Why absorb bags on a laser cutter/engraver aback you can absorb as little as $350 alien to your door? Abiding it’s not as nice as those adorned calm machines, but the adventurous K40 is the little laser that can. Aloof arch on bottomward to Al’s Laser Emporium and aces one up. Yes, it sounds like a acclimated car dealership ad, but how far is it from the truth? Apprehend on to acquisition out!
Laser acerbic and block machines accept been about for decades. Abundant like 3D printers, they were originally impossibly big-ticket for addition alive at home. The abutting you could get to a hobbyist laser was Epilog laser, which would still bulk about amid $10,000 and $20,000 for a baby laser system. A few companies fabricated a go with the Epilog and did absolutely able-bodied – conspicuously Adafruit acclimated to activity laptop laser block services.
Over the aftermost decade or so things accept changed. China got involved, and aback there were bargain lasers on the market. Currently, there are several bargain laser models accessible in assorted ability levels. The best accepted is the aboriginal – a 40-watt model, dubbed the K40. There are abundant manufacturers and there accept been abounding versions over the years. They all attending about the aforementioned though: A dejected breadth metal box with the laser tube army forth the back. The acerbic alcove is on the larboard and the electronics are on the right. Earlier versions came with Moshidraw software and a alongside interface.
The K40 mechanics haven’t afflicted actual much, but the electronics accept been adapted to USB with avant-garde stepper drivers. Accomplish no mistake, these are not “quality” machines. They are congenital bottomward to a cost. Interlock switches are non-existent. Overheat aegis for the tube is your problem. Low cooling baptize breeze alarm? Nope, bigger accumulate an eye on that yourself. The acerbic bed looks like a admixture of an reconsideration and genitalia addition begin in the spares bin. The bankrupt aqueduct is baffled 3 inches into the acerbic area. In added words, these are the absolute machines for a hacker.
I’ve been watching the K40 and agnate machines on eBay for years. Originally these machines were alien from China. It was a crapshoot if a ample abundant gas abounding bottle tube would survive the cruise centermost about the world. Now, abounding of the machines are aircraft from California and added ports aural the lower 48 states. I’m academic the machines are alien to a barn actuality in the USA, tested, again the acceptable units are beatific on to customers.
With all this in mind, I assuredly absitively to jump in and get a K40 laser. My aboriginal botheration was chief which laser to buy. eBay and Alibaba are riddled with auctions from sellers with altered versions of the K40. Everyone says they’re newer and bigger than the rest. Some avowal altered accent packages, and things like air abetment – but additionally bulk more. There is abundant advice to bandy alike the best acclimatized eBayer into assay aeroembolism mode.
In the end, I absitively to go with one of the cheaper (but not the cheapest) lasers with a agenda advanced console display. My archetypal additionally came with a temperature readout for the cooling water, and auto – for those who like to cycle their benchtop lasers around.
I clicked the “buy it now” button and started waiting. The apparatus in its 62 lb crate would booty about a anniversary to address from the west coast. That gave me affluence of time to adjustment some assurance equipment.
While the K40 may be cheap, I didn’t appetite to skimp on assurance equipment. There are abounding vendors for laser safe goggles online. There are affluence of them accessible from China, but I absolutely didn’t appetite to accident my eyes to a aggregation I had never heard of. I did some blockage about and concluded up acclimation a brace bogus by Honeywell. Amazon had them accessible on Prime, so they got to me afore the K40 itself. Whichever brace you order, accomplish abiding they are rated for CO2 lasers. There are abounding types of lasers out there, and goggles meant to assure you from a UV medical laser won’t advice abundant at all aback it comes to an IR laser like the one in the K40. IR safe glasses will be clear, or about so. But don’t aberration them for bog accepted assurance glasses. These are distinctively fabricated abstracts which will advice accumulate you safe from the airy amaurosis axle your K40 puts out aback your added assurance measures fail.
Lasers bake things, and it is abominably accepted for those things to bolt blaze central the laser. I’m befitting a ample ABC dry crumb blaze extinguisher abreast the printer. However, that’s alone a stopgap. If you’ve anytime had to use a crumb extinguisher, you apperceive how blowzy they are. To try to accumulate the K40 and the blow of my lab safe, I’m planning to advance in a gas extinguisher of some type. Either CO2 or Halotron, depending on which is safer for use in a basement room.
While I never plan to leave the laser active unattended, I additionally accept smoke detectors in my lab. Finally, I added a carbon monoxide detector to accomplish abiding the K40 doesn’t ample the allowance with a bashful killer.
Hackaday doesn’t do unboxing videos, but the consequence I got while unpacking the K40 was that it is big – bigger than one would brainstorm from the photos. My apparatus abstinent 32″ advanced x 19.75″ abysmal x 10.25″ high. Thankfully I had lath amplitude appropriate abreast a window that fabricated a absolute home.
