Putting Lasers to Work Hack Chat

Lasers 101

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 12:00 pm PST Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Jonathan Schwartz will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, March 3 at noon Pacific.

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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 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-slinger's trade.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Dan Maloney03/03/2021 at 21:05 0 comments

    Jonathan Schwartz12:50 PM


    @Jonathan Schwartz - Are the machines you use/sell/service mostly X-Y gantry-type with the laser bouncing around between mirrors? Or are there any galvo laser cutters out there on the market now that are worth looking at?

    Jonathan Schwartz12:52 PM
    Still the XY gantry type. I've seen some demonstration of those galvo cutters and they are definitely going to be the wave of the future but I still haven't found somebody that really sells them.

    Joseph Stavitsky12:53 PM
    @Jonathan Schwartz What's your general strategy for dialing in settings for a new material? Or are there no "new materials" at this point?

    scubabear12:54 PM
    @Jonathan Schwartz On the lasers on your site you have an option to upgrade the optics; what does that consist of? How bad are the original optics?

    W5VO12:54 PM
    What materials should the laser optics use (mirrors, lenses)

    Jonathan Schwartz12:55 PM
    There's definitely variances between materials so you have to dial it in all the time.

    Jonathan Schwartz12:55 PM
    I set up a sheet with power settings for each of my machines

    edmeme12:55 PM
    I was wondering about safety equipment, the price range of safety googles is very large. Anyone can give me a hint on how much is reasonable to spend and what to consider?

    Jonathan Schwartz12:55 PM
    You just have to kind of go with what you know works for something else and then dial-in

    Jonathan Schwartz12:55 PM
    Gold or copper

    Jonathan Schwartz12:56 PM
    Make sure you have a CO2 for extinguisher if you do this stuff. Other than that you don't really need anything

    Jonathan Schwartz12:57 PM
    Goggles are nice but not necessary as long as your machine has a lid

    Starts asking "Why CO2?" then remembers the mess dry powder extinguishers make...

    charliex12:59 PM
    i like having a fire blanket next to my lasers as well, good for small localised

    Nicolas Tremblay12:59 PM
    not to mention it's corrosive

    Jonathan Schwartz1:00 PM
    Sometimes you can also pick up the wrong type of extinguisher and you can actually electrocute yourself trying to put out an electric fire

    Jonathan Schwartz1:00 PM
    Fire blankets are good

    W5VO1:01 PM
    It's a CO2 extinguisher because it's a CO2 laser. You gotta match the extinguisher medium to the laser. *runs and ducks*

    Well, I've got to say that was one of the livelier chats we've had so far this year. People really seem to be into laser cutting, and I want to thanks Jonathan for coming on and sharing his experience. The Hack Chat is always open, of course, but we've got to let Jonathan get back to work now. Thanks to everyone for the great questions too!

    charliex1:01 PM
    it helps with the co2 assist

    mike.halward1:01 PM
    Thank you Jonathan very helpful

    charliex1:01 PM
    cheers jonathan

    Dusan Petrovic1:02 PM
    Thanks @Jonathan Schwartz !

    Joseph Stavitsky1:02 PM
    @Jonathan Schwartz I work with a full fabrication facility including a large Epilog unit with full industrial exhaust. I'm on the East Coast (NYC area) but I think there may be some ways we can help each other. Would you care to give some contact info?

    Jonathan Schwartz1:03 PM
    sure You can contact me through

    Nicolas Tremblay1:03 PM
    Thanks @Jonathan Schwartz

    I'll post a transcript in a few minutes, btw.

    And next week will be a cool one too -- talking to John McMaster about decapping chips and other components!

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney03/03/2021 at 21:04 0 comments

    OK, all, we've already got a good discussion going, but let's kick things off "officially". Welcome all, I'm Dan, and Dusan and I will be modding today as we welcome Jonathan Schwartz to the Hack Chat. And I apologize in advance if my fingers get wrapped up on the spelling of Schwartz -- it's like a mental block with me ;-)

    I think I saw Jon log on already -- welcome!

