Hoisting a laser cutter to the 3rd floor (and other fun you’ll probably never have)

The folks at Null Space Labs bought a 40W CO2 laser tube in order to build their own laser cutter. Unfortunately nobody really wants to build a laser cutter; they just want to play with a laser cutter. So they ended up biting the bullet and ordering a $4000 model from China. That’s it hovering in midair. This is the story of acquiring the unit and playing around with it once it arrived.

Check out those orange cones in the picture. Hackerspace members put them out to keep the parking spots clear so no damage was caused in the event of an accident. But since they’re located in Los Angeles some of the road warriors didn’t really care and just moved the cones anyway. Luckily the crane hoist to the third floor (they removed one of the windows) ended up going rather well.

So what do you do with a laser cutter like this one? Crack it open and make some improvements. The manufacturer says it can’t cut through steel. Well that’s only if you don’t add some O2 to the cutting process. And the stock mirrors… they’ve got to go. Turns out a simple upgrade boosted the power by about 20% (we’re wondering how they measured that). While we’re talking about optics, might as well upgrade the lens as well. You can see where they’re going with this, and [CharlieX] tells us it is just the first in a series of posts he’ll be working on.


  1. andar_b says:

    Nice crane operator. :) I’d have been tempted to ‘oops’ on that car a few times. :s lol

  2. bluewraith says:

    I think the real hack in the story is the link within to building your own mirrors from old HDD platters. Tearing a window out is fairly typical.

  3. I know I certainly had the-opposite-of-fun getting an arcade cabinet up a flight of rickety stairs to my apartment. :S

    It took TWO HOURS to get it up 17 steps, and lives were nearly lost at several points! It was harrowing!

  4. Chris says:

    I gather from the article they measure how much material the unit can cut through in a certain amount of time in order to gauge improvements. That is why (I think) that they give the numbers as a percentage instead of a measure such as Watts.

  5. dl7und says:

    Hmm, I do unfortunately not own a laser cutter, but I got my washing machine lifted to the fourth floor and a fridge to the second. Normal here, the stairways are too narrow.

  6. Jarel says:

    Should’ve put a big bulls-eye on the parking space.

    Some people are so dumb that they need a cartoon reference to understand what might happen to their car.

  7. Hackerspacer says:

    A 40W Chinese (or any type really) laser is not going to cut through steel of any appreciable thickness, no matter how much O2 you throw at it.

    You need 600 – 1000W to start seriously thinking about cutting through steel.

    • charliex says:

      It’s 90W and we already cut steel with it. Adding O2 in the way we did basically adds 500W.

      • Hackerspacer says:

        You seriously cut 1/8″ or 1/4″ steel with a 40 or 90 watt CO2 laser?


      • charliex says:

        No we didn’t, but we have cut steel sheets which is really useful for a lot of things and its a lot more than most people are doing with this type of laser.

        A 600W+ laser is needed with no gas assist (obviously depending on the thickness). We’re working on changing the 90W to a 170W tube which will take us up to a decent amount, 150W will cut 2mm steel no problem, even 3.1750mm. Its not like its a new thing.

        so yes riiiiigghhhttttttttt

      • Hackerspacer says:

        Let’s see you do aluminium. 3/8″ thick.

      • Tony says:

        I wonder why HackerSpacer is being such a dickhead. Clueless too, it’s pretty obvious they’re cutting sheet steel.

        Bad day? Jealousy? Cat died?

    • macona says:

      Basically what they are doing is cutting like you would with a torch. The flame on a torch is only needed to get the metal hot enough where it will burn in the presence of oxygen, and that is what is happening in their pictures. You can tell by the heat affected zone (HAZ). Normal laser cutting has almost no HAZ and a much smaller kerf. What they have is laser ignited oxygen burning.

    • Ryan says:

      Have you ever used an oxyacetylene torch?

      This is pretty much the same thing. Although I would agree it’s kindof useless.

      Still: LASERS

  8. me3p says:

    Some laser systems have a heat sensor to measure laser output. Basically, you move a thermistor into the beam and see how much it heats up over a set time.

  9. WonkoTheSane says:

    Null Space might have liked to put a copy of the photo above on the windshield of the car in the coned-off space, with the caption “Why we put the cones HERE!”

  10. NateOcean says:

    The blog says:

    The new lens vs old one.
    Ply Wood 5.2mm 8speed 90power OLD LENS
    ply wood 5.2mm 15speed 40power NEW LENS

    This represents a 4.2X increase in the power/speed ratio between the NEW vs OLD. I don’t see how that can be.

    Put another way, this implies that running twice the power, at half the speed (4X increase) was necessary to get the jobs done with the OLD lens.

    So if 1-part is all it really takes to cut the plywood, then when you were using 90power and 80 speed, where did the remaining 3-parts disappears to?

    If 4-parts was going in one side of the lens, but only 1-part coming out the other side, that’s an awful LOT of power being absorbed by that lens.

  11. Ryan says:

    We have a similar laser (80watt toob, though) at heatsync labs in Phoenix.

    The software it comes with is actually pretty awesome, and I’ve heard this from several different people. In fact, a friend of mine has access to both an epilogue (is that how it’s spelled? I don’t know), and a chinese laser at her lab, and she’s said that most people end up using the chinese one, partially because of the software.

    (The software is good because epilogue treats the laser like a printer. Setting speed/power stuff is complicated. The “crappy” chinese software is a lot more intuitive. It just sucks for designing anything.)

  12. Jeff says:

    its time to buy a o2 cylinder i have a 200L cylinder and pay 34.99 to fill it… much better than paying 10.00 for a ounce.

    it does stand about 5 feet tall though and is almost to much to handle by yourself.

  13. >we’re wondering how they measured that

    The first lasers were measured in “Gillettes”. This was a count of how many razor blades the thing could burn through.

    (damn I feel old)

  14. Jonathan Wilson says:

    For some reason this post and hack makes me think of the crazy cool fabrication stuff custom bike builders use. (especially the talk about using it to cut metal)

  15. Wanna see what 5000 watts can do? Look at our YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/CincinnatiWeb
    Of course you would want to put our 30,000 pound machine on the first floor.

    It would look cool on the car in the parking spot.

    Was Whil E Coyote driving the car?

  16. diedemus says:

    My question is, why can’t anyone park correctly? Every bumper is over the curb.

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