I started using laser cutters a decade ago and was a little surprised at the primitive controlling software. Our big-money, brand-name laser cutter came with a printer driver for Windows and nothing else. We did all our work in Illustrator, saved a copy to a flash drive, copied it to the PC in front of the laser cutter, imported it in to Corel Draw, then accessed the laser cutter through a printer driver. Want to make a change? Go back to Illustrator to make the change then follow the path back to the laser cutter.
Ten years later we have a flood of inexpensive laser cutters from China and open source projects like the Lasersaur but the software? Not showing ten years of progress and UI development. The Lasersaur UI is better than a printer driver, and as it’s open source, we’ve been able to add features as needed. (I have a tree with more DXF support.) In general, the usability features we need in hacker spaces, schools, and tech labs still don’t exist, forget advanced features for production facilities.
In the past ten years I’ve also learned quite a bit about the design process, knowledge that fits well with my experience in software and product development at startups. I’m also a point in my career where I can spend some spare time giving back to the open-source software and hardware worlds, and I’ve decided to do that with a new tool for laser cutters and other x/y tables.
It’s called “warifuru” (割振る) because of some of the desired features and because I needed a name for a tree better than “the laser cutter project”.
The next few entries on this topic will be on users, desired features, and some skethes. As soon as warifuru can load and cut a DXF file on my lasersaur I’ll open the tree to the public.