Laser Cutter

This machine can only be operated under supervision of one of the Laser Supervisors.

State of Operation (2018-10-17):

The bad news is our laser tube is dead. These are considered consumables and they eventually die even if handled perfectly (ours was purchased 4 years ago which is a long time for a laser tube). We've purchased another tube and it's been delivered to the space. Next up is creating new mounts for it and installing it in the machine, checking its output characteristics match what it claims to have, updating the Smoothieboard's settings to match the new tube's specs, recalibrating (or just replacing) all the optics, and then going through all profiles in Visicut & either work them out again with actual material cuts, mathematically approximate/educated-best-guess new values, or temporarily remove them until they can be manually worked out again. We know the tube mounts need replacing and we might need to replace various other components too, depending on what's necessary. This will all probably take at least a month or so.

The good news is that the new tube is more powerful, and we'll also likely take this opportunity to replace/upgrade some of the optics too, so when this is all done the machine should cut your jobs quicker & be able to cut thicker materials! We estimate it'll be around 30-50% more powerful at first, with more increases to come if/when we replace the power supply and cooling unit too.

Fully operational, but note that our laser tube is getting old and runs at a reduced power. Also note that because we're still real-world testing the new air assist's compressor, we recommend you break your job up into multiple small parts in case something fails. You will need one of the Laser Supervisors to help you begin & end your job. Tuesday Open Nights are the best time to catch one as there's normally more than one Laser Supervisor present anyway. If that's not suitable try Discord chat or the forums. If you'd like to help improve this machine, talk to one of the Laser Supervisors or check out our Trello for our current to-do list.

Specifications

  • Machine: RedSail X700 Laser Engraver, Red & Black
  • Power: 50W power supply, 60W glass tube, 62mm diameter, 1220mm long (could fit 1250mm maximum)
  • Wavelength: CO2 infra-red 10.6μm
  • Lens: 18mm diameter, 50.8mm focal length, GaAs lens
  • Mirrors: TBD
  • Bed size: ~700mm x ~500mm, metal slats. Honeycomb bed will be usable once we have a way of cleaning it
  • Z-axis: ~200mm of clearance, manual adjustment
  • Max speed: 1000mm/s
  • Max resolution: 1000 DPI, 0.01mm recurring location precision
  • Modes of operation: Vector cutting, Vector marking (outline), Vector engraving (Raster fill), 3D gradient Raster fill engraving
  • Thickest material potentially cuttable in multiple passes: 10mm acrylic, 8mm MDF
  • Controller board: Smoothieboard
  • Software: Inkscape for modelling, Visicut to generate the necessary Gcode.
  • Other Features: Liquid cooled with ambient temperature heat exchanger, filtered air intake, exterior-located air extraction system, filtered shop air for the air assist
  • Max Temp of water chiller is 30°C, if this is exceeded cutting power is reduced & the chances of the laser tube cracking increase exponentially

Usage Guide

This machine is INCREDIBLY delicate. If you haven't been approved by the Laser Supervisors it's recommend you don't move, open or even touch this equipment.

Laser cutters can be picky machines - particularly ours, given it was originally a cheap Chinese unit that's had half its guts pulled out & replaced and various hacks or upgrades installed throughout it. Sometimes we compare it to the differences between a plane and a car. Knowing how to drive one car means you can pretty much just hop in and drive most other cars straight away, from a Porsche 911 to a Model T Ford, whereas knowing how to fly one plane gets you the basic theory but there's enough differences between models that you need to learn how to fly each type/class of plane separately. In the same way, knowing how to use other laser cutters gives you the basic theory behind them but not the knowledge of how to properly operate our one. Ironically, our experiences have been that people who know how to use other laser cutters are actually more likely to damage our one due to things like expecting it to work one way when it works another, and there's unfortunately many past instances of damage backing up why we're a bit protective of this machine. For these reasons, this machine is interlocked and can only be turned on by certain people.

