Author Topic: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?  (Read 30286 times)

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Offline davorinTopic starter

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There are dozens of those CO2 40W laser cutters/engravers available on Ebay....

Does anyone use this kind of device for engraving and cutting acrylic glass to build custom cases?

Or are those 40W just not enough?
« Last Edit: June 15, 2015, 10:17:58 am by davorin »
 

Offline LA7SJA

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2015, 11:57:32 am »


Johan-Fredrik
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Offline davorinTopic starter

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2015, 01:59:09 pm »
Hmmm..nice (o;

Wasn't aware that all cutters need water cooling....
Wonder if they supply all parts with 115V AC only (o;

 

Offline ajb

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2015, 03:49:42 pm »
We have a 35W Epilog at work, and it sees a fair amount of use.  Ours does not require water cooling, FWIW, but it was also a heck of a lot more expensive than the ebay cutters.  We mainly use it to cut acrylic for prototype enclosures, test fits, and light duty fixtures and jigs, engraving anodized aluminum housings, and cutting sheets of thermal interface material to size.  We also use it for kapton solder paste stencils for some prototypes, but once you get more than one or two TSSOPs or QFNs on a board a proper stainless steel stencil is really the way to go.

As far as acrylic, you can do up to about 1/4"/6.3mm with ~40W and get okay (but not great) results.  At that thickness you get noticeable taper on the edges.  You really want to make sure you get a cutter that has an air assist nozzle, this will really help with the edge finish.
 

Offline Towger

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2015, 03:52:12 pm »
Or are those 40W just not enough?

Phontonicinduction has just acquired a 150W laser, needless to say he thinks 150W is not enough.
 

Offline davorinTopic starter

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2015, 04:01:04 pm »
Well acrylic glass up to 2 or 3mm would be enough....for anything else I have a big and a small CNC machine to do the cutting..though it can't do fine corners...

From the video it seems all cutters from China have to be adjusted and the power lines carefully inspected (o;
 

Offline all_repair

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2015, 04:03:58 pm »
How long can the laser tube last?  Likely shall not be as cost effective as a cnc router, but shall be much cleaner.  What other advantages do a laser cutter has?  I likely going to get one but dragging my feet as I aleady got an underused cnc router (I hate the cleaning).
 

Offline ajb

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2015, 05:15:32 pm »
What other advantages do a laser cutter has?

Cleaner cuts on suitable materials, can produce smaller features, can make square inside corners, kerf is only a few mil, practically no mechanical force is exerted on the workpiece so no fixturing is needed (except maybe for repeatable alignment), capable of raster engraving, can cut thin/soft/flexible materials that can't be machined, faster for some operations than CNC routing/milling, doesn't produce piles of chips/dust (but does produce smoke and fumes that must be dealt with), no tooling to purchase and replace.

Whether or not those advantages are compelling for you will depend on what sort of projects you have in mind.
 

Offline ttt

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2015, 07:18:50 pm »
There are dozens of those CO2 40W laser cutters/engravers available on Ebay....

Does anyone use this kind of device for engraving and cutting acrylic glass to build custom cases?

Or are those 40W just not enough?

i have a 5030 model of these generic machines (50W). Acrylic is the ideal material for these CO2 lasers. 40W would allow you to cut up to 6mm of acrylic, at a slow feed rate (roughly 200mm/min). I've done 10mm on mine without any issues. 3mm plywood should pose no issue, 5mm is probably the limit for a 40W laser.
 

Offline ttt

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2015, 07:25:34 pm »
Hmmm..nice (o;

Wasn't aware that all cutters need water cooling....
Wonder if they supply all parts with 115V AC only (o;

Most of them do if you ask, I got my 50W 5030 with 115V parts. The biggest hassle with laser cutters is not setting up the cooling system but setting up the exhaust system. The fumes can be toxic and cutting some materials creates a LOT of smoke. You need to actively evacuate fumes to the outside using high power external air blowers which do not come with the laser cutter. Worse, if you do not install proper ventilation you can potentially instantly destroy the mirrors in the laser cutter which are not cheap.
 

