ThunderCAM Installation Manual

ThunderCAM Installation Manual

Preface: This article covers the installation and setup of a ThunderCam on your Thunder Laser Machine and Computer

Legacy information:

Quick Start Video:

Installation Overview

Calibration and Alignment

How To Use *coming soon*

Complete Guide:

Its a good idea to tape it up first and view it before you stick it down permanently. The Cable connector on the camera should be to the left and you should be able to read the Thunder Logo on the mount.  If you happen to get it upside down  (many do) that's no big deal, just unscrew the knobs and flip the camera housing around on the base. And, along those lines, leave the cable ties loose enough to feed the cable back through in case you need to. You can snug everything up once you are satisfied with the installation.
Here are some important things to remember:

  • Many systems use protocols to block the camera from being used by non native software i.e. virus software and system security measures may need to be turned off. See the bottom of this article for more on this for both Windows and MAC OS
  • On newer Mac OS systems you will have to allow LightBurn access to your camera. System Preferences/ Security & Privacy Select Camera and check LightBurn. 
  • The camera function is tied to the computer, LightBurn software, and camera itself. The camera does not directly interface with the laser or DSP that controls the laser. The laser is oblivious to the cameras existence
  • The focal point of the substrate in relation to the camera must not change or else it will be necessary to recalibrate the camera to the bed. The easiest way to facilitate this is by autofocusing when doing cam alignment and use autofocus whenever you use the camera. you can autofocus the material then adjust the focus manually from there if you need to so you don't move the substrate from the autofocus point
  • It is important to capture an image that goes a little bit beyond the extents of the bed
  • On Nova 51 and 63 machines the bed extends past the hinge line so the rearmost portion of the bed will not be in play but the camera can still be used with the visible areas
  • The Mini 60 has a fixed bed which may affect calibration because the focal point will change with material thickness as there is not movable Z axis in a Mini60. See here: Basics Of Focus
  • Check the Image Focus: ThunderCam Focusing the Image and Proper Setup
  • For Mac Computers, avoid using a non-powered USB hub.

What is in the Box:

Here is what you should receive with your ThunderCam Kit

  1. 8mp Camera installed in Camera Mount
  2. ThunderCam Camera Cable
  3. 16Ft Active Repeater Cable
  4. Cable Port Adapter
  5. Mounting Accessories - Zip Ties and Sticky Backs

Cables included in the kit:
ThunderCam Camera Cable
Active Repeater Cable


Where to mount the camera:

The camera should be mounted to the lid, centrally located above the bed. The camera USB cable can be routed through the glass retaining clips across and down the right side of the lid then through the existing grommet that accesses the main electronics bay. Some wire ties and adhesive mounting pads are included to help secure the cabling.



      Clean the area you plan to mount with some good glass cleaner. Remove the Red Tape off the back of the mount and apply the mount to the glass, press             firmly. The Cable connector should be to the left.


Remove red backing off of Tape
W120 Mounted on a Nova 51

 How to route Cable from the Camera to your Computer:

Route the ThunderCam cable on the lid down to the Control Cabinet:
Route the cable and use the sticky backs and zip ties to keep the cable clear of the moving parts. Start from the Camera End down to the control cabinet. Depending on your model. you may be able to run the small white end of the ThunderCam Camera cable through it to aid in the routing. See the pictures below as an example

Routing at Camera
Routing Down the Lid

Routing in the Right Side Behind Motor
Routing in the Right Side to Control Cabinet

 Next, we will install the Active Repeater Cable into the control cabinet and connect it to the ThunderCam Camera Cable

Remove the Desired Port from the machine with Allen Wrench:

Assemble Cable Port Adapter onto Cable:
Note that the TOP of the ring should align with the opening on the port adapter. The ring will not fit if it is flipped around.

