Laser system technology continues to expand, and Trotecs Speedy
II laser system is the embodiment of many of the latest hardware and software
designs available today. Designed and manufactured in Wels, Austria by
Trotec, the Speedy II system completely integrates production software
into the laser system operation for a complete production package.
long ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Trotec factory in Wels, Austria
and experienced first hand the quality and design that goes into each
Trotec product. Their very modern facilities are packed with the latest
CAD design technology and qualified engineering and development staff.
Each person focused on the performance and reliability of the companys
Trotec products have a very European feel that blends the ease of operation
with simple design for a laser system concept like no other. While a laser
engraving system doesnt have much in common with a high end European
automobile, I get the feeling that some of the same engineering and attention
to detail went into the Trotec lasers design and manufacture.
Speedy II comes with a choice of laser wattage beginning with the 25-watt
at $19,500 U.S. The most popular product sold in the U.S. is the 60-watt
laserthe unit used in this review. The accompanying chart provides
some of the systems specifications and details.
leader in the rubber stamp industry worldwide, Trodat developed laser
engraving systems under the Trotec name as early as 1994. Although little
known in North America, Trotec has become a value-based leader by developing
and manufacturing laser systems. The recent splash into the North American
market with proven laser system design and technology has proven to be
very successful. Based in Ypsilanti, MI, Trotec USA stocks parts and accessories
as well as providing service and technical support to the full range of
laser systems they manufacture. An extensive regional sales and support
team of distributors provides local installation for Trotec owners.
Trotec commitment to customer support has been impressive and this company
continues to introduce new and innovative products for laser processing
such as their Galvanometer-based systems, tabletop systems and even a
very large format, high-power system named the Professional. Trotec customers
cover a wide range and include Mercedes Benz, BMW, high volume rubber
stamp manufacturers and trophy and engraving shops worldwide.
Speedy II System Overview
if design engineers stepped back to look at the complete sequence which
encompasses the design and layout progression along with engraving and
cutting. This is exactly what Trotec has done to create not just a well
designed and built laser system, but an integrated laser production system.
integrated system concept includes using standard layout software like
CorelDRAW to create a design for engraving and cutting. The completed
job is then sent to and positioned in the Trotec Advanced Driver Logic
software which stores it as a production job. The production job is then
transferred to the laser system along with power, speed, resolution and
quantity needed for the laser to complete the job. Here is where things
get interesting. The AD-Logic software is a bidirectional interface. This
means the laser and host computers are constantly communicating, back
and forth, during the whole process. In addition to actually being able
to monitor the exact engraving or cutting operation in real time, the
bidirectional interface allows for precise positioning of graphics for
engraving using the laser pointer which provides X, Y coordinates instantly
to the manager.
is a huge advancement. For the first time we can now have a "conversation"
with our laser about where and how we want the job to run rather than
just sending the job to the laser as if it were a printer. This technology
provides a whole host of advantages as I will detail a little later.
the Speedy II is more than a software leap forward. Onboard the laser
system is the latest in mechanical and laser design. A blindingly fast
motion system combined with a high-speed laser tube make for an integrated
design that is not only fast but produces sharp, crisp engraving.
and rigidity have long been Trotec features and the Speedy II is built
to last. Rigid, welded steel construction of the cabinet and protected
motion system components are a few of the points that make this laser
system a long-term investment. One acid test of the machines rigidity
showed up as I ran the machine at or near its top speed and the engraved
detail was virtually perfect.
System Start Up
start of our test began when the crated laser was delivered to our door.
