The new laser tube was delivered and I was able to install it this weekend so we are good to go for the laser cutter class tonight (8/20).
I was also able to expand the work area from 12x8 to 12x9 inches. When fixing the laser cutter I was able to get into the internals enough to see how everything works and am confident I will be able to significantly expand the work area by building and external X-Y table as a work area. I am think that it would be something like 4 feet by 2 feet. I already have acquired some of the new parts for the expansion like 2 meters of case hardened steel rod for bearings and 50' of stepper motor timing belt material (LL2MR09). However with everything else that is going on, I don't think that I will be able to complete that project until after sometime in September.
I had an interesting discussion with a guy at the robotics group about a system he had worked on that allowed a laser cutter of our power range to cut metal by using a capacitive sensor to focus the beam very tightly, melting a small amount of the metal and using pressurized oxygen to blow the material out. I wonder if we could build something like that.
Automated Capacitive Height Control
I switched out the ventilation fan with the twin turbine blower, and have had unsatisfactory results. We need more suction to blow the vapors from the cutting process out of the machine to the outside so that it doesn't stink up the downstairs room so much. At this point I'm thinking of trying to hook up a vacuum to it.