    Jonathan Schwartz12:00 PM
    Thanks Dan

    riley.august12:00 PM
    Hi Jon!

    Can you kick us off with a little about yourself?

    Jonathan Schwartz12:00 PM
    Hey guys

    James Murphy12:00 PM

    Lightning Phil12:00 PM
    Yep, it used an IR laser and a doubler if I'm remembering it correctly, so much of the 85mW as invisable

    Nicolas Tremblay12:01 PM
    Use the Schwartz! (sorry, had to say it)

    Joseph Stavitsky12:01 PM

    Jonathan Schwartz12:01 PM
    Well, I've been working with laser cutters for about 10 years. I primarily work with Chinese co2 laser cutters.

    Josh Olson joined the room.12:02 PM

    Ben Hencke12:02 PM
    heya jon! thanks for coming to answer questions and share the infos!

    Jonathan Schwartz12:02 PM
    I repair them, sell them, and operate a laser cutting business.

    James Murphy12:02 PM
    What's your favorite rig Johnathan?

    a-oneil joined the room.12:02 PM

    Jonathan Schwartz12:02 PM
    It really depends on the size that you're looking for

    Jazmin Morales12:02 PM
    I'm new to laser cutting and looking to learn how they work do that I can help out ,y local

    Jazmin Morales12:03 PM
    *my local Makerspace

    Jonathan Schwartz12:03 PM
    I work directly with red sail

    Joseph Stavitsky12:03 PM
    @Jonathan Schwartz website please?

    Jonathan Schwartz12:03 PM

    American Laser Cutter

    American Laser Cutter

    We are the only laser cutting service in LA that offers a do-it- yourself service! Our shop provides a 3' x 4' 100 W laser cutter by the hour for your DIY project. Come cut your custom projects and anything you can dream up There's no previous laser cutter experience necessary!

    Read this on American Laser Cutter

    Jazmin Morales12:04 PM
    I look forward to learning from the information given out!

    Jonathan Schwartz12:04 PM
    I find that they're a pretty good combination between price and quality.

    Jonathan Schwartz12:04 PM
    Whatever machine you end up getting make sure you do research on the company that selling it

    Jonathan Schwartz12:04 PM
    And you definitely get what you pay for in this field.

    James Murphy12:04 PM
    Well What I would LIKE would be a Particle Beam Laser that can take out an incoming missle at 1200 miles distance but I'll settle for something that can engrave and cut.

    Jonathan Schwartz12:05 PM
    There's a huge range of qualities that you can get with a machine

    Ten years is like forever in technology. What's changed the most with laser cutters during that time?

    Jonathan Schwartz12:05 PM
    When I first started it was more like using an Etch-a-Sketch compared to today's technology

    riley.august12:06 PM
    in terms of the control systems?

    Jonathan Schwartz12:06 PM
    Also, I've pretty much come down like 10 times in price. A lot of that has to do with the Chinese competition in the market.

    Jonathan Schwartz12:06 PM

    mike.halward joined the room.12:06 PM

    Jonathan Schwartz12:06 PM
    they have

    Timo Birnschein12:06 PM
    And open source, I suppose :)

    Jonathan Schwartz12:06 PM
    Open source has definitely become a much bigger deal.

    riley.august12:06 PM
    I can agree with that, for sure, both on the hardware and software sides.

    Mark J Hughes12:07 PM
    Do the laser tubes have appreciable power degradation over time? Say 1 year, 10 years?

    Mark J Hughes12:07 PM
    If so, what causes it?

    Jonathan Schwartz12:07 PM
    Definitely, I would say some of the improvements like light burn in the last couple of years I've made a big deal. It can add features to your machine that will make it compete with a significantly more expensive machine

    Ben Hencke12:07 PM
    any recommendations for a large laser? looking at something with 4ft wide bed, 80-150w. Seems there are random aliexpress models...

    Read more »

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