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I want a Laser Cutter!

My Home Laser Cutter Journey

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I'm tired of having to schedule laser cutter time and going to my makerspace. I want my own laser cutter at home! These are my notes while studying, ordering, and then using my own laser cutter!

Beginners' Resources

Essentials

  • K40 Whisperer - Alterative software to control the laser cutter (FREE)
  • InkScape- Alternative software to draw/edit your designs (FREE)
  • LaserGRBL - Alternative software to manipulate images and stream gcode to the laser cutter (FREE)
  • DXF for Laser (Fusion360 plugin) by Ross Korsky
  • Slicer - Converts solids into laser cut slices by AutoDesk

Shopping Links (search for 'co2 laser')

Reviews and Tips from Owners

  • Getting Control over a 50 Watt CO2 Laser Cutter from China by Erich Styger
  • Test cutting different hard woods by Just Josh rfpom
  • Control K40 using Raspberry Pi by NovaSpirit tech
  • Don Kleinschnitz Jr.  
  • Settings (just for ballpark, varies greatly from machine to machine)
    • The basic variables you control in operation are the power of the laser, and the movement speed of the head. You control the head speed through software, but the laser power with the control panel dial. You will use faster speeds and lower power for thin materials, and slower speeds and higher power for thicker materials. - Reddit K40 Wiki
    • Daniel Flanagan: 10 - 15 mA at 10 - 20 mm/s for cutting (never above 15, as suggested), but for engraving I feel like 4 - 10 mA at 100 - 200 mm/s was working for me.
    • Tony Hudson: Id say not fast enough 3mm about 12 as speed
    • Nigel Davies: I can cut 3mm in one pass at 10mms 10mA
    • Carlos Alberto: I cut 3 mm at 13 mah 11 mm/sec
    • Jan Erik Laiti I cut at 8mm/s and 10 mA
  • How to shorten the inside duct by Karl Laun
  • Keep water temp between 17-20C to prevent blowing out your tube - Starla Fox
  • K40 Whisperer > Raster settings > Scanline - start at 0.004 to start - you may have to up the power slightly but it will take half the time - John Bowley

Other Tips

Inspiration

  • Suggested Mods

    Hari Wiguna12/01/2018 at 02:36 0 comments

    • Shortened exhaust duct (gives you a lot more room)
    • Added a coolant temp gauge
    • Added some additional outlets and fittings to the back (12V and air assist)
    • Found a hose adapter on Amazon the fit the duct slot perfectly
    • Added a stylish cabinet handle (Menards) to lift the cover
    • Added an air assist nozzle and upgraded mirror to the head assembly
    • Removed the stock bed and installed an adjustable height one (Thingiverse)
    • Added an air pump for the smoke assist and a 110v ventilation fan for smoke removal
    • Added some 5v and 12v power supplies inside the electronics section to power various accessories
    • Added some additional LED lights for better visibility
    • Made a cable chain (Thingiverse) to support the air assist hose and a support for the cable chain
    • Made a “laser” spot pointer that shows exactly where the beam will hit

  • While waiting for the laser to arrive

    Hari Wiguna12/01/2018 at 02:35 0 comments

    Things to buy

    • [x] Certified CO2 Laser Safety Glasses. I've just ordered this one.
    • [x] 5 Gallon plastic bucket with lid for the water to cool the laser
    • [x] 10 Liters (2.7 Gallons) Distilled Water.
    • [x] 15mL (one tablespoon) bleach per 10L water to prevent algae.
    • [ ] Smoke Assist: small fan to blow smoke away from lens and mirrors
    • [ ] Air Assist: Air pump with tube and mount to keep cut area clean of smoke and debris. 
    • [ ] Build an Adjustable Bed, or use Window Screen Kit (too flimsy?)
    • [ ] Optional: Buy Aquarium pump & Tubes to replace provided
    • [ ] Optional: Buy better smoke fan, duct tape to seal, duct adapter
    • [x] Optional: Dedicated fire extinguisher by the laser cutter

    Things to 3D print

    Other

    • Learn a vector drawing program such as InkScape, this is what we will use to create or adjust what we would engrave or cut on the laser cutter.
    • Hangout with other laser fans online: facebook, reddit

  • I bought a K40!

    Hari Wiguna11/29/2018 at 05:17 0 comments

    After about a week of  learning from Chinese K40 Laser Group, YouTube, and talking to friends with lasers, I could not stand it anymore and bought a K40 from ebay..

