Lasercutter

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Lasercutter (name to be determined)

Full Spectrum Laser 4th Generation 40W CO2 Laser Engraver - Deluxe Model

Safety information and training

We should have a bunch of helpful information here on safe operation of the device and who to go to to be trained on its use here.

  • Please speak to one of the people who is experienced with this laser cutter before using itt so we can show you where everything is, how to setup the software, how to use it without breaking it, basic safety tips, etc.
  • Read the instructions first. Manual
  • Never turn the current up above 15 milliamps, that will fry the laser tube quickly. Usually just a few milliamps is more than enough power to do what you want. Using too much power on wood or paper will start a fire. Instead of turning up the power, turn down the speed and/or use multiple passes. Always use the minimum power you can do to the job to prevent unsightly burn marks and extend the life of the laser tube.
  • Never operate the laser cutter unattended because sometimes things catch fire. A squirt bottle with water is kept next to the laser to put out small fires. A fire extinguisher is in the corner of the room for larger issues.
  • If little flames shoot up off of your material, turn down the power. Little flames can start fires and will fog up the lens, which is difficult to clean.
  • It is easy to make the laser head bang against the side or top of the unit. This causes an awful noise and must be very bad for the gears. If the laser cutter makes a banging noise, stop it immediately and reposition the laser head before the next cut, or resize the artwork.
  • Do not cut plastics which create hazardous fumes when burned. Acrylic is ok. PVC and vinyl releases the very toxic gas phosgene when heated. As a general rule, chemical resistant plastics should not be put in the laser cutter.
  • Be very careful with the silver honeycomb, especially when removing it from the machine to clean little bits of debris off of it. It bends very easily and once bent can not be straightened out completely. It is mostly a cosmetic issue, but pressing your thumb in the wrong place will cause permanent marks.
  • Do not laser materials that make an excessive amount of smoke. A little smoke is ok, but a large amount can fog up the lens. If it is making a lot of smoke, use more passes at a lower power.
  • When cutting paper, turn down the power to a couple milliamps, or it will catch fire.

Software

Any program can print to the laser cutter, I had success using Inkscape and Gimp. Gimp is not very good for doing vector cuts, a major limitation. Inkscape is not the easiest software to learn but it is not difficult either.

RetinaEngrave (Windows)

Requirements

Windows XP or Windows 7

Supported formats/modes

How to install

  • Download and install USB drivers
  • Download and install RetinaEngrave
  • Download and install Direct Print drivers

How to use

Rastor

  • Get an image, any format
  • Load the image into The Gimp and make any necessary changes
  • Start RetinaEngrave
  • Print the image to the Full Spectrum Engineering Driver
  • Switch to RetinaEngrave. Set the speed to 75% or less. Press Go.

Vector

  • Get an image, any format
  • Load the image into The Gimp and make any necessary changes
  • Copy the image to the clipboard
  • Start Inkscape and create a new A4 Landscape document
  • Paste the image into the new document
  • Select all. Go to the Path menu and select Trace Bitmap
  • Print the image to the Full Spectrum Engineering Driver
  • Switch to RetinaEngrave. Select the Vector tab.
  • Set the speed on the right hand side. Press Go.

ctrl-cut

Amir Hassan and Marius Kintel are working on open source laser cutter drivers through the CUPS interface. Primarily they're working on getting it operational with an Epilog cutter, but would like to expand past that soon.

Quirks

  • If your PC is connected to the laser cutter with the usb cable, and you have the RetinaEngrave software and drivers installed, and you still can't get the machine to acknowledge you (e.g. you try to press the "jog" buttons and the laser head doesn't move) try these things:
    • There is a button between the "jog right" and "jog left" button. It shifts between UNLOCK and LOCK. Togge it and try again!
    • There is a big red emergency stop button on top of the laser cutter. It might be pressed down, which means the machine won't work. Press it again.
  • It is easy to make the laser head bang against the side or top of the unit. Don't let it do that.
  • If you are doing a raster engrave, you can not set the speed too high. Here is some artwork on paper, raster engrave, 250 dpi 85% speed: [1]. Here is the same image at 71% speed: [2]

At 500 dpi, 75% speed was too much. 72% was also too fast. I also saw the problem at 250 dpi 71% and 1000 dpi 65%. Full spectrum engineering said on Feb 25 that this problem is caused by the belt being too tight. [3]

  • You don't need to watch the laser every single second, but you should at least stay in the little room while it's on and keep a general eye on it. Why? Because if you're using something burnable, there's a chance it can catch fire. Which is bad.
  • Turn off the machine when not in use. The air pump gets hot if left on for long periods. It is not quite hot enough to cause a problem, but it will last longer if it is not always on, and turning it off will keep dust from accumulating inside the laser unnecessarily.

Things you can put in the laser cutter

  • Paper (cardstock could have additives that should not go in the cutter, test a sample)
  • Acrylic and several other plastics
  • Wood (careful of fire, treated wood could have additives)
  • Cotton
  • Many other fabrics (moleskin books can have high chlorine content)
  • Cell phones (check for chlorine in the plastic)
  • Laptops (check for chlorine in the plastic)
  • Leather
  • Glass
  • Anodized/coated metal
  • Chocolate

Things you should not put in the laser cutter

  • Anything containing chlorine
  • PVC (this includes Moleskine notebooks)
  • Lexan
  • Vinyl
  • Bare metal
  • Animals
  • People
  • Butane lighters
  • Gasoline or other liquids
  • Any powder (the compressed air will blow it away)

Tips

  • Before putting your material into the laser cutter, test your image on paper. If you don't test on paper first you will ruin a lot of the material you are cutting. Once it looks good on paper you can place your material on the paper so you know it is positioned properly, and refocus if the material is thick.
  • When engraving raster images, they go much faster if you use a lower DPI. The lowest setting is 250 DPI and that is enough for most things. Use higher DPI only with high resolution images and with materials that show the difference.

To Do

  • Build a table and shelves for the laser and laser materials
  • Set up a computer with the laser software near the cutter
  • Collect images that are good to use with the laser cutter
  • Improve seal around exhaust vent
  • Install vent fan for DJ booth
  • Install a door on the DJ booth
  • Cover most of the window of the dj booth with plexiglass
  • Extra lighting inside the laser cutter
  • Get a CO2 fire extinguisher. The current one will destroy the machine if used.

Cutting power / speeds

NYCR's Laser Power table

  • Typing paper - 100% speed, 3 milliamps
  • 2mm acrylic - 25% speed, 8 milliamps
  • 5/8ths inch acrylic - 1% speed, 12 milliamps, 2 passes
  • Plastic with metalic coating - 5 - 7 milliamps rastor, 3 ma vector
  • Linen - 70% speed, 4 milliamps, 1 pass

Specifications

  • Maximum material size: 13" x 16"
  • Maximum engravable area: 9.5" x 14.5"
  • Maximum material thickness: 2.75"
  • CO2 Laser Wavelength: 10.6um
  • Maximum Laser Power: 40W

Discussion

On the Discussion page!

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