New User Wireless Setup and questions

I’m new to laser engraving having only recently acquired a cheap diode laser engraver. It came with a generic arduino nano type controller. I flashed the board with GRBL 1.1f and have been running LaserWeb software quite succesfully over wifi with the LaserWeb server running on a Raspberry Pi. Also running the pi camera over a web interface.

Now that I’m getting the hang of it I wanted to try Lightburn which seems to have much richer features and the camera support is what I’d really like to try. However, I really want to avoid having a PC attached to the engraver.

So after gleaming as much info as I can from the forums and documentation, it seems I have a couple of options:

For gcode sending only

  • Replace the controller with something that’s network capable and Lightburn compatible. Seems expensive and more than it’s worth for my cheap engraver.
  • Keep the LaserWeb server and feed it gcode files generated by Lightburn. Slightly more complicated workflow but very doable.
  • Setup an ESP32 as a bridge to present the controller as a direct USB connection over WiFi. Again doable and a simpler workflow but an interruption in WiFi traffic could be catastrophic perhaps? Discussed in this thread but no evidence of this setup actually working.

For the camera, my only option seems to use the pi camera (or some other IP camera) as it is, as a webcam, and use some extra software to present it to Lightburn as a USB camera.

Have I missed anything? Is there a simpler route to achieving a wireless setup? Is anyone else running something similar?

Is there a strong reason not to have the machine directly connected? I ask because most often when people want a network connected machine, they intend to run it remotely, which is incredibly dangerous.

I haven’t looked into running a LaserWeb server. I have an rPi, so if it’s a simple TCP connection it could probably be done with relatively few changes to LightBurn, but it would be enabling a behavior I strongly want to discourage, so I’m going to have to think about it.

I have no intention of running it remotely, as in no more than a room away, and agree this is a dangerous idea.

My reasons for network access:
It’s for hobby purposes only and intend to put away the machine when not in use. It doesn’t have an enclosure (at least yet) and will live in the garage so I would prefer to be physically away from it when it’s running but be able to keep an eye on it. The garage has better ventilation.
I have an old laptop I might be able to use but a permanently dedicated pi or other wireless interface is better, it can be mounted to the machine, is tiny, requires no other setup, and with a little adaptation can run off the same power supply etc, plus the laptop has vista on it! Other than that I only have my main desktop pc in the office next door.

I couldn’t comment on the technicalities of the LaserWeb server but it is open source and you’ll find the docs on github. My layman’s understanding is that it acts as ‘host’ and passes gcode to the machine that is otherwise dumb and has no memory. So i could start a job and shutdown my pc/frontend without consequence, it also has a web interface. Very similar in function to OctoPrint that I’ve used on a 3D printer.

Like I said I can still send gcode files to the LaserWeb server but being able send direct from Lightburn would be rather useful.