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Lasercutter

This version was saved 10 years, 5 months ago View current version     Page history
Saved by Gavin Smith
on June 11, 2011 at 12:24:48 am
 

You can also check out this page here for the Lasercutter - Setting and Examples.

 

The lasercutter was partly funded by robots and dinosaurs, but the majority came from member's donations. Special thanks to Gavin, Jeremy, Vorn, Brendan, Max, Rebecca, talsit(david), Mitchell, Macca, Jason B, Kean, David B (shig), Tristan, Adriaan & Chris B for their support. 

 

The Machine & Specs:

The machine is an SG-3040A, which has a 50W laser, and a 300x420mm working area. The following specs are from the manufacturer, take them with a grain of salt. 

  • Stepper motor drive
  • 0.01mm precision
  • 0-500mm/S speed (engrave)
  • 0-40mm/S speed (cut)



Note: There are some obstructions into the working area due to the bed lift mechanism, so it's not a pure 300x420mm rectangle. There will be a template near the machine we can use to mark out stock before cutting.

The machine is water cooled and also has an air assist pump and nozzle added as an extra, which blows air past the cut and helps prevent fire. If you’re considering buying a machine, it’s well worth the extra $50.

The machine comes with ‘NewlyDraw’ software to control it. It’s quite primitive, but reasonably stable. Unfortunately it’s also dongle based, so you can’t work on the files away from the cutter. One day we might rip out the control system and do everything from CNC control software like MACH3, but that’ll involve a heck of a lot of tweaking, so we’re living with NewlyDraw for now.

Prerequisites:

  • a DXF file of the object to be cut
  • a JPG or similar of any bitmaps you want to engrave (Note: You can combine these two inside the newlydraw software and have the cutter engrave everything first, then automatically cut shapes)
  • Material to cut it from (see the 'List of Doom' for forbidden materials that can case fire or toxic fumes)



See the ‘Software’ section below for free software that can output DXF files.

 

Instructions for use:

Before using, you must be trained. This info is here as a refresher only.

 

Step 1: Import the files to NewlyDraw

Import the files you want to cut into newlydraw using File-->Import (not file-->open).
You can use the ‘split’ option after selecting an object if you want to ungroup and move or modify them.

 

Step 2: Select cut or engrave as necessary, and define the cut order

The lasercutter will always do engraving operations before  cuts. This is because the material may fall away after a cut operation, and if you engrave or cut it afterwards, then it will be slightly out of focus.

After an object is selected, you can select ‘cut’ or ‘scan’ (engrave) from the drop down menu.

Click the blue ‘cut order’ button and you can see how all the cut objects are scheduled to be cut.

  • If you click on the blue label of an object, it’ll reorder starting at ‘1’.
  • If you want to accept the ordering up to a point, hold down ‘CTL’ and click on the last point you’re happy with. The next blue label you click on will proceed from that number.

 

Step 3: Position the material on the bed and focus the laser

Put the material on the honeycomb bed, and adjust the focus. The top face of the laser head should be 62mm above the top surface of the work.

Use the z-crank in the bottom right nut to raise or lower the table. Remember to remove the crank before use, otherwise the laser can collide with it.

The honeycomb bed is used to support the material but allow the heat and ‘laser goop’ that’s produced when cutting to drain away. You can remove it and cut on solid material, but it’ll stain a bit.

 

Step 4: Adjust the laser power

There are two ways to control the laser power, set by a toggle switch inside the case on  the right.
Manual power: The power level is set by the dial on the front of the machine. Note:  this is a 10 turn potentiometer, so make sure you’re in the right ballpark.
Automatic power: The power level is controlled by the computer. You can specify different levels for engraving and cutting, which is handy. The ‘prop’ button in the engrave panel leads to the power settings.

 

Step 5: Position the head and start the cut

  • Use the jog panel to position the head where you like. You can also manually type in coordinates and click ‘To X-Y’.

  • You can get a rough idea of where it will go by pressing ‘Move Frame’. The head will trace out the rectangle enclosing the entire cut. Pressing ‘Cut Frame’ does the same, but uses the laser to put engrave a feint line on the workpiece.

 

Step 6: Watch for fire!

It’s important to keep an eye on the laser while it’s cutting. Even easy-to-cut materials like acrylic can suddenly burst into flame.

 

List of Doom: (Forbidden materials)

Cutting certain materials with the lasercutter can make toxic fumes which are hazardous to people's health, and can also damage the optics in the laser.

 

Materials that are out include:

  • MacBooks with plastic casing (Contains polycarbonate. Not the Aluminum 'Pros or Airs, they're OK)

  • Moleskine notebooks (The cover contains chlorine)

  • Wiring (Insulation may contain PVC, which contains chlorine)
  • MDF?
  • Polycarbonate plastics (a.k.a. Lexan)
  • PVC and vinyl plastics (contains chlorine)
  • Any unknown plastics. Information on how to test is here, and involves a blowtorch and being outdooors

Materials that are OK include: 

  • Acrylic
  • ABS
  • Delrin
  • HDPE (supposedly melts badly, though) 
  • Paper & wood (watch carefully for fire)
  • Cloth (provided it doesn't contain vinyl or chlorine, do test above) 
  • Kapton tape 
  • Teflon 
  • Styrene 

 

Tips:

  • Sometimes Inkscape brings in SVGs at the wrong scale (80% of normal). If this happens, select everything and object-->transform to a scale of 125%  (Caused by 90 DPI vs 72 DPI standards)
  • If you’re making a box or other enclosure, use the ‘Box-o-Tron’ script by Zignig to create a makerbot enclosure as a starting point. This saves heaps of time!

 

Resources:

 

Software:

 

 

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