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.

22 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.

      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.

        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.

      2. I am in process of ordering this thing to be delivered to MA. It turns out that free shipping is to a sea port and you have to arrange the delivery yourself and pay customs. I have no experience with that. Alternatively for another $650 DHL will deliver to my door. Does anyone have any advise?
        Thank you.

          1. Short story:
            I ended up going with DHL which added $650.
            Long story:
            I was warned by experienced people that getting stuff out of customs might be an adventure. Laser came 4 days later and the DHL guy with little ceremony rolled it to my garage door and dropped it with a bang. Despite flimsiest plywood box which was opened and no padding the whole thing looked good and the tube was intact.
            I proceeded to power it up … this is when I realized the guy shipped me a 220V version! OK, a week later and another $90 I had a step up transformer. To my surprise the laser worked beautifully from the first try. I used Inkscape and Whisperer. What a happy story! Wait…
            Longer story:
            Now I am trying to think of something useful I can use it for…. Wait! Why not to mess with software a little? And I made an attempt to load some of the stuff they had on the disk but got a hundred weird Chinese websites popping up. I panicked and quit. Now I am on the radar! On all of them!
            A day later while I was proudly demonstrating the laser to my friend’s kids I noticed diminishing power. So i cranked it up… and up … and up. It turned out that the pump even though vibrating vigorously is not pumping anything and the tube overheated. The output mirror fell off and it’s glass housing acquired a scary looking hole blasted by the laser. Water is everywhere… sad. But I thought it is not suppose to work without that mirror! That is called science… do not go there.
            Three weeks and $250 later I had a brand new 82cm tube. Same size but the mirrors are now housed in nice shiny stainless endcaps. It looks awesome. I got the old tube out but the new tube is really not 82cm but 85cm and it does not fit! Another week went in to drilling a 4″ hole at the positive end of the tube and printing a big bulge to protect and isolate the tube that is now happily sticking out of the laser body.
            I also learned my lesson and added water flow meter and temperature sensors at both ends of the tube. Arduino mega and 3″ screen makes it look as cool as Tesla in orbit. I also added analog ammeter so i do not exceed 20ma. I am not sure why 20 but I have heard rumors of people overheating and blasting mirrors… wild stuff. Now I am ready! Turned it on ….. and … and … where is the beam???
            The new tube is out of alignment badly and is probably trying to blast another hole somewhere. They secured the tube with straps made of tin cans and pieces of rubber. It is cheap and clever and I can relate to it and somehow it even worked. But it is really hard to align. So I spent another week to design and print proper adjustable brackets and now i can slide the tube back and forth and up and down.
            It finally all works and I am thinking is there anything useful I can make with it?
            How about cool beer mugs for my friends?
            Ah! I need a rotary thingy ! Yesss!

            To be continued. Work in progress.

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