Laser cutter

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1 Introduction

Laser cutters allow to cut most sorts of material precisely and quickly.

Low-cost Laser cutters typically used in Fablabs can cut and engrave. They can use materials materials such as wood, plexiglas or cardboard and cut out various shapes and sizes from them.

Low-end laser cutters allow to cut materials like wood, leather, plexi glass (PMMA) and also to engrave.

See also:

Dangers

Laser cutters (unlike 3D printers) are fairly dangerous toys.

  • Toxic fumes can make you sick (and worse)
  • Laser beams (which are invisible) can make you blind. Broken laser tubes can be extremely dangerous.

Therefore:

  • You need a machine with safeguards and that includes the power system.
  • An air filtering system. In a city environment you cannot just expel the fumes out of the window.
  • If you work with an "unsafe" machine, you will have to buy special glasses that are tuned to the frequency of your laster (about 100 Euros). Not needed for a safer high-end model
  • Make sure that the material used for cutting/engraving is not extra toxic. E.g. strictly avoid anything that includes chlorine, e.g. PVC, ABS. Avoid inhaling fumes from composite wood, such as MDF.

There are regulations for laser beams in western countries and your machine should comply. E.g. see the German Unfallverhütungsvorschrift. I don't know whether private persons can ignore such regulations, but schools definitely cannot.

Maintenance

  • Laser tubes must be replaced after 1000 - 10000 hours (depending on the make and model)
  • Optics (mirror and lens) must be cleaned (e.g. use Isopropanol)
  • If you use watercooling: Water must be clean and remain cool
  • If you use a air filtering system, change the filer and active carbon

2 Opensource kits / do it yourself

Reprap.org has an interesting Laser Cutter Notes article plus and associated Background page. Both together include instructions on how to create your own, general information plus links to projects.

2.1 Lasersaur

Quote: “The Lasersaur is an open source laser cutter. We designed it to fill the need of makers, artist and scientist who wanted a safe and highly-capable machine. Unlike others it comes fully loaded with knowledge to run, maintain, and modify.” (Lasersaur, 6/2014).

2.2 axCut

  • axCut
  • Work in progress as of June 2014

2.3 LAOS

  • Laoslaser.org
  • Is not a laser cutter but a board + software. It can be be used to onvert existing machine with a better (open source) driving board or for DYI projects.

2.4 Buildlog

3 List of low power commercial laser cutters

This is a just a quick list made be someone who has no expertise. It also is probably outdated. As of 2016, expect prices to come down a lot in the near future, e.g. on Aliexpress one now can buy systems for a 1000 Euros. There are systems in the range of 2000-3000 that look like systems sold in Europe for over 20K. The cheapest engraver (a cute wooden DVI model) is $135.

European and American online retailers (e.g. Amazon) also start selling cheap lasers. E.g. on Amazon.fr they start at 2000 Euros. Search for "machine de découpe laser" for example. In German, search for "Laserschnitt", "Laser Schneidemachine", "Laser Graviermaschine". Buying from a local vendor will probably add 50% or 100% to the price tag, but (1) there won't be custom's problems and (2) if something goes wrong, negotiations could be easier.

- Daniel K. Schneider (talk) 12:28, 11 March 2016 (CET)


When comparing prices consider the following (thanx to Wie ich mich für einen Laser entschieden habe.... by Matthias Melcher)

  • Laser tubes must be replaced once in a while (cheap ones cost 500 Euros, good ones 3000 Euros and more). Cheap ones last a few hundred hours, excellent ones (e.g. Synrad) over 20'000 hours (that's many years). In other words, price differences are partly explained by the quality of the laser. The same is true for other parts (mirros, filters, etc.)
  • Cutting/engraving most materials produce dangerous fumes, therefore you also must buy a system to manage the exhausts, i.e. either pump it outside or into a box with a filter. Some materials contain Chlorine (e.g. PVC) and that produces very corrosive fumes. You should not cut these, even with a good exhaust system since the acid will damage your machine.
  • Most activities need cooling (air or water)
  • The laser beam is invisible (but you can add some red dot)
  • Cutting depth is limited, you can't cut deeper even with several passages because the laser is "conical".
  • Lasers can burn (therefore don't leave it alone, and keep a fire extinguisher ready)
  • A laser machine needs space, e.g. count exhaust system, cooler, etc.
  • For many types of use you need extra materials, a cutting table with holes (honeycombed), a cooler (water pump), etc.
  • Laser quality is fairly different, laser power is a relative measure of engraving/cutting strength.
  • Cost / hour could be 20 Euros

In the hobby range, there are at least two types of lasers:

  • C02 / glass. Good for leather, paper, acrylic (plexi glass) and plywood,
  • yag and fiber (good for metal)

Software:

  • Good software and support for various useful formats (such as SVG) can be mission critical. Software works with certain boards and vice-versa.
  • There has been criticism of the MoshDraw software that is popular with many low cost Chinese brands.

