Hardware Setup

just the faqs

Browse this section for the answer to common hardware setup

Miscellaneous

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Calibration - Getting started

Each new setup and initial calibration presents it’s own set of challenges.  Below you will find a method to approach an initial calibration.   

It is recommended that you work directly with us on your initial setup.  Subsequent calibrations are generally very easy.

Camera settings

Normally, the only camera setting that you expect to change is the aperture (f-stop).  Ideally it will be in the middle of the f-stop range for that lens, which tends to be the sharpest aperture for the lens.  You also want to avoid very high f-stops, like f22, because it can introduce other lens artifacts like airy disks and introduce diffraction limiting issues.

As a starting point, select the following camera settings:

Setting Value
 Aperture f/8   (higher numbers let in less light and make the image darker)
 ISO 100   (higher numbers are more sensitive and will make the image lighter with more noise)
 Shutter Speed 1/125   (this should never change for any reason for Slabsmith photo stations)
 Quality Large/Fine   (or whatever the best setting is for your camera)
White Balance Flash   (or a properly done custom white balance, but “flash” WB is good 95% of the time)
WB Shift 0 0   (neutral)

 

 

Flash Settings

Ideally, we are trying to recreate the sun.  This means we want a very powerful light source from very far away.  Since we haven’t figured out how to keep the skys clear and the sun in one spot, we have to try to simulate the sun as much as possible with multiple flash units.  Just like our ideal, we want to have them at maximum power, and as far away as possible without having to increase the ISO sensitivity or widen the f-stop.

An ideal positioning of the lights is roughly 15-20 feet away from the corner of the calibration grid on a diagonal, with the lower lights on each side at floor level, and the top lights on each side approximately 10-12 feet in the air.  The exact positioning of the light poles and the top light will vary with your setup, and is most affected by the distance of the camera to the grid.  The closer the camera is to the grid, the further out to the sides you will have to place your lights.  ( see the photo station layout diagram )

Don’t use umbrellas or other light modifiers.  They reduce the effective output of your lights and rarely have a valid use.

It is best if your lights are permanently fixed in location.  If you must move the lights for safety reasons, such as lights placed in a aisle, use pins on the light stand and holes in the floor to make sure you can accurately reposition your lights when it is time to take a photo.

 

 

Common scenarios

  • Hotspots
    When you take your calibration photo, if you see focused hotspots, it means you need to move your lights further out to the sides.  If this is impossible because of a wall or other obstacle, you may have to move the lights forward and may need to turn the power down to compensate.  It’s important to note that our calibration grid is much larger than any slab you will be photographing, so if your hotspots are in areas that are beyond the extents of your slabs, you don’t need to worry about them.
  • The Green X of Mediocrity
    If you see this in your lighting variation report:
    Green X of Mediocrity
    you have a situation where one of the following is the likely problem:
    1: Your lights are close to the grid and not powered as high as they should be.  Ideally, move the lights further away and set them to full power.
    2: Your lights have unnecessary light modifiers, like umbrellas.  Take the umbrellas off, turn the lights so they are pointing at the grid, make sure they are on full power and reshoot.
  • Sudden changes in lighting in the middle of the board
    This can be caused by a wide variety of things. 
    1. Shadows on the grid points should be avoided, so if you see a single grid point registering lower exposure than the surrounding grid points, check the original image for a shadow
    2. Random underexposed regions can be caused by a dirty calibration grid.  Make sure it is clean and that there isn’t any tape or other issues in the immediate vicinity of each dot.
    3. Strips of underexposed dots at the bottom of the grid can be caused by a large ledge for the slab.  Raising your lower lights may help with this.
    4. Inconsistent exposure where grid panels join can be caused by warped calibration panels or panels that are not properly supported.  Ideally we want to have a perfectly flat grid, so if any panels are improperly joined or are bowing in any direction, add additional support and consider taping the top and bottom edges of each seam together.
  • Poor white balance
    This can be caused by very surprising things.  For example, a large yellow forklift near the lights can add a yellow cast to your slabs.  Do your best to make sure that the immediate area around the photostation remains constant.  Most white balance issues can be adjusted out with the white balance shift grid.  Make sure your main white balance is set to flash, then look at the numbers we provide for the red, green, and blue channels.  For example, if there is too much blue (positive numbers on B) add points towards amber to reduce the blue points.  If you need more red, shift the white balance towards magenta.
  • Very small aperture numbers (below roughly f/5.6)
    If you have good lighting, but have to use low apertures like 4.0, increase your ISO to 200.  Canon cameras still give good results with ISO 200 at the expense of some additional color noise.  Most of the time it is not noticeable, and it’s better to have f/8 and ISO 200 than f/5.6 and ISO 100
  • Very large aperture numbers (above roughly f/16)
    Make sure your ISO is 100 and that your lights are far enough away.  Chances are good that if you have to use f/16 or f/22, your lights are too close, and you are probably not getting even lighting.  If you can’t move the lights further away, try lowering the power until your aperture is below f/16

