Popping The Hood On The Flux Beamo Laser Cutter

While the K40 has brought affordable laser cutting to the masses, there’s no question that it took a lot of sacrifices to hit that sub-$400 price point. There’s a reason that we’ve seen so many upgrades and improvements made to the base model machine, but for the price it’s hard to complain. That being said, for users who don’t mind spending a bit more money for a more complete out-of-the-box experience, there are other options out there.

One of them is the beamo, from FLUX. [Frank Zhao] recently picked up one of these $1,900 USD laser cutters because he wasn’t thrilled with the compromises made on the K40. Specifically, he really liked the idea of the internal water cooling system. Oddly enough, something about using a garden hose and buckets of water to cool the laser seemed off-putting. Luckily for us, he’s got a technical eye and the free time necessary to do a teardown and objective analysis of his new toy.

The short version of the story is that [Frank] is not only happy with the results he’s getting, but finds the machine to be well designed and built. So if you’re looking for a rant, sorry. But what you will find is a methodical look at each subsystem of the beamo, complete with annotated pictures and the kind of technical details that Hackaday readers crave.

We especially like his attempts to identify parts which might be difficult to source in the future; it looks like the CO2 laser tube might be proprietary, but everything else looks fairly jellybean. That includes the Raspberry Pi 3B that’s running the show, and the off-the-shelf touch screen HDMI display used for the interface. [Frank] did note that FLUX was unwilling to give him the credentials to log into the Pi and poke around, but with direct access to the SD card, it’s not like that will stop anyone who wants to get in.

In a way, laser cutters are in a similar situation today to that desktop 3D printers were in a few years ago. The cheap ones cut so many corners that upgrades and fixes are almost a necessity, and building your own machine is often less expensive than buying a commercial offering with similar specs. While the beamo is still a bit too expensive for the average hobbyist, it’s good to see machines of this caliber are at least coming down out of the 5 figure range.

27 thoughts on “Popping The Hood On The Flux Beamo Laser Cutter

    1. The cooling, the focus adjust, the camera, and the fact that it worked straight out of the box. Totally worth the extra cost.

      I’m using this laser on my balcony. I carry it back and forth inside and outside every day. So not having a bucket of water with a garden pump is worth it. But this is why I made sure this was a machine that can last a few years. (I made sure because their support website happened to have some very high resolution images of the guts, I did my own tear down, yes, but originally I had a good idea of what it looked like on the inside already and was confident making the purchase)

      1. How do those proprietary tubes look for replacing? I’ve replaced the one on the k40, and it’s not such a hassle, but being locked into proprietary tube prices sounds dreadful. A moderately used tube only lasts a year or so.

        1. How much was your re placement tube? That is the only thing preventing me from buying one because I’d only use it occasionally.
          If only LASER diodes were more powerful.
          Or fiber lasers had a plexiglass wavelength.

          1. I’d figure more powerful would equal more delicate, and they’d come welded into a big heatsink. Meaning unit cost high and replacement not really all that less frequent.

        2. Yea so I mentioned that. The tube is 540mm long, which is a weird number. So if you can’t find one, you’d need to either replace it with a 450mm tube, or cut the case and fit in a 600mm tube.

          Aside from that, the wiring and plumbing should be easy. Two wires, two water ports. The provided PSU is rated 40W so a 600mm tube would work.

          Proper replacement tube prices listed on their website looked acceptable. But it’s not like you can stock up, since the tubes have a shelf life. Somebody correct me if I am wrong here. I heard it’s about 5 years of shelf life.

  1. I have one of these. Got it about a month ago. The software in the machine needs a lot of tuning. It hangs all the time, and has constant connection issues with the Beam Studio software. The x travel seems to be set in the software too large. If I command a cut to full x travel it crashes into the end of the machine and looses several steps. I’m afraid its going to strip the belt. Same thing happens in “maintenance mode” when i push the max x jog button.

