Giant CNC Partners With Powerful Laser Diode

The laser module shown cutting shapes out of a piece of cardboard that's lying on the CNC's work surface

[Jeshua Lacock] from 3DTOPO owns a large-format CNC (4’x8′, or 1.2×2.4 m), that he strongly feels is lacking laser-cutting capabilities. The frame is there, and a 150 W CO2 laser tube has been sitting in a box for ages – what else could you need? Sadly, at such a scale, aligning the mirrors is a tough and finicky job – and misalignment can be literally blinding. After reading tales about cutters of such size going out of alignment when someone as much as walked nearby, he dropped the idea – and equipped the CNC head with a high-power laser diode module instead. Having done mirror adjustment on a few CO2 tube-equipped lasers, we can see where he’s coming from.

Typically, the laser modules you see bolted onto CNC heads are firmly under three watts, which is usually only enough for engraving. With a module that provides 5 watts of optical power, [Jeshua] can cut cardboard and thin plywood as well he tells us even 10 W optical power modules are available, just that he didn’t go for one. We reckon that 20 W effective power diodes are not that far into our future, which is getting very close to the potential of the blue box “40 W but actually 35 W but actually way less” K40 laser cutters we cherish. [Jeshua]’s cutter is not breaking speed limits, but it’s built on what’s already there, and the diode is comparatively inexpensive. Equipped with a small honeycomb surface and what seems to be air assist, it’s shown in the video cutting an ornamental piece out of cardboard!

We hackers have been equipping CNCs with laser diodes for a while, but on a way smaller scale and with less powerful diodes – this is definitely a step up! As a hacker, you should have at least some laser cutting options at your disposal, and this overview of CO2 cutters and their availability can get you started. We’ve also given you detailed breakdowns about different sides of laser cutting, be it the must-have of safety, or the nice-to-have of air assist.

13 thoughts on “Giant CNC Partners With Powerful Laser Diode

    1. I was hoping fiber lasers around 1064nm would have been cheaper by now, I periodically scan AliExpress for costs, hoping to see a sub £1000 kit that could drop straight on to my home built machine.

  1. Anyone know of any headway being made in fitting NUBM arrays with some optics and bolting it onto a gantry? Cooling and power is easy enough to do, just need a way to focus down those 14 beams

    1. the “just need focusing” is what makes this a pointless endeavor…it takes a lot of relatively pricey optics to get a usable beam…you can get a new 40W Raycus brand fiber laser module for about $2k and the price still keeps slowly dropping, the 40W rating is the actual average optical output and the high power pulsed nature of this laser means it’s much better at blasting through things without burning the edges.

      1. Raycus don’t manufacture a 40W fiber laser – they offer 20W, 30W, 50W and upwards. Apart from that, the fiber laser wavelength of 1064nm is typically completely useless for organic materials such as wood, card, paper etc., as it isn’t absorbed well at all. Source: me, I have two fiber lasers, 30W & 60W, both JPT. What these sorts of fiber lasers _are_ good at is metal engraving and cutting. However, for cutting, you cannot just move the focused beam along the path – the cut is so narrow that debris soon blocks the beam once you cut more than maybe 0.2mm deep or so. To solve this problem, “wobble” is normally used on a galvo-based system, which moves the beam in a tight spiral path, essentially widening the cut and allow the beam to reach deeper. But you’re not going to do this without a galvo scanning head.

      2. Why doesn’t he just use a knife edge. How do you think industrial CNC machines get their fine beams? If you have a broken Casio laser projector lying around you’re well on your way in getting the knife edge just open the projector use special tool to in bolt laser assy after using the same to separate the two halves of the projector case, then a slotted end screw diver separated the knife edge from the laser assy be careful bc the mirrors aren’t on there with very strong glue

  2. It’s not just power, it’s also wavelength. There are no cheap high-power long wave diodes (10micron) coming soon. A blue laser does entirely different things/materials than an IR laser. A moving platform CNC is far better for a large/heavy laser than a moving gantry type. Sure, much bigger but simpler optics. Can’t have everything all at once. That’s what engineers are for. To tell you why you can’t do what you want to do.

  3. My favourite material to cut with my friend’s diode is basswood. I can cut 1/4″ in 5 passes with air assist (a compressor and 4 mm tubing). The precision is delightful.

  4. I don’t get it why are you ppl thinking that hi power, cw lasers are unattainable? I can understand if you like seeing the 465nm wavelength, but for the more pragmatic, you know you can get a 40W cw 800nm for about $50 no joke. And if you wanna see dpss in action as a cut of any substrate (or even in rust removal) just you tube “3,000w ir CNC industrial laser cuts through 1\2 inch steel in milliseconds” or “blasts through rock” or similar.
    You can get say three dpss bars for about $300 or so and have em fiber coupled BAM! High power cutting CNC laser just like what the pros use only it’s 300w not 3000w

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