FSLaser

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Full Spectrum Laser

Spectrum Professional Series CO2 20x12 Laserwith RetinaEngrave 3D Ethernet (Sku: Pro20x12-)

Specifications

  • Engraving Area 20"x12" (this is really 18"x12")
  • Work Area 20"x12" (this is really 18"x12")
  • Machine Dimensions 54"x31"x43" (includes tube overhang)
  • Laser Type Sealed CO2 laser tube
  • Net Weight 90kg / 198lbs
  • Laser Power 60 (90W)
  • Power Supply AC 110V Native (220V Option Available)
  • Gross Power Less than 1000W
  • Driving System Stepper
  • Cooling Mode Water-cooling and protection system
  • Operating Temperature 0 - 45°C
  • Z table Motorized Z w/ Autofocus (up to 6.5")
  • Auxillary Equipments Exhaust-fans, Air-exhaust pipe
  • Controlling Software RetinaEngrave USB Direct Print Drivers (100% USA Software)

Software

  • Inkscape (Design and load your drawing)
    • You can get drawings from thingiverse
  • Retina Engrave (Sends image to laser for printing)

Allowed to Repair

  • Vernon Barry

Health and Safety

The laser cutter is a potentially dangerous piece of equipment which must only be operated by members who have received appropriate training and who take due care. The top things to always remember when using the laser cutter are:

  • ONLY USE THE LASER CUTTER IF YOU ARE ON THE LIST OF TRAINED USERS
  • NEVER LEAVE THE LASER CUTTER RUNNING UNATTENDED
  • KNOW WHAT TO DO IF A FIRE BREAKS OUT
  • NEVER CUT MATERIALS THAT YOU DON'T KNOW ARE SAFE

As a trained user, you should be very aware of the following risks and how to deal with them:

FIRE (under normal operation) - Cutting at the wrong speed or the wrong power can result in the material igniting

  • You must watch the cutter at all times and be prepared to abort the job if problems occur
  • Small flashes of flame that don't hang around for a fraction of a second are acceptable, but any more is rare and not acceptable
  • If a fire does take, this is the process you should follow (from minor to major):
    • Press "pause" (the same button you started the job with) - This will turn the laser off so no more heat enters, and assuming the flame goes out, you can press "start" for the job to continue where it left off
    • Open the lid - With the job paused, you can open the lid to blow out the flame. Again, it is possible to re-close the lid and continue where you left off
    • Move the material from under the laser head assuming safe to do so (so it doesn't damage the optics; alternatively send the laser to home/datum), and smother with a spare sheet of material or blow out
    • Use the workshop CO2 extinguisher to extinguish the flame
  • You should also make a note in the log if any of this happens with associated materials and settings so we can keep track of any particular materials/settings we should look at

FIRE (abnormal operation) - If the head gets stuck or something else goes wrong, ignition could happen much more suddenly or intensely

  • You must watch the cutter at all times and be prepared to abort the job if problems occur
  • If the head gets trapped (e.g. tomb-stoning of a piece, mechanical failure) or any other problem occurs that causes or could cause fire, this is the process you should follow:
    • Hit the emergency stop
    • Open the lid and move the material from under the laser head assuming safe to do so (so it doesn't damage the optics)
    • Blow out, smother with a spare sheet of material, or use the CO2 extinguisher to extinguish the flame as appropriate
  • Ensure a Maintainer looks at the machine before it is brought back in to action if it is not obvious what went wrong and all is ok
  • You should also make a note in the log if any of this happens with associated materials and settings so we can keep track of any particular materials/settings we should look at

FUMES - The laser cutting process will release different smoke and fumes depending on the material.

  • Never cut PVC or a material you are not sure is safe. When PVC is heated it releases chlorine gas, this mixes with the moisture in the air and the result is hydrochloric acid which is toxic to humans and corrosive to machines.
  • Ensure the filter is on and the cutter lid stays closed for a while after a job to allow the fumes to clear.
  • If you are feeling strange, think the fume build up is too much, or for any other reason you are unsure, stop the job.

TRAPPING - The head and bed of the cutter can be moved by the front panel menu or programs in the machines memory.

  • Be careful when working inside the cutting area or with the lid open not to trap hands, hair, clothing or anything else.
  • Always check the machine for unexpected items that may have fallen in before closing the lid.
  • Do not attempt to climb into the machine!

LASER BURNS/LIGHT - A 60W laser can do real damage.

  • The laser should be safe within the confines of the machine, and cut-off automatically when the lid is open (although this should not be relied upon). The top window is safe to look through during a job, but do not attempt to interfere with these windows or the laser or in any way invent some way to look at the laser.
  • Do not tamper with the laser cutter, or any interlocks. All side panels of the laser should always be closed and locked whilst the machine is plugged in.
  • Do not put metal in the laser cutter.

NEVER CUT THESE MATERIALS

WARNING: Because many plastics are dangerous to cut, it is important to know what kind you are planning to use. Make has a How-To for identifying unknown plastics with a simple process.

Material DANGER! Cause/Consequence
PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride)/vinyl/pleather/artificial leather Emits pure chlorine gas when cut! Don't ever cut this material as it will ruin the optics, cause the metal of the machine to corrode, and ruin the motion control system.
Thick ( >1mm ) Polycarbonate/Lexan Cut very poorly, discolor, catch fire Polycarbonate is often found as flat, sheet material. The window of the laser cutter is made of Polycarbonate because polycarbonate strongly absorbs infrared radiation! This is the frequency of light the laser cutter uses to cut materials, so it is very ineffective at cutting polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is a poor choice for laser cutting.
ABS Emits cyanide gas and tends to melt ABS does not cut well in a laser cutter. It tends to melt rather than vaporize, and has a higher chance of catching on fire and leaving behind melted gooey deposits on the vector cutting grid. It also does not engrave well (again, tends to melt).
HDPE/milk bottle plastic Catches fire and melts It melts. It gets gooey. Don't use it.
PolyStyrene Foam Catches fire It catches fire, it melts, and only thin pieces cut. This is the #1 material that causes laser fires!!!
PolyPropylene Foam Catches fire Like PolyStyrene, it melts, catches fire, and the melted drops continue to burn and turn into rock-hard drips and pebbles.
Fiberglass Emits fumes It's a mix of two materials that cant' be cut. Glass (etch, no cut) and epoxy resin (fumes)
Coated Carbon Fiber Emits noxious fumes A mix of two materials. Thin carbon fiber mat can be cut, with some fraying - but not when coated.
MDF/Engineered woods Smoke Clogs up our filters and smells bad.
LaserMDF Smoke Clogs up our filters and smells bad. It produces perhaps 50% the gunk of standard MDF but still too much.

Safe Materials

The laser can cut or etch. The materials that the laser can cut materials like wood, paper, cork, and some kinds of plastics. Etching can be done on almost anything, wood, cardboard, plastic, marble, stone, tile, and glass.

Cutting

Material Max thickness Notes WARNINGS!
Many woods 1/4" Avoid oily/resinous woods Be very careful about cutting oily woods, or very resinous woods as they also may catch fire.
Plywood/Composite woods 1/4" These contain glue, and may not laser cut as well as solid wood.
Paper, card stock thin Cuts very well on the laser cutter, and also very quickly.
Cardboard, carton thicker Cuts well but may catch fire. Watch for fire.
Cork 1/4" Cuts nicely, but the quality of the cut depends on the thickness and quality of the cork. Engineered cork has a lot of glue in it, and may not cut as well. Avoid thicker cork.
Acrylic/Lucite/Plexiglas/PMMA 1/2" Cuts extremely well leaving a beautifully polished edge.
Thin Polycarbonate Sheeting (<1mm) <1mm Very thin polycarbonate can be cut, but tends to discolor badly. Extremely thin sheets (0.5mm and less) may cut with yellowed/discolored edges. Polycarbonate absorbs IR strongly, and is a poor material to use in the laser cutter. Watch for smoking/burning
Delrin (POM) thin Delrin comes in a number of shore strengths (hardness) and the harder Delrin tends to work better. Great for gears!
Kapton tape (Polyimide) 1/16" Works well, in thin sheets and strips like tape.
Mylar 1/16" Works well if it's thin. Thick mylar has a tendency to warp, bubble, and curl Gold coated mylar will not work.
Solid Styrene 1/16" Smokes a lot when cut, but can be cut. Keep it thin.
Depron foam 1/4" Used a lot for hobby, RC aircraft, architectural models, and toys. 1/4" cuts nicely, with a smooth edge. Must be constantly monitored.
Gator foam Foam core gets burned and eaten away compared to the top and bottom hard paper shell. Not a fantastic thing to cut, but it can be cut if watched.
Cloth/felt/hemp/cotton They all cut well. Not plastic coated or impregnated cloth!
Leather/Suede 1/8" Leather is very hard to cut, but can be if it's thinner than a belt (call it 1/8"). Real leather only! Not 'pleather' or other imitations!
Magnetic Sheet Cuts beautifully
NON-CHLORINE-containing rubber Fine for cutting. Beware chlorine-containing rubber!
Teflon (PTFE) thin Cuts OK in thin sheets
Carbon fiber mats/weave
that has not had epoxy applied
Can be cut, very slowly. You must not cut carbon fiber that has been coated!!
Coroplast ('corrugated plastic') 1/4" Difficult because of the vertical strips. Three passes at 80% power, 7% speed, and it will be slightly connected still at the bottom from the vertical strips.

