Laser Cutter advice and questions

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Windshadow
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Laser Cutter advice and questions

Post by Windshadow » Wed Feb 24, 2016 7:48 pm

I would love to have a laser cutter that could cut up to 1/4 melamine and other things like thin metal and plastic engraving would be a great perk if was also available but my use would be cutting. But I know that I would either have to find a used commercial unit in good condition or find a kit with open source support to have even a chance of affording on on my retired person budget for fun and learning (I firmly believe that when you stop learning you start a rapid slide in to genuine old age and all its woes) new things.

Since SeeMeCNC used to sell them I hope that there will be folks here that can advise.

I found some build projects on line using CO2 lasers but they seem to require things like water cooling and expensive life limited laser tubes. I would far rather go with the laser cutter equivalent of the Rostock Max V2and have the learn while you build experience as well as a vibrant and helpful user community as we have here I might be able to stretch to a $3000 kit but it would mean a lot of noodle suppers spend that much. Wh don't cutter use multiple solid state lasers of the sort that are in blueRay R/W drives? I read a military research program where they are putting dozens of the small solid state sort to be used in future weapons so is seems they might be better fore consumer product that the CO2 water cooled based cutters.

as far as under $5,000 turn key options the only one I have found with any sort of support structure is Glowforge... I don't know enough (read anything) about the tech to risk one of the units i see sold on eBay out of china
I looked at the Glowforge pro at just under $5,000 but they don't mention melamine in things they can just 1/4' plywood is the only thickness spec they provide and double that by cutting from both sides

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bubbasnow
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Re: Laser Cutter advice and questions

Post by bubbasnow » Wed Feb 24, 2016 8:25 pm


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Re: Laser Cutter advice and questions

Post by Polygonhell » Wed Feb 24, 2016 8:29 pm

The short version is there is no laser cutter equivalent to the Rostock Max.

Anything that's going to cut 1/4 melamine is going to have to produce 60+W and more would be better, that means your stuck with a C02 Laser tube, and water cooling and they need to be vented to the outside.

I've been looking at Chinese laser cutters on EBay and just haven't been able to talk myself into it, I've read horror stories, but most seem to get working units, though many seem to require alignment and some tweaking.

The plans and kits I've seen have questionable design of the gantry, and have a lot of parts.

There is a thread on Glowforge on the forum somewhere, most were not impressed.

Most of the cheaper US sellers are just sourcing from RedSail or one of the other Chinese vendors and dealing with the customer support.

A lot of maker spaces have Laser cutters available to customers and that might be the best way to go if your located near one.

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Re: Laser Cutter advice and questions

Post by Xenocrates » Wed Feb 24, 2016 8:38 pm

I have a laser cutter. Life limited, water cooled tubes is about what you get at a reasonable power range for a price you can afford. Solid state lasers are either really powerful (those military devices, and fiber laser type stuff), or kinda wimpy (L-cheapo, other engrave only systems), because C02 lasers fill that gap really well (a 100W fiber laser costs 15K. 100W C02, 9K) for a lower cost.


The glowforge is a questionable unit. I posted a bit of a rant in critique here: http://forum.seemecnc.com/viewtopic.php?f=61&t=9082, as well as all the other information people on the forums bothered with.

You want my opinion, take a look at the stuff http://www.automationtechnologiesinc.com/products-page/laser-engraving has to offer. We got our machine from them (We went to the chicago warehouse to pick it up, didn't deal with their shipping, but the packaging is solid). The manual isn't well translated (Note: Soft dog means software dongle, the plasticy USB key that doesn't seem to work), and it has some quirks, like not reading from a flash drive over 512MB (they include a fairly well build one that works), and needing to be turned off and on again after a selective load.

They aren't quite turn key, but pretty close. Connect air compressor (included) to the fittings for air assist, run the included vent hose between the laser and the blower, and then the other included vent hose between the blower and your actual output. Connect chiller sense cable, and fill with distilled water, then let chiller run for a while (Our experience is that the chiller gets the air out of the system entirely on it's own, but you'll need to check that, and if it doesn't, you'll need very clean cotton gloves to handle the laser tube)

Alternatively, https://buildyourcnc.com/default.aspx/ has some nice kits, which will do both milling and laser cutting. I want one, but can't currently find the space (or budget) for the size of machine I'd want.

But 60W is on the low edge of what will reliably cut 1/4 inch wood. It will mark, but not cut metal, even thin stuff. (The college is looking at a 400W+ system to cut up to 1/8 inch steel for comparison (It may cut more, but between the water jet and the 2KW laser that another department has, we don't need it to))
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Windshadow
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Re: Laser Cutter advice and questions

Post by Windshadow » Wed Feb 24, 2016 10:03 pm

Thanks guys for all the good info on the current state of things... no maker space that I know of in this area...

