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 Post subject: Laser Cutter News
PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 9:28 am 
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Three items:

1. As part of the LAEP project, I installed a radiator on the cooling water system and replaced the water in the cooling water tank with 2 gallons of new distilled water. I understand that some people have been putting regular tap water (or ice) in the tank to "cool it down" if they have been running it a lot. I think this is why the laser tube has gotten a bit cloudy. Please always use distilled water. Best practice is probably to just let it cool down if the cooling water gets hot. I will try to find a fan to blow through the radiator.

Attachment:
File comment: Radiator for the laser cutter's cooling system.
LaserRadiator.JPG
LaserRadiator.JPG [ 34.64 KiB | Viewed 3221 times ]


2. The Mill is giving free access to TCMaker members for the first half of November. They are also giving free training on their Epilog 60W laser (normally $60). I know they just added an additional class for November 7th and will probably add more if enough people are interested. Email info@mnmill.org to get your access and class! Their Epilog laser is where I first learned how to run a laser cutter, and it has a lot more features than the Chinese laser cutter. It has four times the area (24x18 vs. 12x9), cuts twice as fast, engraves good quality images in grayscale, and you can "print" your image straight to it from CorelDraw on their computer. Also by using different line colors, you can control the order in which lines are cut. They also have the spray which allows you to engrave on metal. Also, you get to run the laser cutter in the main space where people hang out that you can chat with, not banished to the basement next to the bathroom. I was over there yesterday using it and it runs pretty nice. I built the "hand bowl" in the picture above using it.

3. The laser cutter computer is a bit finicky, and has been crashing a lot lately it seems to me. I think it is a memory (RAM) problem because when I open it up and "massage the memory" by ensuring the RAM cards at the bottom of the motherboard are inserted firmly, it seems to run better (not crash) for awhile. Also, speaking of CorelDraw, I bought and installed that on the laser cutter computer downstairs now so that is available.

Good cutting! (Note: if you really like cutting things, they have CNC router table for wood and a CNC plasma cutter now at the Mill that can cut through an inch of steel).


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 Post subject: Re: Laser Cutter News
PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 2:05 pm 
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So it looks like the air assist burned out the Coleman pump. I was able to bring in an old compressor I had laying around and hooked it up. Dosent work as well but I need to put a cone or tip on it to direct the air better. I also tried putting one of the old blower fans on there and it seems to vent about the same with much less noise.


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 Post subject: Re: Laser Cutter News
PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 11:34 am 
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I was in there last night (12/10) for the Teach a Class class, which was pretty good and well attended. I hope to see a lot more classes at the Hack Factory, including some milling/lathe/CNC router classes. Despite having only a few attendees in the last couple month's laser classes, this has inspired me to run another laser cutter class on Thursday, December 27th, 2012 (see EventBright) at a special low rate of $30 as a sort of Black Friday/Christmas special in celebration of TC Maker offering a one-year membership. I think in general most of the people who are interested have already been trained, but a few new people have expressed an interest lately. Although some people haven't seen how to use it with CorelDraw being on there, allowing the use of native vector art on the laser through the MoshiDraw 2012 plug-in.

Thanks for bringing in that air pump. The old white ventilation fan was what we had on there first and at the time didn't seem to do a good enough job which is why I bought that wet vac which had higher vacuum, but was annoyingly loud. We'll see how the white fan does this time. There has been some talk about installing a more permanent ventilation system but I suppose that would involve some building modifications.

Sorry that I haven't been around lately as some other projects sucked up my time and I had gastric bypass surgery last month. On the good side I've already lost 30 pounds so far and am still not hungry.

- Doug


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 Post subject: Re: Laser Cutter News
PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:29 pm 
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Thorpedo wrote:
I was in there last night (12/10) for the Teach a Class class, which was pretty good and well attended. I hope to see a lot more classes at the Hack Factory, including some milling/lathe/CNC router classes. Despite having only a few attendees in the last couple month's laser classes, this has inspired me to run another laser cutter class on Thursday, December 27th, 2012 (see EventBright) at a special low rate of $30 as a sort of Black Friday/Christmas special in celebration of TC Maker offering a one-year membership. I think in general most of the people who are interested have already been trained, but a few new people have expressed an interest lately. Although some people haven't seen how to use it with CorelDraw being on there, allowing the use of native vector art on the laser through the MoshiDraw 2012 plug-in.

Thanks for bringing in that air pump. The old white ventilation fan was what we had on there first and at the time didn't seem to do a good enough job which is why I bought that wet vac which had higher vacuum, but was annoyingly loud. We'll see how the white fan does this time. There has been some talk about installing a more permanent ventilation system but I suppose that would involve some building modifications.

Sorry that I haven't been around lately as some other projects sucked up my time and I had gastric bypass surgery last month. On the good side I've already lost 30 pounds so far and am still not hungry.

- Doug
This is great news, Doug! Glad you wear a hat or we might not recognize this new thin guy! We appreciate all you've done for the laser crowd!

