Xenetech Print Driver
The XPD has come a long way, and now many of the functions and features that you were wanting have been implemented. Here following is a tour of its many capabilities:
The Main LSR Dialog
At the heart of the driver is the LSR dialog which gives you access to most of the features of the laser output module, all easily accessible on one dialog. More advanced features and less often accessed features are moved to supplementary dialogs. Here is a screen shot of the main LSR dialog.
You can see that the dialog is divided into convenient sections for organizational purposes, which make it easier to learn the layout of where the controls are. In the screen shot you can see the following sections:
Job Settings, Raster Settings, Vector Settings and Origins.
There are also stand alone buttons for:
Table Properties, Settings Library, Advanced and Environment.
These buttons are gateways to the supplementary dialogs for the less often accessed features.
Let’s start our tour by going to the top left corner of the dialog and considering the Table selection box and Table Properties button:
After initial installation, your table selection drop list will contain only one selection, “Generic Laser Engraver”. To see what the properties of this default table are, click the “Table Properties” button and you will see the following dialog:
These are the properties of the default “Generic Laser Engraver” table.
Notice the options are “grayed out” where you cannot make changes to them. This is because the default table cannot be modified. You can use the “New Table” button to create a new table which you can configure.
Clicking the “New Table” button will bring up the following dialog:
Type any name that you choose for the laser. If you have many Xenetech Laser Engraving machines (a VERY smart business decision!) you can give each a unique name that means something to you and the people in your production shop. This is the heart of being able to use the same XPD to send jobs to any laser of your choice. After you click the “OK” button you will be back at the following dialog:
Notice that now the controls are no longer “grayed out”.
Now you can modify and configure this table for OPTIMAL output from the XPD.
There is a choice for the “X Motor”:
A choice for the “Y Motor”:
Please consult your distributor to identify which motors your Laser Engraver uses. We also have a PDF for download, “Setting Your Laser Profile” which has photos and explains how to identify the motors on your laser.
Below the motor selection boxes you will find where you set the path for your LSR output file:
If you have one laser this default path will usually be OK to leave alone. If you are one who has several Xenetech Laser Engravers, this is how you control which laser a job gets sent to. Each laser has its own outbox path to where the LSR file is sent. To change the path for each laser, simply click the “Browse Outbox Path” button:
Browse to where the independent path for this laser needs to be set. This MUST match the path that you have chosen in VCS (or Jobserver).
You can also choose a different default name for your laser jobs. The default laser job name is “xpd_etherfile.lsr”. If you would like to change the default name, simply type the new name in the browse box “File name” edit box:
After you click “OK” you should see the following:
Notice that the new “My New Laser Table” has had its outbox path modified from “Laser Inbox” and now reads “Laser Inbox2” (or whatever path you would choose) and that the default file name has been changed from “xpd_etherfile.lsr” to “Claudine’s Laser Jobs.lsr”
Under the Outbox path you will find three checkbox items:
“Auto Focus nose Cone” – check this if this table is using and Auto Focus Nose Cone.
“Aurora” – check this if this laser is an Aurora system.
“Use Square Resolution” – this requires a little more explanation.
Xenetech laser systems employ X and Y motors which have different resolutions, which is why you choose the correct motors as described above. This makes sure raster and vector information is scaled most optimally for that laser system using THOSE motors.
We have discovered that some software packages out there have bugs in them when trying to print to devices with different X and Y resolutions. One of these is AutoCAD. Those software packages are primarily designed to print to devices which have the same resolution in both the X and Y axis, which is referred to as “square resolution”. When they are asked to print to devices with X and Y axis that are different, they “skew” or “distort” the output unintentionally. If you have a laser table that is primarily being used with one of those software packages, check this box. This will make sure that the Y axis is used as the resolution for both the X and Y axis, thus giving a “square resolution” and avoiding the skew problem. Note: extensive testing has shown that CorelDraw does NOT have this problem, so do not choose this option on CorelDraw. MOST software packages will not need this, so leave it off unless you are using AutoCAD. If you try any new software and get skewed results, try setting this switch and sending the job again to see if the problem is resolved.
Under these check boxes you will find a section for information about the speed capabilities for your laser:
“Maximum Laser Raster Speed”
This is the max speed that the X axis will go in a quick left/right-right/left motion to raster draw pictures, solid fills, etc. For XLT systems should be 150, for XLE and DUO systems should be 75, for Aurora systems should be 100. Can be modified as needed.
