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Author Topic: Low Wattage Laser Cutter  (Read 3022 times)
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pedwards2932
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« on: January 11, 2017, 06:53:14 AM »

I have been using a craft cutter for the last 2 years and found that it worked great for a lot of things but not so well with some of the thicker materials.  I found a relatively inexpensive laser system here: http://www.banggood.com/2500mW-A3-30x40cm-Desktop-DIY-Violet-Laser-Engraver-Picture-CNC-Printer-Assembling-Kits-p-1003863.html?rmmds=search

I am not endorsing any product or company but I paid extra for delivery and got it in 10 days, all parts were there and it works.  You have to watch a video to assemble and it is a challenge.  Took me about 3 hours.  The software is abysmal and when I tried to download it there was malware included so I didn't even download it.  I am instead using Ben Cut Laser and GRBL for the laser.  This forum http://benboxlaser.us/index.php has been very helpful in answering my ton of questions.  Here is a video of it in action:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwRuYac3ZVQ
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Low Wattage Laser Cutter
Low Wattage Laser Cutter
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Tapio Linkosalo
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« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2017, 08:50:53 AM »


Interesting! What width of cut does it give you on balsa? Can you cut also thin plywood?

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pedwards2932
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« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2017, 09:07:53 AM »

I haven't done it yet but the administrator on the Ben Cut forum cuts 1/8 plywood regularly.  The cut area is 30 cm by 40 cm.  You can extend that by making cut then moving the sheet and making second cut just have to register the piece so it stays in alignment.
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tross
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« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2017, 10:35:03 AM »

Good on you Phillip.
The 445 nm 2.5 W lasers can do lots of cool stuff.
Just for giggles I've included an image of the laser at our shop.
2000 W CO2 with a 5' x 10' cutting bed! Shocked Shocked Shocked
That's our "12-pack" of assist gas on the left.
Can (and have) cut just about anything with it.
Wouldn't fit on top of the stove though....  Roll Eyes
ha ha ha...... Grin Smiley Cheesy Grin

Looks like you have the software issues handled.
Well done and very cool. Grin

Tony
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pedwards2932
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« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2017, 12:49:48 PM »

Now that would really blast some balsa Grin
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pedwards2932
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« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2017, 02:00:21 PM »

Here is another cut I did last night.  This 3/32" not sure how to grade the balsa...I would call it light medium....guess I should weigh it.   I did 2 passes took about 15 minutes to cut so it is definitely slower than my craft cutter but I didn't have to use the exacto so overall it was probably quicker.  No need to exacto out any parts they either fell out or the pushed out easily.
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Andrew Darby
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« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2017, 02:32:32 PM »

I have ordered one of these to see what it is like and have some fun.

A couple of my colleagues at work are very interested, one of whom is an electronics boffin which allays some of my fears with that end of things... I have gone with standard delivery, so it could be a while before I report back...

Andrew

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pedwards2932
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« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2017, 02:48:34 PM »

There is definitely a learning curve.  With the assembly take your time and make sure everything is square use the assembly video.  I think I am going to get some locking nuts for the gantry pieces so everything stays tight and in place.  I got a malware notice when I tried to download the software that you get with it so I didn't bother with it just got the Ben Cut Laser software.....he is the guru and very helpful.  The actual g-code firmware is open source and his software really makes it easy to flash the controller.   Spend time to make sure you get the focus dead on as this minimizes the burn out and the kerf.
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Andrew Darby
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« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2017, 02:55:15 PM »

Cheers will do.  The mechanical side is the easy bit for me, that's why I am happy that I have the help of my work mate Dave with the "electrickery"  Grin

I will defo use the Ben cut software as suggeted.

Cheers

Andrew
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« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2017, 05:39:00 PM »

Very interesting stuff With all the recent interest in craft cutters and now laser cutters, I'd better hurry up and improve my hand modelling skills before it will be necessary to go to a museum to see a modelling knife Smiley

John
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pedwards2932
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« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2017, 12:04:59 PM »

If anyone is interested in my process for getting files from .pdf to a .dxf or .svg file I can try to show how I do it.  I'm not graphic expert but I can trace decently.  Learning a graphics program can be daunting.  I use Inkscape and have gotten used to it's quirks.  I use it mainly because you can import a .pdf and trace directly over it.
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Bulldogger
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« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2017, 02:14:38 PM »

I have to admit, this is pretty tempting.  The price on that EleksMaker 2500mw cutter is still low.

But for another $100 or so, you can get a 40W (!!!!) CO2 laser cutter on eBay right now. 