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 Post subject: Re: Laser Cutter News
PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 4:40 pm 
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Happy to,
Glad to hear you are feeling better Doug.
A few things I would like to update are
1. The air tube so it dosen't rub on the cover
2. Add a nozzle of some sort to get better air pressure on the work area / point.
This really helps to cut down on burning on cardboard
3. Vent Fan, yea I agree the small white one could be better but the reduction in noise is just so nice. Would like to find something a bit more powerful
4. Water cooling. It seems that after running for a bit this seems to heat up. Not to danger levels but with winter here it seems the water evaporates quickly.


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 Post subject: Re: Laser Cutter News
PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 8:40 am 
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Last night I put the new radiator fan on the radiator. It has four color LEDs. It is powered by the laser computer. Hopefully this will help with keeping the laser tube cool. I also added a digital cooling water thermometer to be able to monitor how hot it is getting more accurately.

Also, tonight (12/27/2012) will be the last basic laser cutter class (see EventBright) for awhile as I think I have trained just about everybody in on the laser that is interested in using it.

Attachment:
File comment: New Laser Fan with color LEDs and a Digital Thermometer
LaserFan.jpg
LaserFan.jpg [ 62.55 KiB | Viewed 2969 times ]


Please note the cooling water level in the plastic jug above picture. That is way to low! The Hack Factor does not provide distilled water for the laser cutter, so if it gets low, be sure to bring some in. I'll be bringing in some more distilled water for it tonight.

My understanding is that the TCMaker board would like to turn that big room in the basement into another classroom, since it really isn't being used much now (other than for the laser in the corner). So the plan I believe is to move the laser over to the art room corner and tear out all those cabinets and put in tables.

New Software! MoshiDraw 2013 is now on the laser cutter computer. Over the last year MoshiDraw 2012 has really improved. The MoshiDraw 2012 plug-in (in later versions) for the CorelDraw software I installed on the laser cutter computer worked great. I also found that CorelDraw has the functionality to convert raster (pixel, like gifs and jpegs) images into vector (line) images, which should allow for smoother cuts from raster art.


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 Post subject: Re: Laser Cutter News
PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 9:18 am 
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The plastic air assist tubing was getting stiff in the cold basement and throwing off the laser tracking so that the lines were not straight and circles were distorted. Gabe redid it using the more flexible fabric hose directly from the airbrush compressor and that seems to have resolved that issue (Thanks Gabe!).

I was able to cut out some robotic gripper parts in white acrylic yesterday using the laser cutter. I attached it to one of the 3D printed robotic arms I've been working on over the last month.

Attachment:
File comment: Robotic gripper laser cut using white acrylic
Gripper.jpg
Gripper.jpg [ 127.41 KiB | Viewed 2937 times ]


The laser doesn't seem to be cutting nearly as well as it used to. I don't know if there are tube burn out issues or something. The cooling water was really low earlier in the week and if someone was running it like that then it would have aggravated that issue. I have found that when I raise the material off of the platform, using some scrap under the corners of the material I'm working on, it seems to cut better and prevent soot marks on the bottom of the material. I wonder if the metal bed isn't acting like some sort of heat sink, preventing the laser from cutting all the way through sometimes.

Does anyone have a more powerful water pump laying around? I think that the cooling water flow using the little aquarium pump that the laser came with is too slow to keep up with the heat generated by the laser tube. Maybe a more powerful water pump may help keep it running cool by increasing the water flow rate through the radiator.

MoshiDraw 2013 is very similar to MoshiDraw 2012. Some people have complained that someone keeps changing the settings and recently everything that was being exported from CorelDraw to MoshiDraw was being scaled down to just 10%. If you adjust the settings like that, please reset them back when you are done. For those that haven't used the MoshiDraw plug-in in CorelDraw, the plug-in looks like a little extra window in CorelDraw with the title beginning with the work laser. There are three icons in it and what you normally should use is the middle icon for exporting to MoshiDraw.

I started a Tips and Tricks section to the http://TCMaker.org's Laser Cutter Wiki Page. Please feel free to add stuff to it. Or if you don't have editorial access to the Wiki, just reply here and I'll add it on.


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 Post subject: Re: Laser Cutter News
PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:27 am 
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I went in there yesterday (1/2/13) and worked on the laser because we have been seeing weak results, of not being able to cut through very thick material. There was a lot of soot on the lens which I cleaned off with acetone. I cleaned up and redid the electrical connector on the left side of the laser tube. I'm thinking that maybe we should soldier that connection like Eric did with the right side connection.

Tip of the week: Others have also noticed that the laser cutter works better when the power knob is not turned all the way to the maximum level. I'm not sure why that is, but it seems to be true.

I was able to cut .22" acrylic after that with the knob in the 2 o'clock position, but it didn't cut through in the max position.

I was pretty happy because being able to cut through the .22" thick acrylic means the laser is back to having a decent level of power.

People are starting to complain again about the laser burn smell so I'm thinking of switching it back to the wetvac ventilation system even though it is louder. I wonder if we should put the airbrush compressor outside the window also since it is pretty loud. I'm not sure if the cold would affect that though. Plus the airline from the airbrush compressor isn't very long.

When you are done using the laser, be sure to turn off all of the surge protectors so the cooling pump doesn't keep running 24/7.


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 Post subject: Re: Laser Cutter News
PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2013 11:19 am 
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Thorpedo wrote:
I went in there yesterday (1/2/13) and worked on the laser...
Good going, Doug, thanks for the update!

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