To use this machine you either need to be supervised by a Laser Supervisor, inducted, or be a Laser Supervisor yourself. For casual use or newcomers the first option is the one you want; the easiest way to organise a time with one of the Laser Supervisors is during Tuesday Open Nights as normally there's more than one present anyway. If that's not an option for you the next best choice is to ask in the #cause-digifab channel or the general channel on Discord chat, or the forums in the Digifab section. Note that we ask for a donation to be made to Digifab when using this machine to cover its ongoing operating costs (cleaning supplies, lubricants, mirrors/lenses, laser tubes, replacing parts that break or wear out, upgrades, etc), plus an additional donation if you use some of our on-hand material stock depending on what materials you use. The suggested donation for using the laser cutter is currently $12/hour, with extra if you use the honeycomb bed. What's generally involved on the day is a Laser Supervisor will check over your job, run you through setting everything up, then start the job for you. You then watch over the machine while the Laser Supervisor does whatever they were doing before, then when your job is finished the Supervisor will show you how to properly clean the machine & leave it in a good state ready for the next person. Hopefully you'll pick up a thing or two watching the Supervisor, and as you pick it up on future jobs you can do more & more of the required beginning/ending work so the Supervisor does less of it for you and more just checking you did everything right. There's a lot to know though, more than most people are honestly willing to learn, and more than can be remembered from a single session. Generally most people care about getting their job cut, not fully learning how to use a laser cutter, which is completely okay and is why we do it this way.

Because we haven't sorted out 100% of everything involved, inductions for the laser cutter are currently a long process taking many one-on-one sessions that end up taking at least a month, and inducted members still have many restrictions placed on them (eg only certain specific materials/types of cuts that are known good, not the entire library in Visicut as the library currently has many dud profiles). Again because we don't have everything sorted out and because they have to be essentially done one-on-one, inductions take a lot of Supervisor time, and the Supervisors are only volunteers that get nothing in return for volunteering all their time too. It's not worth the large amount of volunteer time if you're only needing a handful of future cuts. So unless you plan to regularly cut a lot of separate jobs over a long period of time, the Laser Supervisors would rather just supervise you on individual jobs because it's far quicker and easier for everyone. If this is a burning (pun intended) passion of yours though, we suggest you start by reading through both Sam's Laser FAQ and IEC 60825.1. As with both the laser cutter itself and the rest of the Hackerspace in general, help improving this system is always welcome.

Becoming a Laser Supervisor is a decision made by the Digifab Cause Leader on advice of the other Laser Supervisors. Normally this is only done when we need another one (too many and we end up with a “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario). You'll need to know things like calibrating the optics, reading/writing G-code, diagnosing faults both software and hardware, repairing and/or replacing components, etc. Basically it's the Supervisors' job to fix this machine when other people break it, and if you're a Supervisor it's expected you will regularly put in the hours required to both Supervise others and keep this machine running well.

  • Aaron 'Crofty' Bycroft
  • Jaimyn 'jabelone' Mayer
  • Drew 'dreadnought' Spriggs
  • David 'Buzz' Buzz
  • Mike 'riumplus' Ando

Past Laser Supervisors

These people have dedicated their time in the past to help make the laser run but are no longer able to help. We leave their names here as a reminder and thank-you.

  • James 'pelrun' Churchill
  • Brendan 'nog3' Halliday

Safety Considerations

Don't let this happen!

