Monday, January 18, 2016

CNC Low Power Laser Review

So I got my hands on my new CNC laser engraver Saturday after a meeting discussing the machine shop seed project logistics and reviewing the parts that arrived from China vendors.

Ok first the good news.

It arrived with a GRBL board.  Open source, and lots of documentation.  The CD had a version of Inkscape pre-configured for the laser and the GRBL flavor of gcode it takes.  

Basically the machine runs on standard code 2 axis with spindle on and off commands.

So I hooked it up, got the drivers working.  Tried the spindle on command and jogged the machine leaving a nice deep satisfying engraving in the piece of plywood I was using.

It is only half a watt laser but boy it does engrave nice if a bit slow.

It arrived with the x and y axis motor plugs reversed which was obvious when the jog controls were reversed in the included GRBL control software.  GRBL btw is free open source and good stuff.

So I ran a test file made in Inkscape, saved the gcode, imported it to GRBL controller and ran it.

3 min later the laser diode died.

Notes on the machine.  The power supply is 2 amps, and the frame is made from a cheap version of Bosch 20x40mm extrusion except the grooves are 6.35 mm (1/4 inch) instead of the standard 6mm Bosch stuff.

The roller bearings are 6mm wide so there is a considerable amount of slop in the thing although, it did not seem to affect output quality as the low power 

The laser takes a very slow speed.  Frankly one could have powered it with threaded rod instead of belts for a better effect.

The software was well configured but they could have benefitted from someone who spoke English better to do the manual.

As a 3d printer frame it is not acceptable.  Too sloppy at the high speeds a printer needs.

Meanwhile I bought a professional grade 40 watt co2 laser to do jobs around the shop.

My new employee is working out well.  By far the most enthusiastic about what I make and do.  He offered to come in today on his own time just to learn the machinery.

Tomorrow is yet another attempt at delivering the CNC plasma.  Lack of a big enough truck is hampering efforts on that front.

I put one of my old 3D printers back into service yesterday.  It had broke and was in need of a few parts which I replaced.  I then used it to print a better X axis for itself as the one I have on it is held together with super glue

Pics to follow.

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