Offline ttt

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2015, 07:47:33 pm »
What other advantages do a laser cutter has?

Cleaner cuts on suitable materials, can produce smaller features, can make square inside corners, kerf is only a few mil, practically no mechanical force is exerted on the workpiece so no fixturing is needed (except maybe for repeatable alignment), capable of raster engraving, can cut thin/soft/flexible materials that can't be machined, faster for some operations than CNC routing/milling, doesn't produce piles of chips/dust (but does produce smoke and fumes that must be dealt with), no tooling to purchase and replace.

The turn around time from design to having the cut/engraved pieces in your hand is literally seconds. I have a full size CNC, yet I try to do everything using the laser first. For acrylic there is simply no better way to cut it (apart from a water jet maybe). You get super clean edges, no shattering or having to drill holes first.
 

Offline davorinTopic starter

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2015, 07:50:04 pm »
Do you have any experience with other materials?

Just browsed a little through ebay and it seems almost no one ships to Germany/Switzerland...

 

Offline miguelvp

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #12 on: June 16, 2015, 01:02:40 am »
So he made it safer on the power cord but replaced the window with some transparent acrylic? The other one was probably safer to protect his eyes, and I also noticed he didn't wear proper safety eyewear, or any mention about that either.

At least he did put a note not to do the calibration with the lid open, but it wouldn't matter if you remove the protective window anyways.
 

Offline matseng

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2015, 01:19:19 am »
Wouldn't acrylics be quite opaque to IR?  If it was transparent then you wouldn't be able to cut it since the energy would just pass right through.
 

Offline Lightages

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2015, 02:10:10 am »
Now I want one! :scared:
 

Offline davorinTopic starter

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #15 on: June 16, 2015, 05:57:13 am »
I want one too :-)

But I hear already my girlfriend screaming where to put this sucker (o;
Kinda big with 800mm wide...but only cutting up to 300mm x 200mm....

And the exhaust pipe is definitively a problem in the basement....would need to place it in the room near by where my big CNC and lathe is (o;

What kind of semiconductor IR laser would you need to achieve the same power as a CO2 40W laser?
 

Offline matseng

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #16 on: June 16, 2015, 06:07:00 am »
\What kind of semiconductor IR laser would you need to achieve the same power as a CO2 40W laser?
Probably a 40 watt 808 nm IR laser :-)   The 40 watt is the output power, not what it takes to drive it. So 40 watts is 40 watts regardless of the origin as long as the frequency is the same - and I think they are.

You would still have more or less the same cooling requirement and also the same problems with getting rid of the nasty smoke though...  And you'd also have a harder time collimating the beam of an solid state laser compared to the tube.
 

Offline Falcon69

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #17 on: June 16, 2015, 06:31:44 am »
will this 40watt etch aluminum or steel? Or only acrylic/plastic/wood?

Also, 3mm acrylic is no problem? How much of a kerf (angle) will you see on the finished piece?  What is the minimum slot on a 3mm piece of acrylic will it cut?  0.5mm wide by chance?

for $380 bucks, I have some projects I could definitely use this on. (just gotta come up with the cash)
 

Offline coppice

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #18 on: June 16, 2015, 07:03:16 am »
And the exhaust pipe is definitively a problem in the basement....would need to place it in the room near by where my big CNC and lathe is (o;
If you are going to use one of these in a place where venting to the outside is impractical you are going to need some efficient filtering to keep things healthy. Does anyone have experience with just how hard it might be to scrub the fumes from ones of these things?
 

Offline SeanB

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #19 on: June 16, 2015, 07:16:01 am »
At a minimum you would need a wet scrubber, to remove all particulates from the air. Even that will have issues, it will allow some volatile particles through but will pretty much get all the smoke out, concentrating it in the water stream. Now you will have humid air coming out that is smoke free, but you will have to dispose of the contaminated water.
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #20 on: June 16, 2015, 07:31:11 am »
A while ago I bought one of the cheap Chinese cutters.
The motion controller was a piece of utter junk -parallel port, and flaky as hell - had a habit of freezing part way though a job with the beam on, setting the work on fire. It had no speed control, which you need if you want to do more than simple surface engraving. Also had no height adjust.

