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Laser cutters in use and recommendations

Old 02-24-2021, 08:57 AM
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patf
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Default Laser cutters in use and recommendations

I am kicking around the purchase of a laser cutter and wanted to see what the folks here are using, what is working, lessons learned and recommendations.. Looking to spend
Old 02-24-2021, 09:13 AM
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Pat,

I have a TenHigh 6040 50W laser cutter, bought from Amazon. It can cut at least 1/4" ply.

It's the best investment in hobby tooling that I have made, closely followed by my 3D printer and mini-lathe.

If you get one of the cheaper cutters, plan on changing the lens to get a much better quality and more highly focused cut.

I use K40 Whisperer as the controlling software, as what comes with the laser is worthless.



Paul
Old 02-24-2021, 09:29 PM
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Paul,
Will your laser cut 1/8 carbon fiber without any issues? Can you give us a couple photos of your system?
thanks,
Gary
Old 02-25-2021, 05:49 AM
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Gary,

A few photos attached.










I have not tried to cut carbon sheet, but I have tried to cut carbon cloth and it doesn't cut very well. I seriously doubt that carbon sheet would cut. G10 doesn't cut well either, it needs multiple passes and gives off nasty fumes.

Balsa, plywood, foam, fabric, glass cloth are my main materials that I use so far.

Note, for plywood you have to get laser compatible plywood. Some plywood will only cut through the first layer and then start to char - this is due to the glue used. Finding good quality, strong 5-ply birch that is laser compatible is tough. One source I had has stopped making the 5-ply that was great.


Paul

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Old 02-25-2021, 10:07 AM
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Pat:

We use a laser from Universal Laser Systems in Scottsdale AZ. Have had it in the shop for over 15 years. Parts are available and service is great. The products and service are not inexpensive but you get what you pay for. One great feature is that the products are Autocad compatible. Not file conversion necessary. We cut 1/32 to 3/16 balsa and up to 1/8 lite ply. will also do 1/16 birch ply. Refurbished units are available at a better price.

Paul Stenberg
House of Balsa
Old 02-25-2021, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by JSF-TC;12[i
Note, for plywood you have to get laser compatible plywood. Some plywood will only cut through the first layer and then start to char - this is due to the glue used. Finding good quality, strong 5-ply birch that is laser compatible is tough. One source I had has stopped making the 5-ply that was great.
Paul
I second that. You MUST get the right plywood, made with the right glue, not always easy. It should cut with pale brown edges, not black and charred.
It must be flat, really flat, so I store it flat and dry with weights on top.
My laser cutter was unbranded, Chinese-made and bought from a dealer in the UK, so I can't help there. But I assure you that you'll love it and if you scratch-build you'll find it indispensable.
I stick to cutting 3mm balsa, liteply and birchply and 1/16" birchply. If I want 1/4" I cut two, perfectly identical, and glue together.
That repeatability is the beauty. You can cut two perfectly identical fuselage sides with holes for wing tube and incidence pegs/bolts. Then two root ribs with the same identical holes and you know they'll fit, and line up perfectly.

Last edited by alasdair; 02-25-2021 at 11:59 AM.
Old 02-25-2021, 11:56 AM
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i've got one of the generic "Red and Black" lasers off ebay. Its a 36x55 cutting area and 130watts rated tube. For the $$$$, its been an amazing investment as it saves a TON of time in more ways than just cutting wood.

Like Paul said, i mainly use it for "organics" and some other things ( such as etching coated metals, tiles, glass, etc). For hobby stuff, i use it mainly for cutting balsa, ply, Thin G10 (anything under 1/32"), raw fiberglass cloth, kevlar, plastics and papers.

I have cut Carbon with it, but its a very bad cut and if that is what your looking at it for, you really need a Cnc router ( I have one of these as well and it gets all of my CF/G10 and composite sandwich cutting tasks).
Old 02-25-2021, 05:45 PM
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Thank you for the input guys. I need to kick this around a bit before purchasing. I am also noting a smaller availability online... Not sure if that's due to vivid

Where are you all running them? Assuming the garage. I would use the laundry room and duct outside.
Old 02-26-2021, 02:05 AM
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Originally Posted by patf View Post
Where are you all running them? Assuming the garage. I would use the laundry room and duct outside.
I run mine in the garage and run the vent pipe outside through a vent, an air brick. You do not want the burning smell to get into the house.
Old 02-26-2021, 06:24 AM
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I too have a small laser from Universal Laser Systems in AZ
30W 12x16 table. I found it locally on eBay in excellent condition for $2500
I use Corel Draw which is about $100 software (I use it simply because I was familiar with it)

ULS and Epilog (and I believe Trotec) are all air cooled lasers; no water cooling needed.
They are considered some of the best lasers for sale today (my old employer used all Epilog and they are 10 years old and working fine)

No matter what laser you purchase you will definitely need a proper exhaust setup.
Apart from health issues, you can damage your lenses due to inadequate exhausting (although adding air assist to the lens can help with that as well)