I guess for Laser cutting i need to wait a few more years to see it make it into the home workshop at a reasonable price perhaps the advances in solid state lasers will be the driving force over the next 5 years or so.

one of the the things that I noticed as I was googling was that very few have anything much to say about how much they will cut of any given material.

It looks like I need to move my desires over to a CNC router/mill as with one of those high speed laminate trimmers as the quill they should cut a 1/8" or smaller line with a solid carbide
straight bit and that could do my structural cutting as well as doing a bit of light metal cutting (I can do heavy cutting on my Bridgeport after all)

so who is the go to company at the provider support, (and Gene level of manual writing :) ), and SeeMeCNC quality and wonderful user community level for the CNC Mill/Router world

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Re: Laser Cutter advice and questions

Post by 626Pilot » Wed Mar 02, 2016 10:27 pm

Windshadow wrote:I firmly believe that when you stop learning you start a rapid slide in to genuine old age and all its woes) new things.

I agree 100%. More than once I've seen what happens when an old person stops picking up books, and starts watching CNN all day. They let the television think for them.

One thing you might consider, since you're talking about using CNC milling instead of laser cutting, is to see if there's a way to retrofit your existing hardware to do CNC. Lots of people have done this. You'd have to manually fabricate some mounting hardware, of course, but I doubt you would find that difficult.

There are also some factory-assembled CNC mills you can get in the under-$3,000 range. I have one that set me back about $4,500. It cuts 36x50x5". If you don't need to mill huge things, you can get something smaller within your budget.

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TheRealRocketBurns
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Re: Laser Cutter advice and questions

Post by TheRealRocketBurns » Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:31 am

My local fab lab has a cutter that can do metal and melamine. 8ft-4ft dimensions. Are you anywhere near Florida?

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Re: Laser Cutter advice and questions

Post by Jimustanguitar » Wed Mar 16, 2016 10:04 am

I've been slowly buying parts to build a CO2 laser out of a ShapeOko. I've got almost the whole machine sitting around in parts, just not the tube and power supply yet (didn't want to start the 90 day warranty ticking a year before I'd even plug it in).

I think I'll go with a 100W RECI tube and supply, probably from Automation Technologies in Chicago, and juice it with an extra Smoothie board that I've got sitting around... After I build my printer (more on that later) the laser is definitely the next machine on my list.

Until the laser is running, I'm lucky enough to live one town over from Trick Laser and SeeMeCNC, so you could say that I'm getting by :)

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Re: Laser Cutter advice and questions

Post by TerryMulhern » Wed Jul 24, 2019 1:59 pm

Hi guys,

I was redirected here from Reddit. Need your advice. I've been planning to get a laser cutter for my workshop, but I'm not sure which one to choose. I would like to cut plywood and cardboard mostly, for the stuff like Iron Throne here https://youtu.be/VMvnZwBkj7s or any other accessories from fantasy films.
My initial goal was Lord of the Rings fan workshop - with rings engraving and the like, but then I decided to try everything and after that see what can come out of it. I thought perhaps to get a 20 watt laser cutter. Is it powerful enough? Any experience?

Thanks,
Terry
Sorry for bumping. Just noticed the topic is quite old.

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geneb
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Re: Laser Cutter advice and questions

Post by geneb » Thu Jul 25, 2019 7:28 am

Personally, I wouldn't touch anything less than 45-50 watts. If you want to cut plywood thicker than 1/8" "lite ply", you're going to want 60+ watts.

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Re: Laser Cutter advice and questions

Post by Xenocrates » Thu Jul 25, 2019 4:11 pm

Other than echoing Geneb, my earlier comment stands, including liking ATC's products (no problems since), liking some of Boss Laser's machines, but not their support (had to rebuild a reducing assembly, since they sent something like 4 that had poorly fitted keys, or incorrectly chosen grub screws.). I've had minimal experience with Epilog's. They are very usable, but expensive, and if you're not using their supported tool-chain, can be annoying to work with.

As for Ebay K40's, and other generic machines, I'd skip most of them. There's little to assure consistency or quality control on the K40s, nor is it easy to figure out who is going to stand behind them. I find it a better idea to pick a reseller with an actual reputation, and not just an Ebay store.
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Re: Laser Cutter advice and questions

Post by geneb » Fri Jul 26, 2019 10:19 am

I've got a 45 Watt Epilog Mini 24. It's a great workhorse of a machine. You treat it like a printer, not a CNC machine - you /literally/ send print jobs to it. It's great. But yes, pretty expensive. Mine is 12 years old and still going strong.

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