 

General notes

First time calibration is an iterative process.  After setting your camera and lights, try to get a consistent lighting pattern before worrying about your exact exposure or white balance settings.

Once the initial calibration is done, recalibrating, or doing additional calibrations for different thickness slabs, is very straightforward and will not take much time.

It is very important to make sure that your camera never moves in any way once calibration is done.  We even recommend putting electrical tape on the focus and zoom rings of the lens to ensure they do not move.

Calibration is easy if all you care about is dimensional accuracy.  Simply pointing the lights at the grid and getting the exposure close to right will give you digital slabs that are at least accurate in size.  Good lighting will make a huge difference in your ability to color match digital slabs with confidence.  It’s worth it to spend the up front time to get your lighting as close to perfect as possible.

Locating a slab on a saw

There are numerous ways to locate a slab on your saw.

  1. Using your saw’s camera/projection laser.   If you have a saw that already uses a laser or camera to locate the slab on the saw, you can use the DXF layout from Slabsmith to align the outline of the slab with the slab on your saw.
  2. Using Slabsmith’s “Locator software”.  If you do not have a location camera/laser on your saw, you can mount a camera over your saw and use the locator module available from Slabsmith to align your DXF layout to the position of the slab on your saw.  ( see here for more information on Locator )
  3. Using location fixtures.  If you are creating all of your own digital slabs, you can use matching fixtures to locate your slab on your saw.  This is described in more detail below.
Using location fixtures

Using location fixtures is a valid and accurate way to locate your slab on your saw as long as you are creating all of your own digital slabs and not purchasing Slabsmith digital slabs from someone else.  (for instance a slab manufacturer who creates Slabsmith digital slabs on their polishing line.)

The basic principle is to create matching ‘zero’ points between your Slabsmith photostation A-frame and your saw table.

Pre-requisites

Your photostation A-frame has fixtures that the slab rests on when you take the slab photo.   You must fabricate fixtures for your saw that match the size and spacing of the feet on the A-frame.

We recommend using only 2 slab rests for these fixtures.  Two rests makes it impossible to place a natural stone slab at an incorrect rotation.  If you use a flat bottom to rest the slab on, or try and use 3 points of contact (ie- 2 on the bottom and one on the left side) it’s possible to place the slab against the fixtures in a rotated orientation without realizing it.

Implementation

If you have a single saw, you can simply change the zero point of your Slabsmith calibration to match your saw zero point.  In effect you are making the A-frame have the same relationship from zero to the fixture as the distance from zero to the fixtures on your saw.

If you have a twin table machine or multiple saws, it becomes a little more complicated because each saw table must have the fixtures located the same distance from zero.  (NOTE: From version 2017.5 and after, additional offsets can be added to the DXF export to individual tables to allow for differences between the 0,0 to rests.  The rests still must be the same width and spacing, but the zero can be different.)

There are two ways to align the zero to fixture distance on multiple saw tables. 

  1. One is to very carefully place the fixtures the same distance from table zero on each saw. 
  2. The other is to place the fixtures in the best location on the saw table and then adjust the zero point of the saw in the saw’s control.  In most cases you will need to work with the saw manufacturer to change the zero position of the table.

The image below show’s how the fixtures might look on the A-frame and multiple saws.   In each example you will see that the distance between the zero point and the fixtures is identical.

 

Using the fixtures

In daily use the process works like this…

  1. When you photograph the slab, mark the position were the fixtures touch the bottom of the slab with grease pencil.
  2. Create a template in your programming software that matches the distance from zero to the fixtures.  When everything is set up correctly, you will import the Slabsmith DXF layout and it will already be in the correct location for programming on your saws.   Program the layout.
  3. Place the slab on the saw so that the grease pencil marks you made when photographing are aligned with the fixtures on the saw.
  4. Load the program and cut the slab.