Quality / origin: It seems that there are huge price and quality differences in the area of low cost / low power desk top laser cutters. E.g. laser cutters directly imported from China may cost half of Chinese models assembled in Europe, and the latter cost half of high-end American Models. E.g. seemingly similar machines can cost 4 times as much (or more):

  • Direct imports for China: There are many models, e.g. BaiSheng, RedSail. Some of these can be adapted and certified by local companies.
  • Western made/adapted from cheaper parts: Arketype, MLLog, FullSpectrum. (Often?), these models also provide their own software.
  • Expensive parts, US or European made: Epilog, Trotec

Other lists of laser cutters

3.1 Arketype

The entry model costs 2800 Euros

5030 Laser cutter
  • Several variants
  • Laser Power: 40W to 60W
  • Footstand or none
  • 300 x 500 mm cutting area
  • 3300 to 3700 Euros
AD Oracle IQ Exhaust system
  • 2350 Euros

3.2 BaiSheng

BS-4030
  • New (2014) entry model
BS-6040 60W

3.3 Bodor

Mini Laser BCL-MU
  • Not so mini, i.e. 600*500mm for the BCL0605MU (or 500*300mm for the smaller model)
  • Laser Power 40W/80W/100W

The FabLab in Sion (Valais, Switzerland) got one of these from a local reseller/R&D company for a relatively cheap price.

3.4 Epilog

  • Epilog
  • Probably the most popular brand in FabLabs, good quality but fairly expensive compared to models made in Asia
  • US made
Epilog Zing 24
  • Zing is the entry model
  • 610 x 305 x 197mm work area
Epilog Mini
  • 457 x 305 mm work area
  • 30 - 40 watts of CO2 laser power
  • 32 kgs
Epilog Mini24
  • 610 x 305 mm
  • 30 - 60 watts of CO2 laser power
  • 32 kgs
Epilog Helix
  • 610 x 457 mm work area.
  • 30 to 60W CO2
Epilog Fusion
  • Fusion series is rather high end (in this class)
  • 810mm x 500mm work area (Fusion32) and 1017mm x 711mm (Fusion40)
  • Up to 120 Watt CO2

3.5 Full Spectrum

  • Was also know as "Hurricane" (?), probably one of the best price/quality printers made in USA.
  • Hobby Lasers
  • Professional models start at about $5000

Hobby models:

Basic
  • $1850
  • 40W CO2
Deluxe
  • 40W CO2
  • $2350
New 2014 model
  • $3500
  • Various options, e.g. a $1300 small air filter/purifier or a $2500 large one (needed for cutting acrylic)

3.6 GBOSLaser

Mini
  • Laser power :35W
  • Driving system:stepper motor
  • Engraving speed:0-64000mm/min
  • Cutting speed:0-36000mm/min
  • Working area:458mmx305mm

3.7 GloForge

GloForge claims to be the biggest 30-day crowdfunding campaign in history. If we understand right, the GloForge is (still) not in full production. As of June 2016, already pre-ordered items will ship in December 2016 or March 2017. Others, later. Prices below are pre-order prices (40% off)

General specifications

  • can cut most 1/4″ (6mm) plywood and acrylic on one side; twice as thick by reversing and cutting from both sides with optical alignment
  • Custom Laser — Custom CO2 laser tube operating at 10,600 nm averages 40W for Basic Model and 45W for Pro Model

Glowforge Pro with Air Filter

  • $4,795 (low preorder price)
  • Quote: Our Pro model is designed for frequent, shared use, like a makerspace. It comes with upgraded optics, tube, and cooling. The passthrough lets you use long materials but requires additional safety precautions. Includes an Air Filter.

Glowforge Basic

  • $2395 (USA)
  • Quote: Our standard model can create everything shown on the Glowforge home page and is perfect for home, hobby, or occasional shop use. It needs ventilation via the provided 4″ diameter (10.2cm) hose. We recommend putting the hose out a window.

'Glowforge Basic with Air Filter

  • $2999 (USA)

International Shipping Fees (as of June 2016)

  • Depend on destination and model, e.g. a pre-ordered GlowForgePro + Air Filter would cost $5814 to Switzerland and about $10'000 sometimes in the future.

3.8 HxLaser / Rabbit

  • Hxlaser.com, Rabbit laser USA
  • This Chinese company sells several models from mini to large. Systems sold in the US seem to have other model names...
HX-3050 (Hxlaser.com)
  • A mini engraver / acryl cutter
  • 300 * 500mm engraving area
  • 40/60W Laser
  • 10mm cutting depth acrylic
  • 80kg

A variant ( HX-3050SC type ) comes with a stand.

