There is a lot of information (and misinformation) floating around about LightBurn's camera feature as they relate to Thunder Laser machines. There are also a lot of questions about what camera works with what laser.
We are going to aggregate the Thunder specific LightBurn camera function resources here and dig in to some of the technical aspects of the systems.
We will even share the LightBurn Camera models we chose for each of our machines and what comes in a ThunderCAM kit as well as discuss why our machine specific ThunderCAM kits cost more than an OEM Lightburn or other generic USB cameras.
The LightBurn camera function was released in LightBurn v0.6.05 on April 1, 2018. This feature allows you to use a USB webcam to aid in placement and alignment of work, tracing of captured images, etc… The best place for info for LightBurn and the camera function is through LightBurn’s Official Forum and Documentation. This function is totally independent of the laser and will work on any laser that supports LightBurn software.
One of the most frequently asked questions is “What camera do I need for my laser?” We will address that question in this article and provide some info and resources on selecting the right camera for your laser engraver.
To calculate the correct camera you will need to know the widest measurement of your bed and the distance from the bed to the mounting location of your camera. There is a calculator available to recommend the correct field of view within the LightBurn help menu and lots of discussion on their forum that is also linked in the help menu.
These are the LightBurn cameras we choose for our ThunderCAM kits. All of these cams are Windows, Mac, and Linux compatible.
The ThunderCAM kits come with an OEM LightBurn camera, a Thunder Blue OEM LightBurn mount, a USB cable, a USB adapter, and a few wire management bits.
Okay, since we are discussing ThunderCAM and the LightBurn cameras we select, lets touch on why The ThunderCAM kits cost more than an OEM LightBurn camera. We spent many hours on R&D on these camera kits and refined them until we had a kit that was simple, reliable, well documented, virtually plug-and-play with our lasers, and supported by Thunder Laser USA.
If it's not a ThunderCAM kit you could have any number of different adapters, configurations, etc... and without having tested your particular configuration it would be beyond our scope.
At the end of the day you need to have a USB camera that can view the entire bed and plug it into the computer you will be running the laser on. There are many pathways to get where you need to go and its generic USB2.0 stuff. It can be as simple as drilling a hole in the laser for the wire to come through.
All of the information and resources you need to select, install, set up, and operate a camera for you laser is right here and in LightBurn's resources.
So we will answer the question of "Why spend that much on a ThunderCAM?" this way:
You paid more than double that of a cheap eBay clone to get a Thunder Laser because you wanted the quality and reliability but, more importantly, you wanted the awesome service and support resources as well as the experience and innovation that drives that support. And there is no figuring out what to get.
That's what you get with a ThunderCAM kit. You get the kit and follow the directions so you can be up and running in no time. If you run into trouble with your ThunderCAM you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to generate a support ticket and we will be happy to assist.
Here are some important things to remember:
- This is totally a function of the host computer, LightBurn software, and camera. The camera does not directly interface with the laser or DSP
- The USB cable carries a HUGE amount of data and can only be so long, so any extender used should be an active amplifying USB 2.0 rated cable or twisted pair extenders that use modems in each dongle. Using a passive extension will not work. here is one solution if you need it longer: https://www.amazon.com/Monoprice-Extender-CAT5E-Connection-150ft/dp/B003L14ZTC/
- 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: The Basics Of Focus