Mini Gerbil for 60w Laser cutter?

Hello again,
yesterday i received my 60w chinese laser cutter with a LihuiyuLabs Nano M2 controller, which is not compatible with Lightburn but only with very bad software (K40whisperer)
Now i want to upgrade the controller and found the Mini Gerbil.

Does anyone know, if it is compatible with a laser with 60w? I only found information about the k40.
If not, are there any alternative boards i could use?
Is it possible to set the laserpower in lightburn with a new board instead of setting the power directly on the machine?

Here is the laser: https://www.ebay.de/itm/60W-CO2-laser-graviermaschine-laser-engraving-engraver-schneider-hochpräzise/274331077471?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649

Best regards
Simon

Yes.

a ‘laser engraver’ is a basic 2 or 3-axis CNC machine with a mirror and lens for a subject of the transport. If a controller can offer up a PWM signal to the laser PSU, it can fire the laser with variable power.

The mini-gerbil does both of those.

The area to look at in detail is the power requirements for the CNC motion-control system - steppers, stepper drivers.

As you are replacing the controller, for a small amount of money you can improve your machine by adding in a separate 36V switched-mode power supply to run the drivers and steppers, taking the load off the existing psu that powers the controller (and possibly is a multiple power device that powers the 24V controller, 24V steppers/drivers, 20kV laser and 5V, all from the same supply module.

The m-g runs a variety of firmwares - have a look at the options before deciding.

What is the size of your bed? That and the type of steppers and drivers will determine which board best suits your machine.

The mini gerbil is, even on its own, a sound choice.

I’ve just installed the “MKS Gen L v2.1” board by Makerbase with TMC2209 drivers into a 60W Laser and it’s being great so far.

The coolest thing is that the MKS board has a Arduino Mega 2560 chip at its core and thus runs GRBL, Marlin or whatever firmware pleases you, which are compatible with programs like LightBurn, CNCjs, LaserGRBL or whatever program outputs G-Code. The MKS is built in a way to be compatible with the old RAMPS 1.4 pinout, which means that you can flash GRBL or Marlin on it and simply choose the RAMPS pinout and it’ll work just fine!

The Mega 2560, however, is a 8-Bit chip, and I’ve heard that for raster images a 32-Bit board would perform better. Since I just do vector work, the 8-Bit chip for me is already insanely fast and I don’t need more.

If you are interested into 32-Bit board, take a look at the SKR v1.3, it’s 32bit, has an SD Card slot, performs much faster and is compatible with community firmware.

It’s a good board for a CNC, but doesn’t have anywhere near the power needed for laser engraving.

The MKS SBASE V1.3, however, is a different kettle of fish. That is 32-bit, based on the ARM core 7.

Runs a bunch of advanced firmwares including Smoothieware, lpc-grbl, and more.

The mini-gerbil is also a drop-in replacement for the stock M2. no mucking about - plug and play.

It runs an LPC chip, too, so the 32-bit firmwares work fine, if a little slower than the Smoothie boards, etc. 72MHz vs 120MHz, but still gives a good result.

Wow, thank you!

My bed size is 600x400mm with a z-axis (bed moves, not laser) of 300mm. I’ve read that the M-G doesn’t support Z-control. Does that mean, that the Z axis is fix? Or is it still movable with lightburn?
I don’t have any plan of firmware, I will read something about it during the day.
On my “old” 3018 I worked with lightburn and I’ d love to work with it on the new machine.
Furthermore I will read the manual again later and give you some informations about the steppers.

In the mean time, you can also use software for the m2Nano called MeerK40t;

The author supports the software here and is very responsive;

What is nice is that you can use LightBurn to design your image/cut, export to GRBL and run.

Bad news. The manual dont say a word about the steppers.
Is it correct, that i need the information about it to choose a “correct” board/controller?
And is it possible to choose the firmware afterwards?

I definitely need Lightburn, i worked 2 hours today with k40whisperer… it just doesnt make fun with this software.

Most of the time just knowing how many the coils the motor has and “how big” the motor is, should give you decent indication of what to choose.

Every coil has 2 wires, so if your stepper has 4 wires, it has 2-coils. This is the most common setup btw, and 99% of the boards support it, so you can choose between A4988, TMC2209 and some others.