QX-30-5030 (Rabbit Laser USA
  • Laser power: 30W
  • 500 x 300 mm engraving area
  • $4,800 plus shipping etc.
QX-40-7040 Laser Engraving/Cutting Laser
  • Laser power: 40W or 60W
  • 700 x 400 mm engraving area
  • $6600 - $7100 + shipping

3.9 Kern

This is probably a fairly expensive line

MICRO
  • MICRO
  • As of July 2014, comes in two versions: Micro24 and Micro48 (24 vs. 48 inches length)
  • Zone: 609 x 609mm / 1219 x 609mm
  • 227 to 363 kgs.
  • Laser sources: 30 to 400W (i.e. can cut metals, if > 100W)

3.10 MLlaser

  • Mllaser and blog
  • MLLaser is a french company that integrates parts mostly made elsewhere (most parts are probably from China)
  • Price tags seem to be low compared to others assembled in Europe
ML-W40M
  • Highest end of their low cost/perfomance model
  • ML-W40M
  • Zone: 200 x 300 mm
  • Price 3300 Euros
  • Formats: AI,BMP, PLT,DXF, JPEG, GIF; DWG

3.11 Redsail

China made Redsail lasers are fairly cheap compared to other brands and available through local resellers.

M500 Mini Laser Engraver
  • 500 * 300mm
  • Co2 Laser power: 50W
  • $1800
  • 85 kg
X700 Laser Engraver
  • $4000 (direct import from China, including shipping)
  • Engraver and acrylic/leather cutter
M900 Laser Cutting 80W
  • $3000
  • 900mm x 600mm
  • CO2 laser 80W
  • Resolution: 2500 DPI
  • Location precision: 0.01mm
  • PC Interface: USB2.0 and USB Disk
  • Software: Lasermate 5.02
  • Image form: HPGL, BMP, GIF, JPG, JPEG, DXF, DST, AI
  • 180 kg (!)

3.12 Trotec/Rayjet

  • TrotecLaser.com
  • A multi-national company, originally from Austria
  • Trotec machines are better made than comparable Rayjet machines, but also cost more.
Rayjet 50
  • http://www.rayjetlaser.com/
  • Can cut leather/paper/acrylic, and engrave metals, glass, stone, etc.
  • Dimensions: 726 x 412 x 680 mm / ca. 45 kg
  • Engraving Area: 457 x 305 mm, max high = 145 mm
  • Laser Power: 12 to 50 watts
  • Engraving Speed: 60”/sec
  • 45 kg

An additional Atmos exhaust system that doubles as machine base is available.

The Speedy models come in various configurations (in particular laser type and laser power)

Trotec Speedy 100R / fiber / flex
  • Compact Laser in three variants: Co2, fiber or combined (flex)
  • 610 mm x 305 mm
  • Laser power(s): 40-60W CO2 laser, 10-30W fiber laser
  • The CO2 laser is suited for engraving and cutting plastics, wood, rubber, leather and many other materials. The fiber laser is for marking metals and plastics.
  • We acquired a second hand Trotec Speedy 100R on oct. 2016 - Daniel K. Schneider (talk) 16:19, 23 September 2016 (CEST)
Trotec Speedy 300 / fiber / flex
  • Mid-sized, in three variants (as above)
  • Laser power(s): 25-80W CO2 laser, 10-50W fiber laser
  • This machine has a good reputation for serious and continous work.
  • Pricing: between $20K and $30K in the US, probably add 50% in Europe
Other models

3.13 RsLaser

RS-1290
  • 100 watts RECI CO2 Laser Tube 8000 working hours
  • About 10'000 Euros

3.14 Worldlasers

LaserReady LR 1208
  • LR1208
  • 30 Watt CO2 laser.
  • Zone 12 x 8
LaserReady LR 1612
  • 40W CO2 Laser.
  • 16 x12 zone.

3.15 Jamieson Laser

  • Jamieson Laser
  • A US based company importing Chinese made laser machines
  • Affordable compared to other US sellers
Jamieson LP-640
  • Cheapest model starting at $3,790
  • 609 x 406 mm work area
  • 45 watts of CO2 laser power
  • 80 kgs

4 Air filters

Also called "air extraction system"

If you cannot expel all fumes to the outside safely (think of other people in the same building), then you also need an air filter. These do not come cheap in Europe. However, chinese (cheap) models start at 1000, e.g. from Waterun, e.g. the F3000D model. I have no idea how well these work and what their consumption of filters are.

5 Online laser cutting services

Instead of buying a laser, you could also use an online service or maybe a local shop

  • Sculpteo. This well known 3D printing service started a beta program for laser cutting in July 2016
    • Several file formats are accepted, but SVG is preferred. Cutting vs. engraving is done with color coding.

6 Links

Overviews
Experiences with cheap laser cuttes
Using makes and models
Software tools
Tutorials
Various articles
Communities
Other
  • CNCKing.com (sells some e-books plus CNC project files/plans)
Student activities