Help Ithaca Generator Get A Laser Cutter


Ithaca Generator, a hackerspace in upstate New York, is running an indiegogo campaign for a laser cutter. With the recent stories of fires, and landlord problems hitting hackerspaces lately, we thought it would be good be to mention a space that is doing well and working to expand their tools. The Generator is looking to purchase a 60 Watt laser cutter. The flexible funding campaign is set for $3000 US, and they are within striking distance of just passed their goal! As any laser veteran will tell you, $3000 isn’t nearly enough for a 60 Watt model from a reputable company. The group already has a donor who will match the campaign final funding amount up to $4000. If the campaign exceeds Now that the campaign has exceeded their goal, the extra funds will go toward a fume extraction systems for the new laser, as well as spare lenses and parts. The group has also added stretch goals for an extended warranty and an upgrade to 90 Watts of laser power.

Many of the donation perks include free membership to the hackerspace. [Vic Aprea], a member of The Generator board told us that out-of-town donors can gift these memberships to anyone local to the hackerspace. A membership would be a great gift for a Cornell or Ithaca college student. For more information on the generator and the campaign check out their website and the video after the break.

42 thoughts on “Help Ithaca Generator Get A Laser Cutter

  1. Why Do Some People Write Titles Like This? I Find It A Very Strange Way Of Writing.

    Also, Wasn’t This Exactly The Thing People Complained About In Just About Every Other Thread About Hacker Spaces? The Fact That They Try To Fund Things Through Crowd Funding Instead Of Making Sure They Can Afford It Themselves, Or Getting The Things Through A Company Sponsorship.

    1. At Least They Got The Spelling Right And The Summary Matches The Heading And Article As Well.

      They Also write Headings Like this as Well Which is Rather Irritating.

      Maybe we could crowdfund an editor for HaD.

      1. No they’re not.

        The tubes are expensive, the rest not so much.

        A 60W tube and power supply will cost $500-$750. That’s maybe 1/3rd price. Make or buy this: (that’s all the mechanicals), $150 for optics, $100 for electronics, and a few hundred more for assorted bits and the frame, and a club should be able to scrounge or be donated most of the ‘boring stuff’.

        Lasers are lightweights in the CNC realm, you could build one bigger than that using the same mechanics & electronics, regardless of the size there’s very little stuff to push around (no load).

        I giggle every time I see those prices @ Lasersaur.

        $130 for safety glasses? You don’t need ‘special’ glasses to block CO2 lasers (infrared), normal safety glasses like you’d wear for wood or metal work are fine – that’s what I (and everyone else) uses.

        Spend maybe $10. There, you’ve saved $120.

        Same for the other parts. See those plastic panels? They’ve got 2 900x900mm pieces at $270. $100 will buy you a full sheet (2400x1200mm aka 8×4 foot), and you could probably cut all the bits listed there out of it. And you can cut that yourself (I mean, that’s the point of hacking, right?)

        There’s another few hundred saved, and so on.

        I’m building one to take a full sheet (2400×1200), hopefully with a 200W tube. I’m aiming at spending $5,000. (Tube prices have gone up a bit recently, dang.)

        1. I *know* that polycarbonate safety glasses should do the job, but it’s difficult to take that gamble with your eyesight. (I’m hardly the safety police and to prove it I have managed to accidentally burn a hole in the back of my hand with an unfocused 40W CO2 beam.)

          I ended up finding some “reasonably” priced $50 laser safety glasses on eBay and it did feel better. Mock me if you like.

          1. You could always make a simple sensor for testing. There are lots of IR sensors available, and making a 3 part comparative test should be sufficient

            First test how much radiation hits the sensor in a given position, then test with the glasses between the sensor and the source, then do a third test with the glasses in the same position, but a piece of cardboard or metal between the glasses and the source to eliminate back reflections

          2. Mock, mock, mock.

            For $50 I can get a dozen of these: which is close enough to what I use.

            They block IR, are close fitting and wrap around. Why pay $50 when you can pay $4? (Never mind $130!)