This was a good-sized crate that required a fork lift. Opening the crate
revealed the Speedy II nicely packaged and in one piece. Included in the
shipping crate was the laser system with its stand disassembled, rotary
attachment, cutting table, computer cables, software/manuals CD and a
tool kit. When was the last time you ever saw a proper tool kit arrive
with a piece of equipment? This attention to detail was going to be a
common occurrence as I continued the testing of the Speedy II system.
the help of the tool kit and some clear instruction diagrams, I easily
assembled the stand. The laser was hoisted on top of the stand and bolted
together to create a very rigid-feeling system.
next step was hooking up the cables that came in the crate. This consisted
of simply attaching a serial cable from my computer to the laser. Next,
I installed the software, which involved placing the software CD in my
computers CD drive and utilizing the install wizard to automatically
guide the installation. During this operation ports were configured automatically
and the bidirectional communication to the laser was confirmed.
going too much further, I wanted to browse the manual to get acquainted
with some of the features. Two manuals are included on the software CD.
One is for the laser system and the other covers the software. These were
not wimpy little manuals. The software manual is 52 pages and the system
manual is 82 pages. More impressive was the fact that the information
in the manual was in clear English with photos and diagrams. Even basic
wiring diagrams with troubleshooting tips were included for that inevitable
time when something may not work as designed by the Trotec engineers.
Kudos to Trotec for taking the time to produce such useful manuals. The
manuals are in PDF format and therefore can be easily printed to create
a hard copy manual.
A Look at the Hardware
first thing you notice about the Speedy II is that the laser system actually
looks like a modern office product. The sculpted top door opens easily
and offers full access to the large engraving area. Mechanical components
are noticeably absent in the engraving area. Motors, belts and gears are
out of harms way as designed by Trotecs Austrian engineers.
Lightweight alloy components are designed for durability and low-weight
for high speed engraving.
control panel (Fig. 2) is on the right side and features large, easy-to-read
buttons. One difference between this and other systems is that there is
no display panel for the job buffer. This is a great user convenience
because all of the print queuing and job control issues are handled by
the Manager Software on the host PC so the display on the panel is not
needed. This makes for a very simple and uncluttered control panel thats
easy to operate by large-fingered people like me.
the necessary controls are available on the panel for start, pause, repeat,
focus, exhaust fan, lights in the engraving table, system standby and
manual position of the engraving head for using of the red positioning
pointer. Display LEDs are available for indication that the laser
tube is firing, a job is available and ready to run and for the safety
switches on the top and front door.
two halogen lamps inside the engraving compartment are a nifty feature
that are very much appreciated. Its amazing how much easier exact
positioning becomes when you can see whats going on inside the laser
cabinet! Cleaning the laser also becomes easier and all around eye strain
is reduced as well. At first this seemed like a wiz bang feature but having
these lights made a big difference!
addition to the top door, the front door folds down and offers easy loading
of the engraving table. An open front door also makes for easy installation
of the accessories such as the cutting table. With the front door open,
the lack of drive components makes the area look simple and clean. The
gears, motors and drive shafts are safely hidden on the sides of the system.
These drive components are pretty beefy to work this substantial engraving
table up and down so fast and so smoothly.
for durability and flatness, the engraving table has a sandwich design
with a plastic center core and stainless steel top and bottom covering.
The entire unit is glued together using a granite block for optimum flatness.
The table is driven by three lead screws and is capable of handling up
to the rated 45 pounds of weight.
the side panels requires a tool from the tool kit (I love tools!) and
the steel panels are easily removed. Access to this area is not normally
required so the fact that a tool is required may actually keep staff from
fiddling around with the wires and components in this area. With the side
panels off, the precision-watch-like design of the mechanical and electronic
components is revealed. Everything is wide open and easy to see, making
servicing a breeze. The size of many of the motors seemed a bit of overkill
but they provide a lot of "oomph" and will definitely be around
a long time. Wiring is neatly and professionally labeled and harnessed,
adding to the clean and uncluttered design of the system. I am told that
about 50% of the components used in the Speedy II are made in the U.S.A.
including the steel reinforced drive belts. Why steel reinforced? Virtually
no belt stretching means virtually no adjustment over the life of the
attention to detail in the design and manufacture of the Speedy II is
very evident. The simple and durable engineering creates an engraving
platform built for production. The combination of electronics, mechanics
and laser source make for a very capable system that can be called industrial
strength in all ways.