    When i first powered it up the cooler had no flow through the tube and faulted out. Re-seated all connections and tubing and didn’t find anything wrong. Thought perhaps the flow sensor wasn’t spinning so I blew threw it and it spun. Refilled the water circuit, purged all the air and its been fine ever since.

    A lot of the error codes show up in Chinese or Taiwanese despite having English selected. The vent fan sits at an idle speed when not cutting and ramps up to a controller set speed but periodically that setting randomly resets to idle so it never ramps up for cutting. Someone using the machine accidentally hit the “set machine password” and locked it out. There’s no way to back out or clear a password even if left blank. Only way to clear it was to factory reset the thing.

    The built in camera is cool the one time I got it to work correctly. The software has a camera calibration process where it cuts a small box and then takes a picture, its supposed to be as simple as “align the box with the box” and its calibrated but the camera is so far out of alignment it can’t photograph the right hand side or top of the box it engraves so calibration is impossible.

    This machine is all BUT ready to go out of the box in my opinion. Still blows a K40 out of the water just in fit and finish.

    I absolutely agree with the Rasberry PI comment. If I had paid MSRP for this machine I would have sent it right back as soon as I saw it flash on the boot screen. Hobby grade development hardware in what is supposed to be a consumer grade device is ridiculous. Actual laser control hardware is not exactly expensive or would affect the sell price much, if at all.

      1. Actuslly the Raspberry Pi is not industrial grade as it is built specfically for educational purposes. There are other industrial grade Linux single board computers that are in the $100 USD range that would work. The Raspberry Pi is also not open source as Broadcom hss never opened source all the drivers. To most peoples surprise, the Pi is not capable of running a Real Time kernel and yhat prevents it from doing high sperd CNC. GRBL is not even close in performance to Linux CNC which is not Pi compatible. There is as lot more to industrial grade then educational support.

    1. I’ve encountered those bugs, and they’re fixing them, like I’ve mentioned, there’s one or two beta releases per week right now. That’s insane, yea, you are the beta tester. But I have backed enough kickstarters to be used to it.

      The current “stable” release has that camera problem, but the beta has that corrected. About twice a week somebody would complain about the same thing to their facebook group and immediately somebody would point out for them to go download the latest beta instead of stable release.

      I purchased my Beamo from Home Depot, firstly to avoid the courier leaving it for people to steal, secondly, I think the Home Depot shipping people might be a bit more careful. It sucks you had such a bad experience. I absolutely had an amazing out-of-the-box experience. (Home Depot took it off their website recently)

      Raspberry Pi is not hobby grade… I work for Sony, thanks to Hackaday actually. I know how many Raspberry Pis Sony has deployed globally and it’s absolutely mind numbing. What would you use? Allwinner? MediaTek? Na man, Broadcom is great, a bit annoying with the DRM on the GPU but that’s just politics.

      1. I’m used to dealing with industrial CNC machines in my spare time and for the most part they each have their own purpose built solutions for control. Im not necessarily saying that Flux should invest in such product development but I fully expected something a little more….robust? In my opinion something designed for and targeted at the hobbyist market is hobby grade. Now if Flux wants to use a RP to run their hardware I think they should specify that in their product specs.

        I don’t necessarily think they were wrong in choosing the hardware that they did. They’re trying to target a lower price point after all and what better way than to use off the shelf components. But I did not expect to see what I did when I powered it up for the first time.

        1. You might have been surprised, but large parts of the Pi foundations money comes from industrial deployment. One of the reasons they keep the older hardware in production for so very long is to support industry deployed older models. Its by far the best small computer for industrial use, its well supported, unlike custom systems cheap and easy to replace should the worst happen, supports GNU Linux the most powerfully customisable OS going really and is about as opensource as you can get – so if you need it do so something you probably can make it do it. If you want that super slick and cheap but highly customised experience use the compute modules and get access to all the extra bus and pins in a ram module form factor!

