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!
Can you kick us off with a little about yourself?
Yep, it used an IR laser and a doubler if I'm remembering it correctly, so much of the 85mW as invisable
Use the Schwartz! (sorry, had to say it)
Well, I've been working with laser cutters for about 10 years. I primarily work with Chinese co2 laser cutters.
heya jon! thanks for coming to answer questions and share the infos!
I repair them, sell them, and operate a laser cutting business.
What's your favorite rig Johnathan?
It really depends on the size that you're looking for
I'm new to laser cutting and looking to learn how they work do that I can help out ,y local
*my local Makerspace
I work directly with red sail
@Jonathan Schwartz website please?
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!
I look forward to learning from the information given out!
I find that they're a pretty good combination between price and quality.
Whatever machine you end up getting make sure you do research on the company that selling it
And you definitely get what you pay for in this field.
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.
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?
When I first started it was more like using an Etch-a-Sketch compared to today's technology
in terms of the control systems?
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.
And open source, I suppose :)
Open source has definitely become a much bigger deal.
I can agree with that, for sure, both on the hardware and software sides.
Do the laser tubes have appreciable power degradation over time? Say 1 year, 10 years?
If so, what causes it?
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
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?
@Jonathan Schwartz is the pricerange we see on the units for sale on the site generally what you deal with?
Yes they have a shelf life
Essentially air is slowly seeping into the laser tube through microscopic cracks
Perfect for space lasers then
Sorry about that - too much caffine
No, because with a lower ambient pressure your CO2 will in fact have bigger problems.
Lasers operating in space are generally solid state for that reason.
There's definitely a huge quality difference between the really cheap Chinese machines and the ones with the 3K plus tariff
(we've sent a few up!)
I would try to stay away from eBay machines unless you're comfortable rebuilding it from the ground up basically
Agreeing with Jonathan completely
yep, been there, still doing it
Yeah, but for a business tool, $3k seems pretty reasonable
A good portion of my repair work comes from eBay machines
It definitely is reasonable
in that case you should suggest buying them!
What places to buy would you recommend?
I have a Mira 7 which I am finding very reliable anyone else using one..
something around the 1300mm x 900mm size, 80-150w I've seen the $3k aliexpress units, to $50k epilog quotes.
Which safety glasses would you recommend? Used Thor Labs at work, but not hobby pricing.
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.
Safety glasses are going to depend on the nanometers of the laser so I can't really recommend any specific brand
looks like you have something similar for $6500. yeah thunder was ~$11k i think
As i come from Canada, ordering from the US adds a bit induty charges
Yes, true, each brand has a good range. Which brand do you use?
Red sail. They are a pretty good combination between decent price and decent quality.
Thanks, shall check them out.
Right now it's pretty difficult to get anything from China though
@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?
Light burn or the default software that's it
@a-oneil -- I kinda like Coreldraw for graphic design. I've never met another Corel user in real life though.
i use corral
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?
There are plenty of design software's if that's what you're talking about
Last time I used Coreldraw it came in that PaintCan Version....
I can heartily recommend Illustrator
I personally like Inkscape
It's like a 35% tariff on these machines. The cost of shipping varies greatly depending on where you are in the country
I used light burn with one of the smaller blue lasers, its really good!
fortunately I'm 20 mins away from Portland, which is the land of ports.
@Jonathan Schwartz what do you think of Epilog?
There's also going to be local taxes on top of that
The machines are built well but I don't like the software. They're also overly expensive.
A Chinese machine can do anything Epilogue can.
Rather like Trotec software, but the machines are not affordable
@Jonathan Schwartz in my experience the Epilog firmware is stupid. It can't calculate time correctly, for one thing
None of them calculate time correctly
@Jonathan Schwartz that's pretty sad
I would say most of them are +/-30>#/span###
Better than astrophysics
Any thoughts on using a camera with lightburn?
Any tips on filtering the exhaust? I prefer not to vent directly outside, though it is the least expensive option
It's definitely worth setting up a camera it'll give your machine more abilities
They make HEPA and carbon filters that fit on the end of HVAC ducting
You can get a carbon filter for a 6 inch line for like $30
@Jonathan Schwartz I've seen focal lengths of 0.5" to 4" for CO2 laser optics - what's your take on a good length?
It depends on what you're doing
I use a 2.5 because it's pretty much right in the middle
@Jonathan Schwartz how do the air filters work with smell and acrylics? those are tricky to filter
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.
They work OK but they're not 100% effective. Whatever is left should disperse fairly quickly.
You would probably need both if you want it to be pretty much 100>#/span###
if I run it in my garage with a filter, are my neighbors going to bitch? :)
Just joined in don’t know if this question was asked.
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
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.
@Jonathan Schwartz So, what kind of work do you handle besides unit sales? A lot of promotional material I would imagine?
how about the mA of running the tube and the lifespan. And how to ‘set’ this?
It's completely random. I do a lot of products for companies more than promotional material
You mean there's a good demand for fabricated consumer products? Can you give some examples?
I've done everything from wedding certificates to coronavirus test stand for test tubes
Lots of wedding stuff
But a good portion of what I do I can't really talk about
I've made over 10,000 masks
Do people come to you with a complete and ready to go idea?
Jonathan, did you know Andre's Picna from Chicago, Wife Sue?
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?
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?
The problem is the people that don't come completely prepared also tend to not want to pay for somebody to help them
Would it be possible to implement I3C (Basic) in RP2040's PIOs?
I don't know them
90% of the time it's 100% based off machine time
The other 10% of the time there's going to be extra human labor involved which gets added on in addition
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.
Are there plugins or code you can buy (or for free ) to setup a time calculation script from files to laser for your website?
I wish there were
There are one or two paid ones out there but they don't work well
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?
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?
What are some untapped/underserved markets for a beginner to look at to get into lasering for profit?
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
Thank's Jonathan! Firmi Labs Ring a Bell?
They do not
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.
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.
What I do is a little different than most businesses so figuring out how the car structure works is a little different
Since I don't like a product I have a service
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.
I agree with that Dan and at least twice a year I check to see if my price is right still.
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
Most services charge between $90 and $120 an hour
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
There's definitely a marketing cost in charging too little, people will think you're inadequate, undertrained, etc.
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.
I think that services in my field or expensive enough that no one feels that way
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.
i do allways
The customer doesn't ask is going to probably going to be a problem customer
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
Hi, what would be the wattage of a laser to cut about 1 millimeter aluminum.
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?
I spend a lot of time on quotes that don't get turned into jobs
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
I did a video recently similar to this and it's something that I'm going to be doing more often
There's also rd works learning lab
I don't work with metal so can't really tell you
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.
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
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.
a co2 laser with a gas assist at 250w will cut thin metal, 500W is good place to be cutting metal.
Aluminum oxide gets very hot so it's a pain in the ass to plasma cut aluminum, especially thin aluminum.
without the 02 assist it'll slag the metal and just make a mess or not cut at all
Is it worth having a co2 aser tube on a shelf waiting to be used or would the gas escape..
Well that explains that!
Thank you guys. It is probably not cost effective. It seems like CNC is the way to go.
If I just want a rough hole then yeah I might just give it a zap, but I could just as easily punch it.
(typo'd 250w with 150w o2 assist)
How about acrylic - Can you cut through 2-3 millimeters of acrylic with a 40 watt?