Laser Focus Made Easier With IR Filter

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.

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Putting Lasers To Work Hack Chat

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.

join-hack-chatOur 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.

 

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Hands On With The Ortur Laser Cutter

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.

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3D Printer? Laser Cutter? CNC? Yes, Please

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.

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Making A Custom Caliper Case For Pros

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.

Video Shows Power Isn’t Everything In Laser Engraving

When it comes to power tools, generally speaking more watts is better. But as laser maestro [Martin Raynsford] shows, watts aren’t everything. He shares a brief video showing his older 100 W laser being handily outperformed by a newer 30 W machine. Shouldn’t the higher power laser be able to do the same job in less time? One might think so, but wattage isn’t everything. The 30 W laser engraves and cuts a wooden tile in just under half the time it takes the 100 W machine to do the same job, and with a nicer end result, to boot.

Why such a difference? Part of the answer to that question lies in that the newer machine has better motion control and can handle higher speeds, but the rest is due to the tubes themselves. The older 100 W machine uses a DC-excited (big glass water-cooled tube) CO2 laser, and the newer 30 W machine uses an RF-excited laser that looks a bit like a big metal heat sink instead of oversized lab glassware. Both tubes output what is essentially the same beam, but the RF tube is overall capable of a more refined, more stable, and more finely focused point than that of the glass tube. Since engraving uses only a small fraction of even the 30 W laser’s power, the finer control that the RF laser has over the low end of the power scale results in a much higher quality engraving.

Embedded below is a short video showing both machines engraving and cutting the same tile, side by side. You may wish to consider watching this one full screen, to better see the fine details.

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Monoprice Mini Laser Engraver Hack

There’s an old saying, that in theory there’s no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is. That sentiment could easily be applied to refitting a 3D printer to hold a laser. There shouldn’t be much to it, rig up a laser module to turn on under computer control, mount it to your hot end carriage and off you go. In practice, though there are other considerations to account for. If you have a Monoprice Mini Select, you can start with instructions from [drodrii] for adding a laser to your printer.

Although [drodrii] mentions that you need a second 3D printer to make a bracket for the laser, we think you should be able to print it on the Mini as long as you do it before the first step of removing the hot end. However, since your laser module might not exactly match the one used in this project, you’d have to get it right the first time if you don’t have another 3D printer. Of course, you could remove the laser gear, remount the hot end, print a new bracket and start over, but that’d be a drag.

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