  • When operating this machine, under absolutely NO circumstances must it be left unattended. Not even for just a moment as you get another can of soft drink or quickly head to the bathroom. Laser cutters are known for catching fire randomly without warning, even on jobs that they've successfully cut dozens of times before. You need to be there to put it out quickly before a tiny flame that can be just blown out turns into something that calls for the fire extinguisher or worse. If you need to duck away and you can't get anyone else to mind your job for you then you can pause your job, do your stuff, then resume it when you return. It may be boring to be there the whole time but seriously, don't leave it unattended while cutting. See the photo on the right for an example why not.
  • If anything goes wrong, your first port of call is to always bang the big, red Emergency Stop button. It's there for a reason, don't be afraid of using it. Even the resident laser cutter experts have to hit it every so often, because things happen. Don't let the machine self-destruct through your inaction.
  • Lasers are 100% awesome but are 110% dangerous. You are literally cutting, burning, melting and/or vaporising things with a beam of pure, concentrated photons. Treat the machine with the utmost respect at all times because if a serious accident happens that means at best potentially thousands of dollars of damage, and at worst you'll need a trip to the hospital.
  • Along those lines, while you can totally use it to make things that you play with, never “have a play” with the laser cutter. That's like “having a play” with a loaded machine gun. It's a bad idea, even saying it light-heartedly isn't cool. Don't be That Person. If you are caught disrespecting the machine, even verbally, your ability to use this machine will be temporarily revoked and you will be publicly Dinged for bad behaviour.
  • Try to avoid staring at the cutting point. We know it's pretty & oh-so-mesmerising to watch, but it's very bright & you'll end up with temporary spots in your vision.
  • Only cut approved materials that are known to be safe. If you disobey this rule, you will create toxic fumes potent enough to put you in hospital and/or you'll generate gaseous forms of very strong acids which will literally eat away & dissolve the machine's insides. No that's not a joke or an exaggeration. Don't risk it!
  • The nearest fire extinguisher is by the door to this room. If you use it then the machine will need to be taken out of service as it'll need a proper clean & realignment check by one of the Laser Supervisors; in this case please stop your job immediately, put a Borked or Broken ticket on the machine & post about it on the forums or Discord chat. In other words, don't use the fire extinguisher unless it's necessary, but if the situation calls for it don't hesitate for one second because a fire will spread very quickly inside the machine. Having to thoroughly clean & align a laser cutter is a pain but it's far better than having to replace a burnt-out shell of an ex laser cutter.

Material choices

There's many things you can use in the laser cutter but many things you cannot. Here's some examples of things that are and aren't suitable, but note that neither of these lists are complete. There are other lists you can find on the internet that may list more materials (but more worryingly many contain inaccuracies). As an example there's a large list by ATX Hackerspace, and another list with more specific individual material details by Pololu.

  • Acrylic/Plexiglass/Perspex
  • Most woods
  • MDF
  • Plywood (as long as the glue is laser cutter safe & doesn't contain metallic particles)
  • Paper/cardboard (watch it like a hawk for fires though)
  • Cork
  • Cloth/cotton/felt, aka natural fibre fabrics
  • Natural leather/suede/nubuck (NOT artificial leather). Can be cut if thin, or engraved at any thickness
  • Ceramic tile (engraving only)
  • Glass (engraving only; must be covered in painter's tape first)
  • Any metals of any thickness. Yes, even Aluminium foil. It won't cut any of them, this laser operates at the wrong wavelength, they reflect the beam back through the optics
  • Any material containing Chlorine. This creates gaseous Hydrochloric Acid which dissolves the machine's insides, along with phosgene which is highly toxic (as in, it was used as chemical warfare during WW1)
  • PVC
  • Vinyl
  • Artificial leather, pleather, moleskine etc
  • Polycarbonate/Lexan/Makrolon (melts & burns, smokes like crazy & gives a poor, discoloured edge)
  • Polystyrene, including common Polystyrene foam
  • Nylon (it melts & burns)
  • ABS (produces cyanide gas)
  • HDPE/milk bottle plastic
  • Epoxies such as those found in resins or glues
  • Fibreglass, including Carbon Fibre, unless you have an MSDS that states that specific fibre & resin combination are specifically suitable for laser cutting
  • Cutting printed circuit boards (FR4 and other material types)
  • PTFE/Teflon (produces gaseous Hydrofluoric Acid)
  • Food of any description
  • Body parts (I mean really)

This section is NOT a substitute for either having a Laser Supervisor around or being inducted, but a quick reminder on the individual steps involved for those who have already been inducted. Each one of these items could easily be expanded into a few paragraphs of specific do's and don'ts that are being glossed over. So don't read this and think that you now know how to use the laser cutter.

  • Make or load your design in Inkscape
  • Send the design to Visicut
  • Position/scale/rotate the design on the bed in Visicut
  • Tell Visicut the material & thickness you are using
  • Tell Visicut which parts of the design to cut/mark/engrave
  • Turn on the laser cutter & air compressor
  • Place material on bed & prep laser cutter for use
  • Tell Visicut to export the job to the laser cutter
  • Put money in the donation tin
  • Start the job on the laser cutter control panel
  • Do not leave the machine unattended, even for just a few seconds, until it has finished. Get someone else to watch it or pause your job if you need to go to the bathroom etc
  • Once your job's finished, properly clean the machine (skip this step & you'll be temporarily banned from using the laser cutter)
  • Take photos of the thing you just made & post them on the forums! We'd love to see what people create & we need more examples of the kind of stuff that's possible with this machine

Inkscape is a free, open-source, vector-based drawing application that we use with the laser cutter. It's available for Windows, Mac OS and most distributions of Linux. You can draw your design directly in Inkscape or load it from an existing SVG/AI/DXF/PDF/etc vector file that you've downloaded or created in other software. It's possible to trace a raster bitmap eg JPG/PNG/GIF/BMP/etc within Inkscape, but this often needs some manual fixing to get it right. We recommend you install Inkscape on your own computer and have your design tested & ready to go beforehand, so you don't take up too much time using the laser cutter's computer to fiddle with your design.

You can either draw the whole assembled design on a single sheet sized for material or the bed, or you can draw individual elements that you arrange later on. The second way is easier for simple jobs, because it means that you don't need to worry about the page size or the location of the design on the page at this point, but the first way gives you more control if you need to fine-tune your layout. If you have lots of fine detail cuts or engraves planned over the whole bed we recommend breaking your design up into 2 or 3 segments, just in case something goes wrong during your job.

If the design combines different types of laser operation (cutting, outline vector marking, raster engraving) then make sure you assign a different colour to each different operation. Note that Inkscape measures the size of shapes including the stroke width while Visicut measures the size of shape excluding the stroke width. This means for very fine works needing sub-millimetre precision, we recommend having no stroke and using fill colours to differentiate between operation types instead.

Once your design is ready, you can send it to Visicut using the Extensions→Lasercut Path menu item. You have two options - Send to Visicut or Add to Visicut. Selecting Send to Visicut will bed and load just that design on a new, empty bed. Selecting Add to Visicut will add the design to the elements already in Visicut; you can use this multiple times to build up a plate of multiple designs or design elements - say, a whole bunch of gears.

You can send only some objects or elements to Visicut by selecting just those objects when you press the menu item. This is handy if you want to cut just part of a design, or if you haven't already split up the cutting/engraving/rastering objects by colour. You can't separate objects in Visicut, so this is your last chance to differentiate between laser operation modes!

Visicut is a free, open-source laser cutter controller. Each time Add To Visicut is run from within Inkscape, it will create a new item on the build area on the left side of the Visicut window. You can move, scale, rotate or delete each item in this area, which corresponds to the cutting area of the laser cutter.

Note that Visicut is only used once your design is finished. It's not possible to edit an object or split them apart from here; to do that go back to Inkscape, make your edits and resend them back to Visicut.

On the right side of the Visicut window you need to select the material to cut and its thickness, which will load presets for laser power and speed. In the bottom right there's a tabbed window that lets you select which operation to perform on the selected item. This lets you select each vector path in your design for different operations, such as cutting or etching. Which operation is used is automatically decided based on the vector path colour, which is called “mapping”. Sometimes it's easier to colour the elements in Inkscape, send the entire design as one item, then set up a mapping to automatically decide the cutting/engraving/rastering for you, while sometimes it's easier to send the cut elements separately to the outline mark/raster engrave elements and configure them individually.

On another tab you can configure the laser speed and power for the cut/outline mark/raster engrave operations. These are specific to the selected material and thickness, and if you edit them you will update the material profile. Adding new materials or thicknesses is also easy. You shouldn't need to do this if it's a common material, but at this point we're still filling up the list of materials/thicknesses matched to powers/speeds.

