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Cheap Chinese Laser Cutter

experiences with a Chinese laser cutter

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ROBERT BURLACE22/09/2019 08:10:37
37 forum posts
14 photos

I recently bought an "eleksmaker" 2.5W laser engraver from bangood, partly for my wife to use for her wedding and personalised gifts business, but partly out of curiosity for model building.

The laser comes as a kit and parts are readily available to expand as necessary. I have built mine to accommodate standard sheets of balsa and 300x900mm sheets of ply from SLEC.

I have carried out a few tests so far and it has proved capable of cutting up to 4mm birch ply without too much fuss (although slowly), poplar, liteply and balsa with ease.

Now - I am USELESS with a scroll saw. The other day, I used the laser to cut out some fuselage formers for a Cap232 that I am building and the accuracy and speed that i came out with them was far, FAR better than i can achieve by hand. Using the laser has the advantage of no balsa dust and as well as ventilation is good, no fumes.

The full set up has cost me less than 250 quid and I have already cut parts for two sets of plans for winter build projects, so has probably paid for itself already.

I don't plan to design my own models, there are plenty of good CAD drawings around online to keep my busy for a while.

I will post some pictures and updates as they happen for anyone who is interested.

GrahamC22/09/2019 08:21:25
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1233 forum posts
196 photos

I for one would be iterested to hear more, and see pictures. I presume you mean that you can buy extra pieces which allow for the length of the cut to be increased?

ROBERT BURLACE22/09/2019 08:24:33
37 forum posts
14 photos

Hi Graham,

Yes that's right - the rails are available online in pretty much any length you can wish for, the rest of the parts are as they are in the kit.

Just sorting out some photos.

Martin_K22/09/2019 08:27:22
77 forum posts

Robert, I too would be interested to hear your experiences of operation, e.g. how you prepare drawings, allowances for thickness of material removed by the cutting process.

An occasional update regarding successes and failures would be nice.

ROBERT BURLACE22/09/2019 08:35:56
37 forum posts
14 photos

A balsa rib - cut before I installed the air assist which really helps clean up cut edges.58871355182__91ee32f2-7914-4564-8d50-524d9da617a9.jpg

Air assist - fed by a small pond air pump

ac7fbec8-42db-4d19-b27c-667032a26fac.jpg

Clean cut in some sample bits of 4mm ply - leaves a bit of a burnt edge but sands off easily enough and have had as bad on short kits purchased online before now.

img_0309.jpg

And this is the setup - the bare aluminium rails are stock from the kit, i extended the cutting area using the black ones to 1100mm- giving a workable cutting area of about 400mm x 1000mm

img_0334.jpg

ROBERT BURLACE22/09/2019 08:46:48
37 forum posts
14 photos

In terms of preparing plans

I am currently working between two bits of software - although not a perfect solution, it seems to work.

The first is Inkscape - a free bit of relatively advanced CAD software which allows you to import your parts from a DXF (or other CAD file) and arrange parts onto sheets. I create a document the same size as a sheet of balsa, or ply that I am cutting on to, import parts, then arrange onto the sheet, making sure that they are oriented correctly for grain directions and as economically onto sheet as possible. Saving these files as .svg files allows the next piece of software to do its job...

The second piece of software, Lightburn isn't free, but think it costs about 40 quid - I am still on the one month free trial and exploiting a bug that stops it counting down if you don't close it ( I will buy one day but i like to test stuff thoroughly before committing). This software controls the speed and power of the laser cut and creates a g-code which is the instructions for the controller to give x,y coordinates to the stepper motors that move the laser.

ROBERT BURLACE22/09/2019 08:48:22
37 forum posts
14 photos

I should point out that my wife is yet to use it too.....

kevin b22/09/2019 10:34:05
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1669 forum posts
134 photos

Hi Robert.

I too have a nice size laser cutter, which is extremely useful.

However I must point out that it is imperative that you have good ventilation whilst using it. You are better using it in the shed than the house !

You may not think that there are fumes, but there are. Particularly when cutting any ply, which can be very nasty. This is why commercial cutters are fully enclosed with extraction units.

There is a free software program called Wintopo, which you might find useful. It converts drawings (jpg) into vector files (Dxf). It is very good if you struggle with CAD.

ROBERT BURLACE22/09/2019 10:44:03
37 forum posts
14 photos

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for the tip on Wintopo - I had seen a piece of software called scan2cad which seems to do a very nice job, but it isn't cheap. I will give it a go. As I said at the top of the thread - there is already lots of very good cad drawings around, but the ability to convert jpg opens up even more possibilities - does it work with pdf too?

Yes, my post was a little inaccurate about the fumes - I should add that when cutting, I set the cutter up, set off on its way and leave the shed while it does its thing. I will build an enclosure that has extraction capabilities when I get chance to, allowing me to work while parts are cutting.

Thanks

Rob

James Green222/09/2019 11:26:21
50 forum posts
15 photos

I love mine. I use a program called BenCutLaser, this has more bells and whistles. A free download is available online as a trial, though it is inexpensice to purchase.

James Green222/09/2019 11:28:50
50 forum posts
15 photos

https://www.modelflying.co.uk/forums/postings.asp?th=125409

ROBERT BURLACE22/09/2019 12:15:27
37 forum posts
14 photos

Thanks for sharing James.

it looks like you use yours for exactly what I intend mine for.