The mechanics were sort-of OK, but the optics had no fine-thread adjust screws so alignment is a nightmare to do.

The cooling they provide is a pump you put in a bucket of water - you really need to hook up something more permanent, and enclosed so it doesn't fill up with dirt and gunk. You also need to add some flow detection, otherwise if it gets blocked or leaks you may not know til the tube dies.

The extractor fan they supply is pretty crappy. You _need_ extraction.

Although good for acrylic, that, and thin card & ply, is pretty much all it's good for material-wise.

I subsequently bought one of the cheap 3040 CNC engravers which has proved much, much more useful - much wider range of materials, depth cutting, ability to use for precision drilling of PCBs, jigs and cases, PCB outlines, and potentially also solder paste dispensing.

 
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Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #21 on: June 16, 2015, 07:35:36 am »
\What kind of semiconductor IR laser would you need to achieve the same power as a CO2 40W laser?
Probably a 40 watt 808 nm IR laser :-)   The 40 watt is the output power, not what it takes to drive it. So 40 watts is 40 watts regardless of the origin as long as the frequency is the same - and I think they are.

You would still have more or less the same cooling requirement and also the same problems with getting rid of the nasty smoke though...  And you'd also have a harder time collimating the beam of an solid state laser compared to the tube.
Not all 40W lasers are equal in terms of usefulness. The nice thing about CO2 is most materials are opaque to it, so it cuts clear acrylic as easily as coloured stuff. Also any transparent material can be used for safety (at least until you notice a hole burning through it).
808nm is close to visible so will be hard to use for transparent materials, and much more dangerous and needs proper filtered eye protection.
BTW 808nm diodes tend to come in bars for pumping solid-state laser rods, so I suspect getting a 40w beam at 808 would be difficult, though a DPSS at 1064 or 532nm would be more doable.
 
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Offline rollatorwieltje

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #22 on: June 16, 2015, 08:06:46 am »
will this 40watt etch aluminum or steel? Or only acrylic/plastic/wood?

Also, 3mm acrylic is no problem? How much of a kerf (angle) will you see on the finished piece?  What is the minimum slot on a 3mm piece of acrylic will it cut?  0.5mm wide by chance?

for $380 bucks, I have some projects I could definitely use this on. (just gotta come up with the cash)
it isn't really $380, look at the shipping costs.
 

Offline Psi

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #23 on: June 16, 2015, 08:58:46 am »
anyone know what sort of laser cutter is needed for cutting 4mm carbon fiber?
Greek letter 'Psi' (not Pounds per Square Inch)
 

Offline ajb

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Re: 40W CO2 Laser cutter/engraver any useful for electronic hobbyist?
« Reply #24 on: June 16, 2015, 04:59:04 pm »
will this 40watt etch aluminum or steel? Or only acrylic/plastic/wood?

You won't be able to directly mark aluminum or steel, but you can use a marking compound such as Cermark to do the job.  You could easily mark anodized aluminum (the anodized layer turns white, so works best on dark colors).  I've done bare titanium as well (basically selective heat anodizing, I guess), but it's a bit tricky to get maximum contrast--as you turn up the power/increase repetitions the marks get progressively darker and then suddenly lighter, so you have to know when to stop.  I've also engraved painted and powdercoated aluminum which can work pretty well.  Theoretically you could achieve arbitrary color combinations by first coating your part with the color you want the engraving to be, then top coat with the background color.  If your coats are consistent enough in thickness, you should be able to engrave away the top coat and expose the under coat.  Haven't gotten around to trying that.

If you want to do direct metal marking, though, you want a fiber laser rather than a CO2. 
 


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