Good list of info here: http://inventionstudio.gatech.edu/wiki/Laser_cutter

Etching

All the above "cuttable" materials can be etched, in some cases very deeply.

In addition, you can etch:

Material Notes WARNINGS!
Glass Green seems to work best...looks sandblasted. Only FLAT GLASS can be engraved in our cutter. No round or cylindrical items.
Ceramic tile
Anodized aluminum DO NOT USE!
Painted/coated metals DO NOT USE!
Stone, Marble, Granite, Soapstone, Onyx. Gets a white "textured" look when etched. 100% power, 50% speed or less works well for etching.

Instructions

Step by Step

  1. Load your drawing in Inkscape
  2. Check size to make sure it will fit in 11”x18”
  3. Open Retina Engraver
  4. Turn on Power on power strip next to laser cutter
  5. Turn key to power on laser
  6. Make sure you are able to see Retina engraver is connected to the laser cutter (bottom left corner, you should see the laser cutter IP)
    1. If it is saying "Laser not found" but the display on the laser itself is giving you a IP, then click the refresh button on the bottom left hand corner of Retina Engrave
  7. Home (H) the laser (press the home button)
  8. Place material on honeycomb
    1. If it is not flat you can use something to weigh it down, just make sure it doesn't get in the way of the laser
  9. Auto focus to the material by placing the cylinder under the “gold box” next to the nozzle and press auto focus button (Z)
        • Make sure you jog the laser to a position over your material so you can focus on that
  10. Jog the nozzle to the top left side of the material
    1. Use the slow jog check box to fine tune
  11. Press jog perimeter (J) to check the size of the shape make sure it is all on the material
  12. With your file in Inkscape (vector or bitmap) select Print within Inkscape and then select the Rendering tab and select either Vector or Bitmap mode depending on if you are cutting or etching.
  13. Select Print to send it over to Retina.
  14. Select the mode you are going to use (Vector or Raster).
  15. Verify it is loaded into Retina correctly and make any adjustments such as vector layer and power settings.
  16. Press play icon (G) to make cuts and engraves.
  17. Wait a few seconds to let the fumes clear out
  18. Remove material and cuts from honeycomb
  19. Turn off by turning the key when finished with all jobs.
  20. Clean laser cutter bed thoroughly
    1. Make sure there is no debris on the honeycomb or under it
    2. Use vacuum if needed (Stay clear of the nozzle!)

General Instructions

To use the laser cutter, you must have been trained and have had your name added to the trained user list; these instructions are not a substitute for this training. See the training section to understand how you can become qualified to use the laser cutter.

Although not a requirement, it is recommended someone else trained is also present when using the laser cutter. Having two pairs of eyes helps avoid forgotten steps, allows for double checking, clarifications and discussions, and ensures a greater pool of experience is both present and being built up as the laser is used.

Power Up

Give the machine a quick visual check. Make sure that there is nothing left on the bed, the water reservoir of the chiller looks normal, and that the equipment has no obvious damage or signs of being out-of-action. If the bed looks like it has residue on it, give it a wipe with IPA and a cloth.

Turn on primary switch on the trunking marked 'Laser'. The air filter system to the right of the laser cutter should start as should the air pump and the chiller. It should power up, make a decent amount of noise, and the lights should indicate the filter is in good condition (i.e. no need for replacement).

