Saturday, January 23, 2016

Low Power CO2 Lasers

I used to stay away from lasers, considering them to be over-priced voodoo and best left to be outsourced to someone else.

However I found myself in need of a 40 watt CO2 laser, so I bought one.  It still hasn't arrived yet, however I spent all afternoon yesterday researching on how to set one up and run it.

I need this laser to build the machine shop seed project.  Outsourcing the laser cutting will result in $10 per machine cost and depending on someone else to do the job.  That someone or several someone's also do other jobs, so my orders may or may not be done in a timely manner.

My assumption as to the difficulty to build and operate a laser was sadly over-estimated.

Lately I keep getting the feeling like I started out doing the difficult first.  

When I started 3D printing, I built my own machine from ground up with my own design.  That machine is at present humming away in the lab making some cable clips btw. It was a serious pain in the ass.  Months and months spent trying to get it right.  My education to learn this was quite expensive.

Since then I built a mach3 controlled machine and found that it was much easier to set up than a Arduino controlled machine (although Arduino is easy of you got the right instruction guide)

I set up a Raspberry Pi CNC controller with a touch screen, and learned how to set up GRBL controllers.

So my first laser engraver has arrived (a whopping half watt) and despite it having a defective diode, I studied it and figured out a bunch of stuff how to duplicate it.  

It just keeps getting easier and easier to build these things.

When the new laser arrives, I already got a bunch of projects to make with it.  I will be building a cheap laser engraver.  Something solid state, 2 watts, about a 18x18 inch working area and selling on the local market for about $300 to the sign makers. China price for this size and power is around $300 on eBay, so accounting for shipping, and tax I can handily beat the Chinese at their own game.

I have a large batch of machine shop seed printer kit orders to fill so it looks like the new laser cutter will be busy and possibly will need a second and third Co2 laser if things work.  

Now if only I can find another guy or 3 like the one I just hired to keep up with orders.  Saw some larger shop space near the new office the other day came open.  May have to rent that soon too.

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