“Maximum Laser Vector Speed”
This is the max speed that vectors can be drawn. The default of 15 is good for all systems. Can be modified as needed.
This is the speed at which the laser moves between parts of the job with the laser off. The default of 30 is good for all systems. This can be modified as needed.
Under the speed settings you will see the maximum vector resolution selector:
This selector is tied to the “Y Motor” choice described above. It is the maximum resolution that vectors will be drawn at, which will also have an effect on which raster resolutions are available (described later).
If you click this drop down list you will see many choices:
Whenever you choose a Y motor, these choices will change to reflect the capabilities of that Y motor. Also, the default will always be the first selection which is under 1300.
As you can see, the above is defaulted to 1162 dpi. Vector resolutions 1300 and under should be good for most applications. However, if you are taking on jobs with VERY small detail, stuff that needs to be read under a loupe for example, you might want to choose a higher max value for vectors here. NOTE: our research has shown that MOST computers can handle upping this max resolution, even in this example to 4649. However, we have encountered a FEW systems which choked and hung up on such great resolution. Be very careful with this. The default under 1300 should suffice for the vast majority of circumstances. Only try upping this value is you genuinely have a need to do so. As mentioned, you could possibly bog your system down incredibly and even lock up your computer and need a reboot.
On the inverse, we have also seen at least one computer that was so old, so little RAM memory that the user had to lower this value down to a max resolution of 664. This should be rare.
At the bottom of the dialog you should see the remaining controls:
“New Table” you already know. It is how you create all your new laser tables.
“Delete Table” will delete the currently selected table, so you can eliminate useless entries and keep your table selection list nice and tidy.
After you make ANY changes in this dialog, if you desire to keep those changes, you MUST close the dialog by clicking the “OK” button. If you click the “Cancel” button none of your changes will take effect. The “Cancel” button is a safe way to back out of committing to any changes you were fooling around with. If you get to the point where you might be worried you have selected or set wrong settings, simply choose the “Cancel” button and the changes will be discarded.
Once you click the “OK” button and go back to the main LSR dialog, you should notice the following:
See that “My New Laser Table” has been added to your table selection drop list. Once you have your many Xenetech Lasers set up, this drop list is the quickest way to choose which laser the printed job will be optimized for and then sent to.
Under the table selection drop list you will find the “Job Settings” group box:
The first control in this section is the “Job Type” selector. If you click the down arrow you will see the following choices:
Each choice will do as advertised on a page by page basis. So if you have a 3 page document that you are printing:
Raster Only – print page 1 raster, page 2 raster, page 3 raster, ignoring all vectors.
Vector Only – print page 1 vector, page 2 vector, page 3 vector, ignoring all raster.
Raster then Vector – print page 1 raster, page 1 vector, page 2 raster, page 2 vector,
page 3 raster, page 3 vector.
Vector then Raster – print page 1 vector, page 1 raster, page 2 vector, page 2 raster,
page 3 vector, page 3 raster.
Under the Job Type drop list you will see the “Plate Width” and “Plate Height” boxes.
This is where you would match the values in your “Page Width” and “Page Height” boxes from your printing application.
Under the Plate Width and Plate Height boxes you will see the “Cylindrical Mode” selector, but we will skip this for the moment and come back to it.
Under the Cylindrical Mode selector you will see the “Rotation” selector. If you click the down arrow you will see the following choices:
Normal – the pages will be printed to the laser in the same orientation as laid out in the
Sideways Left – the pages will be rotated left before printing to the laser.
Sideways Right – the pages will be rotated right before printing to the laser.
Upside Down – the pages will be rotated upside down before printing to the laser.
Now we come back to the “Cylindrical Mode” selector. Clicking the down arrow will reveal the following choices:
Off – Cylindrical mode is not being used.
Circumference – the appropriate Plate Width or Plate Height will be interpreted as a
circumference wrapping around the cylindrical object.
Diameter – the appropriate Plate Width or Plate Height will be interpreted as the
diameter of the cylindrical object.
Radius – the appropriate Plate Width of Plate Height will interpreted as the
radius of the cylindrical object.
For example, if you choose “Circumference” notice that the Plate Height label changes:
This clues you that you are no longer dealing with a “Plate Height” but now you are dealing with a “Circumference”. This is the axis that will wrap around the object. You can also use this box as an easy way to figure out the page size to enter in your printing application. Suppose that you measure your cylindrical object and you know that the width is 8.5 inches, and that the diameter is 3.501 inches. Simply choose “Diameter” as your cylindrical mode and enter the values as below:
Then after you have entered the diameter you can switch back to “circumference” mode to find out what the actual page height would be:
Now that you see that the equivalent circumference is 11 inches, you can use that as the page height in your printing application. This also informs you that the page height in the printing application is the axis that will wrap around the cylindrical object.