Zebra LI4278 Scanner Setup Instructions

Setting up the Zebra scanner for use with Slab Consumer 

 

Unpack the scanner and connect the USB cable to the base unit of the scanner.  *DO NOT CONNECT TO THE COMPUTER AT THIS TIME*

Download the following files

 

Configuring the Scanner

1) Run the Zebra 123Scan Utility installation – 

This first time this is run, it will install the scanner drivers for windows.  It will take a few minutes to install, and may require a reboot.

2) After the drivers are installed plug in the USB cable to the computer and wait for Windows to recognize the scanner

3) Run the Zebra 123Scan Utility installation again

This time the installation software will install the Utility software.

4) Start the 123Scan software.

A)  Remove the scanner from its base and scan the barcode on the top of the scanner base to pair the scanner with the base.
B)  Click “Update Scanner Firmware” and wait until the scanner has been updated to the latest firmware release.
C) Click “Load Existing Configuration File” and point to the Config file you downloaded and unzipped earlier. ( LI4278ScannerConfig.scncfg ) .  
     This will start the “Load Configuration” dialog box.
D)
 Click “LOAD TO ALL SCANNERS”.  When complete, select the “Close” button.
            

E) Select “Data View” at the top of the window.
           
F) Double click the top selection.
G) On the new window select “USB – HIB Keyboard Emulation”
           
H) Close the 123Scan Utility

Configuring Slab Consumer for the Scanner

1) Start Slabsmith
2) Select “File | Preferences”
3) Select the “Locator / Slab Consumer” tab. 
4)
 Click in the “Prefix” textbox and scan a barcode.  This should fill in the prefix textbox with “F11”
5) Click in the “Suffix” textbox and scan a barcode.  This should fill in the suffix textbox with “F12”
      Note: if the Prefix and Suffix are not filled in with F11 and F12, there is a problem with your scanner configuration, contact us for help.

Your scanner should now be configured for use with the Slab Consumer module of Slabsmith.

Hardware Troubleshooting

This section works like a FAQ page.  One section is always open, currently this section!   You can click on a title or the “+” icon on the right side to open a section.  To close a section, just open a different section.

My Flash isn't working

Verify the flash has power and is turned on.

Check the red switch just above the power cord on the back of the B800 flash unit.  If the unit has power this switch should be glowing.  If it is glowing, move to the next section below.

If it is not glowing…

  1. Check that the red power switch is in the “On” position.
  2. Check that the power cord is plugged into the flash unit.
  3. Check the power cord is plugged into the power recepticle.
  4. Check that the recepticle has power by plugging something else into the same recepticle.
  5. If the switch is still not glowing you may have a light failure.  Call the manufacturer Paul C. Buff  800.443.5542 for repair or replacement.

 

Test flash the wireless receiver (CSR)

One of the flashes (possibly two) has a wireless receiver in-line with the power cord.  There is also a 1/8″(3mm) cord from the receiver, plugged into the back of the flash unit.  Be sure this cable is plugged into the the recepticle in the flash unit.

On the back of the CSR there is a test button.  Push the test button.

If the flash unit flashes – Go to the next step

If the flash unit does not flash – You may have a bad CSR unit.  Call the manufacturer Paul C. Buff  800.443.5542 for repair or replacement.

 

Test the flash wireless transmitter (CST)

The wireless transmitter is located on top of the camera and looks like a small box with an antenna.

On the back of the CST is a test button.   Push the test button.

If the flash fires –

  1. You may not have a good connection to the camera.  On the bottom of the CST is a contact, gently slide the CST off of the camera (being careful not to move the camera) and clean the contact on the bottom of the CST and the top of the camera.   Gently replace the CST on the camera and try taking a picture.If the flash does not go off, you may need to move the CST a little forward or backward until the contact on the CST aligns with the contact on the camera.

If the flash does not fire –

  1. The CST and CSR each have a dial to set the frequency.  Check to be sure that the frequency is set to the same number on both units and try the test button again.
  2. If you have been using your Slabsmith™ photostation for a year or more, you may need to replace the battery in the CST unit.   After replacing the battery, try the test button on the CST unit.