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Which Laser cutter

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Erfolg15/12/2019 17:49:29
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11700 forum posts
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I want to buy a laser cutter, I get the impression that at least two have been purchased by people on this site. I am having difficulty in understanding which work on ply and balsa with little or no difficulty.

No 1.

No2

No3

I am guessing that No.2 and 3 are the same product.

Both, or the three seem to be described as engravers? Do they cut ply and balsa.

If so is either better than the other for what modelers typically need or want?

Edited By Erfolg on 15/12/2019 17:49:59

Stephen Smith 1415/12/2019 19:37:26
207 forum posts

Would give the led Eleksmaker type a miss I know some have menaged with them but being on few laser forums and Facebook groups they aren't really suitable for cutting only light engraving. You would be much better with a C02 laser.

I have a K40 which is 40 Watts C02 these are readily avaliable on ebay and amazon just search K40 laser on these sites, just be careful where you buy from make sure it's the UK not China, there are some in Europe as well which should OK. Look to pay around £300

Cutting area is small at 200mm by 300mm but will cut most bits apart from fusalarge sides top and bottom but they are straight forward to cut by hand. The problem with C02 lasers the price goes up disproportionately to the Increase in size the next price point being around £1200 but you only get 300 by 400 something big enough to cut metre long material is into about £5000.

The K40 can be striped of it's component parts and made into something bigger if you are inclined and have the ability there are loads of examples on the Internet.

The biggist problem with the K40 is setting up the mirrors and focus expext to spend a couple of days getting it perfect, it also benefits  from an air feed to make cleaner cuts but thingyverse is full of them if you have a 3d printer then you only need a aquarium air pump around 100 litres a minute for about £15.

The K40 is a proper cutter but only buy one if you a patient and don't mind plenty of messing to get it up and running properly

Edited By Stephen Smith 14 on 15/12/2019 19:41:11

Edited By Stephen Smith 14 on 15/12/2019 19:41:49

Edited By Stephen Smith 14 on 15/12/2019 19:42:12

FlyinFlynn15/12/2019 19:52:35
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147 forum posts
95 photos

Welcome aboard!

An engraver is what most youngsters want to engrave a pattern or a name on their mobile phone case, whereas modellers want a cutter to cut out balsa and ply. There is no difference between the two. 2.5 Watts is the normal laser diode power you get at entry level, which is fine for balsa - about half a millimeter per pass, but a bit tedious for ply, perhaps 30 passes for 3mm. You can always use the laser to mark out for firewall for accuracy and the bandsaw to finish the job for speed. The 'difficulty' comes from learning how to drive the software to produce your Gcode files that the laser understands. I think all the entry level kits use a control board that has an Arduino clone and two (or three) stepper motor drivers. This means that you can either use the firmware that comes pre-installed or upload something a bit more exotic.

Either is suitable, being 2.5 Watts and there is plenty of help on YouTube to get it set up, watch out for the possible customs duty!

Wilco Wingco15/12/2019 22:39:21
230 forum posts
3 photos

Would a CNC router be a better option for cutting out model parts both ply and balsa?.

Stephen Smith 1415/12/2019 22:54:03
207 forum posts

As said you need a CO2 laser really for cutting half a mm per pass on balsa and 30 passes for 3mm ply would be quicker on a band saw

FlyinFlynn16/12/2019 14:11:13
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Wilco.....probably yes....but a cnc router has to be built much more solidly, requires stronger steppers and associated electronics, with the added cost that that brings. Actually you get a better finish to balsa with a laser because the router bit picks up the grain and you can easily end up with a ragged edge.

Stephen - The half a mm per pass for a 2.5Watt laser is about the norm and the 30 passes for 6mm ply is a guesstimate. The thing about a cnc machine is that they do repetition really, really well so going to the expense of a CO2 laser for balsa so you can cut it in a single pass is in my view overkill. If you have a bandsaw or can use a handsaw pretty well by following the engraving on 6mm ply then you might again think a CO2 laser is OTT. If you really want to laser cut 6mm ply, plastics, and other materials then a CO2 laser is the best option. Cutting plastics with a laser diode is problematic because the wavelength of the laser is too low and a CO2 laser cutter is the cheapest option, mind you cutting plastics with a router is not without its problems, stopping the plastic from melting is one of them and chipping delicate pieces is another...... money....choice..... pays! frown

Geoff Gardiner16/12/2019 16:11:51
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527 forum posts
906 photos

If you have a dremel you can build one of these and have the best of both worlds.

Erfolg16/12/2019 16:39:19
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11700 forum posts
1309 photos

Flyn, I do believe the comments you have raised are on the money, with respect to type of Laser.

It is pertinent to recognise that the majority of us are hobbyist. That the extra time spent in cutting, versus cost is not for most of vital importance. For a commercial operator, it is almost certain that cutting time is very important.

The software issue, is debatable, in that for me, being provided with something that works, is very useful, it saves me trying to establish what is available, what it works with, and so on.

As with much in life, having the best is not always necessary, in many cases, what is the best is contentious, dependent on many factors and priorities. Fo many, what matters is it fit for purpose, does it fit within my budget.

FlyinFlynn16/12/2019 18:58:46
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147 forum posts
95 photos

I don't think he has a 3D Printer Geoff.

How do you get on with milling plastics, I found it a problem with the plastic I have to hand..I don't actually know exactly what flavour of sheet plastic it is but it does like to melt on the bit. I think it is down to insufficient chip load but the dremel isn't up to loading it up. The best I could manage was to use a single flute flat bottom bit and change it quite often

chris larkins16/12/2019 19:27:40
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210 forum posts
145 photos

I upgraded my laser engraver with a new control board and a 15W laser module, details are on the other thread called 'cheap Chinese laser cutter'.

It will cut 3mm balsa in 1 pass, and 3mm birch ply in 3 passes, total cost with the upgrades which includes air assist was about £250, 650x500 bed area

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