For another example, let us suppose that you have a cylindrical object which can only go in the cylindrical attachment at a rotated angle other than it would be viewed or read, like a wine bottle. You know that you in order to lay out the graphics in the printing application viewed as it would be read, you will need to rotate the job sideways right. It is best to accomplish this rotation in the print driver rather than in the printing application. Let us assume a wine bottle that while standing on a table top would be 12 inches tall, with a “printable graphics area” of 7 inches height which starts at 2 inches from the bottom of the bottle. We also know that the diameter of the bottle is 2.75 inches. Since we know that the job will have to be rotated sideways right, start by setting the correct rotation:
Notice that once you choose “Sideways Right” for rotation, and Cylindrical Mode is set on “Diameter”, the driver re-labeled “Plate Width” as “Diameter”. This lets you know that in the printing application layout that the page width will be the axis that wraps around the cylindrical object, which is of course true for a wine bottle.
Enter in our example values of 7 inch height and 2.75 inch diameter:
Now switch Cylindrical Mode from diameter to circumference:
Notice that after doing so the “Diameter” field (which is plate width) changed to circumference and the value changed to 8.639 inches. Now you have all the information you need to correctly size and layout your graphics. In the printing application simply set your Page Width to 8.639 inches and your page height to 7 inches. This will give you a 7 inch tall “page” that wraps completely around a 2.75 inch diameter bottle. Layout all your text and graphics in real size, viewable as the bottle would be seen resting on a table top.
When the job finally is printed to the laser, the print driver will rotate the job sideways right, thus enabling the layout’s 8.639 width (2.75 diameter) to be changed to the correct size which will wrap around the wine bottle.
Under the Rotation selector you will find 3 check boxes:
These give you some extra leverage/options over the way jobs are sent to your laser.
Mirror / Reverse – this option will flip the horizontal axis of the job so that it is mirrored.
You would use this to print on the reverse side of materials, etc.
Auto Start – this sends a command to the laser to start lasering the job immediately upon
download and not wait for the user to press the “Play” button.
Pause Between Raster / Vector – for jobs containing both raster and vector information,
this causes the laser to return to home position and pause between raster and vector. This gives you the opportunity to mask material, treat a surface, etc. Pressing play on the laser resumes the job and engraves the next section. For example:
Page 1 raster
Go home and pause – mask material, etc.
Page 1 vector
Go home and pause – change material for second plate/page.
Page 2 raster
Go home and pause – mask material, etc.
Page 2 vector
Go home and end job. Machine stops and is ready for next job send.
This above example assumes “Raster then Vector” job Type. But will also work if “Vector then Raster” is chosen. NOTE: when the “Pause Between Raster / Vector” switch is not on, each page’s raster will be immediately followed by that pages vector, or each page’s vector will be followed by that pages raster. When this switch is not on, the only time the machine will go home and pause is at the start of each separate page (allowing you to put down a new piece of material) and when the job ends.
Under the Job Settings group box you will find the “Origins” group box:
Clicking the down arrow on the “X Origin” selector reveals the following drop list:
Left – the home position on your laser will be matched to the left edge of the layout page.
Center – the home position on your laser will be matched to the center of the layout’s page width.
Right – the home position of the laser will be matched to the right edge of the layout page.
Clicking the down arrow on the “Y Origin” reveals the following choices:
Top – the home position of the laser will be matched to the top of the layout page.
Center – the home position of the laser will be matched to the center of the layout’s page height.
Bottom – the home position of the laser will be matched to the bottom of the layout page.
The “X offset” gives you the capability of having the entire job moved by a user selected amount in either the right or left direction. A positive value will move the job by the specified amount to the right. A negative value will move the job by the specified amount to the left.
The “Y Offset” gives you the ability of having the entire job moved by a user selected amount in either the up or down direction. A positive value will move the job by the specified amount in the down direction. A negative value will move the job by the specified amount in the up direction.
For example, suppose you are doing tests and experiments on a new piece of material, and you are trying to determine power and speed settings. You need to run the job over and over to finally arrive at a good selection. Let us assume that your job is a plate that is 4 inches wide and 3 inches high, a 4x3 plate. Your test material is a sheet that covers the table at 36 inches wide by 24 inches high, a 36x24.