    Looking back at sold history on the listings, I saw prices as low as $340, but the going rate at this time appears to be $385.  I found a listing for $375 and clicked make an offer and offered $350.  He counter offer $370, which I took because I really want one.

    I specifically ordered one from USA. They say it should be delivered in a week!

    I can't wait!

    UPDATE 1

    Shipping label created same night I ordered. Two days later it is in transit!

    UPDATE 2

    OMG It's going to be here today!

    UPDATE 3

    It's HERE!

    Cat for size comparison...

    I wonder how much it cost them to send something this big and heavy via UPS.

    Well padded, and double-boxed. Nice...

    It's beautiful...

View all 3 project logs

  • 1
    Examine and Install

    Laser is here! Now what?!

    • [x] Make sure all the promised parts are included.
    • [x] Visible external damage? enclosure, buttons and knobs (mine just spins freely - replaced with knob with set screw), outlets secure, broken window, etc
    • [x] Unscrew the rear lid and check to make sure laser tube is not cracked.
    • [x] Unscrew front right panel, check wiring for loose connections, especially grounding.  Case should be electrically connected to actual earth ground on the three prong receptacle so if any high voltage accidentally touch the case, it would go to ground instead of electrocuting you!
    • [x] Unscrew the acrylic window, remove the protective paper, re-mount acrylic window.
    • [x] Optional - remove spring loaded clamping bed
    • [x] Mount the rear smoke fan, exhaust it to the outdoors. We will plug this onto the laser soon, but for testing just plug the fan to wall outlet.
    • [ ] Setup the water cooling bucket, cooling tubes, submerge the pump in 10 liter (2.8 Gallons) of distilled water and one tablespoon bleach to prevent algae. We will plug this to the laser soon, but to test, plug it to wall outlet. There should not be any air bubbles in the tubes.
    • [ ] Plug fan and pump to the rear of laser, so both would turn on whenever the machine is on. 
    • [ ] Clean the mirrors?
    • [ ] Have water sprayer nearby.
    • [ ] Have fire extinguisher nearby.
  • 2
    Install Software

    Most people do not like the included software. Download and install these two FREE software instead:

    • K40 Whisperer - Alterative software to control the laser cutter (FREE)
    • InkScape- Alternative software to draw/edit your designs (FREE)
  • 3
    First power up
    • Before plugging it in, set the power switch to OFF
    • Make sure the laser toggle button is off (raised rather than depressed)
    • Plug it in, set the power switch to ON.  Fan and pump should run.
    • Run the water for at least a minute until there are no bubbles in the tube or laser.  If necessary, prop the right side of the laser to remove bubbles. Others have suggested a few drops of dish soap to break surface tension.
    • Follow HP Persson's excellent mirror alignment instruction.

View all 4 instructions

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Discussions

sunny wrote 12/06/2018 at 00:58 point

Although I also want K40, But i don't know what to do with it. It's like I bought a 3D printer and now it's seldom used.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Hari Wiguna wrote 7 days ago point

A laser cutter is a tool, just like a soldering iron is a tool. Neither comes with inspiration.  I believe inspiration comes from other inspiration.  It's a good thing you're reading Hackaday.  There are many great projects here that hopefully will inspire you to make something similar or better (using a laser cutter or your 3D printer).

  Are you sure? yes | no

davedarko wrote 12/05/2018 at 13:00 point

Thank you for sharing all this, Hari! I'm sure many people go through this process and find this project very useful :)

  Are you sure? yes | no

Hari Wiguna wrote 12/05/2018 at 14:27 point

Hi Dave!
I did it mostly to organize what I learn reading facebook groups, watching YouTube, etc.  The information is out there, but not easy to find.
Do you have a laser cutter?

  Are you sure? yes | no

davedarko wrote 12/05/2018 at 16:09 point

I'm still debating on getting one of the 40W Laser cutters :)

  Are you sure? yes | no

Jan wrote 12/05/2018 at 16:44 point

@davedarko
"I'm still debating on getting one of the 40W Laser cutters :)"
You know the German phrase "Haben ist besser als brauchen", right? :D

  Are you sure? yes | no

davedarko wrote 12/05/2018 at 17:05 point

hehe, that's valid for a lot of things in my lab

  Are you sure? yes | no

K Johansen wrote 11/27/2018 at 00:43 point

>> schedule laser cutter time

I hear ya, bro.  You must go to the same makerspace as me.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Hari Wiguna wrote 11/27/2018 at 02:38 point

Ha! Yeah, I'm sure I would be disappointed at the performance of whatever I could afford at home, but being able to use it whenever I want would be so liberating.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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