Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

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msimpson
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Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by msimpson » Tue Mar 31, 2020 10:46 pm

I am starting to look at adding a low power laser to the KRMx02 or CNCCS.

I want to have both a pen holder and the laser connected to the QuickChange Z plate. The pen will be placed into position with a a solenoid or servo when it needs to write. I want to make a template maker. IE the pen will place labels each template and the laser will cut it out and make cuts for lining up the holes.

The current system I have for making cutout templates in cover stock is to first run them through my large format printer, then place them in my Epilog laser.

There are a couple things I don't like about this system.
1. It is a lot of work create a batch of templates.
2. It is a lot of work to even create the templates which makes it not worth doing one off templates for my various other projects.
3. Running a CO2 laser is expensive. The tubes are consumables and the last one cost me over $2000 to replace.

I am pretty sure a 5.5W laser should be able to cut through the cover stock I am using. In any case it may be a fun project.

I welcome any thoughts.

mbonadio
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Re: Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by mbonadio » Thu Apr 02, 2020 12:40 pm

I definitely be interested in experimenting with it, I've always wanted to build a 100w CO2 laser but can't justify the costs, and I'm working on a project now that I need to cut out some stencils and a laser would work out well. I was thinking of adding doing a laser upgrade to my Makergear M2, https://jtechphotonics.com/ has an upgrade package to enable it.

Which Laser kit are you looking at?

Cheers
Michael

msimpson
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Re: Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by msimpson » Thu Apr 02, 2020 10:24 pm

CO2 lasers require almost as much infrastructure as the CNC plasma. You need a downdraft air evacuation system if you are going to do any serious cutting or engraving. You also need an air assist to keep things from catching on fire as well as a bunch of other safety features.

After starting much research I have found that most companies selling the small laser modules rate them based on input power required, not the output power. IE a 20 Watt laser is what the laser requires to run. Its output is more like 5.5W. There are some more advanced modules being made that are using multiple laser LEDs converging on the same point to get more output power.

Also because of the 450nm output range, they don't do very well with cutting or engraving clear or white acrylic, but do a real good job with black or dark colored acrylic.

I am still shopping around for the laser that I will purchase. I will probably start with one of those little kits so I can play with it before I attach it to one of my machines.

This Ortur laser kit is probably going to be the one I start with.
https://amzn.to/2V0PpaH

The 15watt (4.5W output) version gets pretty good reviews. Once I know it will do what I want I will mount the laser on one of my machines. Probabably a CNCCS machine because it has a down draft to handle the smoke and nasty fumes. Another option would be to build a small fixture to place on the KRMx02 that can evacuate the smoke.

ggibeau
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Re: Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by ggibeau » Fri Apr 03, 2020 12:08 am

First off - hopefully everyone is staying safe during these crazy times. I had about a weeks notice to move all my classes online - and if you don't think teaching IoT classes online is fun - then you haven''t lived ;-)

Using creativity I have been building a Makerspace in one of my classrooms at the college I teach at - and one of my purchases was a 130 Watt laser cutter (a ThunderLaser Nova 51 Class 1 Laser System - work area of 51' x 35'). I also built my own 100 watt unit in my home shop based on the Lasersaur design, and some of my colleagues at school have purchased Glowforge's for their departments).

I absolutely have a blast on my laser cutter. While it in no way takes the place of my CNC machines, it can do things that are hard or impossible to do on a CNC. You don't need any clamps as there is no lateral pressure (old hard drive magnets work great for holding material to the ferrous honeycomb table), you do not need tabs to keep parts from flying around and if you have it dialed in correctly, you can cut box joints that just need to be force press-fit together and they basically don't need any glue ;-). While you can cut a wide variety of materials - do not get one thinking you will be cutting metal - that puts you in a whole new ball park. You can "etch" anodized aluminum with very fine detail - you basically vaporize the anodized layer.

Because you are basically vaporizing material, you will leave resin and out gassing marks on the surface of your material - so some prep work is required - like using 12" low tack masking tape to cover the material so after cutting you can peal away the burn marks.

You also need very good ventilation and fume extraction - especially if you end up cutting plastics which will give off VOC's hazardous to your health. I have mine vented to the outside with 8" spiral pipe.

For air assist (to basically blow out small fires and keep the smoke from occluding the laser beam) on this material up to about 3mm (1/8") you can use a small compressor - like one for an airbrush that you can get from Harbor Freight. If you end up cutting thicker material (and this will be determined by the wattage of your laser cutter - mine at school will do up to 3/4") you need a larger compressor.