In your printing application, create your 4x3 page size and layout your graphics. Send the job to the laser with the X and Y offsets both at the default of 0, and the job will engrave in the upper left hand corner of the 36x24 material.
Judge the engraving, make an evaluation, and then change your power and/or speed. Send the same job again, but this time increase the X offset by 4 inches, the width of the plate. This will send the job over and it will engrave exactly to the right of the first attempt. Now they are side by side and you can evaluate the differences. Keep adjusting the power and/or speed, and increasing the X offset by another 4 inches, the width of the page. Each time the job will engrave to the right of the previous job, until you have sent the test job over 9 times, which gives you 9 x 4 inches covering the entire 36 inch width of your test material. If you need to keep testing, simply bring the X offset back to 0 but this time adjust the Y offset by the height of the page, 3 inches. Now you will have a plate engrave immediately under the first plate. Leave the Y offset at 3 inches and keep increasing the X offset by the width of the plate and complete another row of 9 tests. This is an easy way to test a simple job over a large piece of material without having to “move” the job layout over and down each time in the printing application. It is much easier to do this using the print drivers X and Y offset capability.
To the right of the Job Settings group you will find the “Raster Settings” group:
At the top of this section you see the raster speed and power settings:
Raster Speed – this is the speed that your X motor will do a quick left-right/right-left
motion to draw raster images. Inches per second is the default unit.
Raster Power – this is the amount of power the laser applies to the raster image.
This is expressed as a percentage of total tube wattage.
Next, you will see the “Resolution” selector. Clicking the down arrow will reveal all the available resolutions expressed as dots per inch, or DPI:
All of the listed available resolutions are directly tied to the currently chosen “Y Motor” for the currently selected laser table. If the numbers look odd, it is because they represent “True” resolution. You can be sure that if you select 581 dpi, you will get exactly 581 raster scan lines per inch, each spaced equally apart with no rounding errors. This ensures very optimized images for your system with very accurate image gradation.
Notice that one of the numbers in the list has five “minus” signs like this “-----“:
This is to let you know that all of the remaining resolutions lower than this dpi will take the same amount of time to run as this dpi. So looking at the current selection list:
Let us assume that a job at 1162 dpi will take 12 minutes to run. The relative run times would be close to the following:
1162 dpi = 12 minutes
581 dpi = 6 minutes
387 dpi = 4 minutes -----
193 dpi = 4 minutes
129 dpi = 4 minutes
96 dpi = 4 minutes
Under the resolution selector box you will find the “Direction” selector box. Clicking the down arrow reveals the following choices:
Top Down – all raster images will engrave going to top down.
Bottom Up – all raster images will engrave going bottom up.
Many people find that engraving an image bottom up helps to prevent smoke and debris from being dragged across the just burned, and thus hot and sticky, portions of the image.
Under the Direction selector box you will find the “Dithering” selector box. Clicking the down arrow reveals the following choices:
The default is “Grayscale”, which means that no dithering will be applied to the raster images. There is a standard selection of dithering options to choose for the correct application. Dithering turns a grayscale image into just two tones, white and black, which directly relate to the laser at full blast or completely off. Dithered images use complex patterns of black and white dots to create the “illusion” of grayscale. This is the easiest way to get “grayscale” images on materials which would normally look like a dark blob.
Finally the last item in the Raster Settings group is the “Rubber Stamp” control:
Rubber Stamp is an advanced feature and will be explained later in this document as a separate appendix.
To the right of the Raster Settings group you will find the “Vector Settings” group:
Vector Speed – this is the speed that vectors will be drawn by the laser. Expressed as
inches per second.
Vector Power – this is the laser power that will be applied to vectors. Expressed as a
percentage of total tube wattage.
Vector PPI – “Pulses Per Inch”. This is the amount of pulses per inch that vectors will
be broken into. More on this below.
Under these you will find the “Vector Mode” selector box. Clicking the down arrow reveals the following choices:
Use Vector PPI – this mode will cause the vector to “broken” into a stream of pulses. The number of pulses is indicated in the above “Vector PPI” text box.
Beam Constantly On – this mode will not pulse the laser, but will allow the laser to remain constantly on while drawing vectors. This mode is good for cutting out shapes in thick materials like acrylic and wood.
Diamond Drag – this mode is only good for Xenetech DUO lasers. This will tell the DUO to draw vectors using the diamond drag tool instead of firing the laser tube.
That brings Part One of this tour to an end. Stay tuned for Part Two, where we will explain the options in the “Advanced” dialog, Focus options, Global Environment variables, and so much more!