Advice On Laser Cutters Please.

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iflylilplanes
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Advice On Laser Cutters Please.

Post by iflylilplanes »

I have a budget of $500AU and would like to purchase a laser engraver/cutter mainly to cut balsa up to 1/4" for wing ribs, wont be cutting ply, that's what the scroll saw is for. I have read that the Neje brand has been used other modelers for the same purpose, and, I have found that Neje have an expansion kit that makes the work area 410 x 950mm, something to think of in the future.

I have just started researching the capabilities of the different brands, and advice from those who have used them would be greatly appreciated.
Cheers,

Dave
Tobe
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Joined: 16 Feb 2018, 06:19
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Re: Advice On Laser Cutters Please.

Post by Tobe »

First of all keep in mind that there is a learning curve that would eat quite many sheet of balsa to get to the point where the laser perform as you wish however there are several good tutorial on youTube.
You might want to start first with depron or similar cheap materials.
What is a key factor for you is the working area which is set by how big pieces you like to cut, I would recommend something in the range of 600x600 if you like to cut something more than wing ribs and formers.
Concerning the power of the laser I would go for as much your wallet would allow and preferably with the option of air assist, if you only plan to cut balsa & depron I would look in to a good LED laser as they are much simpler to use as there is no need of cooling water like for a CO2 laser however the air extraction is as important thus I do most of my cutting outdoors on the porch.
Remember that there is a relation between the laser power/cutting speed and material you intend to cut and here different kind of balsa hard to soft sure is a factor and here is where most of your efforts will focus on.
The result is also affected by the used software and here I would recommend Lightburn which unfortunately is not free but sure make your life much easier and for the best result you should work from a vector file like a vector .pdf file which can obtained from most cad software.
Spike S
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Joined: 16 Feb 2018, 14:59
Location: Salisbury UK

Re: Advice On Laser Cutters Please.

Post by Spike S »

"Air assist" is virtually essential when cutting Balsa, especially thicker sheets like 1/4". Without that (air blast projected onto the cutting spot) it is very easy to ignite Balsa. (Don't ask !)
Bigger may be better but not necessarily the best solution. Before retiring for the 3rd time, I had 6 years use of a school CO2 laser cutter with a 24" wide table. However even when cutting for models up to 60" span, I rarely needed more than 18" width. More often than not, several lengths of 18" were glued together to form an 18" x 8 or 12" wide sheet and the laser was then quite happy to cut through the glue line and no problems were encountered with 'joined' ribs and other components. Best use can then be made of the chosen material by the CAD layout at that size. Longer pieces (Fuselage sides etc.) can often be catered for across the table diagonal
Power: I would suggest a minimum of 40Watts to cut thicker sheets at sensible speed although 30W would be ok for most Balsa, card and 1/32" Ply.
Until you get used to it, card templates are a good idea to avoid wasting more expensive materials but still usable for accurate parts fabrication. Quicker to test too.
Once you have a laser cutter/engraver, it is a bit like hot wire cutting foam - you can't stop :D You will soon get used to working to 0.1mm or even tighter !
Spike S
(Tune for maximum smoke)
Martin
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Re: Advice On Laser Cutters Please.

Post by Martin »

Be very careful if you try to cut any sort of plastic. You need to know exactly what type of plastic/foam it is, and whether it gives off poisonous fumes when melted/vaporized. Plastics that contain chlorine are especially dangerous: these include most fake leathers, PVC, and Sintra board - which is extruded foamed PVC. If in any doubt, only try cutting such materials in a very well ventilated, preferably outdoor, environment.

The fumes / smoke from paper, card, and wood, while not poisonous, are not very healthy or pleasant either. Some kind of fume extraction system is recommended.

Get some good quality safety glasses for the type of laser you're using, and always wear them when setting up or using the cutter. Make sure other people, especially children, can't come near the laser cutter when it's in use. The "safety glasses" that come with some cheap Chinese laser kits are often completely unsafe for eye protection from lasers.
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Flynn
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Joined: 17 Feb 2018, 14:48

Re: Advice On Laser Cutters Please.