About the “size” of the steppers you don’t really need to mind, lasers have generally little steppers in them. NEMA 17 or so and the drivers mentioned above runs them pretty well.

The difference between the drivers mentioned above? The TMC is a little bit quieter and such, and for advanced users has a serial port to get more than 16 microsteps out of it, but I think that doesn’t matter for the average laser user. If you use marlin, the TMC (in serial mode) also has “sensorless” homing (must be enabled and firmware must support it) in which it basically rams into the endstop with very little force and “senses” that, immediately stopping and giving feedback to the controller. Most likely your laser already has endstops, which are much more precise then “ramming” into a wall, so you won’t even need this. Overall, the TMC has more features, but that’s about it I guess. If the price difference doesn’t hurt you, go for the TMC. Less noise, less vibrations - less vibrations, better lasing :wink:

About the controller, go with the 32Bit boards we mentioned above. They all supoort A4988 and TMC chips, don’t worry about that. In the 3D community, they’re pretty common. Just look at the socket of the drivers and you’ll immediately know.

The firmware you choose after it arrives, you flash it with your own PC and tweak it to your needs. There’s documentation and tutorials all over the internet. However, if you need help, feel free to PM me!

Hope that helps out clearing some questions :slight_smile:

I gave very generic responses - the mini-gerbil will have ample power for your needs, and it is plug-and-play, so it makes sense as a replacement.

As to Z-axis, is yours automated? does it have a manual switch to raise and lower, or is it connected to the controller? The M2 Nano only has 2 axes, so I suspect if yours is a powered bed, it’s operated by an up/down switch. (this is not unusual - my machines have never had automated z-axis, just an up/down switch).

And no - the mini gerbil only has 2 axes, so you will need the super gerbil or other 3-axis+ controller if you want to automate the Z.

In my opinion, less important than you would think. Not many machines have it, including large industrials.

To conclude, get the mini-gerbil if it grabs your fancy - it has many good points that make it a sound choice for a retro-fit into your machine.

In essence your machine is a bigger K40, so I suspect the electronics are the same.

Adding another PSU for the steppers and drivers is a good idea - especially if you have just one multi-voltage PSU. Typically those are very marginal on power and any load you can take off is beneficial. The downside is that there’s a bit more effort in wiring to make it work. Normally the 24V supply powers the controller, which powers the drivers and the steppers - and this is an area where the mini gerbil isn’t an option. It doesn’t have a breakout for external stepper drivers or a way of putting a different voltage in.

Still, it’s a sound choice for a retro-fit. Likely you will want a bigger machine at some point and by then you will be better placed to specify your exact requirements and be able to determine the exact specification to meet your needs.

I have followed the thread and am again delighted with the fine, fast and competent help given here in the forum, as so often before.
For topic, I have switched the controller of my K40 from M2N to MiniGerbil, right from the start and never had any problems. I also do not see automatic bed leveling at the top of my wish list, as long as there is the option of adjusting the height, then that’s fine.
Have fun with your new machine.

Hello there,
My Z-axis is not automated, I have two buttons to drive it up and down. It’s okay, I don’t need it automated.
@Bonjour now I’m unsure, does it fit or not? First you said yes, then M-G isn’t an option. I didn’t understand the “problem” there with my machine.
Could you please specify it and give me a hint how I could check if it fits or not?
@bernd.dk I’m really happy with the support in this forum, it’s just great!

No, that’s not what I said.

It’s a direct swap for your M2

If you want a z-axis, the mini isn’t an option

I said it was a good choice

Oh, I think I misunderstood it :smile:
Thank you very much!

Hello again,

I’m a bit unsure, which board i should choose. I compared the “MiniGerbil” and the " Makerbase original MKS GEN L V2.1". Every Board has it’s pros and it’s contras, but i can’t decide between these two.
I know, the firmware is important too, but i want to be honest, i still dont know much about firmwares.
Could anyone give me some pros or contras, which could be important?
I know the MiniGerbil is plug and play (great, but a little bit wiring should be not a problem) but it dont support z-axis (if there is the possibility to control the z-axis with buttons, it would be no problem), the MKS would support z-axis (even my 12v dc Z-axis motor).
I engrave vector lines and pictures (greyscale) quite often and i want to use lightburn (important! :joy: )

I tend to the mini-gerbil, but i’m a bit unsure.