            Don’t forget in most cases you are running the laser with the lid down, and more to the point the window in it is plastic – just like the $4 glasses. Why don’t you go and find a sheet of special “laser safe” plastic to put in there?

            Those 40W lasers have orange plastic in the lid, the colour is merely to keep the brightness down – the laser gets a bit bright at times.

            And yes, I’ve punched a hole in my hand as well.

          3. Not sure why I can’t reply to Sven and Tony, but can to my own post. Never mind.

            Yeah – you’re both right. Very simple to get a spare pair of the cheap glasses and see if they protect a piece of paper behind them. (Destructive testing, but cheap enough to do so.)

            It just somehow didn’t seem worth taking that tiny risk, despite the fact that I’m not particularly risk averse otherwise. I’ve broken more bones than I can remember racing motorbikes, etc. Maybe it’s a squeamish eye thing. (Although I’ve had laser eye surgery too.) I can’t really justify it.

            Tony – according to some threads in, you might struggle with alignment on a 2400 x 1200 table, especially if there is any flex at all in your XY stage.

          4. Unless you’ve a seriously mis-aligned mirror, any laser light leaving the enclosure will be quite scattered. The amount of light the glasses (or the window for that matters) needs to stop is quite small, but still more that you’d like it to be. The $4 glasses easily absorb that amount.

            How much damage from the laser does your window have? Smoke doesn’t count.

            The glasses will stop the unfocussed beam for a brief time, but that’s a worst case scenario. The ‘special’ glasses won’t survive 40 watts hitting a 3-5mm dot either.

            Yeah, the bigger the bed gets, the hard it is to align flying optics. Mine is built on a torsion bed to take out the flex, but there are other ways. (It’ll still flex, everything does.)

            Torsion boxes are a simple concept, there’s an excellent guide to making a one here:

            If you look at any large laser (including the Lasersaur & Buildlog) the panels they fit to the frame are really there to stiffen it, they’d be very floppy without them. Any other benefit (air flow etc) is a bonus. Mine has those as well.

            It’s like bookcases, once you nail that sheet of 3mm ply to the back they become quite rigid.

  2. @Hackerspace:
    I think this is ethically disgusting! Even if this hackerspace only has 20 people that’s 150$ per person. Raise an internal funding. If everyone of those 20 people pays 20$ per month (which is really not much!), you’d get there in 8 months! Can’t find 20 people who will spend that much (little actually…)? Then your hackerspace doesn’t need a lasercutter!

    I’m not one of those maker-fanatics and think it’s okay to pay professionals to do what they do best, but this feels like first-world-problem-charity:

    Sorry, but it had to be done

    I think this is not only the hackerspace’ people fault: They see there are people willing to pay and they try. The worst that could happen is a rant of some random people on the internet. Please consider thinking about real charity programs for people who really need help! I can’t remember HaD ever featured one of those. There are plenty that would fit in here.

    If you plan on posting more of this-kind-articles, make a column where people could see other charity programs immediately and choose if they want to support a hackerspace get a lasercutter a few months earlier or kids in Africa getting a computer room. You will see the number of rants will decline.

      1. And your point would be…..what?

        Apparently their monthly dues are NOT enough to buy a new toy. If they want a new toy they either set up an additional fee to get the toy, or raise everyone’s monthly dues, or do without the new toy.

        This trend to beg others to foot the bill for their hobby is embarrassing and pathetic. And advertising the foolishness of these morons makes it 10 times harder for anyone trying to setup a legitimately run hackerspace because you know loser stories like this will be presented as the case for NOT allowing/funding/starting your own club.

        Either figure out how to do it yourself, or do without – Geeeeeesh, who’s running these clubs? Get a clue, grow up, and live within your means.

  3. I have to agree that they should build one and fund it themselves. The route I’d recommend for anyone wanting to get started in a cost efficient manner is:

    * Buy one of those dodgy DC-K40 lasers on eBay. They’re hardly more than the cost of the tube and PSU.
    * Replace the inevitable missing screws, improve the dodgy wiring and add some safety interlocks.
    * Throw away the awful control board and make your own. (I got one from to save time, but it’s really just 2 steppers and an on/off switch – nothing a decent hackerspace can’t handle).
    * Tweak and improve as time and budget allow.
    * Eventually build your own and transplant the tube.

