After discovering the parametric box generators (e.g. Boxes.py ) I’ve been keen on getting a laser cutter/engraver. There are a few 10W output diode models that are seem pretty good and relatively affordable, I’m leaning to the Ortur Laser Master 3.
I understand that it can cut acrylic (not clear) and wood, also it can mark some metals. Cutting paper, card, leather & cloth could also be interesting.
Additions I know I’d want:
Enclosure with exhaust
Some kind of bed to put things on to cut.
My questions are:
is a diode laser actually worth it in the long run? It’s a big jump in price to CO2 lasers, but they are more powerful and can cut clear acrylic (not that I know I’ll need to just yet)
I see honeycomb mesh is used for the bed, but it’s fairly expensive, can you use any metal/wire mesh that’s fairly fine? Is it easier to just go with a cheap/disposable wooden base?
Is an enclosure really necessary?
Can you build an enclosure? the hardest part to source seems to be the laser blocking plastic to let you see what’s going on.
Awesome Question! Angus from Makers Muse covers a lot in this video:
I haven’t made the jump into getting my own laser but sharing some accumulated knowledge:
A diode laser would make a for a great intro laser cutter, but if you wanted to do larger projects I’d grab a CO2 tube
In essence, the only think the bed has to do is keep the workpiece held up.
For small jobs where you are doing etching (not heating the bed itself) wood will work perfectly.
For cutting jobs wood might still work as long as material cant move before it is cut.
I’m not sure if a wire mesh would work - honeycomb gives amazing support and lots of surface area to dissipate heat.
I would definitely look for a laser with an appropriately specced enclosure. The materials you are cutting might emit toxic fumes as well
Having good support OR patience is a good one, much like the 3D printers a cheaper laser without support/community can turn into a time sink. The Trotec at Core is amazing to work with - though comes with a hefty price tag (and amazing support).
I’m super keen to see the discussion and what laser you end up going with!
Just to add to Liam’s points there was also a follow-up video to the laser cutter safety video which expands on some of the risks regarding what materials are suitable for laser cutting and it’s well worth a watch too.
@Liam@Trent5487676 thanks … ok definitely and enclosure then, and probably not a DIY version, and I’ll look into adding filters to the venting system. The plan is to use it outside, undercover, but if it’s portable-ish (open gantry type) then I can decide based on material.
Given the cost vs cut area I think diode will probably be the best bet, but I’ll do some more reading, once I add the enclosure, base, air assist, etc there might not be as much a difference in price as I thought.
That’s an excellent point, it’s one of the reasons I’m a fan of raspberry pi, the direct support and community are fantastic. I’ll look into the communities and support. It comes down to a spectrum of hobby vs tool. I really want something on the tool end of that. It was a similar calculation on buying a car charger: open EVSE vs Zappi, we went with the latter as I don’t want a hobby of tinkering with it (a friend went the other way )
Looking forward to seeing what other’s have to say
It’s definitely also worth looking into what community organisations are around you, depending on where you are based you might find there is a local men’s shed or makerspace that has a higher grade version of the tools you’d be considering buying yourself.
Around the Newcastle area, the Fab Lab in Lake Macquarie would be a top pick as they’ve got a flash Trotec laser cutter that can be rented quite affordably.
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