How to use the Laser Cutter

Hey so I chatted to @crofty and @riumplus last night about using the cutter, we had a chat about inductions and what not.

Being the annoyingly persisant type, what can I do, to show that I am capable of using the cutter? I dont mind having my hand holded until I can drive. Surely it would be easier for your guys to show me how to use it properaly once than holding my hand the whole time?


If it helps my experience went something like this:
1 - first time, get shown how its done as a spectator
2 - second time. get supervised through, as operator.
3 - third time, unsupervised, get told off later for not cleaning it well enough.
4 - no problems.


I should have probably made it more clear, that I have been denied access to the laser cutter without some one there, which might as well have no access at all.

I was too. the first few times at least you’ll need to be supervised, that’s how it works. once you can show you aren’t a liability, that may change.

I’d reword that, you specifically have not denied access to the laser cutter without someone there.

The space’s laser cutter isn’t a production level machine and we’ve had failures in it that are hard to predict. At this point in time until we can make it as straightforward and error free as possible you will need one of the four people who have the hard learned experience of those failures in mind to be on site to make sure it’s good to go.

This is something we’re definitely looking to change in future, but right now this is the safest and sanest option we’ve got for allowing people access to this machine. I certainly don’t think it’s unreasonable to contact one of those four people to see if you can work out a time to use it.

Edit: Out of curiosity, have you read the wiki page? It’s chock full of information that will make the supervisor’s life easier when you do get to use it.

It’s also probably worth reading the Laser Cutter 2.0 post to get a feel for the issues we’ve had to resolve and why it’s so controlled at the moment - Laser Cutter 2.0 - safer, better, faster, stronger

1 Like

To be honest Buzz shouldn’t be using it unsupervised either.

It has nothing to do with being “trusted”. It has everything to do with the machine being fragile. Mike, Aaron, Nog and myself are the people who have put in hundreds of hours of time to maintain it and will have to fix any new issues.

If you’re using it with our blessing and it breaks, it’s no big deal - we can sort it out. If you use it when we’re not around and it breaks (and it will) then damn you, you’ve cost us time and money because you’re too entitled to respect our wishes when we’re the ones putting in the hard work to make it available at all.


Additionally, the required steps change with zero warning. We’ve just had the main compressor die, and the temporary replacement needs to be manually managed. It’s not easy to keep all four of us maintainers across everything, and it’s impossible that you as a user is going to know that switch X now needs to be turned on before use or the machine will catch fire.

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? :stuck_out_tongue: )

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! :slight_smile: 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. :slight_smile:


Ill have a chat next time @riumplus, Id love to help make it more reliable, my last profession was making broken things work! Those problems aren’t that scary compaired to finding a wonky signal on a twisted pair, out of 20 LANs, in a 12 story building with no wiring diagrams, between 200 controllers and people yelling at you to fix it :stuck_out_tongue:

Im not just saying, ‘just let me use it’, I want to learn how the machine works and go from their, I have confidence in my tech-fu (not arrogance) and a willingness to learn how stuff work. I understand how much work has gone into it.