Microlaze User Manual

This page has the following sections:

Microlaze Setup

Figure 1. Microlaze setup: 1. Laser lenses, 2. XYZ stage, 3. Manual Z adjust, 4. Prior stage controller, 5. Light source for microscope, 6. Light source for beam spot, 7. Microscope monitor, 8. Joystick for XYZ stage, 9. Control computer's display, 10. Fume exhaust, 11. Plastic curtain, 12. Graduate student unit #JY442

Microlaze centers around a New Wave Quiklaze laser micromachining system attached to a Prior XYZ stage and monitor. The monitor is integrated with the stage controller to allow it to autofocus. There is also a manual joystick for moving the stage.

The laser and stage can be controlled via serial cable from a PC. We have the stage on COM1 and the laser on COM2. Note that the Prior stage serial cable requires a null modem whereas the Quiklaze does not.

While the microlaze program can fully control the Quiklaze, you can manually control it with the Windows PCLaze program (on the Start menu). You cannot
use the microlaze program and PCLaze at the same time since they cannot share the COM port.

Laser Maintenance

The Quiklaze system can only be controlled via the serial cable from the Windows NT workstation. This is a security and safety measure because only qualified users are given NT accounts.

It is possible to control the Quiklaze system from a manual remote box. To use remote box, remove jumper on J14 which is closest to the edge. To allow operation without remote box, add the jumper and use the stub on the remote box connector on the back of the power supply unit.

When it is necessary to change the flashlamp, follow the instructions in the Quiklaze manual. After replacing the flashlamp, make sure connector next to the transformer going to the board which is under the red plastic sheet is connected well.

Microlaze Suite User Guide

The Microlaze Suite of programs is comprised of the following command-line applications: On the LASERMACHINE Windows NT workstation, these executables are in E:\bin which should be on the PATH. Also note that there are several
subdirectories inside E:\bin such as 20010424 which is the date April 24, 2001. While the latest version of the executables are in E:\bin, previous versions are in the dated directories. This way, if you think a previous version worked better, or the newer one has a bug, the older versions are still available.

The following describes each command-line applications in the Microlaze Suite.


microlaze is used as follows:
microlaze [options] [cutfile]
The cutfile is a G-code file specifying the shape to cut. Usually the G-code file is produced as follows: Create a two-dimensional drawing in SolidWorks and export as a DXF file. (Note that you should export a SolidWorks drawing, not a part or assembly.) Then run the GCode 2000 program to convert from DXF to G-code. The appropriate GCode 2000 configuration file is distributed in the microlaze.zip file as 2dtorch.ini. If you do not specify a cut file, then you must specify a score file with the -s option as shown below.

The options are any oft the following:


microlazeconfig is used as follows:
microlazeconfig configfile
If the specified config file does not exist, microlazeconfig will create it. Otherwise, microlazeconfig will read the existing config file and allow you to modify its values.

microlazeconfig will prompt you for each of the configuration parameters and allow you to type a new value, or accept the previous value in the config file. (If you are creating a new config file the "previous value" is the system default.) Following are all the config parameters, their default values and meaning. The defaults are for cutting 13 micron thick stainless steel at 50x magnification which makes a spot size 50 microns wide.
Parameter Default Meaning
wavelength (IR, Green of UV) Green Laser color. Note that a special lens is required for IR or UV.
energyrange (low or high) high High or low energy range.
energylevel 1000 Energy level from 0 to 1000. These are normalized units and don't reflect a specific number of Joules.
pulserate (Hz) 40 Firing rate from 0 to 40 Hz.
markersizeX (percent) 100 Width of the blast spot of the laser from 1 to 100.
markersizeY (percent) 100 Height of the blast spot of the laser from 1 to 100.
scoreStepSize (mm) 0.150 Distance between the center of each "dot" on the "dotted line" of a score line. Typically 3 times the spot size.
scoreHoldTime (sec) 2.000 Amount of time to blast at each spot. This should be enough to go through the material.
cutStepSize (mm) 0.025 Distance to move the spot for each "nibble" of the cut line. Typically one half the spot size.
cutHoldTime (sec) 1.000 Amount of time at blast at each spot. If the cutStepSize is only one half a spot size, this can be one half the time needed to cut though the material since each portion of the line gets blasted for two steps.
cutFeedSpeed (percent) 100 Percent of maximum speed to move the laser during cutting. If you set this to one, the Prior stage moves at about 1 mm per second. At 40 Hz blasting rate, this is 25 microns per blast, so with a 50 micron spot size you may get two blasts on each portion of the cut line. (See "endpoints" configuration below.) This may be enough to cut a thin mask.
distanceToRefocus (mm) 0.500 How far the stage can move before it should refocus. This depends on how uneven the surface is. Set to 0 to never refocus.
focusOffsetDistance (mm) 0.100 When microlaze refocusses, it stops firing the laser, moves away from the cut line, refocusses, moves back and starts firing again. This parameter tells how far off the cut line to move. Typically twice the spot size. (This parameter is ignored if distanceToRefocus is zero.)
minFocusScore 800 After each refocus, the Prior stage computes a "score" of how well the image is focussed. If the score falls below minFocusScore, microlaze will prompt the user to manually refocus. Set this to zero to keep cutting regardless of what score results from a refocus.

By choosing the right config file parameters, you can make microlaze perform some useful functions as follows:

Of course, there are other parameter settings for specific materials. These are detailed in the "Tips and Tricks" section of the main Microlaze page.


microlazeoffset is used as follows:
microlazeoffset offsetfile
If the offsetfile already exists, it is overwritten with the new file. The purpose of microlazeoffset is to create the offset file which is supplied with the -o option to microlaze. This is in case you need to remove the workpiece and replace it later. Before cutting your first job, you should put a mark on the workpiece at the origin and mark a line along the X axis. When you replace the workpiece, run microlazeoffset. First it asks you to manually position the marker at the origin. Use the joystick to visually position the marker and press ENTER. (This determines the X and Y offsets.) Next, microlazeoffset asks you to position the marker at a point along the X axis. Use the joystick again to position the marker and press ENTER. (This is used to calculate the angle offset.)


stagexy is used as follows:
stagexy [x y]
If x and y are not supplied, stagexy simply displays the current x,y coordinates of the stage in millimeters. If the x and y coordinates are supplied (in millimeters), stagexy moves the stage to those coordinates.


resetstage is used as follows:
resetstage resets the coordinates of the stage so that the present position of the stage is (0,0). If you know where the (0,0) coordinate is in your cut file, you may use resetstage to assign the position on the workpiece where it will start cutting.

Source Code and Programmer's Guide

Compiling the Microlaze Suite

The software is distributed in the file microlaze.zip. The zip file includes the source code, the Visual C++ development environment and the Windows NT executables microlaze.exe, microlazeconfig.exe ,microlazeoffset.exe, resetstage.exe and stagexy.exe.

It is currently compiled under Microsoft Visual C++ 6.0. You can open the project workspace file microlaze.dsw and compile. If you must create the project file yourself, these are ordinary 32-bit console applications. The following are the source and header files needed to build each executable:

Overview of Source Files

While the majority of the documentation is in the source files (where it is easier to update when the source code changes), here we give an overview of the source files and what they are for. The description begins with the lowest-level files.

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