See attached PDF file at the bottom of this post)

I read on the Gravotech website (the company that bought out Gravograph a few years back) that their "In person setup and tutorial fee" is around $800 and if you need extended support, add another $1,500 to the bill.  This service is probably worth every penny for a brand new high performance laser.  Unfortunately, I don't have this option even if the cost was not a factor.  Therefor, I have to take it slow and keep safety in mind.

So far I have checked a couple test items off the list.

First, I had to adjust the motorized bed because it was slightly out of line.  I was able to level everything out perfectly using the adjust nuts on the four screw drives at each corner of the bed.  Checking the auto focus function seems to work perfectly, well within tolerance limits.

Next I checked to see if the "red dot" laser pointer was working and it was.  At first I could not see it because it was out of focus and over the black laser scratch material.  Here you can see it focused on the yellow paper.

I have also been debating if I need an Air Assist pump and nozzle.  I was told by the Garrett at the laser shop that they never used an Air Assist on this laser or any of there laser.  I think there are two reasons for this, the first being that the laser head moves so fast that it is not in the same place for longer than a split second, especially if in raster mode.

The other reason which I was able to confirm today is that the exhaust system is so powerful that it pulls a strong current of air over the top of the bed from front to rear.  The lid was actually hard to pull up because of the negative pressure that the exhaust system creates inside the laser machine housing.  For now I will hold off on getting an Air Assist system until I find a reason to get one.

So now I am in the process of trying to upload a file to the laser engraver.  I have not spent too much time on this yet but so far, no joy.  I am sure I am just missing a step or two but will figure it out shortly.

To recap, here is an over all photo of the updated workshop where the CNC and now the laser engraver will be kept.  (I am really looking forward to getting back to work on sim related stuff with this new setup!)

And here is a quick before.....

And after photo of the laser......

Now if it engraves as good as it looks, we are in business!

Another update shortly!

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Hey guys,

Looks like I missed a simple setting on the "Printer Properties" page.  It's up and running now and engraving as well as could be expected.

Once I got the basics down, I tested several combinations of power % and speed % using a piece of scrap plastic painted gray.  All test were done at 300 dpi.  I have the ability to go as high as 1000 dpi which is insane!  Here are a couple test engravings that I did using the APU file.

By the way, I am using the program CoralDraw X4 to finalize the artwork drawings and get the files ready for the laser.  This is the same program that the laser shop has used for years.  Here is a closer look at the last and best test engraving completed so far.

The setting were 80% power, 35% speed and 300 dpi.  If this is the best I can get, I will take it.  For the record, this is about the same quality as what I was getting from the laser shop.  I believe it is possible to get even higher quality engraving by slowing the speed down along with the power and increasing the dpi to around 600 dpi.  The laser shop can't do this because time is money.  In our case, we can spend a little more time engraving, after all, this APU file only took around 50 seconds to engrave.  What's another minute!

Here is a short video showing the speed and accuracy of the laser.  This is only 50% full speed.

I still have a ton to learn about this laser engraver but I think I can finally say I am over the top of the learning curve.  This is going to be a great asset to all of our projects!

Looking good Ron,

If you’’re any thing like me your scrap pile is about to grow exponentially!


1. Does it have to be raster printing? Vector graphics seems simpler and more consistent, paint a line not a series of dots.

2. Is there much shaking of the case? The head is flying from side to side so quickly I cant help but wonder about vibration.

3. What hold down method is used?

thank you,



Good questions Will!

This laser can operate in both raster and vector modes.  For guys that are not up to speed on what the difference is, raster mode is used to engrave open spaces or engrave (remove) material inside shapes.  Vector mode is used to follow and cut outlines of shapes.

In the case of the text in my APU file, the text has been "converted to curves" in other words, they are now just shapes colored in with the color black as far as the laser can tell.  The program is ran to raster engrave all black colors inside the shapes that look like text to you and I.  Typically,  the color red is used to do vector cuts and the laser will cut all red lines.  If you have to do multiple depths of engraving or cuts, you can use up to eight colors to assign to those other selections.

In the example above, I had the red lines which are the outline of the APU panel turned off.  If I were going to engrave the APU panel for real, I would first turn off the black raster engraving so that only the APU panel outline would be etched into the metal spoil backer.  Obviously you would not want the APU panel in the laser machine yet.

Then on the second run, turn off the red vector lines and turn back on the black raster lines.  Line up the APU panel on the metal spoil backer and engrave.  (For clarification, the laser engraver in the case of the panels will only be used for engraving the artwork on the face of the panels.  The panels will still be made using the CNC machine.)