Other items to take into account - the size of the chiller needs to match the wattage of the tube - the higher the wattage the hotter the tube gets. Also - defiantly make sure you make allowances for some type of beam splitter so you can add a red dot pointer for alignment purposes when laying out your cut.

For software - RDWorks is a common package and can integrate with Corel Draw for basically printing to the laser. A commercial package that I have had great luck with is Lightburn - it supports a wide range of controllers.
Last edited by ggibeau on Sun Apr 05, 2020 1:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

msimpson
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Re: Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by msimpson » Fri Apr 03, 2020 10:23 pm

I have owned an Epilog laser for about 10 years, and used it for years. Would I recommend an Epilog laser to someone else? NO.

In the current sachem of things they are over priced. I think I have about $19,000 in mine including things like rotary, extra honeycomb table, Gast blower, and air ventilation system. That does not include the Tube that cost me a little over $2000 to replace. Yes the tubes are consumables.

I will say the windows driver is top notch. I can use any software package that allows you to control the thickness of the lines in your drawing and simply print to the driver. I primarily use CorelDraw, but have also used Autocad, Inventor and Illustrator.

If I were to purchase a new CO2 laser, I would probably go with one of the higher end Chinese units.

A couple words of advice to folks who are thinking of purchasing a CO2 laser.

1. Never run the laser at its maximum power. You will drastically reduce the life of your tube. The lower the power the longer the life. Running mine at 100% for two years killed mine. I now run mine at 70% to 80%. For a 130 Watt laser that's about 90 to 100 watts.

2. Certain materials should never be cut or engraved with the laser. For instance never, never, never cut PVC with a laser. The gasses created are very caustic to your machine. Even with a very high powered venting system, your machine wont last long as it things will start to fail. Other materials like vinyl should also be avoided. I recommend doing some research.

3. Never operate the laser untended. It does not take much for things to go south real fast. I have had acrylic catch fire, even with the air assist.

4. My table has a honycomb, so small cuts smaller than 1/4" can fall through. Make it a habit to clean these out or they will catch fire and burn down your house or shop.

ggibeau
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Re: Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by ggibeau » Sun Apr 05, 2020 1:34 am

Even with shipping from China - I think we paid like $14,000 for the one I referenced above (this was before all the silliness with tariffs)- with an extra 130 watt tube, rotary attachment, chiller, portable fume extractor (that I gave away as I vented to outside) and both a small and large compressor. I have to say - it is one well built machine. The fit and finish, cable routing and overall craftsmanship is second to none.

Funny side story - as ThunderLaser wanted a deposit (as they build to order) my purchasing department was a little apprehensive. SO I asked my rep for a list of universities in the US that were using their products. When I received the list - I had to laugh. I presented it to my purchasing person and explained - here is the list you asked for - you might have heard of some of these places: MIT, CalTech, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, etc... She did call the various contacts at those schools and they had nothing but glowing testimonials for the machines.

I would certainly recommend anyone looking to get into a larger unit to give them a look. I get no remuneration for recommending them - I am just a very happy user.

I try not to run mine over 63-65% power ;-)


EDIT 4-25-20 - I went to look up some cutting settings for some PETG and see they now have a US site - Thunderlaserusa.com - if you are just window shopping (no idea if they keep stock or not)

-George-
Last edited by ggibeau on Sat Apr 25, 2020 9:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

msimpson
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Re: Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by msimpson » Mon Apr 20, 2020 9:35 pm

I don't think getting anything from China right now is very practical. They will let you order things, but they just dont make it here. I seriously doubt they are even shipping. I have had several orders just sit until Amazon lets me cancel. Problem is that ties up funds for almost a month until I can get a refund.

I also believe things will get worse getting anything from outside the US. I'm just going to have to put a couple projects on hold for now.

mxj
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Re: Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by mxj » Sat Apr 25, 2020 8:07 pm

I am in the process of adding a PLH3D-6W-XF Engraving Laser Head from OPT laser to my CNC. Still a lot to do on it before it will be ready for testing. The beauty about this setup is that you can order a magnetic docking station with the laser unit, so the laser can be removed when not in use. It has a cover plate that then fits over the docking station to keep it clean.

msimpson
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Re: Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by msimpson » Sun Apr 26, 2020 10:25 am

Thats a nice one. You get what you pay for. They are out of country though so could be hard getting the unit now.

Let us know how it works out. I did send out an email to that company asking if the could send me a unit for testing.

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Re: Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by msimpson » Sun Apr 26, 2020 10:34 am

There are some challenges when laser cutting and laser engraving. Many of the cutting challenges are the same as those encountered when plasma cutting. The main obstacle is latency. It the time it takes the laser to respond when given a command to change state or power.

I have done a great deal of latency tests while testing my various THC systems.