I see that there are a dozen or more resellers listing the 40W CO2 units, which use CorelDraw as delivered, for $291 plus $58 shipping.  For an example search this item number on the site: 172070564818

Many of these sellers also list that they will accept Best Offers.  A further search of completed listings shows that in the frenzy before Christmas more than a dozen of these identical units, from the same sellers, sold at a listed price of $291 plus only $28 shipping.  All resellers appear to have raised their shipping cost exactly $30.  It could be they were getting a discount from their shipper, but in my experience this is usually related to market forces, meaning they raised the shipping recently as a way to offset low profit margin they accepted in the pre-Christmas competition.

So, given that I got an unexpected bonus at work, and a 40W laser cutter is only $100 more than a 2.5W cutter (or the same price if you consider the non-sale price of 2.5W cutters on Banggood and eBay), then I find myself thinking I might just pony up for the water cooled 40W unit and offer the sellers $261 plus $58 shipping, each in turn until one accepts.


Pros:
A benefit of the 40W unit is that it can cut much thicker parts, faster and in a single pass.  There appears to be no difference in control and operation, so the learning curve would be the same.  Being able to cut textiles and other materials means I could use this to cut gaskets for garage projects (I do a fair amount of cycle restoration and cut a lot of odd gaskets that are either unavailable or expensive).  I could further engrave gifts, and laser cut most non-metal materials 1/8" (I'm guessing there) for DIY projects and cut anything else I decided to tool up (software up, cut files) for. 
Rotary accessories are also available, meaning 3D engraving is possible for an added cost.  (It's unclear if 3D cutting is feasible.)

Cons:
I don't have a clear need for the 2.5W, much less a 40W, or even a Craft Cutter for that matter.  I can and do cut out gaskets and other stuff well enough by hand with a hobby knife and exact all the time.  (Though it does often mean a lot of trial fitting and my arthritis acts up when cutting heavy material at length.)



Still, that is one cool gadget, and I didn't get myself anything nifty for Christmas, just a lot of needed bike parts for a cycle to commute on.


I'll have to muddle over this one.


Bulldogger


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pedwards2932
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« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2017, 02:26:42 PM »

I was tempted as well but with all the enclosures and work space limits and there have been a lot of issues with wiring on these units and the 40 watts is a lot more dangerous than the 2.5.  So far I am able to cut 1/8" which is as thick as I needed.  Not saying don't do it just saying do some research on the larger units and see what others have been able to do with them. 
With the unit I have if I have the registration correct I can do really long cuts just by moving the work.....handy if you are going to do foam which I plan to do.
There a lot of folks using the 40 watt units.....check the forums to find out what they can and can't do.
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dslusarc
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« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2017, 02:33:05 PM »

I have one of the 40 watt units and my only complaint is the kind of small work area. The knob laser control I would avoid on those low cost ones. I got the one with the push button and LED display so I can dial in power in 1% increments. Hard to do that with the analog knob and needle indicator meter. I paid $500 shipped for mine from that seller in California.

These lower wattage ones interest me as I often cut at 10% power for light 1/16th. So I have watts I am not using. Plus no water required.
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Bulldogger
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« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2017, 02:59:12 PM »

Thanks for the feedback gents.

pedwards, could you recommend a forum or two for the 40W lasers?  Not sure where to start.  I'm new to this topic.

Also, while surfing eBay again (I really should do some work...) a sponsored link from another sire brought up the Eleks Maker A5 version for $190 delivered http://www.gearbest.com/3d-printers-3d-printer-kits/pp_290386.html?wid=21&ebay  (another read-through reminds me the A5 has a much smaller work area)

Now that is tempting, and as you gents note likely enough for one's needs.

BDGR
« Last Edit: January 12, 2017, 03:18:48 PM by Bulldogger » Logged
Rick W
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« Reply #15 on: January 12, 2017, 06:40:39 PM »

 Smiley pedwards,

Please do the PDF to DFX. That's what has been holding me back on a purchase of a laser cutter. I would appreciate any help in that area.

Thanks,

Rick W   ie: carrier flyer
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pedwards2932
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« Reply #16 on: January 12, 2017, 07:10:10 PM »

Yeah I opted for the one with the larger area but if you are happy with area on the smaller one it should do fine.  Most of the 40 watts I saw has a 12x8 work area.  They need water cooling and as was said you very seldom would use the extra power on balsa.  You can get a 5 watt laser but honestly the 2.5 seems to cut fine for me.....I think it has a smaller focal point than the 5 watt plus the 5 watt laser alone is $270. 

I am not sure about forums you can try this one: http://www.cnczone.com/forums/general-laser-engraving-cutting-machine-discussion/?s=89824ad7942298d62f3a0d9e4506a2f3

As soon as I have some time I will do a video of the trace process I go through.
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skyraider
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« Reply #17 on: January 12, 2017, 07:34:35 PM »

While investing in a low watt laser I would also be looking for replacement laser tubes
for these. One has to figure in operational hours on the system. I assume that while these
are great intro models, the cutting will actually have a short lifespan say maybe 500 -800
hours on the machine before the tube begins to lose power and will no longer cut material
or takes several passes to do so. Also don't forget the cost of additional focal lens's. The beam
generated by the laser takes a toll on the mirrors & lens over time.