I tried the Bencut software but just found that I got on better with the other two bits of software.

There is is an option to add z-axis now for cutting thicker materials- it would allow the focal point to move down between passes. It should make cleaner cuts on ply especially.

Don Fry22/09/2019 12:20:04
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4049 forum posts
46 photos

In fairness, as long a it cuts 3 mm ply on a pass, you can laminate to whatever you want.

MAD Dave22/09/2019 19:22:10
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88 forum posts
8 photos

Is there any clue to the life of the laser?

kevin b22/09/2019 19:54:44
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1669 forum posts
134 photos
Posted by MAD Dave on 22/09/2019 19:22:10:

Is there any clue to the life of the laser?

How long is a piece of string.

Sorry Dave, but there are so many variables you can't get accurate figures. Let's just say if you are using it for hobby purposes, "a long time".

Robert, as far as i can gather Wintopo like jpegs. Acrobat files are easy to convert, but be careful. You may find that some files come out at a different size when printed / cut.

Another tip is to keep old cardboard boxes for practicing with. They are a lot cheaper than balsa ! Once you have cut a cardboard set, you can check against the plan before cutting wood. that way. rather than get "near enough" you can produce really accurate pieces that you can later duplicate, if necessary.

ROBERT BURLACE23/09/2019 19:39:33
37 forum posts
14 photos

I can't comment on the life of the laser, but hopefully if I manage to keep the thread going, it will give you a good idea. I follow a group of users on facebook who give them pretty heavy use, some even in small businesses. They will, inevitably burn out I am sure. But all cutting tools go blunt... They are relatively inexpensive to replace like for like and the kit can be upgraded to more powerful diode lasers and have even seen CO_2 lasers used.

Nice tip with the card - it would allow a mock up before committing to wood. I am always careful to measure cad drawings against plans before cutting....its the same as making any cut...measure twice....you know the rest.

I have a big order of wood from SLEC due tomorrow, so plan to get going with a lovely mk9 spitfire I have been wanting to build for a while now, but didn't have the patience to cut the parts!

Will keep you updated.

Rob

Alan Gorham_25/09/2019 15:25:44
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1023 forum posts
123 photos

Hi Robert

I just wanted to say thank you to you for starting this thread. It is very interesting to see see your results using simple and low-cost equipment.

I have always hand-cut parts for my models, but I have had a CNC vinyl cutter that I use to make paint masks for over 10 years now, so perhaps laser cutting could be my next move.

I hope you do update this thread with future progress!

Geoff Sleath25/09/2019 16:22:08
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3429 forum posts
297 photos

We used to use lasers as part of various measurement techniques at work (I've been retired nearly 25 years now). I was never very directly involved but several people in our department were and we had a Laser Lab where experiments and designs were tested. This was simply a partitioned room with no windows and a door lockable from the inside. The reason was to prevent anyone entering without eye protection when lasers were being operated. Lasers can cause serious (and permanent) eye injuries.

I just wonder how safe laser cutters are. At work, anyone dealing with lasers was required to have an eye test before they worked with them. This was to protect the company from claims that any eye problems were caused at work rather than for the benefit of engineers. Anyone operating a laser wore special goggles.

A laser cutter is an appealing idea but what measures do the suppliers suggest should be taken by users - particularly as regards eye protection?

Geoff

ROBERT BURLACE25/09/2019 18:02:33
37 forum posts
14 photos
Posted by Geoff Sleath on 25/09/2019 16:22:08:

We used to use lasers as part of various measurement techniques at work (I've been retired nearly 25 years now). I was never very directly involved but several people in our department were and we had a Laser Lab where experiments and designs were tested. This was simply a partitioned room with no windows and a door lockable from the inside. The reason was to prevent anyone entering without eye protection when lasers were being operated. Lasers can cause serious (and permanent) eye injuries.

I just wonder how safe laser cutters are. At work, anyone dealing with lasers was required to have an eye test before they worked with them. This was to protect the company from claims that any eye problems were caused at work rather than for the benefit of engineers. Anyone operating a laser wore special goggles.

A laser cutter is an appealing idea but what measures do the suppliers suggest should be taken by users - particularly as regards eye protection?

Geoff

Geoff,

the way way I see it, we have a hobby where we have spinning blades, carry highly volatile fuels in our cars and charge batteries containing lithium in our homes. Done safely, although they pose a hazard, the risk is minimal. The same applies to any form of cutting, including lasers. The kits I have did come with eye protection- I upgraded and bought a pair that I was sure we’re rated for the wavelength of the laser.

MrsB isn’t allowed in the shed, so someone walking in on it won’t be an issue. Setting up a simple set of procedures can manage that risk to a level where it is acceptable, as was done in your workplace.

I wouldn’t let the risk put you off- it can be managed quite easily.

Rob

ROBERT BURLACE25/09/2019 18:04:07
37 forum posts
14 photos
Posted by Alan Gorham_ on 25/09/2019 15:25:44:

Hi Robert

I just wanted to say thank you to you for starting this thread. It is very interesting to see see your results using simple and low-cost equipment.

I have always hand-cut parts for my models, but I have had a CNC vinyl cutter that I use to make paint masks for over 10 years now, so perhaps laser cutting could be my next move.

I hope you do update this thread with future progress!

Thanks Alan,

i looked around and couldn’t find a similar thread, so thought I would set one up. I’ll keep updating as I go!

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