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

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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  • cool (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Moheeheeko ( 1682914 )
    I use a laser welder at work every day, its neat for the first month, then just another tool later.
  • Dallas Makerspace has a laser cutter on site. It is almost certainly the most popular tool (outside of the internet connection which is terrible and will be until they put up the tower). Pretty easy to use too though using it does require a class.

  • Wow, only 3 comments, and already it's unavailable. Here's a link to the google cache page:

  • This [] is the video you're looking for.

  • by dbc ( 135354 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @04:51PM (#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: []
    (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 agm ( 467017 )

      I have a home made CNC machine that drives a laminate trimmer (like a baby router). It seems like the things you can make are only limited by your imagination. The advantage of it over a laser cutter is that is will do 2.5D cutting, laser only does 2D. The downsides are many though: noisy, much slower, you can't "crash" a laser cutter, bits wear out, material fixturing. But you get to control the depth of cut which allows for some very nice finished results (pocketing, carving, facing off - not possible wi

    • Hey DBC - in case you're still watching, i'd love to hear about your thoughts on the lasersaur. Email me at jonnyh at gmail dot com, if you'd be so kind.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Small, very low-cost CNC for milled circuit boards: []

    3D printer: []

    Desktop-sized to shop-sized CNC mills: []

  • I was looking at these for a time. Seemed to be pretty good for the hobbiest. []
    • by mongus ( 131392 )

      I bought one of these last Friday and it was delivered on Monday. Lots of fun to play with!

      Fortunately for me, all the optics were still aligned when it arrived. Everything was in working order and the software is pretty good. Their printer driver makes sending jobs from Inkscape and CorelDRAW trivial.

      One thing to note - if you get the deluxe version the power is controlled by the software, not the knob on the front. If you hit the test fire button on the control panel instead of the one in the software you

      • We have one ( - Ann Arbor, MI). Ours works slightly differently than what you said. The knob on the front limits it. The software limits it further. When running if we set ours to 15MW (on the knob) and set 50% power in software we get ~7.5MW read out on the gauge during the run.

        The software (RetinaEngrave) is pretty terrible. It does make multiple passes and splitting colors (different power/passes) easy, but alignment of raster and vector images is a pain. It also only seems to consist

  • by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @05:35PM (#40486237)
    A laser cutter involved a laser strong enough to cut through metal. (Duh.) So what do you use to stop the laser once it goes through whatever you're trying to cut/drill? I presume there must be something at the other end designed to defocus and/or safely absorb the energy from the laser, i'm just curious what the exact method is.
    • Where does the light, from the lightbulb, go when you switch off the power?

      Made you think?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 Daetrin ( 576516 )
        Ahh, i somehow had this vague notion that you couldn't focus a laser down to a point because running it through a lens would destroy the coherence. Thanks.
    • by dbc ( 135354 )

      I presume you would put some kind of sacrificial material behind it and adjust power to cut through the work piece but not the sacrificial. I've only used long-wave CO2 lasers that aren't much use on metal since that wavelength reflects instead of absorbing.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It ends up being somewhat out of focus after the material, and the base you rest material on is usually made of pins, a number of sawtooth 'blades' or a honeycomb, so there's very little surface to cut.

  • Here in the SF Bay Area we have TechShop []. I am a member. They all have laser cutters / engravers. They are a lot of fun to use.

    TechShop also has 3D printers, CNC mills, lathes, lots of wood working tools, welding equipment, and even sewing machines. Lots of great stuff.

  • by kilodelta ( 843627 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @06:26PM (#40486835) Homepage
    I had to replace the lasing cavity on a 150W CO2 Epilog Laser Cutter/Engraver. Seems this was an early model with no interlocks between the Laser and the chilling system. So one day our engraving guy forgot to turn on the chiller when he fired up a job on the Epilog. And poof! There went the lasing cavity.

    Pretty easy to replace I might add. It's almost as though Epilog EXPECTED stupidity.
    • by dbc ( 135354 )

      Well, actually all laser tubes have a limited lifetime. So they do have to be replaced after a few thousand hours even if operated correctly. The tube does have to be a FRU.

  • If you liked this video you'll love the ones of people using these sort of laser to give themselves tattoos, there are quite a few on youtube
  • Laser cutters are soooo amaaaazing. All the cool kids have laser cutters now.

    With a laser cutter you can burn patterns out of plywood and assemble them. If you have a laser cutter you can even do advanced things like box joints.

    If you don't have a laser cutter and want to put your arduino in a plywood box, you have to order the cut plywood from a place that has a laser cutter.


  • Why do people insist on selecting Apply before choosing Print or OK?

    • Because some dain-bramaged interfaces won't apply the changes unless you do and print/ok end up using the original settings. Once burned you get into the habit of doing it that way.
  • eBay search for 'laser cutter' or 'laser engraver' always seems to turn up the cheap ~$700 ones in the list. Just wondering if anyone has ever tried one.

    Just thinking out loud, for some of us it might not be such a bad investment - if you aren't sure you will really get the $5k use out of a nice second hand one. Like getting a cheap battery drill to try the tech before splashing $500 on a 'tradesman quality' tool.

    I'm sure everyone will say the more expensive ones are 'better', but what I want to know is if

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker