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Our current laser cutter is a 60W CO2 laser - blue and beige (Liaocheng Shenhui SH-G460) AKA "Baby Blue".
It is able to cut through paper, thin balsa wood, certain plastics and other materials, as well as engrave on stone and glass.
The user interface consists of:
- RDWorks, which can load vector images (for cutting and engraving) or bitmaps (for engraving), manipulate them, and operate the laser cutter. It is also possible to create simple shapes and drawings within RDWorks itself.
- For cutting, RDWorks supports importing AutoCAD .dxf format, CorelDraw .cdr format, and Adobe Illustrator .ai format.
- For engraving, RDWorks supports most common image file formats, as well as the vector formats listed above.
Manuals & Documents
- Zero to Maker Series - Intro to Laser Cutter video on Youtube, created in June 2016.
- [PPT Introduction to Laser Cutter at TVCOG] - Presentation from workshop on using the laser cutter at the makerspace.
- These slides is somewhat older than the "Intro to Laser Cutter" video above, and the slides do not list all current equipment.
A hard copy of the laser operations guide along with suggested settings for different materials is also available in the white binder next to the machine. The operations manual is also available online here: Laser_Cutter_Operations
YELLOW - Please do not leave this device unattended. It starts fires when lonely.
- The power and speed settings for the laser cutter are VERY important. If the power is too high and/or the speed too low for certain materials, it will start a FIRE.
- When in doubt, start with a low-power, high-speed setting and work your way to the appropriate power level and speed for your task and material.
- The laser focus is also important; if it is not focused, there is more material to catch fire. Start near the head, then adjust the bed downward until the L-shaped guide fits between the head and the material.
- Do NOT use PVC in the laser cutter, the fumes given off by PVC are extremely toxic and not good for the environment, even when vented properly.
- Do NOT use Kevlar in the laser cutter, it releases cyanide gas which is extremely toxic.
- Check the materials cutting notes above for safety, and you can also look at ATX Makerspace Materials Notes
- Always operate the cutter with the lid closed. This protects you from the laser, vents fumes, and keeps anything away from the moving head.
- Never use the laser cutter if the air jet or fan are not running, or the exhaust is blocked.
- 60W, 400 x 600mm - Baby Blue: Operational
Rabbit Laser has this great [Guide] for recomended settings for the laser cutter. Use the 60 watt row for the setting. Please keep in mind that these are suggestions and laser power can vary based on the age of the tube, alignment of the mirror etc. It is always recomended to do a test cut and tweak your settings as needed.
- How do I stop the cutting / engraving process?
- There is a stop button on the main window (not the toolbar) that stops the laser cutter, but it is not an immediate stop because there is a slight buffer of move and cut commands in the controller. If you need an absolute immediate stop RIGHT NOW, turn off the laser cutter, or for Big Red, use the emergency stop button.
- What is that alarm when I start Baby Blue'
- When you first turn on Baby Blue it takes a moment for the chiller to begin cycling water. It is normal for an alarm to sound while this occurs. If the alarm sounds while performing laser operations please stop your operation immediately.
- Problem: I resized something in RDWorks, and now it's huge!
- Solution: Deselect and re-select the object, then attempt the resize again. This often happens the first time you resize.
- Problem: On Baby Blue the laser is not on and there's no fan.
- Solution: Check that the Emergency Stop button is not pressed in. If it is, twist following the arrows on the button to release it.
- Problem: On Baby Blue - fan is on and the head is moving, but it's not cutting!
- Solution: Check that the laser switch middle switch is on and lit. If it will not go on, check the Laser Emergency Stop Button
- Instructables laser projects - Great step by step laser cutting/engraving projects
- Boxes.py web interface Best box generator yet. Includes live joint boxes
- Box Maker - Jorel found this web site for designing press-fit boxes that can be cut out by the laser cutter. Under advanced options, select 0.004" for the width of the laser cut to get a snug fit.
- Maker Case - An alternative box pattern maker with additional joint types and preview window.
- Thingiverse - All kinds of 3D printing and laser-cut models for digital fabrication. Just append "laser cut" to your search and you'll find the appropriate models.
Tips and Tricks
- Try to avoid overlapping lines in your vector drawings. Separate as needed.
- For large sheets, test your power/speed settings at all four extreme corners. The platform on Baby Blue at least is *slightly* off square.
- To avoid smoke stains on wood products or similar, consider covering areas to be cut with tape.