LightBurn is a powerful layout, editing, and control software for your laser cutter. Constantly being improved by the LightBurn developers with the aid of its community and users, it is an ever-evolving tool to aid your CNC projects. Smoke & Mirrors is the official distributor for LightBurn products in the United Kingdom, so find us if you have any questions!
Being a versatile creative myself, I love to use LightBurn because it integrates seamlessly with my general workflow of preparing props for art pieces, prototypes, models or even accessories to go well with different material media (such as polymer clay figures with accessories made with thin sheets of wood to serve as a base for sculpting an element). My step-by-step processes are really fast-paced when am working on projects, therefore I expect the hardware and the software to pick up the same speed. Starting off from vector files? LightBurn can process even the proprietary .AI fileformat without a problem aside more open-source formats, handles files generated by Inkscape seamlessly and other more complex CAD formats such as .DXF. Straight-up wanting to engrave an image or a photo into the workpiece? The software offers a wide range of image processing features (such as detailed halftone, newsprint and many more texture) which look beautiful once engraved. The software offers an extensive list of functions and commands that allow designing within LightBurn a breeze, creating arrays, text editing, serial numbering, clean (and colour-coded!) layer organisation, and so much more. Check out this video from LaserLivestream if you would like to see more of these in action!
I asked Dominic Morrow, the lead person of Smoke & Mirrors what he thinks about LightBurn software compared to other software he got experience with from the past. Aside mending creatives' CO2 machines in the United Kingdom, he is well-versed in to setting up software and firmware that go with these machines from the ground-up as well!
Let's get to the questions!
What software have you been using for laser cutting in the past?
I’ve used a lot of different software, mostly LaserCut, NewlyDraw and RDWorks. More recently I’ve used free programs like LaserGRBL for diode engravers and a couple of others that aren’t worth mentioning.
What were their advantages?
The main advantages of these software was that they came free with or were the only workable software for the laser cutters I was using, servicing and selling. To be fair to NewlyDraw it had some (possibly accidentally) superior grayscale engraving capabilities. LaserCut is so simple it presented a suitable easy-to-use interface that worked, mostly.
What limitations and challenges did they have?
Some of the older softwares like NewlyDraw and LaserCut need a USB dongle to be present for encryption, it's how the writers of the software were protecting their intellectual property. This made it so only their software can work with that laser cutters hardware. Newer hardware and software from Leetro, the makers of LaserCut didn’t really seem to work at all and all these older systems struggle with newer versions of Windows.
RDWorks on the other hand was made for the Ruida controllers but doesn’t require a dongle but I find the interface very ugly and fussy.
When did you switch to LightBurn?
I’ve been onboard with LightBurn since about late 2017. I met Oz and Ray at Maker Faire a few times and liked very much what they were doing. I was able to configure machines using LightBurn very quickly using the “find my laser” function, and found this especially useful for messing around with Arduino based controllers for smaller diode lasers and then later used it on machines with both Ruida and Trocen Anywells controllers. I’m now 100% LightBurn.
What made you do this change?
It wasn’t a hard decision to make. As soon as I downloaded the free trial I knew it was something the laser industry had been waiting for. Connecting it so quickly to a Ruida based laser cutter was great, and its clean intuitive modern interface is awesome. Furthermore, the development team for LightBurn are real, accessible people who are makers too. LightBurn is now the industry standard for CO2 laser cutters of the sort I work with. One by one I’ve watched competitors switch to LightBurn, though I’ve also had conversations with them where they swore that it wasn’t for them.
Which features do you think are a gamechanger with LightBurn Software?
I’ve been working with CO2 lasers for about 10 years now, and I’ve customers in every imaginable type of creative industry. LightBurn is feature packed, from the superb node and array tools, to QR code making and working with CSV data. What is more, you can request features (Vote for or suggest feature additions helping us prioritize our development efforts: https://lightburn.fider.io/ ) and the LightBurn development team will consider adding them in. They’ve been working on integrations with nesting tools as well as trying to develop the software to work with fiber lasers and knife plotters like the Silhouette Studio and CriCut.
Can you tell me about the LightBurn Camera?
The camera tools have a nice “Wow” factor to them that I very much enjoy showing off to customers for the first time. If you are a very visual person, and lots of creative people are, the ability to place drawings on the virtual workbed in LightBurn and have that drawing positioned right on the material, can be a game changer. Add in the tracing tools and the LightBurn camera gives you a whole new tool kit, opening up possibilities for makers to do new things with waste materials and limited space.
If you have a laser cutter and need some help to identify if your existing controller works with LightBurn, you can use this handy controller spotting guide:
We specialise in overhauling and upgrading CO2 equipment to work with LightBurn and would be happy to give a quotation for fitting a suitable controller or camera system to your existing CO2 laser cutter.