Once the design is arranged on the bed properly, put your material on the laser cutter bed. The top-left corner of the design window is the same as the top-left corner of the laser cutter bed, which is also the laser's home position.

You can now close the lid and turn on the laser cutter. After a few seconds you can click the “Execute” button in the lower-right of the Visicut window, which will start the laser cutter and send the job.

Hardware Tips/Quirks

  • Be careful and slow when opening & closing the main lid. Don't let it bang either open or shut, as the vibrations can mess up the alignment of the optics.
  • Don't lean on the lid while observing your job. This over-compresses the sealing foam on the lid and means we have to replace it more often.
  • Don't ever manually jog the head past the e-stop microswitches. They are electronic stops only, they won't physically stop the head from colliding with the edges of the bed area.
  • The window on the opposite side of the green room catches a lot of wind. This is fantastic on a warm day and it's perfect for helping vent any fumes out of the room, but it means rain enters very easily too. And the wooden frame to this window has both water & termite damage. Close this window the moment it starts spitting with rain.
  • The exhaust system extracts the fumes out of the room, but depending on the wind's direction the fumes can blow back inside the nearest green room window. This doesn't happen often now that we have a stack venting it above our roof line, but if the wind's blowing the wrong way it can still happen. It's common courtesy to close that green room window if the wind is blowing the wrong way before you start cutting & stink out the entire green room.
  • If the temperature on the coolant circulator reads above 29°C then you can't use the laser cutter until it cools down. Note that because it only cools the water down to the ambient air temperature, yes this means that some days in summer when it's 33'C you just can't use the machine. This room has an air-conditioner to try and compensate for this, but because the extraction fan extracts out so much of the room's air this is only barely a solution and it can take nearly an hour to adequately pre-chill the room & coolant loop. Buying a proper chiller unit is on our wish list, if someone wants to donate or build us one that would be fab.

How To Know When Something's Wrong

Laser cutters like ours break down a lot. It's not a matter of “if”, or even a matter of “when”, but a matter of “how often”. When something goes wrong, you need to be ready to intervene as quickly as possible to minimise the damage. Making a list of all possible ways something could go wrong is basically impossible, so consider this section as a bunch of guidelines rather than hard rules.

Most problems with the laser cutter can be detected through noticing something changing. To make things easier, we'll allocate them into three groups - a change in sight, a change in sound, or a change in smell. For almost all of these you should stop your job ASAP (bang the big red E-stop if you don't have time to pause it) before the damage spreads. In extreme scenarios, you may need to grab the fire extinguisher or completely turn off the machine at the wall. In most cases you won't be able to fix the problem yourself, so you should put a “borked or broken” tag on the laser cutter & notify the laser Supervisors on Discord chat and the forums.

