Laser Cutter: 2019 edition

It’s been a while since we put some laser cutter updates on the forums. Mostly they’ve just been mentioned in Discord as they happen, with the occasional update to the Wiki page. Lots of things have changed since our last forum post update - new laser tube, new laser power supply, new lens, new mirrors, a coolant flush, and a whole lot more other stuff I know I’m forgetting. The end result of all this is that the machine is now more powerful than a year ago but it’s still just as temperamental & finicky as it’s always been. All our old cutting/marking/engraving profiles are now all incorrect, and every time we need to cut something new (including every new thickness of an existing material) we have to spend some time working out the appropriate settings all over again.

At any rate, here’s yet another attempt to document the continuous work that goes on with this machine! I’ve installed some rubber edging on the bottom of the bed to prevent bits falling down the crack between the bottom area and the wall, because removing the bottom cover to access a part that fell down the crack is a complete pain that I don’t want to do any more. It’s worth mentioning that this strip is attached to the bottom bed and only resting against the side wall - this is to make it easier to deal with when the bottom cover is removed and reinstalled. However, it also means that it can get pinched if you push down on the bottom of the bed since the bottom of the bed can flex a little. As such, this is a notice that you shouldn’t push down on the bottom of the bed when wiping it clean, and if you do happen to do so please flip the rubber strip back up to the correct position (anything thin will do - ruler, pen, screwdriver, even your fingers if you’ve got small hands, etc).

(Time for a little “No More Gaps” - rubber strip style!)

The laser cutter computer died on me today. By which I mean after a bunch of blue-screens, it stopped booting even as far as the BIOS. Soo with necessity calling, it was finally time to move us over to the new computer. Everything seems to be correctly set up and migrated over, but it’s using the latest versions of Visicut etc compared to our old computer’s versions from 2016 - things are functionally the same workflow but it looks a little different in a few places. I think I’ve got everything set up, but just watch for any weirdness (I think Inkscape might need reinstalling). Also, using the computer is a lot faster too - this system has a faster CPU with more cores, more RAM and it’s all running off a SSD so everything in general is quite a bit more speedy. If you need something from the old computer, to save you some time there’s a folder on the desktop where I copied over some of the old computer’s contents like the User folders, so it’s probably in there.

Speaking of speed, I finally had the time to run some test cuts for 2.0mm and 4.5mm acrylic and optimise them for the new laser tube/power supply/optics. Good news - 4.5mm acrylic now cuts twice as fast as before, and 2.0mm acrylic now cuts 2.5 times faster than before. 40-minute jobs now get done in around 15 minutes, woo! None of the other thicknesses have been touched because I didn’t have those thicknesses on me to test with, but this is a reminder that most of our profiles still haven’t been adapted yet. It only takes 5-10 minutes to do a set of power tests so if it’s an unmodified profile & your job is a large one that’s going to take half an hour or more, doing the tests won’t just help others in the future but may end up saving you time overall.

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I spent Tuesday evening this week using our scales to add price tags to 5 of the 7 shelves of materials in Digifab. This should hopefully give people a better indication of suggested donation amounts, and also encourage people to use smaller pieces when possible instead of cutting a tiny thing out of the corner of a fresh large sheet. Amounts vary from $0.50 for small thin scraps to $36 for large thick pristine sheets. Pricing is as per the posters in the room and is done by by weight & condition, which was agreed upon via open discussion and is based on the prices at Reverse Garbage (which, needless to say, is still cheaper than the likes of Bunnings etc). We still recommend you bring your own material if you need something specific because you can’t ever be sure of what we’ll have in stock at any point in time & most of it’s scrap/reclaimed. And keep in mind that if you don’t square up any remainder ready for the next person (with each side >10cm; no tiny bits please), then you’re buying the whole sheet.

Some example prices:

Large thick scrap, $21.60

Medium thick scrap, $9.50

Small thin scrap, $2.50