Wanted:Laser Cutter

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This is a wish list page - we don't have this tool yet! We do have a limited-time loan until early 2019 though :-)

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.



MachineInfoBox

Epilog Zing 16

Epilog Zing.JPG
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
Manual: EpilogLaser.com (EN)
Tutors: Lukas, Patrick

The laser cutter will only be operated by members who have received a detailed introduction!

Safety Concerns

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.

Location Requirements

  • 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

Rules

  • 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!

Forbidden Materials

  • 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
    • neoprene
  • 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].

  • wood
    • plywood
    • particle board/chip board
    • MDF and HDF are also allowed but will make frequent lens cleaning necessary due to their high glue content
  • 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
  • leather, but no artificial leathers that contain chlorine!
  • paper
  • colored card
    • discoloration when "engraving", looks nice
  • cardboard
  • rubber (special kind for stamps)
  • foam
  • fabric

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)

Cost

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.

Machine Control

Software

The Bachelor thesis on VisiCut gives a great overview on available software, we suggest using VisiCut itself but others may also work.


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

Other Options

Control Pad/Manual Control

Detailed information on the different control pad functions can be found in the manual (pages 53ff).

Homing

The machine will home in a back corner every time it is turned on. It can also be re-homed while in the 'UnlockXY' mode Epilog Zing Menu UnlockXY.jpg by pressing the back button Epilog Zing Menu Back.jpg

Setting Zero Coordinate on the Workpiece

For setting the zero position it is good practice to turn on the pilot laser Epilog Zing Menu Pointer.jpg to see where the laser would cut. Afterwards disable the stepper motors by pressing (X/Y unlock [8]) Epilog Zing Menu UnlockXY.jpg – 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) Epilog Zing Menu Start.jpg. 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 Epilog Zing Menu Stop.jpg.

Focusing

Focus set on surface of the workpiece

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 [5]) Epilog Zing Menu Focus.jpg (or (X/Y unlock [8]) Epilog Zing Menu UnlockXY.jpg) – now the (Up) Epilog Zing Menu Up.jpg and (Down) Epilog Zing Menu Down.jpg 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) Epilog Zing Menu Up.jpg and (Down) Epilog Zing Menu Down.jpg 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

Speed and power settings for raster jobs can be changed, even during a job, by pressing (Speed [1]) Epilog Zing Menu Speed.jpg or (Power [2]) Epilog Zing Menu Power.jpg.

Maintenance

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.

partially cleaned lens (from below)

Lens

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!

"Primary" Mirror

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).

Changing Filters

(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.

Useful Links

Downloadable Designs

Tutorials

Inspiration

Laser Cutting Services

You could also order laser cut parts online:

Metal Cutting

Not many laser cutters can cut metal. You could use a CNC mill instead, or try one of these services: