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Hardware Technology

A Maker Space Favorite: Using a Laser Cutter (Video) 83

Posted by Roblimo
from the we-(heart)-lasers dept.
Slashdot editor Jeff Boehm visted Maker Works in Ann Arbor, MI, where they not only have an Epilog Helix Laser Cutter/Engraver, but let him use it. Which, of course, he happily did, just as you or I would have done if somebody said, "Here. Borrow my laser cutter and engraving machine." The sound in the video is a little rough, since it was recorded live in a room full of loud machines -- like laser cutters. But it's still fascinating to watch (and hear) the process. The only downside is the "Ooh! I want one of those!" effect. There are used units available out there, but they cost as much as a pretty good used car. Maybe that's why there are so many Maker Spaces, also called Hacker Spaces, out there. Here's a global Hacker Space list. Hopefully, you'll find one near you, so you can do a little laser cutting (and lots of other neat stuff) yourself. Note: Slashdot accepts reader video submissions. Email robin at roblimo dot com for details.

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A Maker Space Favorite: Using a Laser Cutter (Video)

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  • by dbc (135354) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @03:51PM (#40485619)

    All the TechShops have laser cutters. They are very popular. Once you have access to a laser cutter, every problem starts looking like it can be solved by dicing up something thin and flat. That's not quite true, but acrylic and hardwood plywood both cut very nicely and can build some great things. The nice thing about laser cutters is there are zero fixturing problems -- just lay the material on the cutting bed and start the cutting program. You get exquisitely straight cuts and sub-millimeter precision, so assembly and glue up go very smoothly without any fiddling.

    Commercial laser cutters are pricey. Here is an open source cutter project that I have been watching, I'll probably build one of these when my current cutter craps out:
    http://labs.nortd.com/lasersaur/ [nortd.com]
    (I have an ancient laser cutter that is no longer support by the manufacturer -- when the tube goes, it's a paperweight, so I'm always looking for good options for when the fatal day arrives.)

  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Thursday June 28, 2012 @04:13PM (#40485927) Homepage Journal

    Umm, anyone with half a brain would use millimeter. Most people don't know what microns are, yet the meter is the SI unit of distance.

  • by littlebigbot (2493634) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @04:22PM (#40486057)
    I got you: In the video he uses a laser cutter.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 28, 2012 @04:52PM (#40486455)

    Two things.
    - Most (all?) lasercuttesr don't cut metals. They only cut flammable materials since they need to burn the material away. Think plywood/plastic not metal.
    - The laser cose in the machine as a very wide (about 1 cm) bundle, and is focused on the cuttings surface with a lens. This focus needs to be quite good, if you put your material too high or low (i.e. outside the focal plane) you'll get bad cuts or even no cuts at all. Like trying to burn paper with a lens and sunlight.

  • by dbc (135354) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @05:25PM (#40486811)

    Wow. So I can't say "sub-millimeter" without you deducting a dozen IQ points from me? Sheesh. The terminology I use depends on the tools I'm using. I talk thousandths when my work is in Imperial and I'm working on a Bridgeport or a CNC mill. I talk millimeters when I'm working on drawings dimension in millimeters, as I do with my laser cutter or 3D printer, or metric work on CNC. I'm an amateur machinist, and have written G-code (and other) CAM back ends. Professionally, I'm an electrical engineer -- when I worked in the semiconductor industry we talked in microns and nano-acres. So, I don't know what all machine tools you have used, and how many different fab technologies you have worked with, but unless you have 10+ years as a professional machinist, I doubt if the list is longer than mine.

    BTW TechShop (TM) is a reference to the chain of open-access workshops, not a generic reference to machine shops.

    I'll tell you this, I doubt if you are machinist -- I've met a lot of old time machinists, and they don't carry around your attitude. The more grey in the hair, the more modest they are -- there is always something to learn and machine tools keep you humble.

If you're not careful, you're going to catch something.

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