Change of Sight

  • This has been said before on this page but it's worth saying again: fire from the point where the machine is cutting is the biggest risk, particularly when cutting wood or materials with paper linings, but it can still potentially happen with other materials like acrylic too. This is the main reason why the laser cutter needs to be watched at ALL times while it's operating, because you need to be there to quickly extinguish the fire before it spreads. If you catch it straight away while it's small then normally you can just pause your job, blow it out, then resume cutting. If it's already too big to blow out, your next options are to either take the material outside if that's the only part currently alight or to go for the fire extinguisher by the door. This is the number one way that laser cutters are destroyed so don't be slow acting here. Cleaning fire extinguisher residue out of a laser cutter is a pain of a job but it's way less work than having to replace a few parts or even the whole machine. Tiny spark-like embers that are quickly thrown away from the cutting point & extinguish themselves after a centimeter or so are generally fine; this means the air assist is doing its job to remove the ablated material.
  • Sometimes the air assist partially dislodges cut pieces & leaves part of them sticking up high enough that a head collision could occur. If that happens, depending on your material it may either bend or snap the offending piece or (more likely) catch onto the rest of your material & move your entire sheet of material a little bit, ruining your job. Pause your job, fix the sticking-up piece, then resume.
  • You should be checking the temperature of the cooler both before starting and repeatedly during use of the laser cutter. If it goes above 29'C you need to stop your job as higher temperatures not only reduce the cutting power of the machine leading to incomplete cuts, but it also exponentially reduces the laser tube's operating life.
  • It should go without saying but seeing anything come loose inside the machine - wires, hoses, belts, screws, mounts, anything at all - calls for an instant stop so they can be reconnected, repaired and/or replaced.
  • The machine creates smoke from most materials as it cuts & engraves, from both from above and below the sheet material being cut, but smoke coming from anywhere else is a problem and needs immediate intervention. Depending on the source, be prepared to either unplug the entire machine and/or use the fire extinguisher.
  • It's not always obvious it's happening while a cut is still taking place, but not completely cutting through the material is a definite sign that something's wrong. Sometimes it's just the profile in VisiCut that's wrong (particularly for marking/engraving), sometimes it can be fixed by cleaning and/or recalibrating the optics, and sometimes it requires replacing parts. Continuing to use the machine in this state could mean a mirror that's only a little bit dirty & just needs a clean may shatter, requiring full replacement & recalibration.
  • When the laser is supposed to be firing, you can visibly see a faint white glow emanating from the middle of the glass laser tube through the viewing window in the machine's top rear right. If the machine stops cutting or engraving, check for this glow - if it's still glowing something is wrong with the optics and you need to stop your job ASAP, if it's not there something's wrong further up the chain.
  • Another potential cause for the laser not firing is the interlock LED on the front panel. This indicator LED is a little faint & only ever works when the machine is operating, but if you see it turned on then the laser has been disabled for safety reasons because the controller thinks one of the interlocked doors is open. Sometimes one of the microswitches is playing up & just needs depressing a few times, or sometimes a wire can come off somewhere (particularly the main lid interlock). Visually inspect the microswitches & use a multimeter to check their operation. If a wire has come off triple-check you're putting it back on the correct pin; getting this wrong could cause a huge safety issue.

Change of Sound

  • Our cooler purposefully sounds its alarm when it's first turning on to let you know that the alarm's sensors & associated circuitry all work, but if you hear this alarm at any other time there's something catastrophically wrong with the coolant system. The same can be said about any other buzzing or beeping sound you might hear too. Likely explanations are the coolant hoses have been pinched shut somewhere, a leak has introduced enough air into the coolant loop that it no longer flows, the coolant temperature is absurdly hot (the alarm's temperature setpoint is waaay higher than the point where it'll damage the laser tube), the cooling fans or pump motor are failing & drawing too much current, etc.
  • The extractor fan, which is always on while operating, may get blocked/jammed or its motor may die while in use. This usually would be detectable as change in pitch, a repetitive ticking or whacking sound, the extractor fan becoming noisier or quieter, or it might just outright die completely. This is a reasonably noisy fan so it should be pretty noticeable if something goes wrong here. Stop your job ASAP so the fumes don't coat the machine's entire innards.
  • The air assist is a quieter noise but still very important to this machine's correct functioning, so you need to listen more carefully for this one. While sometimes it will fail suddenly if one of the hoses comes off its connector or a hole forms in one of the hoses or something similar, it can also fail as just gradually getting quieter & quieter until you can't hear it at all. This would happen as the air pressure slowly drops because the air compressor outside has died.
  • Hearing the sound of anything cracking, popping, snapping, crunching, grinding, a thud of things colliding or anything else out of the ordinary is absolutely a cause for concern. This could be caused by something going wrong with the X/Y rail movement system, but it could be anything from a capacitor exploding to the laser tube fracturing. A very slight click from the homing microswitches when homing the X/Y axes is normal, everything else is a cause for concern.

