If you’ve got a laser cutter, it is highly probable that it uses a laser diode. But more expensive machines use a carbon dioxide laser tube along with mirrors. There was a time when these lasers came in two flavors: very expensive and amazing or moderately expensive and cheaply made. However, we are seeing that even the moderately expensive machines are now becoming quite advanced. [Chad] reviews a 55-watt xTool P2. At around $5,000, it is still a little spendy for a home shop, but it does have pretty amazing features. We can only hope some less expensive diode lasers will adopt some of these features.
[Chad’s] video that you can see below attempts to recreate some of the amazing things xTool did on their product introduction live stream. He was able to recreate most, but not all of the results. In some cases, he was also able to do better.
Continue reading “Modern CO2 Laser Reviewed” →
[Frans] claims to have made the world’s smallest wooden orrery. We won’t take a position on that — such things are best left up to the good folks at Guinness. But given that the whole thing is seriously in danger of being dwarfed by a USB-C connector, we’d say he’s got a pretty good shot at that record.
The key to keeping this planetarium so petite while making it largely out of wood is to eschew the complex gear trains that usually bring the Music of the Spheres to life in such devices. The layered base of the orrery, with pieces cut from a sheet of basswood using a laser cutter, contains a single tiny stepper motor and just two gears. A zodiac disc sits atop the base and is the only driven element in the orrery; every other celestial body moves thanks to a pin set into the zodiac disc. An ESP32 C3 contacts a NASA feed once a day to get the relative positions of the planets and uses the zodiac disk to arrange everything nicely for the day. The video below shows the “Planet Spinner” in action.
We love the look of this project; the burnt edges and lightly smoked surface of the laser-cut wooden parts look fantastic, and the contrast with the brass wires is striking. We’ve seen an orrery or two around here, executed in everything from solid brass to Lego, but this one really tickled our fancy. Continue reading “Tiny Orrery Keeps The Planets In Their Places” →
Nothing beats a laser cutter and a sheet of Baltic birch plywood or MDF when it comes to making quick, attractive enclosures. Burning out all the pieces and fitting them together with finger joints is super satisfying — right up until you realize that you didn’t quite get the kerf allowance right, and your pieces don’t fit together very nicely. If only there was a way to automate kerf measurement.
There is, in the form of Kerfmeter. It comes to us by way of the lab of [Patrick Baudisch] at the University of Potsdam, where they’ve come up with a clever way to measure the kerf of a laser cutter right during the cutting session. With the Kerfmeter mounted directly to the laser cutter head, a small test artifact based on an Archimedean spiral is cut into a corner of the workpiece. Pins on a small motor engage with the object and turn it until it jams in its hole; the wider the kerf, the greater the angle. Once the kerf is calculated, the rest of the design can be dilated by the proper amount to achieve a perfect fit. The video below shows it better than words can explain it.
What we like about this is its simplicity — all it involves is a motor and a microcontroller, plus a little software. It seems much faster than using a traditional kerf gauge, not to mention more precise. And while it does use up a little bit of material, the test pattern is really pretty small, all things considered. Seems like a reasonable trade-off to us. Still, if you want to figure out your kerfs the old-fashioned way, we’ve got you covered.
Continue reading “Kerfmeter Measures Laser Cutter Kerf Allowances On The Fly” →
Doom has a larger cultural footprint than the vast majority of video games ever made. That inspired [Theor] to see if it was possible to laser-cut some of the game’s maps to create a real-world model of those famous original levels.
Level data was extracted from the game’s original WAD data files using code written in Rust. Maps are described by multiple “lumps” within the WAD file format, each containing information on vertexes, walls, and floors. This data was scraped and converted into SVG files suitable for laser cutting. [Theor] then built a visualizer that could display what a stacked-up laser cut map would look like in 3D, to verify everything worked correctly. With that done, the map could be laser cut without worries that it would come out a jumbled, janky mess.
[Theor] kept the finished product simple, creating the map as a stack of blue acrylic pieces. We can imagine this tool being perfect for creating a high-quality diorama though, with some work done to paint the map to match what the player sees in game. If you happen to take that approach, don’t hesitate to notify the tipsline!
[PWalsh] was using his lasercutter to cut acrylic, expecting the cuts to have a pleasantly smooth edge. Alas, the edges turned out to be wobbly and sandpaper-like, not smooth in the slightnest. Bummer! Internet suggested a stepper motor swap, but not much in the way of insights – and that would’ve been a royal pain for sure. How would you approach debugging such a problem? Well, [PWalsh] didn’t want to swap crucial components willy-nilly, going the scientific way instead, and breaks it down for us.
Having compiled an extensive list of possible places to look for a fault in, he started going through fundamental assumptions. Do other lasercutters experience this issue? No, even the cheap ones can cut things properly. Is it water level causing intermittent cooling? Nope, not that. Is it the stepping settings? Tweaked, not that. Laser pulsing frequency? No dice. Continue reading “Debugging Laser Cut Wobble, The Scientific Way” →
It’s the holiday season, and what better way to celebrate than to carve out some generative snowflakes on your laser cutter? [Bleeptrack] has developed a web-based tool that creates generative snowflake ornaments which can be exported to SVG files ready-made for laser or vinyl cutting.
True to their namesake, each generated snowflake ornament is (very likely to be) unique, with multiple layers created that can be stacked on top of each other. [Bleeptrack] has showcased a few realizations, using semitransparent paper sandwiched between two top layer cutouts, made out of wood or cardboard.
The snowflakes are a great balance of minimal design while still being beautiful and rich in detail. They can be easily produced on any laser cutter or vinyl cutter that you might have handy. Source code is available on GitHub for those wanting to dive into the details of the web tool. Cutting one of your own would make a perfect addition to a Neodriver ornament or a tiny DOOM playing ornament. Video after the break!
Continue reading “Laser-Cutting A Flurry Of Generative Snowflakes” →
While most are just plain, vinyl records can be found in a variety of colors, shapes, and some even glow in the dark. [Evan and Katelyn] decided to spruce up a plain old record by replicating it in bright, glow-in-the-dark resin.
By first making a silicone mold of the vinyl record and then pouring several different colors of resin into the resulting mold, [Evan and Katelyn] were able to make a groovy-looking record that still retained the texture necessary to transmit the original sounds of the record. The resulting piece has some static, but the music is still identifiable. That said, audiophiles would probably prefer to leave this up on the wall instead of in their phonograph.
Acrylic rings were laser cut and bolted together to build the form for the silicone mold with the original record placed at the bottom. To prevent bubbles, the silicone was degassed in a vacuum chamber before pouring over the record and the resin was cured in a pressure pot after pouring into the resulting mold.
If you’re interested in how records were originally made, check out this installment of Retrotechtacular. A more practical application of resin might be this technique to reproduce vintage plastic parts.
Continue reading “Reproducing Vinyl Records In Resin” →