Post by Flynn »

iflylilplanes wrote: 29 Dec 2022, 04:20 I have a budget of $500AU and would like to purchase a laser engraver/cutter
Do you want to just buy one or would you be up for building one?

https://forums.modelflying.co.uk/index. ... /#comments
https://www.printables.com/model/213526 ... r-engraver
https://forum.v1engineering.com/t/canti ... graver/191

I guess the main advantage in building one is you can build it to the size you want with the laser you want.

As far as Lightburn goes, I don't think you really need it for the application you are proposing, Lightburn excels in engraving and image manipulation, neither of which you need and there are other very good free alternative softwares out there, I would recommend LaserGRBL, it does quite a good job at converting bitmaps and rastor images to gcode and is simple and intuitive to use.

First you will need to decide if you want to go down the LED laser route or the CO2 laser route. A CO2 laser is more powerful but more tricky to get setup, more complicated with a cooling water system and requires more room but will cut a wider range and thicker materials with less passes. These days you can spend a lot of money on a dual or even a quad diode laser that will match the basement CO2 40watt laser offerings.... horses for courses.
You only ever need two tools....WD40 and duct tape.
If it doesn't move when it should use the WD40 and if it moves and it shouldn't use the tape.
bluejets
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Re: Advice On Laser Cutters Please.

Post by bluejets »

Don't think you'll even get close on AU$500.
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_AL_
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Location: Sydney Australia

Re: Advice On Laser Cutters Please.

Post by _AL_ »

I bought a K40 about 12 months ago. I went for the CO2 laser after researching & some advice from friends.
Some things to think about to guide your decision.

Budget. At $500 you are limited to a K40 CO2 or a Chinese diode laser. Things get expensive very quickly once you go above those 2 options.

Material. I've cut balsa & ply up to 4mm. 1/4 is 6mm & you may have to do it in multiple passes. A CO2 should do it. A diode laser will struggle.

Bed size. This is a big one. The K40 has a bed 300x200 & it is very limiting. I'm currently building a modified K40 which will give me roughly 560 x 250 bed but it's a lot of work. The Diode lasers can be had larger at less cost but you sacrifice cutting ability.

CO2 Vs Diode. My understanding is CO2 is better for cutting & diode "can" be better for engraving. If you only want to cut, I recommend CO2. Also, watch for good old Chinese BS marketing. A K40 actually has a 30w (in) tube. a cheap 20w diode actually has 5w in. DO some research so you don't get burned as there is a LOT of BS from Chinese sellers.

Air assist. Air assist is easy to add regardless of the machine you get but seriously improves cutting ability. If you plan to cut, plan to add air assist.

Smoke extraction. If you get one of those desktop cutters, be prepared to fill the room with smoke unless you have some sort of fume extraction.

Software. There's lots of opinions & options. Some software is free & some is really expensive. I use Inkscape for design & K40 Whisper for running the machine. Both are free & do everything I need. Some control boards only work with certain software so if you have a preference for software, make sure your control board can use it.

Eye protection. Don't cheap out. No second chances with eyes. The $5 Amazon glasses are about as usefull as an ashtray on a Motorbike.

Finally, Youtube is your friend as is Facebook. There are some good videos & groups to help you set up & get running.
I'll post some pics of my recent adventures shortly. You'll find a laser super handy & once you get the hang of the software, really easy to use.
Good luck.

Edit.
I paid $510 for mine on Ebay after $60 off with some Ebay deal. Keep an eye on Ebay as sometimes they have 10% off etc.
Last edited by _AL_ on 30 Dec 2022, 06:17, edited 1 time in total.
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_AL_
Posts: 150
Joined: 17 Feb 2018, 01:09
Location: Sydney Australia

Re: Advice On Laser Cutters Please.

Post by _AL_ »

Some projects on the laser.
Attachments
ME163 half
ME163 half
ME163c.jpg
2m ME163 formers. 3mm ply
2m ME163 formers. 3mm ply
Stylus wing
Stylus wing
Finished Stylus
Finished Stylus
Stylus Formers
Stylus Formers
Stylus ribs
Stylus ribs
Fin alignment jigs. 3mm particle board
Fin alignment jigs. 3mm particle board
3mm ply servo box.
3mm ply servo box.
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