My Laser Adventures.

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Boys and Girls,
 
While preparing article migrations from LJ to here, I came across this Blog I posted there on May 27, 2020.
 
With the popularity of lasers/CNCs, I started a topic about laser usage, however, this blog went into much greater detail that someone interested may get some further detail that I as a novice encountered .
While I paid more for my laser than most sane people would, I had a reasonably paid full time job and had good intentions to aid my daughter.
 
 
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Boys and Girls
 
Over my tenure here at LumberJocks, I've had count less (never good at maths and getting worse with old age) asks about my laser.  Rather than trying to recall all my past lies, I shall endeavour to relate those taradiddles so I don't have to tax my remaining grey matter that still manages to evade the adverse affect of  alcohol.
 
If you're not into lasers then no need to waste time reading any further… Just send me a PM and ask me not to write this article.
 
In a nutshell, I spent a big tad more than I expected to, based on my initial intention. Primarily, I considered buying a basic laser to engrave the pens I got addicted to making.  After being forced into reading (about lasers as I knew nothing about them) and discussions with my daughter, decided to buy a higher end laser so I could set her up in some sort of service business and maybe pilfer some burn time off her.  The two local suppliers' machines I considered was an Epilog and Trotec lasers with a 300mm x 600mm bed size.  The Epilog boasted an extractor that needed a filter change in accordance with the material being engraved/cut, while the Trotec used the same filtration system for all materials…  Being bone lazy, I baulked at the Epilog and opted for the Trotec.  While a "normal" dust extractor could be attached to the laser, it would be preferable to vent outside and living in central Richmond, I opted for an inside, people friendly, quiet filter unit.
 
I purchased a Trotec Speedy 100 with a 30W lens, circa April 2010 when lasers were costed on commercial principles and little concern for hobyists,
The laser uses a honeycomb table for cuts. 

The honeycomb can be left in place for engraving, however, it sacrifices a potential extra 50mm height in engraving jobs.
I also purchased the Trotec Atmos Filter system (more on this later). 
along with a rotary attachment for the laser.  The rotary unit parked on the side of the mobile base while not in use,
and mounted on the laser replacing the honeycomb table,

I won't go into the shekel count for the setup as I chopped and changed my requirement several times with the Jewish Piano playing a merry tune with every indecision.
 
Unfurtunately for me, my daughter lost interest in the laser about 1 week after the cheque was signed and delivery taken. Needless to say, I finished up with a bloody expensive hobby laser as I had no intention of abandoning my programming carrier.  Over the 11 years of ownership, it has raked up 279 hours of use, which should have been achieved in under 2 months of commercial use.
 
While the laser can potentially be hooked up to any kind of a dust extractor, it would need to be vented outside through the wall/window due to potential toxic fumes from the laser operation especially on timber and with me often using MDF.
I specifically bought the Atmos filter to permit unvented operation in a confined bedroom.  Opening the filter's lid reveals the first layer of the filtration system badly in need of replacement as revealed by my desire for fresh photos,
removing the filter tray,
gave access to the 2nd level filter cartridge (about $700 replacement cost),
Below that was the 3rd filter which was somewhat spotted but still had plenty of life in it,
and finally the bag of granulated charcoal (Activated Carbon) that was the heart of the filtration process,
The filter unit has a display that reports the status of the filtration system,
and as no bells and whistles were played, the unit was re-assembled with the 1st level filter replaced,
 
To generate a laser job, I design in SketchUp and pass the design through SketchUp Pro's Layout to CorelDraw (X8).  In Corel, I perform any fine tuning and prioritise cutting orders if required.  From Corel, you simply print to the laser much like you would print to an inkjet printer.
 
Laser processing requires the following (as per my specific setup),
  • Black will be engraved.  I have the option of choosing how many passes are performed and is controlled through the laser software.  There is a facility to raise the table by up to 5mm between engrave passes.
  • Red (hairline line weight) is the 1st. cut pass.
  •  Blue (hairline) the second.
  •  Turquoise (hairline) the third.
  •  Green the fourth, etc… as per the following table (for 6mm MDF with 2 Engrave pass)

My laser does not have an autofocus and is manually focused, for non-specific timber, by the use of a "displacement rod",
The rod is balanced on the lens head assembly
and the bed is raised (slowly near the top) with the use of direction buttons on the top of the laser machine,
and when the rod is toppled,
the laser is in focus.
The laser head can then be positioned to the start of the job which is usually 1,1 on the X,Y axis (Z has been set by the focusing).
 
For static thickness like 6mm MDF, the laser position and bed height can be set using software… 6mm MDF uses a Z axis setting of 52.45mm
(3mm MDF is 49.69mm).
 
Lets talk about some of my laser projects.
 
This custom made miniature dresser was my first commercial undertaking and it solely returned about 40% of the laser's overall earnings.
and this laser cut inlay project about another 30%... the remaining 30% was just petty jobs ranging from a cheap 4L cask of vino to a higher class 2L cask of vino.
 
I did a write up on Laser engraved pens, however, most engravings were for personal use and none of my laser works sales made enough revenue to replace a filter.
 
The laser has been extensively used for many jigs  
And functional objects,   
And a swag of puzzles,
 
One of my favourite uses is to engrave with 2 or 3 passes and fill with contrasting coloured wood filler,
 
My favourite font is Old English and using the laser I can get fine cut details that would be somewhat difficult on a scroll saw even by a reputed operator,
 
Laser cut paper,
Beautiful clear and crisp job on perspex,
  

If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

13 Comments

must be nice being funded by nasa ! so what secret things really come out of that "lab" of yours ? i suspect more than mere puzzles my dear duckling ! hobbyist my ass ! 😏

working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

Awesome write up Ducky. That’s quite the machine…

Ryan/// ~sigh~ I blew up another bowl. Moke told me "I made the inside bigger than the outside".

