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Old Oct 23, 2002, 10:42 PM
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anyone ever built a laser cutter?

I have been looking at CO2 laser kits and I think I could build a simple laser cutter for around $1500.

Has anyone ever tried this?

Jim
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Old Oct 23, 2002, 11:14 PM
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United States, CO, Longmont
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Excerpt from old thread "How much does a laser cutter cost?"

"...I use a 3.5 KW excimer laser which I CA'd to a precision, high-speed XY flatbed plotter. I feed in the plans in a binary format derived from Autodesk's DXF format. The 20 megabyte on-board buffer in the plotter holds the entire file with room to spare. (I usually keep several menus form local Chinese takeout kitchens in there as well). I then place the balsa sheet on the plotter bed which has been enhanced by replacing the bed material with that from an air-hockey table with the air pump inlet and outlet swapped. Then I turn on what is now the vacuum pump. This holds the Balsa sheet flat and tight against the bed. I slip on my safety goggles and run up the laser onto a water-cooled graphite target until it comes up to full power, then I fire up the plotter. In about 2.5 seconds an entire piece of 1/16" x 3" x 36" wood is reduced to a highly accurate collection of ribs, gussets and other assorted parts. The entire setup only cost me about $175,000.00 to slap together! Since I've already built 3 planes this way, I figure it only cost me just over $58,000.00 each. (Seems reasonable). One last note: if you try this, don't forget to vent the vacuum pump outside or the smell of burning balsa might be overwhelming or even set off your smoke detectors. I also highly recommend that you keep your cat out of the room during the entire operation.

Q
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Old Oct 24, 2002, 05:10 PM
Balsa Member
Nashua, NH
Joined Aug 2002
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Jim,
I've been thinking about the same idea. I may be oversimplifying but replacing the router with a 25 or 35 watt CO laser should do the job.

Have you located a source for the laser?
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Old Oct 24, 2002, 06:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Coder

Have you located a source for the laser?
Yes, I found a kit on the web for about $1100: http://www.amazing1.com/laser4.htm

I don't think we are oversimplifying the situation at all. At its core, this is a very simple idea:

Laser Cutter = Laser + CNC Table

Hidden within that simplicity are a whole host of challenges.

I'm going to get my feet wet by building a dremel-based CNC tool of some kind. If I pick the right design it should be easy to mount a laser as well. Ideally the laser should remain stationary or move in only a single axis.

Jim
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Old Oct 24, 2002, 10:51 PM
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Cupertino, CA, USA
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The link is not active ?
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Old Oct 24, 2002, 10:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by foam_man
The link is not active ?
Weird. It works for me.

Jim
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Old Oct 25, 2002, 10:38 AM
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Link worked for me too.

If only I had the space to set one of these up...
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Old Oct 28, 2002, 10:13 AM
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Ithaca, NY USA
Joined Mar 2001
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A few things to consider:

The laser should be stationary which means mirrors places extremely accurately. Laser mirrors are expensive. If you try to move the laser, the cutter will be very slow. Alignment will be fun because you can't see the beam. I check my beam alignment by burning a hole in some masking tape.

You will need focusing optics. Also expensive. You will need to focus to within 1/32". 1/16" may be acceptable.

I wonder about the beam divergence on this $1100 laser. My laser tubes run around $5000. Universal laser (www.ulsinc.com)will only make a cutting bed that is 18" x 32" because once you get further away, the beam divergence starts to get too great.

This is a great engineering exercise. I started down this road and ended up just buying a real laser cutter. I've got a bunch of parts to a CNC router collecting dust in the garage.

Doug Binder
Mountain Models
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Old Oct 28, 2002, 04:12 PM
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Dallas Tx USA
Joined Apr 1999
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Hey Jim,

I'd love to work with you on making the CNC cutter (laser or router). Let me know if you want another hand. I'm fairly good at this kind of stuff.

My own latest project "idea" is to make a stand-alone "NC" foam wing cutter. It would not require a computer in the shop to run it. PIC CPU driven, 2x16 display and key pad, and with USB port to store airfoil data. Would be capable of holding 100's of airfoils and the can be modified (thickness, sheeting, cords, TE, LE, etc.) from the stand-alone controller. Not all the details have been considered yet.
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Old Oct 30, 2002, 09:32 AM
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Well, here is a great link for people interested in this project: http://www.emissiontechnologies.com/

They sell kits for a working gantry table and laser cutter. The total cost for complete set-up will be around $6,000 including laser.

Jim
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Old Oct 30, 2002, 10:43 AM
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These look like acceptable mirrors: http://www.edmundoptics.com/IOD/Disp...productid=1931

NT45-758 would be a good choice.

Jim
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Old Oct 31, 2002, 11:23 AM
DNA
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Balsa laser cutting video...

http://www.pichler.de/okmodel/videos/lazercut.wmv
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Old Nov 03, 2002, 02:30 PM
Life-abstract=conformity
S.F. Bay Area
Joined Aug 2002
1,876 Posts
Laser Sites/Info

WOW!

My mind is whirling.
I understand now why a laser beam wing core foam cutter is impractical...
beam divergence.
Bummer.
Lase on all you creative geni.
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Old Nov 03, 2002, 06:33 PM
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Annapolis, Maryland USA
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CNC milling machine kit:
http://www.rcmodels.net/cnc/hobby/cnc.html

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Old Nov 06, 2002, 04:09 PM
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Ok, I located a sealed laser for about $1200 that will do the job. It's a surplus 35 watt laser with a variable power supply.

I'm going to spend some time drawing up plans for the table.
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