No, that MKS isn’t the board you want.

It has a slug of a chip, is definitely not plug-and-play. It’s an Arduino 8-bit at 16MHz with 256K vs a 32-bit Arm Cortex at 72MHz with significantly more advanced features: https://www.st.com/en/microcontrollers-microprocessors/stm32f103c8.html

Comparing a Yugo with a Ferrari.

MKS do make a half-decent clone of the Smoothieboard, which I linked to earlier - the 1.3. It uses the same cortex chip, but in a different spec - 100MHz vs the 120MHz of the Smoothie and Cohesion3D, meh assembly and components, but still a decent board for the money. Comes with ethernet, SD card, screens, etc. but zero support.

I ordered the Mini Gerbil yesterday morning, i cant wait for working with LightBurn again!
Yesterday afternoon i realized, that my laser wont start anymore, the power supply had a malfunction, the bridge rectifier had a short circuit. Today i disassembled an old computer to get the rectifier and with help of an electronics technician i changed the piece on the circuit board. Now i’m at work again!
I’m really looking forward for the mini gerbil!
And, again, i’m really, really happy about the quick answers and professional help in this forum!

1 Like

Hello again,
i definitely need your help again.
I installed the MiniGerbil (GRBL 1.1f), connected my Computer to the laser, connected with lightburn. Everything’s fine.
I jogged with the laser a few moves and it stopped.:
“[MSG:Check Door
error:11
error:2
Grbl 1.1f [’$’ for help]”
If i remember correct i had “Alarm: 6 and Alarm: 7” in between. But i dont know when it was exactly.
Reconnecting: same problem.
Some tries later i thought it could be the wrong “device” in the settings in LightBurn and realized, that lightburn wont find my Laser. I Tried a lot, sometimes it works, sometimes not.
And a few times my Computer lost the connection to the Laser.

If it works and i want to start a Job, the Laserhead moves but the Laser wont fire. It just doesn’t engrave.

Here are my settings:

$0=10 $1=255 $2=0 $3=1 $4=0 $5=1 $6=0 $7=0 (ATC M6, pulse/ff) $8=100 (ATC Tool Td, milliseconds) $9=100 (ATC M6 Td, milliseconds) $10=31 $11=0.010 $12=0.002 $13=0 $19=0 (Softstart, milliseconds) $20=0 $21=0 $22=1 $23=3 $24=2000.000 $25=2000.000 $26=250 $27=2.500 $28=5 (Spindle freq. 0 to 15) $30=1000 $31=1 $32=1 $100=157.000 (x:stp/mm) $101=157.000 (y:stp/mm) $102=160.000 (z:stp/mm) $103=160.000 (a:stp/mm) $104=160.000 (b:stp/mm) $110=12000.000 (x:mm/min) $111=5000.000 (y:mm/min) $112=5000.000 (z:mm/min) $113=5000.000 (a:mm/min) $114=5000.000 (b:mm/min) $120=8000.000 (x:mm/s^2) $121=3000.000 (y:mm/s^2) $122=3000.000 (z:mm/s^2) $123=3000.000 (a:mm/s^2) $124=3000.000 (b:mm/s^2) $130=230.000 (x:mm max) $131=320.000 (y:mm max) $132=200.000 (z:mm max) $133=200.000 (a:mm max) $134=200.000 (b:mm max) ok ![MiniGerbil|666x500](upload://6JfSircuzUA5TMcUOh8LLMKUnQG.jpeg) ![Wiring|666x500](upload://ysLqiK9vWNN94snGU3uK0nYEzP4.jpeg) What are the blue and green wires that dont fit on the MiniGerbil? These are the wires on the other picture which i hold between my fingers. I hope you can help me. Best regards Simon Edit: I just dont get why my pictures are shown in the preview but not in the post itself. What am i doing wrong? And why are my settings in the preview among themselves and in the post behind each other? Empty lines dont work either.

Make sure everything is properly grounded and connected - it sounds like you have a wiring or electrical noise issue, not a settings problem.

With the M2Nano it works fine, I only changed the board. What could it be? Do I have to add a wire to ground?

That I don’t know - you’d have to check with Paul from Awesome tech. I believe I’ve seen others with the door alarm issue, but I don’t recall what the solution was.