Being a "looking into all this laser stuff" guy I read every word. most twice to make sure I got the gist of it. Great write up.

I believe you really do get as much use of your laser, as most here do. It's in every one of your classy jigs, and with them the detail you are getting is incredible. I think had you of gotten a hobby level unit, even if it meant venting outdoors you would be the biggest laser cheerleader here. Cost is likely your biggest issue, but of all the users here you can talk about these from the really higher side of the fence. Lord knows yours with it's fancy schmansy vent unit must have been close to 50 K American. If your Daughter should reverse her stance, or you find a plug and play use to get some commercial use from yours I believe you would be happy. Sounds like you have the understanding to make it sing and dance for you, and I do believe that unit could sing and dance. 

As always, thanks for sharing Duck.

 GeorgeWest 
... with it's fancy schmansy vent unit must have been close to 50 K American.
No Yankee imperial $, but Aussie metric $s... Not much chanege out of $40K 15 years ago when lasers were still novel and pricey.

Nowadays you can pick up a reasonable laser for just a few shekels... ask the boys... many have ventured down the bargain aisles.

You don't need to spend a fortune, but I do recommend one that is capable of cutting 6.35mm... preferably 7mm, relatively comfortably in 1 pass. Any thicker is $$$$s.  With 6.35 (std ply/MDF) you can always laminate to get thickness.
My biggest hassle was living in terrace house, I shared adjoining walls with my neighbours... (old house, weatherboard... not even luxury of brick) so I had to worry about neighbours complaints vs inside filtration.    

If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

Good insight into your FessLaser Duck!

Seems your software, though proprietary, has all the functions a mortal might need.

Costs have come way down, especially for CO2 units from China. I suspect they are getting paid to remove our "sequestered carbon" from our power plants and then selling it back to us as lasers.

CO2 is what anyone should consider if they are considering cutting anything transparent or thicker than 1/4" and don't have a few hours to waste.

The diode lasers are great for engraving if you want to invest the minimal amount of cabbage.

Call me shocked at the initial and consumables cost for that filter system, but being a commercial grade unit I suppose it is common.

Personally, if I lived in a high person density environment, I'd still consider direct venting to save some cash. If the neighbors complained about the noxious stench, I'd just claim it was the wife preparing dinner.🤠
Tell em you had beans for lunch. It's what I tell em, and they seem to buy it. Of course I'm a cranky old fart, that does fart. :-)))
being in socal most would just assume im cooking up some meth !

working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

Real nice story, Alex, My friend Ken has a 140 watt laser and it will cut 3/4" wood..... I think it is a Trotec also. he spent $40K USD for it .......no metric money!! He and his wife compete for time on it. He was the one who inspired me to get  one as I had him doing all my engraving before that.

You sure have done a wide range of engraving and cutting. Thanks for sharing!!
Cheers, Jim

Cheers, Jim ........................ Variety is the spice of life...............Learn something new every day


 SplinterGroup
.....
Personally, if I lived in a high person density environment, I'd still consider direct venting to save some cash. If the neighbors complained about the noxious stench, I'd just claim it was the wife preparing dinner.🤠

Unfortunately our EPA (Environmental Protection Authority... another was to spell bloody WOKE) is not SWMBO cooking understanding... even death cap mushrooms.  I had a complaint that went to court and I was fined $5K (for a first offence) for turning on my mitre saw after 10:00pm... after complaints from a neighbour.
When I put up my decking between my "workshops" in the smoke, before moving to the country to downtown Churchill
the same neighbour complained to the EPA about my impact drill on a Sunday afternoon...  It cost me $2,000 to get the charge dismissed.  I wasn't prepared to risk my benevolent neighbour's sympathy for any venting outside... especially when the dusty might be operating for 1-2 hours continuous for a large laser job.
It's all this bloody Yankee litigations that have given some rsole Aussies subliminal open slather to whinge.  

If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

damn worse than california.

working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

Read about a guy that was going to be fined by the city for parking his boat/trailer next to his house "no inoperable vehicles allowed that are visible from the street" (in California, surprise!)

Etienne Constable, a Seaside, California, resident, owns a boat that he had kept parked on a dirt patch on his property. In July 2023, officials asked him to build a proper driveway and to put up a 6-foot-tall fence that covered his boat.

Constable ended up complying with the city by building a fence, but he decided to have some fun with it by commissioning a life-like mural on the structure.

Not wanting an ugly fence, Constable got in touch with a local artist named Hanif Panni, who happens to be his neighbor, to help bring the idea to life.


"There's some logic to the law about, you know, not having decrepit vehicles….and I figured, 'This is not unsightly.' I don't know why they would threaten me that way," he recalled.







thats hilarious 🤣🤣🤣🤣

working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

I read that story the other night. I loved it. 

Guy here bought a home, and lived there for over 40 years. DURING that time a bunch of eggheads turned the area into a "historical area" He'd been there like 36 years before this change. He got a summons to paint his home, with "approved" colors. He fought and the snowflake judge sided with the eggheads. Seriously, he had to comply.

He bought ALL of the approved colors, and painted sections of the house, until he ran out of current color, and then just started painting the next color, so it wasn't an orderly sectioned off look, but a run one color into the next one. Actually looked a lot worse then his unapproved paint color. 

He's been sued a number of times, Local weenie judge got voted out. New LAW AND ORDER judge got voted in, and keeps siding with this guy against the eggheads. 

I love it when the eggheads loose. :-))))