Lasers are awesome! As soon as we can afford it, a big CO2 laser cutter (40-100 W) would be a great addition to our machine selection.
Epilog Zing 16
|Synonyms:||DE: Laserschneider, "Lasercutter"|
|Material:||wood, glass, acrylic glass, ...|
(list of cuttable & engravable materials;
list of only engravable materials)
|Used with:||laser exhaust system|
|Location:||CNC room (move out during CNC routing!)|
|Access:||upon personal introduction|
|Status:||available for a limited time (early 2019)|
|Software:||VisiCut, Epilog printer driver, Corel Draw,|
any Windows software that can print
The laser cutter will only be operated by members who have received a detailed introduction!
- 1 Safety Concerns
- 2 Rules
- 3 Machine Control
- 4 Maintenance
- 5 Useful Links
A laser cutter is a delicate and dangerous piece of equipment and should only run under direct supervision of a qualified user. The machine needs to be supervised even more than the 3D printers, with the operator standing by during the entire duration of a cutting job and being in close vicinity during engraving jobs.
Although the laser beam itself should be certified laser class 1 due to the massive housing and other safety features, the fumes generated when cutting various materials can be harmful to human health (see forbidden materials). A good exhaust filtering system can take care of fumes from the allowed materials but only an outside vent will really remove the smoky smell.
- no dust (roll it out into the common room when the CNC router is going to be used!)
- 15 °C ≤ room temperature ≤ 30 °C
- CO2 fire extinguisher in the area
- supervise the entire job when cutting
- a fire can only be stopped quick enough if you open the lid immediately!
- stay in close vicinity for the entire job when engraving
- abort if you see, hear or smell anything out of the ordinary!
- materials that contain chlorine (Cl) - it's unhealthy and also destroys the machine
- e.g. PVC ("vinyl", found in most soft plastics and records)
- artificial leather
- materials that contain fluorine (F) - it can kill you and also destroys the machine
- e.g. PTFE ("Teflon") - very very unhealthy!
→ with some materials it is not clear whether it contains Cl or F. If you are not sure, don't cut or engrave it. If you notice any unusal coloration of the smoke or flame, stop the job immediately!
Possible Materials (Cutting/Engraving)
Check the material settings database to see if and how something has been cut before and please add your experience as well.
In addition, you can check the official list from [Epilog].
- acrylic glass/Plexiglass (→ not the cheap polystyrene/Bastlerglas from hardware stores, it welds itself shut after being cut)
- cast acrylic (GS/gegossen) - "chemically better"
- very suitable for engraving because the colour changes into a milky version of the original
- extruded acrylic (XT/extrudiert) - better thickness accuracy
- very suitable for cutting
- very suitable for parts that should fit together tightly
- not as suitable for engraving because there is no colour difference
- 3D engravable, though - the grooves can be filled with paint for a nice effect
- cast acrylic (GS/gegossen) - "chemically better"
- leather, but no artificial leathers that contain chlorine!
- colored card
- discoloration when "engraving", looks nice
- rubber (special kind for stamps)
When cutting wood or acrylic glass, a small flame may be observed at the focal point but is not necessarily a bad thing. However, if it burns too much or is still on when the laser beam is already somewhere else, immediately open the cover. Because the laser automatically shuts down, the fire should go out.
Possible Materials (Engraving Only)
- including mirrors (front or back!)
The tube and filters need to be replaced from time to time.
The owners of the loaned Zing are asking for 50 ct per minute so the wear on the machine is taken care of.
When accessing the laser, please note it currently uses 192.168.1.20 as its IP-Adress. You may have to enter this in the software, e.g. under "Hostname" in the laser cutter profile in VisiCut.
Confirmed to Work
- VisiCut (preferred) provides an Inkscape and Illustrator extension to directly import from these programs
- the official Epilog printer driver for Windows can cut with Corel Draw and Adobe Illustrator, but not with Inkscape
- raster engraving is possible with almost any Windows program that is capable to print
Control Pad/Manual Control
Detailed information on the different control pad functions can be found in the manual (pages 53ff).
Setting Zero Coordinate on the Workpiece
For setting the zero position it is good practice to turn on the pilot laser to see where the laser would cut. Afterwards disable the stepper motors by pressing (X/Y unlock ) – now the mirror head can moved freely. Be aware to only apply light force on the metal parts, and do not touch the lens or mirror. Set the laser to the new zero position and press (Go) . The stepper motors are now reengaged so do not try to move the head again.
In case the you want to cancel the XY positioning, it can be stopped by pressing the pause/stop .
The laser cutter has a fixed focus from the head. In order to change the cutting point you have to move the workpiece by raising or lowering the Z-axis platform. Press (Focus ) (or (X/Y unlock ) ) – now the (Up) and (Down) arrow buttons move the platform. The right distance to your cutting object can be measured with the focus gauge (spring which is usually kept folded up on the X axis by a magnet). Flip it down and move it over your workpiece, then raise the platform until the tip just touches down. Now the focus is directly on the surface of you object.
Note that for cutting, the focal point should ideally be within the workpiece! You can manually raise the platform a bit further after storing the focus gauge in its folded position again. Before you do that, it is a good idea to "zero" the determined workpiece surface level by pressing (Up) and (Down) simultaneously.
Make sure that nothing sticks up far enough to touch any moving machine parts! Your workpiece should have a level surface or you are limited to only working on the high points.
Changing Job Settings
Cleaning the Optics
The optics (two mirrors, the lens and the laser window) are cleaned with special optics cleaner or isopropanol or laboratory-grade acetone (NEVER ANYTHING ELSE!) every 2-3 operating days, using Q-tips in a rolling motion.
The lens is the last optical device in front of the object you are cutting and therefore it usually gets the dirtiest. Clean the lens with nothing but isopropanol and Q-tips by rolling the tip, NOT wiping. If the lens is quite dirty it usually takes 3-4 tips to clean it.
If you are not able to reach it well with a Q-tip, carefully screw it off and return it to its position after cleaning. Be aware that the thread is made of aluminum and should not be overtightened!
This mirror is just above the lens and will require an equal amount of cleaning compared to the lens. The process is similar to the lens.
"Secondary" Mirror & Laser Window
Every now and then, the mirror(s) on the left side of the Y axis might need to be cleaned using the same technique.
Cleaning the Rails
The rails the Y axis moves on (left and right side of the machine) should only be wiped with a dry lint-free cloth (or a bit of isopropanol/window cleaner).
Cleaning the Cutting Table
Until we have some experience ourselves, we'll stick with the RZL's procedure for cleaning the interior and the honeycomb table (wet wipes & oven cleaner not purchased yet).
(main article: "Laser Exhaust System")
Laser Tube Replacement
The laser source itself will hopefully last 5 years before too much gas has diffused out of it and a noticable drop in power will occur. Tube replacement will be very expensive and will require careful calibration.
- Epilog Laser Sample Club
- "Kiteman" on instructables
- Makercase Box Generator
- free section at Cartonus
- photo engraving on wood by Epilog
- Etsy pages like this one
- Emblaser on Instagram
- "kirigami" pop up cards
- overview of sample applications from trotec
- Japanese Secret Box (in case you've got a few weeks time for designing)
- Glowforge (scroll down)
Laser Cutting Services
You could also order laser cut parts online:
- Formulor for acrylics, soft wood and paper
- China Laser Cutting Service offers low cost cutting service of acrylics and other materials
Not many laser cutters can cut metal. You could use a CNC mill instead, or try one of these services: