A Blinding Conclusion
I believe I have invested in the proper level of LASER engraver for my needs and expectations. Both in price and performance. I am pleased with the performance of a 5 watt power level. The trade off is slower speed but I have plenty of time for that.
The LASER is a two and one half dimensional material remover. It is not capable of three dimensional material removal without (I imagine) very sophisticated power level modulation or a fully proportional Z axis movement.
If such control were implemented the results would be a fully charred and burned surface. The LASER is a burning tool.
The depth achievable of a three dimensional burn would also be very limited as the cutting tool is a tapered highly focused pin point of light. Z axis height modulation would be a must.
Material like wood and bamboo have grain fiber that burns away at different rates. The bottom of a wide area that is flat engraved is seldom smooth. The choice of material is critical for clean cutting.
Such burn variation can be (and is) a feature of LASER engraving.
The low powered LASER engraver is a wonderful addition to my hobby-class work. It does highly detailed 2.5D engraving in combustable materials. Smoke, soot, ash, odor are major by-products of a LASER. Not similar to the fine and course swarf (chips) produced from using sharp edge tool rotary machining operations in wood and metal. There are some fumes from cutting oils which vaporize in metal machining. Wood and metal swarf mostly falls to the floor. Smoke doesn’t.
My three dimensional CNC machines and Vectric Aspire software are not being replacedby the LASER.
Three dimensional (wax) machining for jewelry is best done on a 3 to 5 axis machine tool. I tested cutting wax with the 5 watt LASER. It made me laugh. It sucked in the 5 watts of light and begged for more.
A commercial LASER 40 watts and higher is certainly a different story but the same limitations. The LASER does its particular 2.5D thing and is not a replacement for any true 3D machining process.
I am so happy I long ago convinced myself that, although the process is very interesting, I have absolutely have no practical use or need for a high power and very high cost LASER tool.
When low powered RTR (ready to run) diode LASER machines became available for under $200, I felt it was a good time to go play with a new toy. They are not a child’s toy, but the cost puts them in range of the price and safety conscious hobbyist. The difference between men and boys thing…
Doing a little thinking through writing. I have ordered a LASER engraving machine. Everyone should know what LASER engraving is. Unless you been under a rock under the sea for the last 25 years or so. I should not need to explain the concept in too much detail.
It is a CNC controlled machine that uses a LASER (light) beam to literally burn away the surface of material upon which it has been focused. Following a computer-numerically-controlled (CNC) two-dimensional path, it engraves or cuts through the material. There are limitations on what materials are suitable.
This is NOT a kid’s toy. It is NOT a toy at all. Little Jonny does not need a LASER powerful enough to burn. Even a very low power LASER pointer does not belong in a toy category. A LASER engraver/cutter is literally playing with fire. It is a serious TOOL
That said, I have a LASER machine on the way and intend to play with it in a serious and responsible way. That is a privilege earned from surviving to this phase of my life. I have become responsible for my actions and know how to properly use the powerful tools in my workshop.
The “What Next” is discovering how I will apply this tool with future projects.
An engraver makes lines and marks on the surface of material. It’s a tool for decoration. What I will be doing is adding detail to otherwise plane looking surfaces. It’s a graphic tool rather than a construction tool.
The LASER machine will also CUT THROUGH thin material. That process is a part of construction. Cutting shapes away as with cutting with a knife or shears. Super powerful LASER and Plasma cutters do most of the metal cutting in industrial workshops.
My tool will do the same cutting in thin (several millimeter) combustible organic materials such as wood, cork, some plastics.
I have no definite applications in mind. The plain fact is I bought the machine because the price made it attractive. The plan is to see what I can do at the five-watt (output) power level. With a $200 entry fee I decided I didn’t need a fully qualified plan-of-use.
If I find serious use/application for a more powerful machine, this first investment gets me playing and learning the software and the skills. It is an educational investment.
New tool is about to be added to my KautzCraft workshop. I have ordered a small 4.5-watt (output) LASER engraver. Work area is only 160mm x 150mm. So, it is quite small. So is the purchase cost. Less than $200.
The low cost was the fatal attraction. I have considered LASER engravers for years. However, the cost (many $K) did not justify the return on investment. There are just not enough items in my workshop needing LASER engraving for the previous high investment required.
The machine I ordered is not for everyone. It has no interlocking safety features to keep the careless operator safe. Knowing the risks are important. Running the engraver is not group event. Single user in a closed access area is my plan.
Here is a picture of what I have ordered. Yeah, it’s Chinese but most every high-tec CNC tool is these days. Includes all my 3D printers.
At this point I am most interested in decorative engraving rather than using the LASER to cut through material. This little LASER will do cuts for sure. Just not as thick or as fast as a LASER with higher power (and higher cost).
If I discover a real need (or demand) to do heavy cutting, a higher power LASER can then be added. What I learn on this small LASER using the software system common to any size machine will be time well spent.
More information to follow this announcement once the smoke starts rising. Yep. LASERS make a LOT of smoke from burning the target material. A fact barely mentioned by most machine vendors.
This machine never left China. The order was cancled. I now have a LASER engraver with more area and a bit more power. Articles to follow and check into KautzCraft Laser for more info.
You can find the construction information here in Ramblin' Dan's Workshop. This is a series of logo v-carvings I made last week as a surprise to my son-in-law. He is into making home-brew beer and I am into carving things in wood. So this worked out well for both of us. This demonstrates the repeat ability of CNC v-carving.
Pictured is a new pen I made today. This one goes to a friend who first discovered the parts were available. What I made was the wood barrel (turned on a mini lathe) and hand finished. Then I assembled the parts. An interesting thing with this pen is the kit maker shows every one of his pens with the bolt handle assembled 180 degrees rotated the wrong way. The bolt handle is pointing up. This reversed position is because it interferes slightly with the pocket clip when in the proper bolt action position that I prefer. My opinion is the clip is a minor concern and the pen is not a style a user is likely to clip in a shirt pocket. Many other makers also make this correction.
Here are other pens I made several weeks ago. There is a construction series in my other blog, The Hobbyist Workshop.
These pens are fun to make and there are endless possibilities of materials that can be used. For some people pen making is a full time occupation. Individual pens can sell for $30.00 to hundreds of dollars. Special sets and holders, far more than that.
I plan on making pens for as long as I can. I have two more bolt locks to make right now.