You know you aren’t supposed to watch your laser while it is cutting or engraving. But [Alex] hosted Wired in his studio and showed them how lasers engrave metal with a fiber laser. You can see the video below.
If you haven’t used a fiber laser, you might be surprised that while a 60 W model can burn metal, it does absolutely nothing to [Alex’s] hand. We wouldn’t try that, by the way, with the common diode lasers you see in most hacker’s labs these days. The video isn’t terribly technical, but it is interesting to see different metals succumb to the powerful laser. There are a few tips about marking different metals in different ways and how to deal with thermal expansion and other effects.
Fiber lasers aren’t as common as diode engravers in private shops, but we assume it is just a matter of time before they get cheaper. Not to mention their widespread use commercially means surplus units might become available, too.
If you are interested in lasers, [Alex’s] YouTube channel has quite a few interesting videos to check out. If you need more power, how’s 200 kW? Then again, even 20 W will get you something useful.
Continue reading “Laser Engraving, Up Close”
[Bryce] obtained a fiber laser engraver to use for rapid PCB prototyping last Fall. But he was soon frustrated by the limitations of the standard EzCAD software that typically comes with these and similar devices — it is proprietary, doesn’t have features aimed at PCB manufacturing, only runs on Windows, and is buggy. As one does, [Bryce] decided to ditch EzCAD and write his own tool, Balor, named after the King of the Fomorians.
The controller board in [Bryce]’s machine is a Beijing JCZ LMCV4-FIBER-M board, containing an Altera FPGA and a Cypress 8051 USB controller. So far, he hasn’t needed to dump or modify the FPGA or 8051 code. Instead, he sorted out the commands by just observing the USB operations as generated by a copy of EzCAD running know operations. A lot of these engraving systems use this control board, but [Bryce] want’s to collect data dumps from users with different boards in order to expand the library.
Balor is written in Python and provides a set of command line tools aimed at engineering applications of your engraver, although still supporting regular laser marking as well. You can download the program from the project’s GitLab repository. He’s running it on Linux, but it should work on Mac and Windows (let him know if you have any portability issues). Check out our write-up from last year about using these lasers to make PCBs. Are you using a laser engraver to make rapid prototype boards in your shop? Tell us about your setup in the comments.
If you’ve used a diode laser engraver or cutter, you know that focus is critical. You’d think it would be relatively simple to get a sharp focus, but it isn’t that simple. [Makers Mashup] shows in a video how to use an adjustable IR filter to cut out all the light bleed to get a sharp image to make focusing simpler.
The filter he shows adjusts from 530nm to 750nm and is made to screw into a 72mm lens, but it works fine with your eyeballs, too. [Makers Mashup] says he’ll eventually make a stand for it so he can look through it with both hands free.
Continue reading “Laser Focus Made Easier With IR Filter”
Join us on Wednesday, March 3 at noon Pacific for the Putting Lasers to Work Hack Chat with Jonathan Schwartz!
Laser cutting equipment runs the gamut in terms of cost, with low-end, almost disposable units that can be had for a song to high-power fiber lasers that only big businesses can afford. But the market has changed dramatically over the years, and there’s now a sweet-spot of affordable laser cutters that can really do some work. And while plenty of hobbyists have taken the plunge and added such a laser cutter to their shops, still others have looked at these versatile tools and realized that a business can be built around them.
For the next Hack Chat, we’ll be sitting down with Jonathan Schwartz. He started with laser cutters at his maker space, and quickly became the “laser guy” everyone turned to for answers. With about 10 years of experience, Jon set up American Laser Cutter in Los Angeles, to provide bespoke laser engraving and cutting services. He has built a business around mid-range laser cutters, and he’s ready to share what he’s learned. Join us as we talk about the machines, the materials, and the services that are part of a laser cutting business, and find out some of the tricks of the laser-jockey’s trade.
Our Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, March 3 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.
Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.
Continue reading “Putting Lasers To Work Hack Chat”
I couldn’t write very much without a computer. Early in my career, I wrote with a typewriter. Unless you are pretty close to perfect — I’m not — it is very frustrating to make edits on typewritten stuff. The equivalent in the real world, for me, has been 3D printers and CNC machines. I can visualize a lot of things that I’m not careful enough to build with normal tools. Despite my 7th-grade shop teacher’s best efforts, everything I did turned out to be a toothpick or a number 7. But I can get my ideas into CAD and from there the machines do the rest. That’s why I was excited to get a laser cutter this past Christmas. You might wonder why I’d need a laser cutter if I have the other tools. Then again, if you read Hackaday, you probably don’t need me to explain why you need a new gadget. I’ve had my eye on a laser for a good long time, but recent developments made it more attractive. I thought I’d share with you some of what I’ve found getting started with the Ortur laser cutter. The cutter is easy to put together and costs somewhere in the $200-$400 range depending on what you get with it. I thought I’d take some time to share what I’ve learned about it.
Why a Laser?
If you haven’t had experience with a laser cutter or engraver before, you might think it is a very specific instrument. Sure, the Ortur is good at engraving some things (but not all things). It can cut some things, too, but not as many things as a big serious laser cutter. However, creative people find lots of ways to use cutting and engraving to produce things you might not expect.
Continue reading “Hands On With The Ortur Laser Cutter”
Most of us have, or, would like to have a 3D printer, a laser engraver, and a CNC machine. However, if you think about it naively, these machines are not too different. You need some way to move in the XY plane and, usually, on the Z axis, as well.
Sure, people mount extruders on CNCs, or even lasers or Dremel tools on 3D printers. However, each machine has its own peculiarities. CNCs need rigidity. 3D printers should be fast. Laser engravers and CNCs don’t typically need much Z motion. So common sense would tell you that it would be tough to make a machine to do all three functions work well in each use case. [Stefan] thought that, too, until he got his hands on a Snapmaker 2.0.
As you can see in the video below, the machine uses different tool heads for each function. The motion system stays the same and, curiously, there are three identical linear motion modules, one for each axis.
Continue reading “3D Printer? Laser Cutter? CNC? Yes, Please”
Every professional has a tool set that they would never part with. Likewise, for experimental physicists, mechanical engineers, and tinkerers, a caliper set can be unspeakably crucial to their work. That’s why [Andrew Birkel] designed his own personal caliper set to fit just the right proportions for his tools while adding a bit of personal flair.
The project uses CNC routing, Solidworks for CAD, laser engraving, and woodworking to design the custom case for a set of calipers, metric and English screw pitch gauges, fillet gauges, and radius gauges. It’s a practical build for a custom tool set that doesn’t already come with a case of its own. The particular tools were chosen for their use in particle physics experiments: for determining threads, inside and outside curvatures, and measuring length, depth, and width.
The box was made from an oversized piece of wood with holes drilled into the sides. After compiling the G-code program for the build, the two halves of the box was was milled from the wood. The first run on the CNC mill with aluminum managed to cause the grain to split, so [Birkel] went with a CNC router instead. Once the piece was sanded, hidden barrel hinges were added. The finished box was wiped down with mineral oil and teak oil to bring out the natural coloration of the wood as well as to add protection (lacquer mixed into the oil). To finish it off, the case was customized with a laser engraved name and email for identification.
It’s a pretty slick build to say the least, and certainly one that can be customized to the dimensions of whatever tools your personal caliper set happens to have.