Change of Smell

  • If you smell burning/melting electronics coming from the machine then bang the E-stop straight away & check the controller panel on the lower right side (it's kept unlocked in case of an emergency like this), plus any other areas where there's electronics. Don't panic, but do this as quickly as you reasonably can in case you need to put out any electrical fires. Depending on where the problem is, it may be necessary to turn off the entire laser cutter at the wall instead of just with the E-stop or swipe access system. The cause of the smell could be tricky to isolate as the 3D printers are also in the same room and they could be the culprit instead, but whatever the cause you need to find it as quickly as you can & turn that machine off.
  • If you smell the machine's exhaust fumes while cutting, the extractor fan may have broken, become blocked or one of the hoses may have come off (either indoors or in the exterior box). Or maybe you didn't wait long enough after your job finished and you opened the lid too quickly. Most of the fumes produced while laser cutting are toxic and/or carcinogenic, so smelling them isn't good and should be avoided.

Maintenance tasks

This machine is very delicate - it's probably the most delicate piece of equipment we own. It also requires a lot of upkeep to keep it running properly. That's where you come in, eager hacker who wants to laser cut some stuff!

  • When your job is finished, small off-cut pieces, aka “swarf”, will have likely fallen below the machine. Open the lower access doors and clean out any swarf that fell below by picking up the pieces, sweeping them up or wiping them up (your choice). These doors are opened by clicking the lever open then pushing the door inwards so the latch falls open - this way the doors won't fall open on you. Do not let the door bang open when you do this as vibrations can upset the machine's calibration. You can open the rear door if you need better access to clean up the rear of the machine.
  • After every job, it's very important to clean the machine of leftover residue to minimise the amount of material that gets deposited on the optics. There are special wipes in a sealed container underneath the machine. Don't be tempted to use these wipes for any purpose at the Hackerspace other than for the laser cutter - they are VERY specially picked wipes to leave no residue behind inside the machine. Use two or three of these to wipe down every easily accessible surface in the machine except the optics. This includes all the metal slats (even if you only cut over a small portion of them), inside the lid, the inside side walls of the machine, the inside rear wall, the entire area underneath the slats, the X & Y gantry rails, etc. Brush clean the extraction grill on the left if it needs it - there's a toothbrush on the tools shelf in this room.
  • To minimise dust in this room, this room needs to be vacuumed with a decent vacuum cleaner at least monthly. All flat surfaces (eg tables) must be wiped down regularly too.
  • Check the water trap on the regulator at the back left corner of the machine. If there is any water in it, hold a cup underneath it and lift the stopcock on the bottom to drain it.
  • Check the air lines for moisture/oil build-up. The easiest way to do this is to remove the air line from the rear left of the machine and use a screwdriver to temporarily depress the flap inside the nozzle while holding the air line as close to the floor as you can. This minimises the build-up of moisture & oil on the lens.
  • The compressor outside has an automatic drain valve on it, but it needs to be checked every few months to make sure it's working. To do this, carefully loosen the drain plug on the bottom of the compressor barrel using a shifting spanner. It doesn't need to be completely undone, just enough to let some of the contents escape. Be prepared for dirty water to be blown out under pressure. Once the water is gone, tighten the drain plug again.

This list is primarily here to remind you that if you haven't been specifically shown how to perform the below actions and you don't have the specialised equipment on hand to perform them, you should NOT attempt them. If you think one of these things needs doing, post about it on the forums or mention it on Discord chat.

  • Cleaning the optics (the mirrors and lenses) - this includes wiping, blowing on them, breathing on them, or anything else that either directly or indirectly touches them. A single piece of dust in the wrong place could shatter them. For realsies - don't touch them unless you have been trained and you have the black plastic briefcase containing the necessary equipment.
  • Adjusting any of the adjustment screws to calibrate the laser beam's alignment
  • Replacing the liquid coolant or bleeding the coolant system
  • Changing any of the underlying software settings on the Smoothieboard or in Visicut. This includes changing/adding material settings in Visicut - while our library of suitable settings could always do with expanding and we would love some help here, this should be done only in consultation with a Laser Supervisor. Both because we need to track any changes/improvements and so we can make sure you're actually getting the right numbers.

Resources

Showcase of Awesome

For a few pics of out stuff, please goto the next page: Laser Pics Page! (as embedding the images on this page directly broke it )