          The Pi is as robust as any SBC, similar thermal windows and shock ratings etc. About the only thing you might call tougher without a case are the Rad Hardened boards that are generally ATMega based as far as I have ever seen and those have no purpose in 99% of situations. The only downside to a PI I can see is the SD card and its many flaws, but saying that SD cards are very very common on SBC’s with large storage and you don’t actually have to use the SD card if your use needs something more reliable (later pi’s support network/usb disk booting and older ones can still do both they just need a tiny SD card to hold the boot info)!

          1. EMMC is what is considered decent at least for serious use, SD card for boot and root are not, definitely.
            And most industrial SBC are available in industrial grade, which is quite more extended than consumer. I don’t think it relevant here as there is low chance of extended operation in high temps environment.

          2. Agreed mac012345 for most cases SD card is not ideal.
            Though the pi has never needed more than the tiniest of SD partitions to boot -the kernel, root, user setting and config could always be somewhere else just the standard bootloader was needed on the SD. Now even that isn’t needed for some Pi’s (Also the Pi compute modules do come with options for inbuilt eMMC if you want it.).

            Equally useful is the fact SD cards and cheap and easy to replace – when eMMC wears out the whole unit is probably scrap, but provide your clients with the SD card image and nothing is lost but a tiny downtime. On storage Pi’s are definitely weakest compared to some competitors, but that said still perfectly sensible options for many industrial settings really depending on what you are doing with your storage – if its updated and written to basicly never it doesn’t matter much at all (though eMMC is more durable so slight advantages), if its going to be written to constantly ironically the SD card will win out over eMMC and possibly all other storage mediums as its so cheap to replace and low power while in use. Might eat 1000’s of SD cards over the lifetime of the rest of the components, but when the eMMC dies being soldered direct to the rest of the electronics (usually at least) that’s a whole brain transplant or a written of machine either way longer downtime and bigger single expense.

            I’m not aware of any industrial bare PCB style SBC option with any massive difference in operating temps to the Pi’s (not that it can’t exist as more heat capable components do) But the pi is in the same ballpark for storage and operation temps as everything else I’m aware of – add cooling if you need it same as with any higher temperature environment.

    2. Hi Andre,

      I got a Beamo with the same problems! I was so disappointed with the first unit that i actually did send it back. The second unit was not much better, but instead of the water flow sensor being defective, this one was completely jammed on its y-axis. I eventually did get it to work (well actually my construction/mechanic buddy fixed it with a mallet).
      The latest release of the Beamstudio software has fixed some of the issues with dropping connections and with the camera. I have still not used the rotary attachment yet as i am still struggling with settings for this machine. When I upgraded, all of the machine settings I had saved were erased and the new settings they have preset are terrible and cause fires in the machine. Has anyone done some serious material testing on this machine to see what the best cut and engrave settings are for some real materials?
      Also, I totally agree that an RPi should not be in any consumer equipment. I work in the education industry and I have used hundreds of pi’s. I have seen them drop out for no apparent reason, GPIOs go flakey or just downright fail. (Mind you students are harder on these things then when installed in a product) but the specifications that they were manufactured to just don’t fall in line with a CNC controller. They would have been much better off with a real industrial microcontroller running the machine and an embedded linux SOC doing the GUI and networking overhead.

  2. I’m a little surprised the software doesn’t have any cutter kerf compensation built in. That doesn’t seem to hard to add.

    It’s good to see that they have air flow running over the lens. Seeing that left out on cheaper laser cutters makes me wince. Is the air also blown out of the nozzle where the beam exits? If so, that’s a very useful feature to have; it helps a lot on cutting, and can blow out any flame from woodworking.

    “You can see the screws, you can see they’ve put plenty of loctite on the screws so it remains optically aligned even after shipping. But, it’s not like a Glowforge or Ultimaker where they put plastic to hide that kind of detail from you.” – A half-million dollar Amada or Cincinnati laser also won’t hide the alignment screws – it just gets in the way of maintenance. Might as well make this thing along the same lines as serious industrial equipment.

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