Insert Cable Through Port Opening:

Tighten Cable Port block with the original black screws:

Backside of Cable Port Block:

Attach ThunderCam Cable to Monoprice Active Repeater Cable:

About 15' Of cable Ready to Run Direct To your Computer:

Calibration and Alignment in Lightburn in 8 Easy Steps:

1. Enable the Camera Window In Lightburn:
      In Lightburn, go to the upper tab and select Window and then in the drop down list, select Camera Control

Enable Camera Control Window
Camera Control Window

2. Select your Camera
      Once you have the camera plugged into your computer, it should appear in the dropdown list. If you are having issues with your computer recognizing the camera, please see the Troubleshooting steps below.  Make sure no other window, browser, or other instance of Lightburn is open that is using the camera.

3. Adjust the Angle of the camera
      With the lid open, you want to adjust the angle of the camera so that the bed looks like a rectangle as best you can. And then tighten the knobs

Before: Rectangle material has slanted sides
After: Rectangle material is as close to 90 degree sides as possible

4. Focus the Material:

      In order for the camera to be the most accurate it can be, the surface of the material you are cutting and engraving must be the same distance from the lens each time. This can be accomplished with Auto-Focus or even Manual Focus if you know how.

For Auto Focus, place your material on the honeycomb bed and pin down as needed. Then use the function in Lightburn on the Move tab to start an auto focus.

            For manually focusing, you need to manually set the 6mm nominal gap from the tip of your 2" laser head that is fully inserted into the receiver.
            How to Manually Focus.

5. Focus the Camera Image:
Slowly turn the lens of the ThunderCam to adjust the focus. If the image is getting more blurry, you are twisting the wrong direction. You should only have to do this once for the initial install. You might tweak the focus during the calibration stage. Once calibrated, leave the focus alone.

Note that if you adjust the position or focus after calibration, you should re-calibrate your camera.

6.  Applying a Preset (AKA skip the Dots):
      This is the part where you can use a preset in Lightburn to skip the dot test. It is faster to go this route. If you want the most accuracy out of the camera, the dot test may be required.

On the Camera window, Right Click the preview image and select Calibrate Camera Lens

      Select the Preset for your Camera (Table Below) and click Next:


Lens Type
Use Preset:
Nova 24
8-MP-W-85 (or 95)
Nova 35
8-MP-W-85 (or 95)
Nova 51
8-MP-W-120 (or 110)
Nova 63
8-MP-W-120 (or 110)
Odin 22
8-MP-W-85 (or 95)
Odin 32
8-MP-W-85 (or 95)

7. Calibration (AKA Burning and Clicking):

            From the previous step, you should now be at this window. Click the Align Camera button.


            Select your camera if not already selected and press Next.
      Suggested Settings:
      Each machine and material will be a bit different. If you are using Cardboard vs MDF for example, you will need to adjust accordingly. For the engrave portion of the calibration, it does not really add to the function but we must go through the steps since Lightburn is programmed to.  We recommend setting the engrave output to 500mms with a low  power that does not even mark the surface. The score line is adequate.

Line Speed(mms)/Line Power(%) Suggestions
Tube Wattage

Recommended Minimum Scale Size: (300% scale is a 2ft tall Pattern)
Minimum Scale
Nova 24
Nova 35
Nova 51
Nova 63
Odin 22
Odin 32

      In Order to pick which value you will use for scale, you will need to frame the test pattern and adjust. Each time you frame, Lightburn will re-draw the pattern and frame it on the machine. Make sure your material is place to where the frame is completely on the material. Set the Scale size in order to maximize the value and use the most of the material as possible.

      In this example, we are using a Nova-51 130W tube on a 2'x4' piece of wood. Once you have the Frame size right for the material you are using and the machine is ready to run, click the Start button on the Camera Alignment Wizard to begin burning the pattern

Once the pattern is burned and the machine is done. Click the Next button on the Camera Alignment Wizard.

Press the button marked by the number 1 on the screenshot below to send the laser to the Top Left corner, then open the lid of the machine and press the button marked by the number 2, Capture Image, to capture a still image of the burned material. Then click Next.

As you start to zoom in to click the center of the circles, if you want to adjust the focus of the camera, now is the time to do it. If you do adjust the focus, you need to re-capture the image. Press the Back button and re-capture after re-focusing. As long as you do not move the material, we can re-use the settings and capture images until we are happy with the calibration.

Zoom into each corner 1 at a time and in order, do your best to Click the center of the cross hairs. Once done with all 4 corners, click the Next button.

