Review: WAINLUX K8, A Diode Laser That’s Ready To Work

Rarely a week goes by that some company doesn’t offer to send us their latest and greatest laser. You know the type — couple of aluminum extrusions, Class 4 diode flopping around in the breeze, and no enclosure to speak of unless you count the cardboard box they shipped it in. In other words, an accident waiting to happen. Such gracious invitations get sent to the trash without a second thought.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that the average Hackaday reader would be able to render such a contraption (relatively) safe for use around the shop. Build a box around it, bolt on a powerful enough fan to suck the smoke out through the window, and you’ve turned a liability into a legitimate tool. But the fact remains that we simply can’t put our stamp on something that is designed with such a blatant disregard for basic safety principles.

The earlier WAINLUX JL4 — lucky rabbit foot not included.

That being the case, a recent email from WAINLUX nearly met the same fate as all those other invitations. But even at a glance it was clear that this new machine they wanted to send out, the K8, was very different from others we’d seen. Different even from what the company themselves have put out to this point. This model was fully enclosed, had a built-in ventilation fan, an optional air filter “sidecar”, and yes, it would even turn off the laser if you opened the door while it was in operation. After reading through the promotional material they sent over, I had to admit, I was intrigued.

It seemed like I wasn’t the only one either; it was only a matter of days before the Kickstarter for the WAINLUX K8 rocketed to six figures. At the time of this writing, the total raised stands at just under $230,000 USD. There’s clearly a demand for this sort of desktop laser, the simplicity of using a diode over a laser tube is already appealing, but one that you could actually use in a home with kids or pets would be a game changer for many people.

But would the reality live up to the hype? I’ve spent the last couple of weeks putting a pre-production WAINLUX K8 through its paces, so let’s take a look and see if WAINLUX has a winner on their hands.

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Air-Assist Analysis Reveals Most Effective — And Quietest — Methods

If there’s one thing that continues to impress us about the Hackaday community as the years roll by, it’s the willingness to share what we’ve learned with each other. Not every discovery will be news to everyone, and everything won’t be helpful or even interesting to everyone, but the mere act of sharing on the off chance that it’ll help someone else is really what sets the hardware hacking world apart.

Case in point: this in-depth analysis of laser cutter air-assist methods. Undertaken by [David Tucker], this project reads more like a lab writeup than a build log, because well, that’s pretty much what it is. For those not into laser cutters, an air assist is just a steady flow of air to blow smoke and cutting residue away from the beam path and optics of a laser cutter. It’s simple, but critical; without it, smoke can obscure and reflect the laser beam, foul lenses and mirrors, and severely degrade cut quality.

To see what air-assist methods work best, [David] looked at four different air pumps and compressors, along with a simple fan. Each of these methods was compared to a control of cuts made without air assist. The test was simple: a series of parallel lines cut into particle board with the beam focused on the surface at 80% power, with the cut speed slowly decreasing. It turned out that any air-assist was better than nothing, with the conspicuous exception of using just a fan, which made things worse. Helpfully, [David] included measurements of the noise levels of the compressors he tested, and found there’s no advantage to using an ear-splitting shop compressor over a quieter aquarium air pump. Plus, the aquarium pumps are cheap — always a bonus.

Not sure how to get up to speed with lasers? Laser Cutting 101 might be a great place to start.

Hacking An Air Assist For The Ortur Laser

Getting great results from a laser cutter takes a bit of effort to make sure all of the settings are just right. But even then, if the air between the material and the laser source is full of smoke and debris it will interfere with the laser beam and throw off the results. The solution is to add air assist which continuously clears that area.

Earlier this year I bought an Ortur laser engraver/cutter and have been hacking on it to improve the stock capabilities. last month I talked about putting a board under the machine and making the laser move up and down easily. But I still didn’t have an air assist. Since then I found a great way to add it that will work for many laser cutter setups.

I didn’t design any of these modifications, but I did alter them to fit my particular circumstances. You can find my very simple modifications to other designs on Thingiverse. You’ll also find links to the original designs and you’ll need them for extra parts and instructions, too. It is great to be able to start with work from talented people and build on each other’s ideas.

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Hacking The Ortur Laser With Spoil Board, Z-Height, And Air Assist

Last month in my hands-on review of the Ortur Laser I hinted that I had done a few things to make it work a little better. I made three significant changes in particular: I anchored the machine to a spoil board with markings, I added a moving Z axis to adjust focus by moving the entire laser head, and I added an air assist.

Turns out, you can find designs for all of these things all over the Internet and I did, in fact, use other people’s designs. The problem is the designs often conflict with one another or don’t exactly work for your setup. So what I’ll tell you about is the combination that worked for me and what I had to do to get it all working together. The air assist is going to take a post all by itself, but some of the attempts at air assist led to some of the other changes I made, so we’ll talk about it some in this post, as well.

One of the modifications — the spoil board mount — I simply downloaded and the link for that is below. However, I modified the moving Z axis and air assist parts and you can find my very simple modifications on Thingiverse. You’ll also find links to the original designs and you’ll need them for extra parts and instructions, too.

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Cutting Balsa Wood With Air (Oh, And A Laser)

[DIY3DTech] likes using his Ortur laser cutter for balsa wood and decided to add an air assist system to it. Some people told him it wasn’t worth the trouble, so in the video below, he compares the results of cutting both with and without the air assist.

The air assist helped clear the cut parts and reduced charring in the wood. The air system clears residue and fumes that can reduce the effectiveness of the laser. It can also reduce the risk of the workpiece catching on fire.

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