Not trying to be a buzz kill but you have to look at this long term. Educate yourself as much
possible. Off brands have a very bad habit of being here today and gone tomorrow.  Hope this
bit of information is of some use to you guys. Cool thread!

Skyraider
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pedwards2932
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« Reply #18 on: January 12, 2017, 08:49:32 PM »

Not that I believe the specs but the lasers are rated to last 6000 to 10000 hours.  I guess we will see if it works out as I didn't expect industrial use out of them but a lot of the folks on the Laser forum have been using them as engravers and to engrave a picture takes a lot more out of the laser than just doing lines.  It took about 15 minutes for each cut that I made.  I have said it before I am not trying to endorse any of this just trying to show what I have been able to do as I am not sure how long it will last.  The focal lenses are fairly cheap and a new 2.5 watt costs about $60.00. 
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pedwards2932
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« Reply #19 on: January 13, 2017, 10:50:49 AM »

Rick W:  What level of instruction do you need on pdf to dxf.....do you know how to draw in a CAD program?  I usually use Inkscape as it is free and will do a save as .dxf but it natively saves as a .svg. 
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TimWescott
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« Reply #20 on: January 13, 2017, 07:13:58 PM »

I know I'm being a complete killjoy here, but 2.5W and 440nm says "instant blindness" to me.  All it would take is to run the laser over a reflective surface pointed in the wrong direction and POW! you've lost vision in an eye (it doesn't just get one spot, as I understand -- you'll have the dubious joy of watching your eye fill with blood, knowing that's the last thing you'll ever see out of that one).  I could see staying safe with it if you always wear your glasses, but I'd still want to put it into an enclosure, preferably with a safety that would kill the laser if the lid starts coming up.  A good modeler with a pile of smoked acrylic glass and a microswitch should be able to make it work without too much effort.  Or go fancy and see if you can find some glass that blocks the laser light.

Even if you're confident about not getting your own personal retinal damage, it's not a bad thing to worry about dogs, cats, children, wives, and other family members who might get injured in passing.

A search on YouTube of "laser safety training" gets lots of hits -- this was on the top of the list: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnKxKmaJvfY.  I think your laser is a class 4 or higher.
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Bulldogger
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« Reply #21 on: January 13, 2017, 10:03:51 PM »

Well, an unexpected bonus at work and I've got a 2500mw laser engraver heading my way. I'd love a 40w unit. They are all over ebay, but I get the feeling they are not likely to last long. The added risk of having a true laser in the house made me shy away.

But I put the balance up as half of a 3D printer. In for a penny, in for a pound.  Bought the printer off Amazon where I had more reviews to read  and Prime shipping, as well as hassle free returns. Their prices on laser engravers have not caught up.

Also, thanks again for posting that direct link pedwards, because after I created an account on Banggood and searched for the engraver it was seemingly gone and hard to find. Then some more careful searching brought it up, but at the normal retail price, over $100 more. Your link was very helpful and brought me back to the $225 page. Same product, three different prices on the same site!

I'll keep you posted on its progress.

Bulldogger
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Rick W
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« Reply #22 on: January 13, 2017, 10:21:49 PM »

Hello pedwards,

I can download Inkscape and follow along. Little CAD drawing on Deltacad, which is a very basic program. Where I have my problems is wing ribs and curved formers. If you can show me how to trace in Inkscape that's is what I need.

Thanks,

Rick
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pedwards2932
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« Reply #23 on: January 14, 2017, 08:15:54 AM »

Okay I'm out of town this weekend but I will try to get a tutorial done when I get back.

I was alone at home when I did the laser cutting and I have the protective glasses on. You are correct these are Class 4 lasers and should be treated carefully.  I am not endorsing using these just documenting my experience.  Once I get every thing set up it will be fully protected.  So again treat these lasers carefully if you get one and be aware that they can turn on unexpectedly when you are setting them up so always have a waste board under them and have protective glasses on.
 
I am putting together the air assist this weekend which will reduce the fire hazard and when I get the waste board together then I will make a cover with a vent so the fumes can go outside (foam can create toxic fumes).  I want to be able to do foam as well so I need to make the cover so it will allow for larger material to fit.  My plan with the cover is to make it a carrying/storage case as well.

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pedwards2932
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« Reply #24 on: January 14, 2017, 05:21:42 PM »

Here is my first Inkscape tutorial.  This shows how to import a .pdf file into Inkscape so you can trace your parts.  I hope it makes sense and is helpful.  Feedback appreciated.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-hDHff5zIc
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