Ablative power on my doorstep


After months of waiting, emailing and waiting some more, I took the afternoon off to stay home and wait for this special delivery. (I had to wait an extra day due to a shipping issue!) I received three huge boxes in my workshop. Not only did I receive this (not so mini) Epilog mini 24, I put together a stand and unpacked a monster air filter.

Read on for the obligatory Hack-A-Day logo and my first impressions of this sweet piece of kit.

First off I had to unpack and put things together. Assembling the stand was pretty easy – but my electric screwdriver made everything much easier. The laser has an I/O board with a test socket, USB interface and a network interface. Once I connected it to my network, I decided to be lazy and look up the dhcp address on my server – and failed. Surprisingly, the system doesn’t support DHCP. This isn’t a deal killer, but it meant that I had to wade through the setup instructions to manually set the interface. (Epilog just leaves it setup for the usual private lan: 192.168.x.x.)

I took a quick look inside the box – and was surprised by just how small the servo motors are. They’re about the same size as a 1/10 scale model car, plus encoder. The X/Y assembly only moves a small aiming mirror, air gun and auto focus tool, so it doesn’t need to be very large.


Once I got a feel for using the print driver, I grabbed some scrap pine and got to work. I loaded up some Hack-A-Day logo vector art, filled in the areas with some color and sent the job off to the machine. The laser doesn’t do anything until you’ve pushed the go button on the device, so you can send a few jobs to it at once if you like. (The buffer holds 64, I believe.)

On the whole, I’m pretty impressed with the machine. It’s built like a tank, uses servo motors to actuate the X/Y axis, and allows you to use a Mac or windows PC to drive it. If you’re doing multiple runs, you simply select the job, line things up and hit go.

I haven’t picked a winner for the Hackit just yet, so keep on sending up ideas if you’ve got em. We’ll be offering more chances at getting your gear etched as time goes by, so stay tuned!

Comments

  1. Looks pretty nice! I hope I win! This must be AWESOME to use…

  2. Man On Fire says:

    so does this thing just etch/burn, or can it cut as well?

  3. Ray says:

    Will this etch/burn other material, say plastic? Like Poly-carb?

  4. David says:

    we got a laser cutter in the lab at work. We cut and engraved everything we could possibly think of for about a week– then it wasn’t so interesting and we started using it for real.
    Note: thin balsa wood is a fire hazard.

  5. Basic A. says:

    and, with some modificcation, no more yappy dog next door.

  6. Josh says:

    I’m seriously going to have to invest in one of those one day. It’s one of those o-so-many-uses devices everyone should get if they can fit it into the budget.

  7. norm says:

    this doesn’t seem like a “fit in” type of gadget though :) it’s more like a “make room” type of thing..
    but i agree, it is really cool to have.. though after engraving everything (your cat too) it probably will lose its appeal and won’t be really worth the money.. you gotta get one where you will not only use it for personal things or even make money off of it..
    the coolest way to show off your shiny new gadget would be to get out your some-kind-of-wood door from its hinges, get it on the work table and engrave the whole thing bit by bit.. i would go for a bender image holding out a gun and saying “give me your money” but i’m weird like that..

  8. macegr says:

    seems that a lot of people have no idea how a laser cutter/engraver is used. well…we have one at techshop and i’ve used it for lots of stuff. with a 45watt laser you can cut acrylic, wood, cloth, leather, rubber, and a few other materials. you can’t cut pvc, lexan, vinyl, foamboard, etc because those generate smoky gases containing chemicals that will ruin the laser…and you. you can etch glass pretty decently. with the right power settings, you can ablate the paint off a surface without harming the underlying material…useful for laptop lids. unless you get a special laser, you can’t do anything to any metal. good uses include cutting acrylic and wood into complex slottable structures, precisely cutting paper and fabric for crafts, etching intricate rubber stamps, marking plastic, wood, or glass items. at techshop we’ve also had good luck spraying pcb material with paint and then lasering off to leave a resist pattern for wet etching. my current laser project is an acrylic pcb etching tank with integrated air bubble agitator in the bottom…channels are etched and tiny holes pierced, then the sheets are glued in a sandwich. this has been tested and works very well at generating bubbles.

  9. Kurt says:

    @Norm

    Who said having to make room/sell half your living room funiture just to make room/pay for said toy was a bad thing?? If I thought that way for the past 5 years, I’d have nothing in my room, oh wait where’d this desk with hundreds of pounds of equipment come from…dammit, snapped back to reality.

  10. chupa says:

    pretty much looses its appeal/usefulness if it cant at least cut sheet metal :-/. Ide rather have a water jet or CNC router any day…

  11. josh says:

    so what’s a ballpark figure on how much these things run? No one lists a price, and I don’t want to waste some salesman’s time just to satisfy my curiosity.

  12. About $15k-20k for this model. Epilog has a new unit that’s about $8,000 now.

  13. chris says:

    @macegr
    Actually, there are chemicals that can be sprayed/painted on metal that allow you to oxidize the metal with a standard CO2 laser. My parrents have one for their engraving shop.

  14. Anonymous Coward? says:

    if you just wanted to do etching you can buy just the laser module (either a co2 laser or a high power solid state IR laser would do) for woodburning and stuff like that you can use like a 1 watt IR laser (available on ebay for under 100$) and then hook it up to one of those at home cnc mill rigs and just change some settings so that it wouldnt move the laser up and down (or just change the design)

  15. chupa says:

    soo what does this do that a stencil and a can of spray paint cant?

  16. dainichi says:

    what can your stencil and can of spraypaint do that this can’t?
    ;)

  17. Alan says:

    Sweet looking machine! Toss up some videos when you have it doing some cool things.

  18. dakota says:

    @chupa

    Is your can of spraypaint and stencils networked? Can it run DOOM? Will it blend?

  19. James says:

    I have been looking at these machines for quite some time. If you run out of things to do with it then your just not using the old noodle. We have been running experiments with a local shop who has one and are trying to justify buying one ourselves. We have burned away the powder coat on aluminum to number connectors, etched into red lens for led readout legends, even made custom boxes by cutting .25 thick black plexi and then stacking it pyramid style. One of the only downfalls is cutting 3d depths like a cnc can do. It is possible but takes a lot of experimenting.

  20. Jonathan Wilson says:

    Screw this, I want one of those machines they use on American Chopper to cut out all the custom bike parts :)

  21. Inga Baitis says:

    Does the material to be worked have to be placed on a platform? Does the laser only move on an x/y axis or can it move three-dimensionally? Can you cut stone?? Thanks

  22. sidharth says:

    We have retail counters of automotive glasses & car accessories in Delhi (India). We require a portable laser machine (easy to carry) for etching registration numbers of cars (stencil / designer fonds) on its side, front & back glasses.

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