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Sep 09, 2019, 11:27 PM
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Thread OP
Quote:
Originally Posted by BaronPork
200-300$ Is nowhere near where you can get anything useful (just my opinion)....
Well as I stated, I went with the Cricut Maker. I forget the exact amount I paid for it, but it was around $400. Extra blades, materials and supplies easily added another $100 to it. So yeah I am a bit out of my original price range, but I got a much better and more capable machine. For any that don't know, it is a CNC cutter, that just happens to be super powerful and versatile.

I have had it since January or so. It actually does MUCH MORE than a laser cutter could for my needs. And it is simpler by many magnitudes to use.

I have ZERO concerns about starting fires with it. Dedicated space with venting system not needed. It does, for me, anything I would use a laser for. It does it cleaner. This thing cuts balsa with ease, and also thinner lite ply with an extra pass or two. And it does it FAST. I have yet to put a project on the board that takes me more than about 20-30 seconds to cut.

I realize this is the laser forum, but since comments were posted to my older thread here, and mention of CNC routers made, I figured I would respond with this alternative that I have been using. I love this thing!
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Sep 10, 2019, 11:48 AM
Neophyte hacker
portablevcb's Avatar
So what is the balsa thickness limit on the Cricut? Table size? My SIL has one and it is limited to about 12x12 and won't cut thicker than 1/16" balsa. FWIW, it was more difficult to learn to use than my first laser.

Price is great for what it does and if your needs go beyond cutting/engraving wood then the Cricut is a way to go.

charlie

Sent from my SM-P580 using Tapatalk


PS sorry notice previous post about 12x12 and 12x24
Sep 10, 2019, 11:57 AM
Neophyte hacker
portablevcb's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by 049flyer
Vinyl cutters are starting to get to the point where they can be used to cut balsa. They are also in your stated price range. Just remember that it will probably take you more time to draw the ribs in CAD and arrange them for cutting, than it will just to cut the ribs out by hand.

A laser cutter rarely makes sense UNLESS you are making many copies of the exact same parts.
No, a laser makes more sense when just cutting one set of parts. That is what my business was based on, one set of parts at a time.

It is the design part that takes the time. If you are designing in CAD anyway, then cutting by laser is far faster than by hand.

But, if you have paper plans then hand cutting is faster than scanning, tracing, cleaning up, and nesting in preparation for laser cutting.

charlie

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Sep 10, 2019, 02:31 PM
I fly, therefore, I crash!!!
SteveT.'s Avatar
According to the website, the Cricut will cut 3/32" thick, I don't know about the size though.

SteveT.
Latest blog entry: My shop....
Sep 11, 2019, 12:27 PM
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Thread OP
So, A lot of this was discussed in depth over in a thread in the sailboat forum. But this is such an interesting tool that I will relay some of that back here, even though this isn't a laser cutter, but a CNC plotter/cutter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by portablevcb
So what is the balsa thickness limit on the Cricut? Table size? My SIL has one and it is limited to about 12x12 and won't cut thicker than 1/16" balsa. FWIW, it was more difficult to learn to use than my first laser.

Price is great for what it does and if your needs go beyond cutting/engraving wood then the Cricut is a way to go.

charlie
PS sorry notice previous post about 12x12 and 12x24
(it is cool I wrote this out last night and didn't hit post lol)

It comes with 12"x12" mats but there are also 12"x24" available for it. I have seen mention of a way to go even longer, but it wasn't clear to me.

I thought I had seem a tutorial with it cutting 1/8 (3mm) lite ply???... Oh well. I don't usually work with thicker than 1/16ths. The cool thing about it though is the accuracy is bang on and one could easily and quickly make up a couple layers and laminate/glue them together if a thicker part was needed. In fact it would be easy to make up my own exotic plywoods too.

I spend most of my hobby time building sailboats. So the capabilities of this match the variety of materials I work with really well. Maybe this is a "gateway drug" to a laser cutter. But for now at least it is doing everything I wanted and more.

There are others out there like the Silhouette Charlie mentioned. I quickly dismissed all of them as they all seemed harder to use, and MUCH less cutting pressure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by portablevcb
...
It is the design part that takes the time. If you are designing in CAD anyway, then cutting by laser is far faster than by hand.

