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LAZER Cutter and Engraving

Old 11-25-2020, 08:12 PM
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dereckbc
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Default LAZER Cutter and Engraving

Been gone from the forum for a while. Moved home to Tulsa about a year ago and just getting beck to normal life. Anyway I know 3D printers were all the rage but has the new LAZER Cutters and Engraving machines caught anyone's attention yet. What made me think about it was I am seeing TV adds for them. Got me curious and found several on the internet and prices are not as high as I thought they would be. Seriously $400 for a serious builder is not bad if they do what I think they can. Only trick is and I do not know what kind of files they use like gerber or .dwg so that might be a learning curve.

Anyone have experience with them and care to comment?
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Old 11-25-2020, 08:58 PM
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crxmanpat
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Laser cutters come in many different flavors. If you are only doing small jobs with light weight materials, the cheaper units that come with a 15-20W laser would be fine. But if you cut a lot of aircraft grade ply or large cut jobs, something in the 80-100W range is much better.

I have a friend with a laser cutter, and I always send him .dxf files straight from my CAD program. He then takes those and creates a cut file with his laser program. Not sure what format that is.
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Old 11-26-2020, 05:12 AM
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dereckbc
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Thanks, I was curious what wattage they were using. Even 15 to 20 watt can do some serious damage, 100 watt would make me very nervous. I am an electrical engineer in the telecom sector. Did a tour several years ago to an Alcatel-Lucent assembly plant in Dallas area. In their sheet metal shop had a couple of large Lazer and Hydro-Jet cutters. What was interesting at the time was the hydro did the thicker steel material. Both were fascinating. Reminded me lot of a plotter printer.
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Old 11-26-2020, 05:34 AM
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Solentlife has a 40 watt that he has used for a long time.
I have seen a 40 watt that claimed to gut 8mm balsa, the thicker and harder wood the slower the cut.

I have a friend that has a big 90 watt machine that he used to cut 1/16 & 1/8 ply to test boat designs.

A 40 watt laser actually puts out about 5 watts of laser light energy, I guess the rest is operational losses
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Old 11-27-2020, 06:28 PM
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pmullen503
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I have a 40w Epilog laser which I cut 1/4" ply on all the time. I runs just like a printer in Windows. 12 x 24" bed. It was expensive but very easy to use and reliable.

There are Chinese water cooled lasers for much less that do a decent job but you are still in the $1000 and up range.

There are a bunch of cheap diode laser machines but the bed size and power is low. Not sure they are worth it for hobby use. Whether is laser or CNC you pay a lot for a larger, stable frame. So consider your future needs carefully.

The thickness you can cut is determined by not only power but how well the beam is focused. That's where the less expensive machines save money on optics and the quality of the frame.

Cutting thicker balsa is problematic because of burning, it can start on fire. I have a friend who actually runs his with nitrogen blowing on the cut for cutting very flammable materials.

If I didn't have the laser for my business, I would have gone with a CNC machine for strictly hobby use where production rates are less important. You can cut a wider variety of materials and thicknesses and in 3 dimensions but now you are generating G-code, compensating for bit thickness etc. so you need better software and the skill to use it.
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Old 11-27-2020, 09:30 PM
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I have a typical K40 machine that today is a lot cheaper than I paid all those years ago.

I can cut decals in vinyl etc.
I can engrave pictures onto wood etc.
I can cut plywood / balsa / anything in fact except metals and reflective materials.

I regularly cut 4mm hard ply ... to keep edges as char free as possible - I do multiple cuts to get through - this keeps the cut line narrow and less overburn.

I totally recc'd a machine that has Airblow fitted (you need to supply the compressor .... an airbrush compressor is the minimum ... or similar is enough. The airblow stops the material catching fire !! Water cooling is easy ... a bucket with an aquarium pump in and the return pipe hangs over bucket ..... 10 litres of water stays cool enough for well over an hours work ... in fact I have never reached serious water temp using it. I have a cheap kitchen cooks thermometer wire probe in the water and set the alarm at 50C.

Software - most Chinese machines come with Moshidraw which can accept JPG or DXF / DWG ......... Moshi has Autocad version incl. in the package ... but I have never had much success with it. So I use JPG's ....

Lets say you have crashed that model .... so salvage all the pieces and at home you play Jigsaw !! Piece together sections and then place in a standard A4 scanner .... colour mode 200 - 300 dpi and save as 100% size JPG. If pieces are missing - no problem ... you can trace the missing bits in the laser program ... Now load that JPG into Moshidraw and use the drawing tools to draw the outline / cut lines on top of the JPG. Once done - click the box next to the JPG listing to remove and leave only the vector trace you made. Select all and then click pass to cutter ... another screen opens where you decide speed of laser and also whether its engrave or cut. Its actually very simple .....

I don't need CAD ... I can draw or trace any part ... scan as JPG ... import into Laser and trace the vector lines ... then cut. Even those plans you have ... scan the part as JPG .. import ... cut.

I definitely do not recc'd less than a 40W unit ...... the K40 is about the minimum ... you will soon wish you could have larger work area than the 200 x 300mm .... I'm already eyeing up larger machines - but they cost !!
The 10 .. 20W machines are OK to engrave a few trinkets but not much use for other work.



And a test video for a guy ...

Here's my setup now ..... Laser machine near door so I can put the vent pipe out ... then Computer and then my two 3D printers ... The air compressor and water are under the bench.


Conclusion ? Would I buy again ... YES. It has saved me countless hours of fret saw / hand work ... its accuracy far outstrips my woodwork skills .... I have many models that are still flying because I can replace frames / motor boxes etc. ... AND using fast speed / low power - I can cut FOAM as well !!

Here are some examples ..

Replace wing rib in DR1 :

Servo trays

New motor mount box
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Old 11-27-2020, 09:42 PM
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solentlife
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This thread on my rebuild of Zlin Z50 may help illustrate the advantage of the laser and scanner use !!

https://www.wattflyer.com/forums/showthread.php?t=77315
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Old 11-27-2020, 10:25 PM
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Originally Posted by solentlife View Post
.............I don't need CAD ... I can draw or trace any part ... scan as JPG ... import into Laser and trace the vector lines ... then cut. Even those plans you have ... scan the part as JPG .. import ... cut.
I have buddies who want a plan they downloaded cut for them. I explain the process of loading the file and tracing the parts vectors....It's not something I'll do for them for free unless I want that plane too. Few realize that the first couple times you do it it takes a long time and it's hard to get parts to fit like you expect from a laser cut kit. If you are considering a laser (or CNC) you should see if you enjoy that sort of thing and have an aptitude for it. Not everyone does.

Once you've done it a few times, it's straightforward but still time consuming.

That said, it's really nice if you scratchbuild to be able to cut a part, test it, make a few changes and cut another part, accurately in a few minutes.
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