There are combinations of software to interface that are better than other.

For instance:
Mach3 to UC300EtH very slow, the longest latency.
Mach 3 to Parallel Port very low latency.
Mach 3 to UC100 (USB) Moderate latency.
Mach3 to USB Smooth Stepper very high latency
Mach3 to Ethernet Smooth Stepper, very low latency

If we move over to UCCNC software, you get different results.
UCCNC to UC100 (USB) moderate latency
UCCNC to UC300ETH very low latency

Note that the latency issues don't affect the laser as much as they do plasma, but the lower the latency the better.

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Re: Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by msimpson » Wed Apr 29, 2020 8:21 pm

So it looks like the laser I will be testing is the Opt Laser 6W model. I will let you know when I have more specifics.

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Re: Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by msimpson » Sun Jun 28, 2020 10:55 pm

I was working with Opt lasers for a demo unit for testing, but looks like they fell off the face of the earth. No more response from them.

In any case I ordered a 5.5W laser from amazon for testing. I got it hooked up to one of my CNCCS machines for my initial tests.

Here I mounted the laser module and the PWM controller on a quick change plate. I also added a rod and a switch so that I can set the laser height very quickly.
_MG_8336.jpg
Note that I have a 50Watt Epilog laser so I was not expecting much. That said, I am very happy with the results. I was able to cut 2mm craft foam in a single pass at 100IPM. 6mm craft foam at 20IPM. Index cardboard at 20IPM. Works well enough that I think I will start using this system to make my templates and dust brushes.

You might ask why not use the epilog?

Well the last time I replaced the CO2 laser tube (the tube is a consumable) it cost me over $2000. So when I can I want to move over to the Laser Diode system.

bnelson
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Re: Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by bnelson » Mon Jun 29, 2020 10:58 am

Are you going to do a web series showing your hookup. KRMx02?

msimpson
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Re: Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by msimpson » Mon Jun 29, 2020 11:58 am

I do plan on a full multi page write up. Couple problems with this laser module.

1. It does not come with a power supply.
Granted you can connect it to an existing source (The CNC Construction Set has a very high power 48-12v converter) but the KRMx02 does not have a 12V source with the basic layout. I will be looking at a 5,5W laser kit that includes the power source.

2. The unit I purchased is no longer available.

I have ordered a different 5.5W kit that I will probably use for my postings. Should get it tomorrow. At the very lease I can show two different module connections.

msimpson
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Re: Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by msimpson » Mon Jun 29, 2020 12:17 pm

The laser module requires a PWM input at about 1000Hz. The positive pulse period is what the laser looks for to activate and set the output power.

Setting the positive pulse period low IE 1-3us will give you a low power light to adjust the focus and position the CNC.

Setting the period to 100% gets you full laser output. Note that there may be times you want a power setting in the middle to mark a part instead of cutting it.

For the KRMx02 using the basic electronics layout, it pumps all the signals through the G540. There is no easy or reliable way to get the actual PWM signal from the G540 so an additional port and breakout board are required. This can be done a couple ways but I am moving in a different direction.

KRMx02 Upgrade
I am going to be writing up an upgrade to the KRMx02 using the following components:
UC300ETH Controller
4.5Amp 48V Driver (used for rotary)
Breakout Board

Shown below:
_MG_8340.jpg
I purchased the components a while back so the KRMx02 could truly support the rotary axis. In addition it helps move my KRMx02 plasma upgrade forward. There are still a couple more components needed. 48v-12V converter, and a 12V to 5V converter. The brings the KRMx02 electronics up to the level of the Advanced Electronics on the CNCCS.

The current laser module system is mounted on my orange pumpkin build CNCCS so I can start my testing. I am starting the KRMx02 UC300Eth upgrade on the KRMx02 so the new laser module will be installed on that machine.

I hope this helps, but is kind of a moving target right now. I will keep posting pics and things while getting things in place for the actual write up.

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Re: Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by msimpson » Mon Jun 29, 2020 12:26 pm

The Probe

While the laser Z height can be set manually, adding a probe makes the use of the laser very easy to setup.
_MG_8337.jpg
This is the simplest probe I could come up with using the components I had on hand. It is simply an 8mm rod, bearing truck, and roller switch. There are also two 8mm collars that keep the shaft from crushing the switch if somethings goes wrong. They will also keep you from crashing the head of laser.

msimpson
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Re: Looking at adding a 5.5W LED laser to the CNC

Post by msimpson » Sat Jul 04, 2020 8:32 pm

I just finished the UC300ETH upgrade section for the KRMx02. You can find it here:

https://www.kronosrobotics.com/krmx02-c ... troduction

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