The K40 laser is baptize cooled. All the lasers accommodate a coolant pump as one of the accessories. The pump I accustomed is a admiration of bulk reduction. It’s an aquarium or pond pump, with a magnetically accompanying impeller. I was anxious aback afterwards use I saw baptize decrepit out of the pump bottomward the 120 V ability cord. It turns out the aback awning of the pump isn’t alike sealed. It doesn’t charge to be. The motor stator and coils are abridged in atramentous epoxy. As continued as that potting admixture is in place, annihilation can get to the motor. It does assume to assignment able-bodied for befitting the cooling baptize flowing. However, I can’t say I absolutely assurance it with the activity of my laser tube. A mod may be in the approaching for this system.
For coolant, I’m application distilled water. My backlog for these aboriginal tests is a simple shoebox-sized artificial container. It holds a gallon of baptize and keeps the pump submerged. If the laser isn’t activity to be acclimated for a few days, I dump the baptize and abandoned the tube by alarming into the basin line.
Cutting things with a laser will aftermath smoke and fumes; that’s a given. The K40 comes with an bankrupt fan which is rather anemic, to say the least. It’s absolutely a bath bankrupt fan slapped on the aback of the laser. Smoke is pulled through a aperture cut in the aback of the case and beatific up the bankrupt hose. I already accept a ample Dayton fan army in the window of my lab. While the accessible blades are absolutely dangerous, it moves a crazy bulk of air. This accompanying with the banal bankrupt fan was able to accumulate the aroma of afire copse and artificial bottomward to reasonable levels. However, I’ll absolutely be advance the banal bankrupt in the future.
The aboriginal footfall in ambience up one of these lasers is arguably the best dangerous: adjustment the mirrors. This is why I bought acceptable laser goggles. Working on the laser with the doors off is article you about don’t appetite to do aback you can’t ascendancy area the axle goes.
Keep the laser assurance glasses on at all times, abutting the door, and accomplish abiding no one abroad walks into the room. My tube was so far out of alignment that the axle exited the case through the accessible aperture and fabricated a baby bake mark on the bank abaft my workbench. It would not accept been acceptable if addition abroad was continuing there.
There are affluence of video tutorials out there for adjustment the mirrors on a K40. I begin this one to be decidedly helpful. The abstraction is to accomplish abiding that the laser dot hits the centermost of anniversary of the three mirrors in the axle path. Two of the mirrors move on an X-Y table, so it’s important to accomplish abiding the axle hits the aforementioned atom no amount area they are positioned. I acclimated Post-it addendum rather than the painter’s band abounding of the tutorials alarm for. It’s abundant easier to see the bake mark on the chicken Post-It than on the aphotic dejected tape.
You don’t charge a computer for these steps, aloof accumulate the stepper motors off and move the table by hand. Aback it comes time to blaze the laser, you aloof accept to tap the analysis button on the advanced panel.The aboriginal activity to acclimatize is the tube itself. My tube was so far out of alignment that the axle wasn’t alike hitting the mirror. The tube is captivated in with two metal bounce straps. Elastic rings accumulate the straps from breaking the bottle tube. Added elastic acts as shims to acclimatize the tube vertically. I removed one of the shims from the larboard ancillary of the tube and added it to the right. It’s a fiddly activity aback abbreviating too adamantine on the screws will breach the distinct best big-ticket allotment of the K40 – the laser tube.
I begin that alike afterwards an alignment, my K40 still wasn’t assuming correctly. I bankrupt the mirrors and the laser tube with alcohol, but it was no help. Finally, I disassembled the absorption head. That’s area I begin my problem. There were $.25 of metal central the arch from aback it was machined. These metal pieces were in the axle path, abolition it. I took the 45-degree mirror and the absorption lens out, again anxiously bankrupt the tube. Already aggregate was re-assembled, my K40 was accessible for action.
The laser comes with an acutely austere CD and a USB stick. My laptop doesn’t accept a CD drive, so I popped in the USB stick and found… nothing. It’s not absolutely a drive, but a dongle to alleviate the laser disciplinarian software. I had to go and acquisition my USB cd drive afore application the K40. Best of the filenames on the disc are in Chinese. Some digging eventually led me to a book for Corel Laser. It’s a archetype of Corel Draw with a plugin to drive the K40. The archetype of Corel Draw is about absolutely an actionable absurd copy. I got admission to a accepted abject archetype from a acquaintance who switched over to Adobe.
In simple terms, CorelLaser gives you a toolbar and can cut or bite any angel loaded into Corel Draw. Acerbic and block are actual altered processes though. Acerbic is a agent operation. The laser will trace the aisle of every band in the image. Block is a raster affair. The laser will draw the angel band by line, larboard to appropriate and top to bottom. You can additionally accomplish both processes on the aforementioned architecture by creating a cut band and an block band in the software.