There are a few websites that specialize in used lasers as well as many online forums
Old 02-26-2021, 02:20 PM
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Default Laser cutter

My workplace has both Trotec and ULS laser cutters. I have enjoyed using both and since I work at a college the kids have cut a wide variety of things from plastic to clothing and yes even food. I use it regularly for my own RC needs and I have cut through some 1/4 ply (non laser friendly) and i does cut through it well, but it does char. Nothing that a little bit of sanding can't take care of. I generally only cut 1/8 light ply and some balsa. Our trotec has built in air assist, exhaust fan, and is air cooled so the only thing we needed was to vent the exhaust to the outside. Our ULS required an exterior exhaust and air assist, but it is air cooled. The ULS laser cutter is at least 7 years old and has hundreds of hours of use on it with only a need for mirror cleaning and minor adjustment. The trotec is only 2 years old and has not had that much use, but it is holding up very well so far. I have not tried to cut G10 yet, we have etched glass, metal, acrylic, etc. They were both very expensive somewhere in the area 40K + If I ever leave this job I will have to drop the money and get one of the chinese knockoffs.

Patrick
Old 02-26-2021, 02:46 PM
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Epilog had 50% off a new Zing laser direct through your local rep
Very high quality units as well, air cooled and good reliability
Old 02-26-2021, 05:29 PM
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I would love to get one also, except not sure I can make space in my shop for another 6-8 square feet... Paul B's machine has worked wonderfully, having seen many of the parts he has made. The route I took was, to email all my 2D cut files to Bob Leserve at LDS - Laser Design Services - Jet Turbine R/C Trainers and ARF Aircraft, Laser Cutting and Engraving (Rockwall, TX) . He has done a great job cutting all of my wood parts for my project. I think his prices are very good too.
Old 02-27-2021, 06:31 PM
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Funny you mention that Ron. I was going to check with Bob next week ! Are you sending dxf files?

​​​​​​
Old 03-01-2021, 01:06 PM
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Yes - I send him dxf files. black solid lines for everything to be cut, and if you want any "etched"(?) text, lines or text should be in green. The biggest he can handle is 12" x 24" (or so it seems), but if you need longer parts, you can make parts overlapping, or to fit like a puzzle. If you're worried about the joint you can just add a doubler too. If you need 1/4" material, just have him cut something twice out of 1/8" material.
Old 03-01-2021, 02:05 PM
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Ron

Thanks! i will call him today. I was looking at the Dallas Makerspace site too, they have some snazzy equipment, but if i dont have it around to fail a few times, i think Bob will be the better shot.
Old 03-07-2021, 05:14 AM
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The so named red/black Chinese lasers are ideal, 60 or 80w is all you really need, standard bed size with these is 500x700 (20"x28") but there are larger versions as well.
Dont buy a 20"x12" or 24"x12" size machine you will regret you didnt go bigger.
60w is perfect for most people and will cut 1/4 birch ply no problem plus all the other usual C02 laser materials mdf, acrylic etc. I can cut 10mm perspex (acrylic) on my 60w
people forget carbon is effectively steel and really needs a fibre laser to cut it or CNC router, when buying plywood you just buy laser suitable plywood which has the correct glue so you get a nice brown cut.
Lots of good laser cutting/engraving groups on facebook, ask questions or send me a PM as using my red/black 60w for 5yrs now for my hobby use and laser business
Old 03-13-2021, 10:30 AM
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I’d love to find a laser cutter that can cut carbon, aramid and fibreglass cloths, It would make fabrication so much “tidier”.

Is ther a machine capable of doing that?
Old 03-13-2021, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Smokeyr67 View Post
I’d love to find a laser cutter that can cut carbon, aramid and fibreglass cloths, It would make fabrication so much “tidier”.

Is ther a machine capable of doing that?
you have to think of carbon as steel and really a fibre laser is needed not co2

Last edited by Xairflyer; 03-13-2021 at 05:23 PM.
Old 03-14-2021, 01:19 PM
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Fiber lasers are a bit more expensive than a CO2 ...
Old 03-14-2021, 04:44 PM
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Originally Posted by ltc View Post
Fiber lasers are a bit more expensive than a CO2 ...
yes but co2 only really cuts card wood and perspex you need fibre or cnc cutter to do anything else
Old 03-15-2021, 07:27 AM
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it sounds like Smokey may be asking about cutting carbon cloth, not laminate. not sure if that changes the answers...
Old 03-15-2021, 07:42 AM
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Carbon cloth can be cut with a CO2 laser, but it doesn't cut easily, unlike glass cloth.

I've not tried pre-made laminate though - I suspect it doesn't cut at all well, even worse than G10.

Paul
Old 03-15-2021, 01:00 PM
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no hope with carbon sheet, I tried cloth and ended up cutting it with scissors, unless you need a unusual shape thats difficult to cut by hand its not worth the hassle

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