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.

36 thoughts on “Hoisting A Laser Cutter To The 3rd Floor (and Other Fun You’ll Probably Never Have)

    1. As soon as I saw the picture, all I could think of was the end of Good Burger, where the giant hamburger flies off the exploding restaurant and crushes Sinbad’s car.

    2. Why? If you can’t do your work safely, than you must not do it. You can send a bill to somebody for your time, but it’s no excuse to damage foreign property. At least here you need a permit from a municipal office, if you want to reserve public (parking) space for construction or delivery work.

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

      1. 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

      2. So the 500W come from the burning iron :-) I have herad, when you use a Oxy-Acetylen cutting torch, you need (nearly) no fuel gas after ignition of the iron because it`s oxidation delivers enough heat. And I have seen an iron wire burning in an O2 atmosphere quite nicely.

        1. yeah it was basically heating up the metal and slagging it through. lasers melt, vapourise or burn their way through things, the metal conducts away the heat too quickly for a smaller laser so getting more heat in quickly helped melt the metal,.ain’t pretty but shows you can pack more energy in with the o2 assist.

    1. 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.

  5. 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!”

  6. 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.

  7. 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.)

  8. 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.

  9. 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)

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