Just In Case You Didn’t Know How Awesome Laser Cutters Really Are

[Alex] got his hands on an Epiloge laser cutter the easy way — the company he works for bought one. We’re sure he’s not trying to rub it in, but he really does make the tool look and sound cool in the post he wrote purely to show off the new toy hardware.

This model is a CO2 laser and it’s capable of etching and cutting a variety of materials. It does so with a 1200 DPI resolution at 0.005 pitch. The samples of engraved text and images show the clean lines and shapes this type of accuracy can achieve. The most stunning example is a piece of anodized aluminum which ends up showing some fantastic contrast that would make perfect face plates for project enclosures. Then there’s the cutting feature which is responsible for the gear demo seen above. We were surprised to hear that it will cut through acrylic but not polycarbonate.

After the break we’ve embedded [Alex’s] video. The camera is focused on the cutter as it engraves some lettering, then cuts out a gear. During the process he discusses what he’s learned about the device, sharing some interesting tidbits along the way.

We’re hoping to see some cool stuff like this from [Grenadier] who recently won a similar 40 Watt CO2 laser from Full Spectrum.


39 thoughts on “Just In Case You Didn’t Know How Awesome Laser Cutters Really Are

    1. Lol. I do this every day when I come in to work!

      Then I go for coffee for 2 hours while it warms up.. ;)

      I’d kill to get my hands on a working laser cutter. You can make some pretty slick mechanical clocks if you can cut gears that easily.. ;)

      1. Of note – a waterjet is essentially a stronger version of a laser cutter in the sense that it will do this same thing to metals as well as plastics. It can’t etch though. Of course, industrial (500 – 6000 watt) laser cutters can do the same thing as Epilogs and the like (20 – 120 watts). So anything you could create on a laser cutter, you can also create on a larger machine in more robust materials such as stainless or titanium. We use our laser cutter as a prototype machine.

      2. Pulsed solid-state Ti:Sapphire laser capable of producing 150 femtosecond pulses. Hardly ‘industrial’. It can take as little as an hour to warm up, but you have to give the cavity time to stabilize as the inside/outside case temp equalizes. If any adjustments are made before this initial warm up time then it just makes for more work in adjustment later in the day.

        @Macona: It’s a difference between pulsed and CW outputs. The YAG is pulsed (ns range pulsewidth), which means the peak intensity of the laser pulse is MUCH higher than the CW CO2. Higher peak power = higher e-field = higher likelyhood of removing electrons from their bound states, ultimately leading to material damage and/or modification.

  1. Polycarbonate is also opaque to IR at this wavelength. But the way it reacts is different than acrylic. Acrylic vaporizes and the internal cut surfaces act like a waveguide to keep the beam collimated through the cut.

    PC does not, it flares up and makes a sooty mess.

    1. Get a a YAG laser – its wavelength is 10 times smaller. It is my understanding (although I may be wrong) that YAG lasers can cut PC (compared to CO2 lasers like Universal, Epilog, Chinese lasers, etc) that are better at cutting less strongly bonded “organic like” things like wood, plastic, meat, etc.

      Curiously? CO2 lasers do a great job of engraving – especially anodized aluminum or painted metals.

      1. But YAGs are so complex compared to a CO2. Even the cheapest diode pumped yag in the power needed to do anything like what we want is pretty darn expensive. I have been thinking about building my own YAG head but thats is down the list of projects.

        One of the differences is YAG will actually etch metal where CO2 just burns the coating off wether it is paint, powerdercoat, or the dye in anodizing.

  2. A friendly suggestion to the poster:

    -Youtube is not a blog. Please, please, please don’t make a video where you hold the camera at something for 5 minutes.


    -If you’re going to talk for 5 minutes, don’t do so about something that takes 1 minute to say. Ie, figure out your monologue in advance.

    -Use something better than a 320×240 video camera or don’t bother; just take some photos and be done with it. Seriously, you can buy keychain cameras these days that shoot 720p for about $30.

  3. I once thought about making a clock from laser cut acrylic I ordered online. unfortunately they cut the gears at an angle not perpendicular and so wouldn’t work. Shame really because a pendulum regulated clock with transparent gears would be pretty awesome to watch.

      1. …and the DMCA protected chip in the cartridge will keep track of how many times you “printed” so it will stop working at the pre-determined count when you are supposed to buy a new one.

  4. I worked with industrial CO2 lasers for quite a while. We cut polycarbonate, but the edge wasn’t pretty. I think we used a pretty good gas flow coaxial with the beam, like we did with metals.
    Plexi needs almost no gas flow, as someone noted above. Our CNC lasers weren’t any good for marking, because they were too slow at the corners and tight details – you couldn’t maintain the proper power/speed ratio. – much smarter to have a dedicated laser marker in the house for that.
    Waterjet is totally different, though it can do many of the same things that you can with laser cutting.
    fun stuff…

  5. oh, yes – one of our guys cut a donut once – smelled nasty! Makes benzine and lots of other nasty hydrocarbons. Rubber also very bad. Concrete cut really slow. Waterjets are much better for those kinds of things.
    – oh – most real lasers and waterjets cnc controlled – someone above was probably thinking of cnc mills as being “CNCs”
    Cutters, high pressure water + abrasives, or photons, need the computer control to make it go.

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