Make sure the lid is closed. Turn on the laser using the key on the right hand side. The inspection lamp should come on, a satisfying hum start up, and the cutter go into doing its self-checks.

Before doing any job, the laser should be left to warm up for 4-5 mins. While the machine warms up, power on the adjacent PC and start the LaserCut application from the desktop. During this time the water temperature shown on the chiller should drop from ambient temperature to the usual setting of 18C.

Assign Settings to Colors

Each part of your drawing that is assigned a different color can have a different cut action assigned. Each color will appear on the menu on the right hand side of the screen with numbers related to power and speed of the laser which will be used for the color.

The main options are to Cut (line) or Engrave (raster fill). A marking on the material is a Cut. For each material and cutting depth required, a corresponding speed and power must be entered. The handbook provided with the machine gives suggested values for various materials but these should be considered as a starting point for a test. See the Power and Speed Settings section for our guidelines and experiences for these settings.

Finishing

The end of the job is signified by a beep. Waiting a few moments for the exhaust pump to clear any remaining smoke is a good idea, especially with wood, and will limit the build up of smells in the rest of the workshop. Remove your work piece, ensuring that all parts are cleared from the bed of the machine.

Power Down

The cutter is turned off using the key switch, then the air filtering system with the green rocker switch. Shut down the PC and double check that everything is left in a safe state for the next user.

Clean the bed of debris using the soft brush, then wipe down the bed using IPA and a cloth.

If you have been cutting particularly 'dirty' materials, most notable MDF and Ply which leave a sticky residue then you will need to use the course side of one of the oven pads and lots of 'elbow grease'. Residue on the bed can impact the next persons' job so please make the effort to clean up and leave the cutter as you would wish to find it.

Go away excited by what you can make and come back with lots more drawings!

Power and Speed Settings

In due time we will try to build up a large sample stock of materials and record the values which work best. Here are the sample material tests we have so far:

Settings to get you started:

  • 3mm Acrylic: Speed 12, Power 100, Corner power 100
  • 5mm Acrylic: Speed 6, Power 100, Corner power 100
  • Acrylic shallow cut: Speed 30, power 50, corner power 50
  • Etching acrylic: Speed 400, Power 50, Spacing 0.05


Tips & Tricks

  • If the laser cutter's user interface does not seem to respond/do what you want, hit "ESC" to return to 'normal mode'.
  • The opaque white acrylic needs slightly stronger settings for surface cuts as they are not as visible as in the transparent acrylic (i.e., for similar effect you need a deeper cut). Otherwise seems to cut equivalently to transparent acrylics.
  • If you want a tight fit of pieces or very accurate sizing, keep in mind that the laser beam has a width of just over 0.1 mm (maybe 0.11 or 0.12 mm). So all exterior cut lines should be offset by 0.05 mm; you can do this very easily in the LaserCutter Software with the "Offset" tool (units are in mm, so enter '0.05' and select 'Outer').
  • The DXF file format stores values only (not values and units). The internal units in the LaserCutter are in mm. If you set your document's units to mm in the exporting CAD system it should work fine, but generally it is a good idea to have a piece of geometry of known length, e.g. a line 100mm long, or a box of known size around your design. This makes adjusting the scaling a lot easier.
  • If you want to export a DXF from Inkscape (which is a great, free vector drawing package), then make sure you do "Object to path" from the Path menu for the whole object and then during the export stage, untick both options for type of export. Choose mm as your unit.
  • There's now a page to help with Inkscape and our laser at Laser_Cutter_Inkscape
  • If the jog buttons (arrow keys moving the laser head around) are only moving the head in small single steps rather than moving it continuously, make sure that the jog step size is set to 0.0mm in the Jog Settings section of the menu.

Material Usage

You want to use as little material as possible to save money, we want you to use as little material as possible to reduce re-stocking burden and wastage. There's a neat tool you can use for packing SVG files into small spaces, find it here: http://svgnest.com/

Fixing up a job that went wrong

If you messed up a job and, for example, some cut lines weren't cut, you might try to run the job again after recolouring all of the lines except the ones that didn't cut. You can then deselect those lines for output in the Cut/Engrave window on the top right of the Lasercut Interface, and this will keep your positioning.

If your head has moved, you can try setting some lines to power 1, which should not cut anything, but allows you to see where the head is travelling.