What it should look like if you zoom back out:

Success.....for now. Lets still verify the calibration in the next step. Click Finish.

 8. Verification of Calibration:

Two ways to check the calibration.

Method 1.
Use the Geo Locator Pin in Lightburn to move the laser head where you click (May need to turn off "snap to grid" in your settings, Edit>settings). Click the Icon that looks like a Map Pin and then click on the Overlay Image where you want the laser to go. The center of the 1,2,3 and 4 circles is a good start.

1.Edit>Settings, Turn off Snap to Grid
2. Enable "show Last Position" in Laser Window

3. Click Map Pin Icon to enable Location Control
4. Zoom in and Click on the center of the 4 Circles and Check with Red Dot


Method 2:

Draw a rectangle that is centered in your machines workspace. For a 300% scale, the square is 2.5". Score the square and then do an "Update Overlay". The new overlay with the scored square should line up with the square you drew.

Bed Centers By Machine:
If you set the machine up in mm with the proper dimensions, you can refernce this table
X (mm)
Y (mm)
Nova 35
Nova 51
Nova 63
Odin 22
Odin 32

Draw a Square in Center Of the bed
Score the Square and Update the Overlay

If it is way off, you should go back through the calibration procedure. This setup gets a passing grade. 

How to Use the ThunderCam After it is Calibrated:

Step 1: Set Focus:
 Open the lid and place your material. You will then want to focus so that the distance from the camera to the surface of your material is the same every time. You can use manual or auto focus to achieve this.

Step 2: Update Overlay:
 Select the proper camera (Make sure no other instances of Lightburn are also trying to use the camera) and click the Update Overlay button. Note that Lightburn will automatically change the "Start From" to absolute coordinates so when you are not using the camera, you may need to set it back to your preferred "Start From"
Lightburn Artboard before Updating Overlay
Lightburn Camera Window
Lightburn Artboard After Updating Overlay

Step 3:Placing Artwork and Origin:

Once you have the Overlay Updated, you can move your artwork to where you want it to cut and engrave.

Before Moving Artwork
After Moving Artwork
Notice that "Start From" is in Absolute Coordinates Automatically

Step 4: Send, Frame and Start

Send the job down like a normal job, frame the job to verify the position is correct and then start the job from the machines Start\Pause button.

Camera Window Functions Explained:

Camera: Drop down to select the proper camera
Update Overlay: Button to tell Lightburn to take a snapshot of the machine bed
Trace: Lightburn takes a snapshot and opens up the Trace Window for the captured image
Save Settings: Save the Settings you selected
Auto Exposure: Adjust the exposure of the image, automatically
Auto Brightness: Adjusts the brightness of the image, automatically
Fade: Makes the overlay image not as vibrant on the artboard
Show: Makes the overlay turn off
Width, Height, X Shift, Y Shift: Allows you to shift and scale the overlay as needed
For more information, please see the Lightburn Documentation.


The following sections will discuss various issue you may encounter when trying to connect the ThunderCam to your computer.

Is your Windows or Mac Operating System blocking the camera?

For Windows 11:

Type in "camera privacy" in the search Icon on your taskbar and check that Desktop Apps are allowed to use the camera.

For Older Mac OS:

Newer Versions of Mac OS:

System settings>Privacy&security>Camera

Then Enable Access:

Windows 7 Drivers:

If you are running Windows 7, you may need to install additional drivers.

Lightburn Crashes when using USB Hub on MAC When you click the Start Button:

If Lightburn crashes as you click the start button, lets do two things for your MAC setup

1. Replace the non Powered USB hub with a Powered Version. 
2. Connect to the controller with the Ethernet Cable. You will likely need to get a USB to ethernet adapter

Checking Basic ThunderCam Camera Function:

You can use a webcam test website to output data about your camera.
          Pick your camera from the Drop Down List:
            The list has generic names so you may have to guess the right one and then re-pick if it is the wrong image

You may have to allow the website permission to use the Camera:

Focus on the Webcam MegaPixels and Webcam Resolution Fields and compare
W85 for Nova 24 and Nova 35
W120 for Nova 51 and Nova 63

Additional Resources: