Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

A event log for Putting Lasers to Work Hack Chat

Lasers 101

dan-maloneyDan Maloney 03/03/2021 at 21:040 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 for ~$3k plus tariffs. looked at some of the more "name brand" chinese ones too mentioned on cnczone. Not wanting to adopt a machine I have to gut and rebuild. What are the important things id miss out on with a cheapo laser?

Joseph Stavitsky12:07 PM
@Jonathan Schwartz is the pricerange we see on the units for sale on the site generally what you deal with?

Jonathan Schwartz12:07 PM
Yes they have a shelf life

Jonathan Schwartz12:08 PM
Essentially air is slowly seeping into the laser tube through microscopic cracks

Lightning Phil12:08 PM
Perfect for space lasers then

Lightning Phil12:09 PM
Sorry about that - too much caffine

riley.august12:09 PM
No, because with a lower ambient pressure your CO2 will in fact have bigger problems.

riley.august12:09 PM
Lasers operating in space are generally solid state for that reason.

Jonathan Schwartz12:09 PM
There's definitely a huge quality difference between the really cheap Chinese machines and the ones with the 3K plus tariff

riley.august12:09 PM
(we've sent a few up!)

Lightning Phil12:09 PM

Jonathan Schwartz12:09 PM
I would try to stay away from eBay machines unless you're comfortable rebuilding it from the ground up basically

riley.august12:10 PM
Agreeing with Jonathan completely

Timo Birnschein12:10 PM
yep, been there, still doing it

Yeah, but for a business tool, $3k seems pretty reasonable

Jonathan Schwartz12:10 PM
A good portion of my repair work comes from eBay machines

Jonathan Schwartz12:10 PM
It definitely is reasonable

Timo Birnschein12:10 PM
in that case you should suggest buying them!

Nicolas Tremblay12:11 PM
What places to buy would you recommend?

mike.halward12:11 PM
I have a Mira 7 which I am finding very reliable anyone else using one..

Ben Hencke12:12 PM
something around the 1300mm x 900mm size, 80-150w I've seen the $3k aliexpress units, to $50k epilog quotes.

Lightning Phil12:12 PM
Which safety glasses would you recommend? Used Thor Labs at work, but not hobby pricing.

Jonathan Schwartz12:12 PM
You could always get them from me which comes with the advantage of a local representative in the country but I charge a little bit more. Other than that thunder Laser makes a pretty good machine if they weren't so expensive I would probably stick with them I used to sell their machines.

Jonathan Schwartz12:12 PM
Safety glasses are going to depend on the nanometers of the laser so I can't really recommend any specific brand

Ben Hencke12:13 PM
looks like you have something similar for $6500. yeah thunder was ~$11k i think

Nicolas Tremblay12:13 PM
As i come from Canada, ordering from the US adds a bit induty charges

Lightning Phil12:13 PM
Yes, true, each brand has a good range. Which brand do you use?

Jonathan Schwartz12:14 PM
Red sail. They are a pretty good combination between decent price and decent quality.

Lightning Phil12:14 PM
Thanks, shall check them out.

Jonathan Schwartz12:14 PM
Right now it's pretty difficult to get anything from China though

a-oneil12:14 PM
@Jonathan Schwartz what is your recommended software? Currently, my workflow is that I make a DXF in fusion / adobe and then pull into lightburn for laser settings. Is there something other than lightburn I should be looking at?

Jonathan Schwartz12:15 PM
Light burn or the default software that's it

Mark J Hughes12:15 PM
@a-oneil -- I kinda like Coreldraw for graphic design. I've never met another Corel user in real life though.

Jonathan Schwartz12:15 PM
i use corral

W5VO12:15 PM
Hey, a while back HaD featured a custom nozzle design for air assist - have you tried anything like that on the "standard Chinese import" machines? (

Ben Hencke12:16 PM
what does the whole process and cost of importing a giant machine like that look like? should I assume I'll add 25% tariff, and spend like $1k on an import broker and shipping it from the port to my shop?

