I’m trying hard not to be negative here or limit anyone’s creative potential (so full apologies if it comes across like that), but just to add my thoughts to this as well - this machine is really, really a lot more temperamental than most members think. Small things break on this machine either weekly or at most fortnightly. We don’t report on most of the small things in the main laser cutter thread and we don’t bother telling the people whom we set up cuts for because it’s not really relevant knowledge for them. It’s slowly becoming more reliable, but its current state is very far from turn-key. Knowing how to use a laser cutter isn’t sufficient knowledge to operate this machine unsupervised, you basically have to know how to build a laser cutter from scratch to be able to keep it running and make sure our laser cutter doesn’t destroy itself.
To give you an example, here’s a list of all the things that have broken on it just this month:
-Cutting power dropping by 30%
-moisture in the air assist line
-filled moisture trap
-excess moisture buildup inside the air assist compressor
-more than one leak in the air assist line (that we still haven’t found)
-oil on the focusing lens
-dust on the secondary mirror
-vapour buildup on the primary mirror
-the air assist compressor dying
-the solenoid to the air assist playing up
-low demineralised water level in our cooler
-wires coming off one of the interlocks, preventing operation
-clogged air extraction grill
-faulty USB extension cables
-the main computer that controls the laser cutter refusing to boot
Add in the fact that the few people we have been letting use it while supervised haven’t been cleaning it properly which permanently damaged the optics & we’ll now have to pay to replace them sooner than we expected/budgeted, and you can see how this machine really isn’t ready for unsupervised use. Plus it frequently breaks in a way that needs more than one of the laser cutter experts to solve it - even amongst us, sometimes some problems need more than one brain to work out how to best fix it.
Did I also mention that because of all these quirks and things breaking/being repaired/upgraded all the time, the process to use this machine changes weekly? As in, if you followed last week’s workflow to using the laser cutter this week, it’s almost guaranteed that you would’ve set fire to the laser cutter and potentially destroyed the entire machine. No that’s not hyperbole, the workflow process really does change that much, that often.
(also, random fact - when you spoke to us Jace, we were literally in the middle of trying to get the laser cutter working optimally again so we could do some cuts for people because it wasn’t quite right… And it had already had one error that was fixed once before that happened… And it broke later that night in a different way and needed fixing yet again. Yeah. Unreliable much? )
Additionally, we don’t even have the induction material written for this machine yet. This machine is one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment we have, and safety of our members is paramount. Without induction materials, the only way we have to make sure someone won’t seriously hurt themselves with this machine is to RPL people, which takes a heck of a lot of time and is very far from ideal. But to be honest, even if we had the induction materials written right now, at this point until the reliability of the machine increases between tenfold and a hundredfold, those who are inducted would still only be able to use the machine while one of the laser supervisors are on site to supervise the process.
There’s four people who can supervise others with the laser cutter, and between us, we’re at the space pretty regularly - I’m not talking only Tuesday nights, I’m talking other times during the week & on weekends, so there’s plenty of times when we can set up a job for members & supervise things.
Having said all that, we would totally love some more help with this machine! There’s a list of the half-dozen most important tasks we’re trying to tackle right now on the HSBNE Trello, and plenty more tasks that need doing that we just haven’t put up there yet if none of those ones take your fancy.