Getting to Know the Software
you agree "change is good," then the Trotec software is great.
No doubt its different from other machines and seems unusual at
first glance. In many ways, how we control the laser has not changed in
ten or more yearsthat is not until now. Over time the perceived
complexity of the Advanced Driver Logic Software goes away and the usefulness
of its many features becomes evident.
core of the Trotec software is the AD-Logic Job Control which controls
the laser beam position and the units laser operating controls.
The other portion of the software is the AD-Logic Driver which applies
the power, speed and resolution values to each job.
split control concept allows many jobs to be created in one operation
and position and cutting details to be sent to the laser in another operation.
This is essentially a batch process concept that has been proven in industrial
manufacturing for many years. Need a job run in a hurry and you want to
bypass the batch process controls? No problem! The print driver software
has a Quick Print mode that shoots the job directly to the laser in a
more common method of laser engraving and cutting. However, its
great to be able to choose how and when to enter, download and run a variety
of jobseither one at a time using the Quick Print mode or using
the systems sophisticated batching capabilities.
run through the process and start by creating an engraving and cutting
layout in CorelDRAW or similar program. Upon completion of the layout
we print the job using the AD-Logic Printer Driver. The driver assigns
a job number and the job is entered into the Job Queue. The Job Queue
is a staging area for jobs ready to be positioned and sent to the laser.
Using the Job Control, one or several jobs can be combined and accurately
sequenced before sending them to the laser. Now that we have the basic
workflow concept, lets go into the many capabilities of each of
these software modules.
you like controls and fine tuning abilities, this driver software is for
you. Buttons and settings are easily readable making correct settings
one less thing to worry about. The Material Templates area is where speeds,
power, material thickness, pulse rate, number of passes and air assist
settings can be preset for each material. The Size Templates area of the
driver is where size templates for commonly used formats can be stored.
these two basic items preprogrammed, you can simply pick the material
and "page size" from the drop down menus in the main driver
screen. The main drive screen also has settings for the rotary attachment,
rubber stamp mode and halftoning options for photos and resolutions. Setting
up a complex cutting and engraving job has never been easier.
Job Control software provides many functions including operating all of
the lasers major functions, like starting a job or turning on the
exhaust fan. The main function of Job Control is to designate export position
information to the printing queue. Positioning the job can be done by
clicking and dragging it around the page or by entering the X and Y position
values into the menu bar. The third way to position the job is to use
the Red Dot Pointer.
bidirectional interface of the Job Control which, as mentioned earlier,
allows ongoing two-way communication between the computer and the laser,
makes this task easy and accurate. With your part in the laser, use the
arrow keys on the control panel to move the red dot to the position where
the engraving should begin. As the head in the laser system is moving,
so is a cross on the layout page in the Job Control software. When the
exact position is found, a "marker" can be added to the layout
page for alignment of the job. In this way Trotec engineers have created
a simple method to transfer the position of the Red Dot Pointer to the
of the best features of the Job Control software is the ability to save
a job including all of the settings. Many times we have to rerun a job
and duplicate the setup and settings just like the first job. The Job
Control software can archive the complete set of job parameters, allowing
you to recall and rerun the job anytime in the future, using the exact
you think I covered all the features of the Job Control Software and Print
Driver Software? No, nor could I in this article. Not that the software
is complicated. Trotec engineers designed the software for your future
needs. Many features you may not need for some time. But when you need
to sequence vectors manually or have different focus points on a job,
these software products can handle it.
4: This laser even has nifty touches like the two lamps illuminating
the engraving area.
Real Life Production
of the technical details, its time to focus on making the system
perform for us. Lets look at engraving some real life jobs using
the Speedy II laser system. Our first job is to engrave three plaques.
We started by designing three different plaques in DRAW. Each one had
similar clip art with different names on them. Two of the jobs required
a Walnut plaque, the other Red Alder.
singular plaque layout was printed to the Job Control by using the Print
Driver. In the Print Driver we selected the "Walnut" setting
for the two jobs and then selected the "Alder" setting for the
final step was to open the Job Manager software and select the three jobs
from the Job Queue. Each job was positioned by highlighting the job, then
typing in the X and Y position in the Job Position Bar. Each plaque was
placed in the laser against the top ruler and spaced an inch apart. Were
ready to start the engraving job by selecting the start button in the
Job Manager. The auto-focus system works quickly and quietly to focus
the laser beam and then the exhaust turns on automatically. The engraving
leaps into max speed and the fun begins. The unique characteristic of
this job is that there are three items to be engraved in one machine set-up
using two entirely different laser power settings.
as it turned out after reviewing the engraved results, one of the plaques
was made of wood that was denser and needed a second pass at a lower power
setting. Without moving any of the plaques in the laser, I was able to
handle this situation thanks to the Job Manager software. To do this,
you need to select the plaque to receive the second pass and then manually
override the power settings. When you do this, just the selected job is
sent to the laser and the plaque is engraved at the new, lower settings.
The result is a better matched product and the potential scrapping of
a plaque is eliminated.
next job is to engrave on a special hand tool from a customer. This job
is the perfect place for using CerMark. The stainless steel tool is sprayed
with CerMark and allowed to dry. The text that needs to be engraved is
6 points and is created in DRAW. The text is printed to the Job Queue
using the Print Driver software. In the Print Driver software we selected
the CerMark power settings from the drop down menu.
the tricky part will be to get the text in the exact right spot on the
tool. First the tool is placed in the laser and the focus is set manually
due to the unique shape of the tool. Using the Red Dot Pointer, locate
the left starting position of the text by using the arrow keys on the
Control Panel of the laser. Using the Marker to Laser feature in the Job
Control software the position of the Red Dot Pointer is marked on the
page by a cross hair. The engraving text is pulled from the Job Queue
menu and it snaps right up to the cross hair.
job is started by a button in the Job Control software and the exhaust
comes on just moments before the engraving starts. In a flash the job
is completely engraved and the tool is washed with water to remove the
chemical coating. The result is solid black engraving thats bonded
to the stainless steel and the customer will surely be pleased.
maximum power to engrave the very small CerMark letters can be tricky
for some laser systems. The Speedy II gets 5 stars in this area with crisp,
detailed text including the thin serifs. The peak power from the Synrad
laser tube proved to be excellent for bonding the black coating to the
stainless steel. Using the Red Dot Pointer was simple due to the bidirectional
communication and was a very useful feature.
honors also went to the Speedy II for the plaque engraving job. The setup
went fast using the AD-Logic software and the engraving results were excellent.
Again, the peak power from the Synrad Firestar laser tube achieved a deep
and dark burn on the wood with clarity even at maximum speed.
combination of the pulse control of the software and the laser tube also
contributed to clean cutting on all of the materials. I tested 3/8"
thick acrylic and got a smooth look without the common sawtooth edges
sometimes found in laser cutting.
overall excellent cutting and engraving, as well as the layout and print
controls are proof that the Trotec Speedy II laser is a true high performance
laser system. I was expecting to find a really good laser and was pleased
to find quite a bit more in all departments.
Engineered for Performance
doubt the Speedy II is a little different tack than most laser systems,
but if performance and durability are what you are looking for in a laser,
then certainly this laser is a good find. I was impressed with the attention
paid to so many little details of the Speedy II. The machine itself is
rigid and built tough. The speed is fast and the engraving quality is
excellent even at high speeds. The software works great and has so many
features to cover the most basic to the most advanced engraving applications.
This laser even has nifty touches like the lamps illuminating the engraving
area. All in all, the Trotec Speedy II is a capable system designed for
years of performance.