Jonathan Schwartz12:16 PM
There are plenty of design software's if that's what you're talking about

James Murphy12:16 PM
Last time I used Coreldraw it came in that PaintCan Version....

Joseph Stavitsky12:16 PM
I can heartily recommend Illustrator

riley.august12:16 PM
I personally like Inkscape

Jonathan Schwartz12:16 PM
It's like a 35% tariff on these machines. The cost of shipping varies greatly depending on where you are in the country

Ben Hencke12:16 PM
I used light burn with one of the smaller blue lasers, its really good!

Ben Hencke12:17 PM
fortunately I'm 20 mins away from Portland, which is the land of ports.

Joseph Stavitsky12:17 PM
@Jonathan Schwartz what do you think of Epilog?

Jonathan Schwartz12:17 PM
There's also going to be local taxes on top of that

Jonathan Schwartz12:17 PM
The machines are built well but I don't like the software. They're also overly expensive.

Jonathan Schwartz12:18 PM
A Chinese machine can do anything Epilogue can.

Lightning Phil12:18 PM
Rather like Trotec software, but the machines are not affordable

Joseph Stavitsky12:19 PM
@Jonathan Schwartz in my experience the Epilog firmware is stupid. It can't calculate time correctly, for one thing

Jonathan Schwartz12:19 PM
Same deal

Jonathan Schwartz12:19 PM
None of them calculate time correctly

Joseph Stavitsky12:19 PM
@Jonathan Schwartz that's pretty sad

Jonathan Schwartz12:20 PM
I would say most of them are +/-30>#/span###

Lightning Phil12:20 PM
Better than astrophysics

mike.halward12:21 PM
Any thoughts on using a camera with lightburn?

Lightning Phil12:21 PM
Any tips on filtering the exhaust? I prefer not to vent directly outside, though it is the least expensive option

Jonathan Schwartz12:21 PM
It's definitely worth setting up a camera it'll give your machine more abilities

Jonathan Schwartz12:22 PM
They make HEPA and carbon filters that fit on the end of HVAC ducting

Jonathan Schwartz12:22 PM
You can get a carbon filter for a 6 inch line for like $30

W5VO12:22 PM
@Jonathan Schwartz I've seen focal lengths of 0.5" to 4" for CO2 laser optics - what's your take on a good length?

Jonathan Schwartz12:22 PM
It depends on what you're doing

Jonathan Schwartz12:23 PM
I use a 2.5 because it's pretty much right in the middle

Ben Hencke12:23 PM
@Jonathan Schwartz how do the air filters work with smell and acrylics? those are tricky to filter

Lightning Phil12:23 PM
I have one of them filters in my cooker hood as it can't vent outside - massive upgrade from the naff things it came with.

Jonathan Schwartz12:24 PM
They work OK but they're not 100% effective. Whatever is left should disperse fairly quickly.

Jonathan Schwartz12:24 PM
You would probably need both if you want it to be pretty much 100>#/span###

info joined the room.12:24 PM

Ben Hencke12:24 PM
if I run it in my garage with a filter, are my neighbors going to bitch? :)

Frits Jan12:25 PM
Just joined in don’t know if this question was asked.

charliex12:25 PM
carbon for the smell, hepa for the particles, since most carbon filters wont filter smoke particulate and you'll suck it in . depending on the exhaust fan on the laser you might need to upgrade it

Jonathan Schwartz12:26 PM
It depends on what you're cutting. Whatever you do I would recommend getting a vent pipe that goes as high as you can in that circumstance.

Joseph Stavitsky12:26 PM
@Jonathan Schwartz So, what kind of work do you handle besides unit sales? A lot of promotional material I would imagine?

Frits Jan12:26 PM
how about the mA of running the tube and the lifespan. And how to ‘set’ this?

Jonathan Schwartz12:26 PM
It's completely random. I do a lot of products for companies more than promotional material

Joseph Stavitsky12:27 PM
You mean there's a good demand for fabricated consumer products? Can you give some examples?

Jonathan Schwartz12:27 PM
I've done everything from wedding certificates to coronavirus test stand for test tubes

Jonathan Schwartz12:27 PM
Lots of wedding stuff

Jonathan Schwartz12:27 PM
Game accessories

Jonathan Schwartz12:28 PM
But a good portion of what I do I can't really talk about

Jonathan Schwartz12:28 PM
I've made over 10,000 masks

Frits Jan12:28 PM
Do people come to you with a complete and ready to go idea?

Jonathan Schwartz12:28 PM
Face shields

James Murphy12:28 PM
Jonathan, did you know Andre's Picna from Chicago, Wife Sue?

Jonathan Schwartz12:28 PM
Most of the time yes

Curious about the business side of this. How do you come up with a sensible price for services? Is it machine time, length of cut, different offsets for different materials, etc?

Ben Hencke12:29 PM
I was also curious about the laser mA/power. related Q, I read somewhere that there was a way to test/verify individual tubes so you could adjust accordingly. Is that a thing, and if so what does that process look like?

Jonathan Schwartz12:29 PM
The problem is the people that don't come completely prepared also tend to not want to pay for somebody to help them

Marcin Dąbrowski12:29 PM
Would it be possible to implement I3C (Basic) in RP2040's PIOs?

Jonathan Schwartz12:29 PM
I don't know them

Jonathan Schwartz12:30 PM
90% of the time it's 100% based off machine time

Jonathan Schwartz12:30 PM
The other 10% of the time there's going to be extra human labor involved which gets added on in addition

Jonathan Schwartz12:31 PM
I couldn't answer that question

So you've figured out that an hour of machine time is worth $x, and that covers everything like labor, rent, power, depreciation, etc. Plus a profit, of course.

Frits Jan12:32 PM
Are there plugins or code you can buy (or for free ) to setup a time calculation script from files to laser for your website?

Jonathan Schwartz12:32 PM
I wish there were

mikeasaurus joined the room.12:32 PM

Jonathan Schwartz12:33 PM
There are one or two paid ones out there but they don't work well

James Murphy12:34 PM
RE: So you've figured out that an hour of machine time is worth $x, and that covers everything like labor, rent, power, depreciation, etc. Plus a profit, of course. Question: So is there an average?

Tim Sherrill12:34 PM
I see some of the hand-held or tripod mounted engravers. They make me shudder. How dangerous is a lower power laser engraver for your eyes?

riley.august12:35 PM

mikeasaurus12:35 PM
What are some untapped/underserved markets for a beginner to look at to get into lasering for profit?

Jonathan Schwartz12:35 PM
As to figuring out the cost. There's honestly a simpler way of doing it. You need to figure out what the market will bear. You want to be at a point where a few people are complaining about your cost but most people aren't. That's the maximum the market will bear. At that point you need to figure out if the business is reasonable

James Murphy12:35 PM
Thank's Jonathan! Firmi Labs Ring a Bell?

Jonathan Schwartz12:36 PM
They do not

riley.august12:36 PM
Anything above 600mW is what I would consider "extremely dangerous", and if I see anyone being careless I will duct tape their goggles to their head. That's the ballpark wattage at which direct reflection hazards start to cause permanent damage. I strongly recommend any of these maker built diode lasers use an enclosure, where feasible.

Jonathan Schwartz12:36 PM
I would agree with that

That's funny, my dad did carpentry work on the side after he retired and always set his prices too low -- figured if anyone complained at all he was too high. He still did well, but he could have done better if he just aimed a wee bit higher to probe the market more.

Jonathan Schwartz12:37 PM
What I do is a little different than most businesses so figuring out how the car structure works is a little different

Jonathan Schwartz12:37 PM
Since I don't like a product I have a service

riley.august12:37 PM
Now, you don't necessarily need anything fancy, I just used opaque black lexan for my enclosure, my telemetry is pretty good so I don't really feel like I need to see.

Jonathan Schwartz12:38 PM
I agree with that Dan and at least twice a year I check to see if my price is right still.

riley.august12:38 PM
If you DO need to see what's going on, a window of laser rated optix is very cheap from your local plastics shop, you can even possibly get an offcut if you just want a small window

Jonathan Schwartz12:38 PM
Most services charge between $90 and $120 an hour

riley.august12:38 PM
and yeah I agree, Matteo and I have the same problem, it's sometimes hard to push people who don't think highly of themselves to charge enough for their work despite literally putting stuff on Mars

riley.august12:39 PM
There's definitely a marketing cost in charging too little, people will think you're inadequate, undertrained, etc.

Jonathan Schwartz12:39 PM
The only problem with that is that everybody has different speeds and capacity so if you actually figure it out you may be paying way more or way less depending on the specific shop.

Jonathan Schwartz12:40 PM
I think that services in my field or expensive enough that no one feels that way

riley.august12:40 PM
It's never impolite to ask for a labour estimate, and as the service writer for the shop you should always be prepared to give one.

Jonathan Schwartz12:40 PM
i do allways

Jonathan Schwartz12:41 PM
The customer doesn't ask is going to probably going to be a problem customer

charliex12:43 PM
look around at local shops that do similar things for a basis of the local market, things like whether or not you have to create the drawings, or modify them, look at long established cnc shops on what sort of things they ask for and how they price. you'd waste a lot of time on people who ask for zaz

gonzalo12:43 PM
Hi, what would be the wattage of a laser to cut about 1 millimeter aluminum.

edmeme joined the room.12:43 PM

Tim Sherrill12:43 PM
I'm new to the laser side of things but experienced in 3D printing and CNC. Who are some good YouTubers who I should watch to get to know the hobby?

Jonathan Schwartz12:43 PM
I spend a lot of time on quotes that don't get turned into jobs

Jonathan Schwartz12:44 PM

YouTube American Laser

charliex12:44 PM
yeah thats why a lot of places charge for a quote thats gets taken out of the final bill, but not everyone will do it

Jonathan Schwartz12:45 PM
I did a video recently similar to this and it's something that I'm going to be doing more often

Jonathan Schwartz12:45 PM
There's also rd works learning lab

Jonathan Schwartz12:46 PM
I don't work with metal so can't really tell you

gonzalo12:46 PM
Ok, thanks

riley.august12:46 PM
1mm aluminum you'd be looking at a fiber laser, and I'd talk to the individual vendors but you're looking in the 60-80W range minimally. They're again not REALLY my wheelhouse, but that should at least point you in the direction of a sales guy.

charliex12:46 PM
my fibre laser will cut through 1mm of aluminium in about 5-10 mins depending on how aggressive i want the cut to be its 60w

@gonzalo - Almost seems like a job for a CNC router

riley.august12:47 PM
Yeah, in my shop I'd be going to the mechanical cutters for that kind of job.

Or perhaps a plasma cutter. But I mostly see people putting steel on those.

charliex12:47 PM
a co2 laser with a gas assist at 250w will cut thin metal, 500W is good place to be cutting metal.

riley.august12:48 PM
Aluminum oxide gets very hot so it's a pain in the ass to plasma cut aluminum, especially thin aluminum.

charliex12:48 PM
without the 02 assist it'll slag the metal and just make a mess or not cut at all

mike.halward12:48 PM
Is it worth having a co2 aser tube on a shelf waiting to be used or would the gas escape..

Well that explains that!

charliex12:49 PM
water jet

gonzalo12:49 PM
Thank you guys. It is probably not cost effective. It seems like CNC is the way to go.

riley.august12:49 PM
If I just want a rough hole then yeah I might just give it a zap, but I could just as easily punch it.

charliex12:49 PM
(typo'd 250w with 150w o2 assist)

gonzalo12:50 PM
How about acrylic - Can you cut through 2-3 millimeters of acrylic with a 40 watt?