Bringing A 50 Watt Laser Cutter to Life

This is the future and we live in a world of 3D printers and laser cutters. Have you ever pondered the question of getting yourself a laser cutter? Well [Erich Styger] just landed a 50 Watt Laser Cutter from AliExpress and has written up a detailed guide to his experience.

[Erich] had been wrestling with the idea of buying one for himself for some time but was put off by the difficulty in their operation. This changed when [Scorch] published the K40 Whisperer control software which allows for better control over these machines. With the hopes of an interesting weekend project, [Erich Styger] took a leap of faith and spent $900 on a model 4040 laser cutter.

In his blog, he goes through the steps in setting up the machine as well as calibrating the laser. With a plethora of images and a detailed look at each aspect of the leveling and testing, [Erich Styger] had a weekend well spent and a working K40 laser cutter for his workshop. But perhaps the more valuable part of the stories is the overall experience.

It was not a “what you see is what you get” order, but it did turn out to be a hacker’s “what you want is what you get” adventure. The machine didn’t look the same as the picture, it came with a burned CD-R with a box full of small parts (in addition to separate shipment of a USB thumb drive and silicone sealant), and there were some mechanical touchups plus a stuck switch requiring reassembly. He has done an excellent job of documenting from order to test-runs and the photos alone are worth taking a look.

Adding value to inexpensive laser cutters in an often-featured project around here. If you are looking for more details on these wonderful machines, be sure to check out more tales of Cheap Laser Cutters and our coverage of the K40 Whisperer software launch from last month.

19 thoughts on “Bringing A 50 Watt Laser Cutter to Life

  1. For that price is there any proof it is actually 50 watts? I don’t know much about lasers but I know that’s pretty high power and $900 is pretty cheap for one too if I’m not mistaken.

    1. In general a laser cutter has narrow beam-width optics, and a laser engraver is lower power.

      In practice, the energy output of a laser tube reaches a limit long before the power supply dial hits 100%.
      Get an 80W tube, slowly ramp up the power from 10% to run it below the optimal depth penetration settings. This value will be nowhere near the label on the machine, and is usually around 60% for a 50W supply.

      If you run a tube over the actual power limit, than you will only shorten the life of the tube.

      Tip:
      The 100W+ rated machines should have a tube almost a meter long that pokes out one side in an enclosure.
      Small form factor desktop units are normally too short to even fit a real 60W tube.

      Label’s say whatever the customer wants in China, but there are far more honest sellers than the organized-crime scams.
      I’d rather pay a small factory that does good work, than some local middle man.
      However, invest $10 in a GFI….
      add your own extra ground strap before plugging-in a water cooled unit into a local-retail acquired GFI plug.

      1. I just looked closely at the images in the blog posting, and the laser PSU is huge. Far bigger than is needed for a 50W (25W) machine.

        I upgraded my machine to a 100W high spec tube, and its power supply is smaller than that one.

        The problem with buying this type of machine, is…. Unless you just want to cut thin bits of wood and paper and acylic, you will soon outgrow the machine, and it would be very hard to upgrade the mechanics of the machine to take a larger more powerful tube.

        My 100W RECI tube (is twice the diameter of the original “50W” tube, and I doubt it would be possible to fit the width aspect of a larger tube into this chassis.
        I did have to make some modifications to my machine, but only to accommodate the new tube length (around 50cm longer i.e 60% longer), as my machine has a larger laser cabinet.

  2. These sorts of laser cutters are never really 50W.

    If you watch Russ’s (Sarbar Multimedia) videos on Youtube

    Specifically this video
    “RDWorks Learning Lab 22 The 50watt fraud a lesson learned ”

    Russ explains how these machines, even his larger more expensive machine, is not 50W

    I have a larger machine, which came with basically the same tube, and it could only be pushed to output around 35W

    Goodness knows what corners they have cut in order to get the price down to $900
    Bearing in mind these things have a power supply that can generate 15kV ….

    1. Russ’s videos are well worth the time, even though he is a little long-winded. Some of it may not apply to this particular cutter, as it has no ruida controller, which is not too bad actually.

    2. Ha, old style CRT displays also put out 15Kv, and those you could get for pretty cheap.
      Oh and come to think of it, they also had a large glass tube, and I wonder in terms of manufacturing if a decent TV tube then was harder to make than a laser now.

      1. Yes. CRT colour TV’s use 24Kv, which is higher than that tube will use.

        However, regulation of consumer electronics, will mean that the TV you bought will conform to the electrical safety regulations where you live.

        These laser cutter breach numerous safety regulations unless you modify them.

        There are numerous posts on forums, where people have found that the HT connection to the tube is merely the wire being twisted around a metal pin, and some glue put over it. This works loose, and you end up with a lethal situation.

        The blog notes
        “The high voltage connection of the tube looked like many others I have seen: wires filled with silicone to make the connection (weird, but that seems the standard way):”

        If you also look carefully at the photos in the blog e.g.

        https://mcuoneclipse.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/laser-tube-high-voltage-connection.png?w=584&h=458

        You’ll see that the Red HT wire is not kept away from the water pipes.

        These machines are fine if you know what you are doing, but are potentially lethal if you don’t

    1. In Sacramento CA. Purchased a 500me 405nm diode and no duty on it. However, my friend who sells clothes says it depends on if they open the container at customs. But he is also a Chinese manufacturer.

      1. Thanks. Well, I would imagine a laser cutter is a big box, wouldn’t they open it or X-ray it systematically? Also, wouldn’t they check the box given the reported contents? Or you are suggesting the customs check boxes randomly, even when they know the contents?

        1. From what I hear they don’t check pure freight traffic all that much, and certainly don’t have the time and resources I expect since it’s astounding how much freight arrives each day, spot checks and using known suspicion indicators like origin and type of labeling and such are the only way. Where the focus is on drugs (recreational and non-recreational) and human trafficking and large scale expensive brand forgeries and chemicals and fake machine/electronics part in bulk for large scale sale. Plus checks are supposed to be done in the country of origin too before being put on the boat, which they will do to an extend to prevent large incidents to avoid being hit by sanctions and being kicked out of the WTO and such consequences.

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