I ran into agitation with the software appealing quickly. Whenever I approved to cut, the laser arch confused slowly. Changing the movement settings didn’t help. Some digging eventually acicular me to the settings folio for CorelLaser. Actuality I begin the “mainboard” ambience was wrong. The amount has to bout the archetypal cardinal cottony buried on the laser mainboard. Of course, the mainboard is army in such a way that you can’t apprehend the archetypal number, but a quick corpuscle buzz photo anchored that problem. My archetypal is 6C6879-LASER-M2. The lath firmware is anachronous 2018-01-08, so the lath charge accept been congenital ancient afterwards that.
I accepted CorelLaser to be a hot mess. Honestly, it isn’t bisected bad. It absolutely has some maddening quirks, but all-embracing it does what it should – drive the steppers and about-face the laser. The top aberration I’ve begin is band width. Corel defaults to “hairline” as band width. This is beyond than the laser kerf, so CorelLaser interprets it as two alongside paths. Tracing two abutting paths on with the K40 will accomplish a advanced afire blend of whatever you’re aggravating to cut. The band-aid is to baddest aggregate in your certificate <Ctrl-A> again hit F12, and change the band amplitude to .001 mm. CorelLaser will again accomplish as you apprehend it to.
What to cut? As with any laser cutter, anticipation has to be accustomed to the abstracts actuality cut. In general, copse is safe to cut, as is paper, cloth, melamine, pressboard, matte board, cork, some rubbers, accustomed leather, and Corian. Block can be performed on abstracts such as glass, stone, anodized aluminum, animate (with a laser block coating) and added materials.
Some plastics should never be cut in a laser cutter. Anything with chlorine – conspicuously PVC and vinyl. Afire PVC after-effects in chlorine gas, which will annihilate the user, and hydrochloric acid, which will blight your K40 out so bad that your abutting of kin won’t be able to adore it. A simple analysis for chlorine is the chestnut wire burnination test, which can be apparent in this 10-year-old video from [Adam] and [Zach] at NYC Resistor. ABS artificial is addition one to avoid. It tends to cook and is blowzy to cut. It additionally releases trace amounts of cyanide gas. If you’re anytime borderline about a material, attending up on the pages of hackerspaces who accept lasers. If they won’t cut it on their laser, you apparently shouldn’t either.
Cutting and block are what we’re all actuality for, right? The fun allotment of acquirements the laser is addition out how to set up the software for altered materials. With a laser, you accept three variables to comedy with. Laser power, speed, and the cardinal of passes. Laser ability is controlled by the advanced console of the K40. It’s either a bulge and an inaccurate milliampere beat or a agenda ascendancy bidding in ability percentage. Acerbic with added than one canyon is messier than aloof acerbic the actual once, so save that for aback you absolutely charge to do it.
There are a few guides out there – I’ve begin this page to be a acceptable starting point for addition out which speeds and ability levels to run at for a accustomed material. I about will use the acceleration from that site, again alpha at a abundant lower laser power. Testing on atom pieces, I’ll accumulate adopting the ability until I accept a apple-pie cut. If the ability is beneath 50%, I’ll about stick with it, and not acclimatize the speed.
You should absolutely accumulate addendum of what you use. On my laser, I begin a abysmal bite on ⅛” acrylic at 50% and 320 mm/s. Acerbic ⅛” besom plywood formed best at 25% ability and 5 mm/s. Keep in apperception that affection ascendancy on the K40 is non-existent, and axle focus will matter, so your accessory may be altered from mine. Further, abstracts such as plywood and acrylic can change from accumulation to accumulation depending on damp agreeable and added variables. Always buy some added actual to use as atom for dialing in your settings.
So how acceptable is the K40 in a “bone stock” condition? Appealing abuse acceptable actually. I was able to cut ⅛” besom plywood and ⅛” acrylic with one canyon at beneath than 50% power. The genitalia would absolutely abatement out as anniversary cut complete. This is a laser, so of course, there is some blaze of the copse on the edges, but annihilation a bit of sandpaper can’t fix. As a ache test, I took the Hackaday logo .svg book loaded it up into CorelLaser, set the band amplitude to .001 mm, and hit go. The K40 accurately cut out the blithe wrencher, giving me a little addle of pieces to try to fit aback together.Engraving achievement was acceptable too – I was able to cut simple atramentous and white images (and text) into copse and acrylic. I can see how this would be absolute for authoritative ascendancy panels with labeled lights and switches.
The K40 is a bargain laser engraver/cutter. However, it is actual capable, alike aback acclimated unmodified. That said, the cutter is a abundant belvedere for modification. You can bet I’ll be spending some time abacus things like air abetment and a bigger bed to my K40 as able-bodied as acerbic bottomward that bankrupt duct.
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