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tools:lasercutter [2019/05/29 07:29]
riumplus latest status, materials costs
tools:lasercutter [2019/06/06 03:59] (current)
riumplus date bump, formatting fixes
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 </​WRAP>​ </​WRAP>​
  
-=== State of Operation (2019-05-28): ===+=== State of Operation (2019-06-04): ===
 Operational,​ but with a few caveats. We don't have a complete library of cutting/​marking/​engraving settings after the machine'​s recent power-increasing upgrades, so please understand that there'​s a good chance we'll have to spend some time trying to work out the right settings for your job first (including if it's the same material but in a different thickness, or cut vs mark vs engrave). Some of the Smoothieboard settings still haven'​t been dialled in perfectly for the new tube either, like the tickle power or even the laser'​s raw output power. Also keep in mind that not only will this be time-consuming for the Supervisors (who are volunteers who get nothing for volunteering their time), but because we're still optimising the internal settings then even if we worked them out for you one week we may need to work them out from scratch again only a week later if something else has changed. 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 [[https://​discord.gg/​avtkH5t|Discord chat]] or [[https://​forum.hsbne.org/​c/​cause-effect/​digital-fabrication|the forums]]. If you'd like to help improve & maintain this machine, talk to either one of the Laser Supervisors or the Digifab cause leader. Operational,​ but with a few caveats. We don't have a complete library of cutting/​marking/​engraving settings after the machine'​s recent power-increasing upgrades, so please understand that there'​s a good chance we'll have to spend some time trying to work out the right settings for your job first (including if it's the same material but in a different thickness, or cut vs mark vs engrave). Some of the Smoothieboard settings still haven'​t been dialled in perfectly for the new tube either, like the tickle power or even the laser'​s raw output power. Also keep in mind that not only will this be time-consuming for the Supervisors (who are volunteers who get nothing for volunteering their time), but because we're still optimising the internal settings then even if we worked them out for you one week we may need to work them out from scratch again only a week later if something else has changed. 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 [[https://​discord.gg/​avtkH5t|Discord chat]] or [[https://​forum.hsbne.org/​c/​cause-effect/​digital-fabrication|the forums]]. If you'd like to help improve & maintain this machine, talk to either one of the Laser Supervisors or the Digifab cause leader.
  
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 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/model 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. 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/model 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 [[https://​discord.gg/​avtkH5t|Discord chat]], or the forums in the [[https://​forum.hsbne.org/​c/​cause-effect/​digital-fabrication|Digifab section]]. 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 leaves & does whatever they were doing before, then when your job is finished the Supervisor will return to 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, so 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.+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 [[https://​discord.gg/​avtkH5t|Discord chat]], or the forums in the [[https://​forum.hsbne.org/​c/​cause-effect/​digital-fabrication|Digifab section]]. 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 ​to make sure nothing goes wrong (see [[https://​wiki.hsbne.org/​tools/​lasercutter#​how_to_know_when_something_s_wrong|How To Know When Something'​s Wrong]]) ​while the Laser Supervisor leaves & does whatever they were doing before, then when your job is finished the Supervisor will return to 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, so 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.
  
 Note that we ask for a donation to be made to Digifab when using the laser cutter 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. The suggested donation for using the laser cutter is currently $12/hour, or $1 every 5 minutes, plus extra if you use the honeycomb bed. Note that this is only just covers estimated running costs, so please don't skip the donation & higher amounts are definitely appreciated. We recommend bringing your own materials as our stockpile will always be small, limited & pretty random in what we have on offer, and there'​s a good chance we won't have what you want. A few local suppliers are [[https://​www.acrylicsonline.com.au/​|Global Acrylics]], [[https://​www.australiansheettraders.com.au/​|Australian Sheet Traders]], or even [[https://​www.bunnings.com.au/​|Bunnings]]. Suggested donations for using our materials are on posters in Digifab or, for some more exotic materials, directly on them. Acrylic is $18/kg for good condition or $12/kg for scratched or damaged, sheet plastics are $30/kg for good condition or $24 for scratched or damaged, and cardboard is $10/kg. Note that unless you square up the remaining material, you're buying the whole piece. Scales have been ordered and are on their way, but for reference a 600mm*300mm*4.5mm sheet of acrylic is almost exactly 1kg. Note that we ask for a donation to be made to Digifab when using the laser cutter 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. The suggested donation for using the laser cutter is currently $12/hour, or $1 every 5 minutes, plus extra if you use the honeycomb bed. Note that this is only just covers estimated running costs, so please don't skip the donation & higher amounts are definitely appreciated. We recommend bringing your own materials as our stockpile will always be small, limited & pretty random in what we have on offer, and there'​s a good chance we won't have what you want. A few local suppliers are [[https://​www.acrylicsonline.com.au/​|Global Acrylics]], [[https://​www.australiansheettraders.com.au/​|Australian Sheet Traders]], or even [[https://​www.bunnings.com.au/​|Bunnings]]. Suggested donations for using our materials are on posters in Digifab or, for some more exotic materials, directly on them. Acrylic is $18/kg for good condition or $12/kg for scratched or damaged, sheet plastics are $30/kg for good condition or $24 for scratched or damaged, and cardboard is $10/kg. Note that unless you square up the remaining material, you're buying the whole piece. Scales have been ordered and are on their way, but for reference a 600mm*300mm*4.5mm sheet of acrylic is almost exactly 1kg.
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 ==== Change of Sight ==== ==== 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 centimetre or so are generally fine; this means the air assist is doing its job to remove the ablated material.+  * This has been said before on this page but it's worth saying again: fire from the point where the machine is currently ​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 centimetre 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.   * 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.   * 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.   * 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.   * 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. +  * 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 completely ​shatter, requiring full replacement & recalibration, so don't ignore this issue
-  * 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 ASAPif it's not there something'​s wrong further up the chain.+  * 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 before more things break; ​if it's not glowing then 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.   * 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 ==== ==== 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 set point 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.   * 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 set point 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 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.   * 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.   * 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.