    Personally I’ve paused at the “improved DC-K40” stage for now (adjustable honeycomb Z table, air assist) because I’ve got enough to do what I need and I’m short on space. I’ve also got a cheap working laser whilst I get round to a proper build.

  4. Hey Hackaday posters – thanks for reading about our campaign. I’ve noticed a lot of questions about why we are raising funds for a commercial laser cutter ( rather than buy it ourselves or build it ourselves ). I serve as the President of Ithaca Generator, so can talk about our thought process.

    We are all hardcore DIY’ers at Ithaca Generator, and we enjoy the satisfaction of creating things and learning through creation. Sometimes, we have to choose whether to build or to buy, based on the needs of our membership. We have a lot of members who would use a laser cutter to create amazing things, but who don’t have the time to also create – and support – a homemade system.

    In this case, we were also fortunate to get an up-front pledge for a matching donation – up to $4000.00. This kind of giving is great, because it acts as an encouragement for others to pitch in, and gave us a target budget that would allow for a laser cutter that would withstand regular use over a long time with less maintenance ( rather than a homemade or hobby-class laser ).

    Ultimately, the vast majority of the funding for this campaign has come from our own members, but we have found that there are a lot of people who choose not to join ( sometimes for purely geographic reasons ), but understand the value of what we are providing, and are glad to help it along.

    Why should you donate your hard earned money here? We have proven that we can get real working tools into the hands of people in the community from all income levels and backgrounds. We’ve created an _institution_ that regularly provides classes and hands on activites to children and adults for free or at moderate cost. We are encouraging innovation at a grassroots level.

    If you believe ( as we do ) that putting tools like this in the hands of the community is a positive thing, inspiring creation and innovation in adults and in young makers, then consider supporting us! ( Check out our video for a more eloquent pitch )

    1. Apologies if the HackaDay comments seem hostile. Mostly people are just annoyed that HaD is feturing articles that are irrelevent to the 99% who don’t live in Ithaca. It makes it look like your members are begging for money from the internet, rather than using the internet to let your members fund themselves.

      1. Isn’t that what is happening? What is the difference between this and some random person asking for a pricey new toy paid for by strangers?

        I mean, if you want you could buy me a laser cutter and I’ll happily let people in my local community use it.

    2. As another poster mention, a better route would be to buy one of the cheap 300×200 40W lasers off eBay for about $700, and use the experience gained in running that to build a large format & power one – there’s a bunch of open source designs you can use these days.

      Those $700 lasers are ‘junk’, but I liked mine so much I’ve now got two, and ordering a third. The controller & software is rubbish, so you get to learn something replacing those.

      These is very little difference between those lasers and the one you’re planning on buying – just the frame is bigger. The only real difference is a higher powered laser requires better cooling (ice in a bucket of water doesn’t really cut it).

      With the money you are collecting you could build 3 of the lasers you’re planning on buying, you’d know exactly how everything works, can repair & upgrade it, and use you new skills to build a better one.

      You’d be surprised at the amount of stuff you can cut on those 40W lasers – so buying one isn’t a waste of time & money.

  5. Hmm, the biggest problem I see once they have that laser is moving that guy cause it looks like he won’t want to move at all.

    But I’m sure this is just the sort of situation that Stealth Catapults were designed for!

  6. Quite ironic to have a 300$/year basic membership fee and not being able to afford a cheap china lasercutter. But it’s even lamer to go crowd funding for a cheap china lasercutter and probably pay HAD some money to get enough page hits, because otherwise noone would care about your non existing cheap china lasercutter.

    Am I the only one who realizes HAD is becoming worse with the new guys who took it over some time ago?

  7. This space says it works with the students. My son is a Mechie going to Cornell and I asked him about this place. Said if he wanted to use a laser cutter he’d just go over to the lab and use it. I can see this for people outside the school but Cornell students have access to a pretty good facility.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.