CO2 Laser Cutting/Engraving with X-Carve

Got my X-Carve on order and can’t help but think about the possibility of adding a 60 or 80w CO2 laser to the whole setup. On the left side of the spindle mount, there are three convenient mounting holes. I think that it would be fairly easy to adapt a flying mirror to the left side of the spindle holder and cut/engrave with the same machine.

Any thoughts on this?

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First thought? WANT.

This is technically possible but not something Inventables supports or recommends. There are some safety concerns:

  1. Fumes: X-Carve is open frame and the fumes from laser cutting can be toxic

  2. Beam protection: X-Carve is open frame and you don’t want to look directly at the laser or accidentally put your hand under it while it is cutting.

  3. The laser tubes are large and use a series of mirrors to get the beam to the work piece.

  4. Debris: laser cutter mirrors operate best in clean environments. The debris from milling would cause problems.

If you are interested in laser cutting we suggest buying or building a laser cutter that is enclosed, with proper ventilation and dedicated to that function.

Those are very good points. I’ve considered all but the debris which happens to be a very important part of the system. I may consider picking up a bare frame in the future without the spindle hardware to use solely for the purpose of a laser cutter. A frame can be built around the machine for fume extraction and safety against stray laser beams. Keeping the mirrors clean would be a considerably difficult duty, not to mention the vibration from the spindle would likely set the mirrors off alignment.

Have you seen this?

http://www.buildlog.net/blog/2011/02/buildlog-net-2-x-laser/

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I’ve seen it but I never looked at in up close. There is a short thread I enjoyed reading but there wasn’t nearly enough info in it. I really liked the design of his machine, it was scratch built. I think that ill bookmark as much as possible for now and come back to the laser once I setup my X-Carve. The CNC machine will come in handy to build the laser as well.

Speaking of, can’t wait till the release! I’m gonna pick mine up in person. Haven’t been this excited in a long time about a new piece of tech.

How about using a low power laser head, something like 2w or less? I would mainly be using this laser to cut vinyl stickers or card stock to use as stencils.

Be careful and NEVER cut vinyl with a laser!
I’ve had my rebuilt 40W CO2 for a while now. Knowing your materials can literally save your life. Cutting vinyl will produce chlorine gas which can kill you and even with proper ventilation and disposal of the gas is highly corrosive and will shorten the life of your machine greatly.

see here:
http://atxhs.org/wiki/Laser_Cutter_Materials

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This is very good to know, thank you!

Honestly, there is nothing that says you can’t put something like this on it to do laser etching… it’s low power enough, but it will definitely color the wood for you. http://www.banggood.com/445nm-2_5W-2500mW-Blue-Laser-Module-With-Heatsink-For-DIY-Laser-Cutter-Engraver-p-993521.html

There are quite a few modules already built up, the J-Tech one, and the L-Cheapo come to mind immediately. :smile:

I’m about to add the J-Tech laser to my X-Carve. I plan to cut cardstock. Any suggestions for what to put under the cardstock to protect the X-Carve wasteboard??? Maybe aluminum foil??? Thanks for any suggestions/pointers.

Given my 30W CO2 system, any metal of any thickness at all will do the trick. The beam that slices through quarter-inch plywood in a single pass won’t even mark aluminum, much less damage it. I’d probably just lay down a piece of wood, myself, and ignore the burn lines on it.

I use the 2.8w JTECH on my XC and just use a bit of MDF to protect the wasteboard. You could use a sheet of ally or other metal as well but you need to take reflections into account.

For cardstock you’ll be moving the laser quickly so damage to a sacrificial wasteboard will be minimal.

Cheers

Ian

This is what I use on my Shapeoko 2 & EmBlaser under my material when cutting with a laser diode. By the time the laser’s beam goes the extra 1/4" it’s out of focus to burn anything under it.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00WIUBELY?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00

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Thanks all for the tips. I now know what to do. Unfortunately, after installing the laser and uploading JTech’s .hex file I can no longer communicate with the X-Carve. I know this has been an issue and I will go back over my original installation procedures. JTech’s instructions indicate there can be issues with X-Carve’s Arduino if it’s not an official Uno. I’m going to check to see if mine has the Arduino stamp or not. In the meantime, can anyone point me to the definitive source on how to establish communications via USB to the X-Carve. I’m running Windows 10 and everything was fine until I reflashed the Arduino.

I had a little trouble fully understanding JTech’s instructions for making the electrical connections between their laser and the X-Carve. Below is a picture of what I ended up with.


From left to right I have the cable to the laser, the negative (black) and positive (yellow) leads from the G-Shield and the red/black leads to the laser’s fan. I would appreciate confirmation that this is correct or correction if it’s not. Thanks!

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I’ve been able to reflash the Arduino and get my X-Carve responding again using Easel. I understand from JTech that the existing firmware will drive the laser for cutting. I guess there’s an issue with engraving and other functions of the laser that requires a firmware change. I’m wondering if anyone has suggestions on how to proceed with that. Shall I upload JTech’s .hex file? Is it a good idea to clear the EEPROM before doing that? Again, thanks for any guidance provided. I truly appreciate the help!

Black and yellow to the gSheild, assuming to the spindle PWM and Earth? If yes, then wiring looks good.

With it all powered up, laser safety interlocks all disabled, safety measures in place and laser switched to TTL from the switch, you should be able to issue a GCode command from Easel in the Machine Inspector of “M3 S18000” (without quotes) to turn laser on to full power (value depends what your max spindle RPM is set to). Issue an “M5” command to switch off. Issue “M3 S1200” for a low power laser on for focusing.

Get these basics working first, I.e. software control before tackling firmware changes. :smile:

Cheers

Ian

Yes, I’ve been able to get this far. M3 S18000 and M5 commands worked fine. I’m unsure about focusing when using the M3 S1200 command. Is that by raising/lowering the laser and/or turning the lens knob on the unit itself. I actually tried cutting a few circles and got decent results. I adjusted the feedrate in Easel so I could get a decent cut through cardstock with a single pass. However, I now see what the built-in delays in Easel are all about. When I start a carve the laser is turned on (e.g. spindle on check box in Easel) and leaves a hole at the origin. Also, at the beginning and ending of the circle I’m cutting it gets pretty burned up. I think I’m ready to try the firmware change JTech recommends. If you agree, can you get me started in the right direction? Thanks!