Here is a video showing the setup process and the difference between raster engraving and vector cutting:

Second question about shaking.  There is zero shaking that I can detect for two reasons.  First, the LS100EX weighs in at 154lbs.  It's main body is made up of solid cast aluminum, like an engine block!  As a matter of fact, Gravotech, formally known as Gravograph still uses the same exact cast aluminum main body as they did 15 plus years ago.

What this means is that everything else in the laser engraver is mounted to a solid structure.  All the rails, motors, belts, etc. have zero play and no room to wiggle.  HERE  is a link to the latest LS100 EX, you can see that the aluminum cast case has not changed!

The second part of the reason there is no shaking is that the bench the laser is sitting on is built into the wall and is part of the workshop.  You don't have to go to this extreme but having a solid and sturdy workbench to operate the laser engraver on is important.

Last question, what hold down method did I use?  Believe it our not, nothing.  I was as surprised as you are reading this, that I needing NOTHING to hold the test plastic in place.  The test plastic was an old CDU blank, .125" thick to give you an idea of how big and heavy it was.  I was surprised that it did not even creep a little from the small amount of vibration.  I do have the exhaust blower under the bench and it is pretty powerful, so at the very least you would expect some creeping.

I think when I get around to engraving production panels, I will use a couple pieces of Blue Painter's tape to ensure the panel does not move, especially on smaller pieces.  Although larger panels should not move, with all the work it takes to get a panel to the point it is ready to engrave, I won't be taking chances.

I did  install an optional air assist on my Omtech machine, this also requires an air pump (big aquarium  pump). all not expensive when buying Chinese stuff.

But, for cutting and engraving acrylic, it does not improve the quality much I found out.
What I did do is cover my acrylic to be engraved with paper tape, this does improve the engraving and preventing the laser to burn the edges of the engrave a bit.

Air assist does improve quality when cutting or engraving wood!

Update on the laser!

Recently I had the opportunity to use the laser on a couple jobs and now I wonder how I managed all these years without.  It's a wonderful tool that adds a couple more dimensions to our capabilities!

First, while helping DonnyRay with the Circuit Breaker templates, we discovered that the laser was not cutting exactly to scale.  After some research and experimenting I was able to determine that the scale was off by .15%, which might not sound like a lot but if you are trying to marry two pieces on top of each other or inside one another, it is a BIG deal.

Turns out that the user's manual only goes so far when it come to set up and basic functions.  The biggest thing I got out of the users manual is all the ways you can injure yourself, which I suppose is the main thing the manufacturer wants you to retain.  Minor issues like scale and alignment is not that important!

We knew that there had to be a way to adjust the scale and after some digging into the settings, I was able to find what I was looking for.

For my own notes if I ever need to find this again:  Turn on the laser, within 3 seconds, select the "X" which opens up a configuration window.  Scroll down to "Maintenance" and then select "Screw Settings".  Then this display appears.

Initially all three axis were set to 100.00.  In a perfect world, the laser would cut perfectly to scale at 100%.  But as you can see, I had to adjust the X and Y axis to 100.15%, now the laser is cutting pretty darn close to 100% scale.

Here is a CB Panel template cut to full 100% scale.  This will help confirm the future metal CB panel backers DonnyRay is working on will fit perfectly before any are ever cut.

Now that the scale is squared away, we are free to do other things.  My first cast plastic job with the laser was the CDU internal light plates!  I won't be showcasing everything I cut with the laser, but being that this is the first real job completed with the laser, I figured I would share some photos and thoughts with you.

Here is a photo of the CDU Light Plates cut and ready to be pulled off of the bed.  In the case of .115" thick cast plastic, it took four passes to cut all the way through at the settings I was using.  I had speed set to 15% and power set to 75%.

Compared to the CNC machine, the laser cuts cast plastic super clean and surprisingly without any fumes.


The outside plastic waste lifts up clean.

The parts pick up clean!

Notice that all the waste for the inside holes are still perfectly aligned?  The reason is because when the laser gets to the bottom of the cut during the forth pass, it slightly bonds the plastic to the bed.

Which brings me back to an earlier point about how to hold down material in a laser.  In the case of these plastic pieces I was making, nothing was needed.  Just lay the plastic down on the bed and hit the GO button.  If you are cutting or engraving something that is much lighter, like paper, you need to tape it down, especially if you are using the exhaust fan which in almost all cases you would be.

Last but not least, a photo of the inside cuts piled up.  You might be asking why a photo of this?  You should have seen the look on the CNC's face when this was the only waste material produced! LOL

Bottom line, if you are like me and have a need for a laser and thinking of getting a laser, don't put it off.  Find a way to obtain one sooner than later.

And the money shot.  Here are eight sets of CDU Light Plates ready to go!

The laser is going to be a great tool for many applications.  2D cutting, engraving, paper templates, etc...

Don't worry CNC machine, I will always need you to make 3D parts that require milling!


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