But, if you have paper plans then hand cutting is faster than scanning, tracing, cleaning up, and nesting in preparation for laser cutting....
I am usually working from paper plans, or digital PDF plans (that I then print out). BUT a lot of the sailboat plans out there already have cut files. I am a bit old school and while good with computers, not so good with learning new software. The Cricut Design Software is just simple enough for me to get it, but advanced enough that I can (eventually) get it to do what I want. It is mostly an interface for the machine, that just so happens to allow the user to design stuff within the "Cricut World." But where it differs from the Cricut of old, is it allowed the user to design outside of "Design Space" in whatever program of their choosing, and export those files into Design Space for cutting prep.

So yeah, my workflow would not be profitable or efficient from a business standpoint, but I can eventually get to where I want to go. I do need/want to start dabbling in CAD, but I can't find any software that is simple enough, cheap enough, and geared towards making boats.

Right now I need to make up some new deck patches for one of my boats. It will take me longer to find the material that I want to use, then to scan a patch and import it in to cut it. While it might seem a trivial thing, knowing I can do that without issue defiantly makes the Cricut Maker a valuable tool for me.
Dec 30, 2019, 04:08 AM
Registered User
Laser cutting and engraving machines require the use of a PC to communicate and carry out tasks effectively. This leads us to consider the power consumption used, so an average PC uses 800VA, and the CO2 laser cutting machine uses 2480VA, while the CO2 laser engraving machine uses 2140VA.
Dec 30, 2019, 02:41 PM
If it flies, I can crash it.
rocketsled666's Avatar
Quote:
require the use of a PC to communicate and carry out tasks effectively
No, they don't. My Glowforge, for instance, communicates to a server "in the cloud" and no local processing or printer control is performed at all. Other laser cutters (and 3D printers, and CNC milling machines) run "stand alone" with nothing more than a file on a SD card (or copied to the machine over the network). Some can even generate their own toolpaths from the source file, and no off-machine processing is required at all.

Also, how much power a laser cutter uses is a function of how powerful the laser is. Most machines capable of cutting at higher power are also capable of engraving at lower power. You don't have to run the laser at full power. Laser power can be and is modulated.
Dec 30, 2019, 08:43 PM
Neophyte hacker
portablevcb's Avatar
PC control is not required for a laser to work. Most smaller laser units these days are setup the same as printers. They can even do some optimization of cut path and cut order.

But, it limits you to files that are already set up for your specific layout, ie, a cut file made for a machine with a 24x36 bed will probably not work with a laser that has a 12x24 bed. A PC with the proper software would allow modification of the files to work with your laser.

If you want to use a laser to it's full potential then a PC with some sort of drawing software is required so you can generate your own cut files (or engraving files).

My Epilog 75W laser was run on a 15A/110V circuit in our house. Most of the electrical power needed for lasers is in the cooling system. The blower that was required to clear the cutting area was on a separate circuit since it had a 2hp motor.

Industrial lasers are another ball game. They are more like CNC machines and require the proper G code files to be sent to them to operate. Those do require a PC with CAM software to generate the G code for the machines. The benefit to this is you have a lot more control over the exact cut sequence.

charlie
Jan 02, 2020, 01:23 AM
Registered User
Thread OP
Quote:
Originally Posted by AltPartsInc
Laser cutting and engraving machines require the use of a PC to communicate and carry out tasks effectively. This leads us to consider the power consumption used....
Whether it does or doesn’t isn’t even relevant.... The original question is solely about laser power output levels. 5 watt vs 5000 kinda thing. I have no concerns for how much electrical power the systems take to run. And a computer’s power consumption is of no concern anyways.

I decided that a laser cutter (well any I can afford anyways) had one drawback I didn’t want. Cad software required to develop projects. Not to mention the other inherent dangers. I went with a Cricut Maker and find it to be a very good alternative to a laser. It actually cuts more materials! I have made stickers, shirts, cards, templates, balsa parts, fabric parts, and other random stuff with it.
Jan 02, 2020, 02:08 AM
I fly, therefore, I crash!!!
SteveT.'s Avatar
Cad programs are not a big deal. You can get one of the most powerful cad programs there is literally for free usage as long as you don't use it for commercial purposes. I am using Autocad 2020 for free and that is what I use to do all my drawings for my laser cutter. And, though, yes, it has it quirks, it is relatively easy to learn the basics, and for 'most' projects cut with a laser, that is all you need.

SteveT.
Latest blog entry: My shop....
Jan 02, 2020, 02:35 AM
If it flies, I can crash it.
rocketsled666's Avatar
If you're used to 3D modeling, making the switch to a laser cutter requires some changes in workflow and process. But once you figure it out, it's actually easier than 3D CAD.
Jan 05, 2020, 12:51 AM
If it floats....sail it!
FoamCrusher's Avatar
Biggs:

I looked into a laser cutter and like others found the price just too high for only occasional use. Then a friend suggested that I look into the local “maker space”.

These are sites with all kinds of tools geared to incubating new small businesses and to hobbyists. You join and pay a monthly fee and have access to all of their tools (after taking the appropriate safety classes). There are lots of these springing up, particularly in larger cities that have tech oriented community colleges nearby. The local one to me has three sites each with a different emphasis and tools, all within easy driving distance

Right now I have taken the classes and have access to a ShopBot 4’x8’ bed CNC router, three commercial vinyl cutters of different sizes, three different commercial lasers, a manual as well as a CNC lathe, multiple 3D printers of different sizes (one a $25K MarkForge that prints in carbon fiber/nylon matrix AND lays down a continuous cf filament with each layer and makes parts that rival aluminum in strength) and soon a Fadal 15 CNC mill, and assorted “regular” wood and metal shop tools. The have both MIG and TIG setups on which I could learn, but so far I have enough to keep me busy.

The also have computers with multiple licenses of professional level CAD, CAM and graphics programs. I was able to tag onto two very expensive programs to download versions to my home computer and use the group license to do work with them at home.

The monthly cost is not inexpensive, but I could never have had access to anywhere near the tools, training and help any other way. If you are near a reasonable size city, see if one is in your area. It might make more sense than buying just one machine.
Jan 15, 2020, 01:24 PM
Registered User
Thread OP
FoamCrusher, I have thought about doing just that, and as mentioned was offput by the high monthly fee... Where I am we have at least one very good one, connected to our local technical college. But you mention a couple things that greatly lessen that impact (and I suspect mention them knowing my struggles in the sailboat forum LOL). Training and access to CAD programs. That might be a serious contender.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FoamCrusher
I looked into a laser cutter and like others found the price just too high for only occasional use.
I won't go into a tangent about "rental" tools and ownership... (writes over paragraph) As a mechanic IRL, it is very hard to let go of ownership. But I do want to jump on the soapbox and holler about Cricut products! I have the Cricut Maker (as mentioned prior), and the Cricut EasyPress2. I think if Cricut expanded their target market just slightly and geared these things towards "male hobbyists" instead of just quilters, scrapbookers, and the like, they would EXPLODE onto the market.

My Cricut Maker does SO MUCH MORE than a laser cutter. No, it doesn't do all of the same functions as well as a laser cutter would. I can't go as thick, and it can't go as fine and detailed, but it is much more versatile overall. And I can set it up on the dining room table in 2 minutes and start cutting with no worries about fumes and the like, I don't need a dedicated spot for it. For my use, the few limits this machine puts on my projects are FAR outweighed by the additional projects it allows me to do.

For anyone put off by the price of a laser cutter for occasional use, a Cricut Maker might just be a good alternative. It has opened up so many opportunities and cool projects I wouldn't have considered taking on before. I find it ironic, the "masculine" colors for the Maker and assorted tools, are the most sought after and hardest to get...
Jan 15, 2020, 02:19 PM
If it floats....sail it!
FoamCrusher's Avatar
I looked at a Cricut, but the Hacker Lab (a type of makerspace) of which I am a member, has 4 different size cutters, one is a commercial size machine which can cut sticky back insignia cloth to make sail numbers and class insignias, which is all I would do with it.

The value for me in the makerspace is far beyond what I pay for several years membership fees.

Yes, some people abuse the machines, it is not as convenient as having one at home, I often have to fiddle with them to get them to work correctly and I have to bring my own tooling to assure I will have the correct sharp tool, but I neither have the space for all the equipment I use only on an occasional basis, nor the $ to have several machines that each cost well into five figures and the expensive subscription software to design for them. I have bought smaller versions of the machines I use frequently, like a small CNC mill, a small lathe, as well as band and table saws, but sometimes I just need a larger, faster or more powerful machine. and this is the only way I can have access to those at a reasonable cost.

I offer this as a possible option for people who may not be aware of it. If it works for you, fine. If not, do what does.


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