Laser Machine

I simply love my X-Carve. From my first carve to now and with all the support, it has been flawless. With the little business I started. I’ve been thinking of combining carves with lasers. I have looked at a few on line but I don’t know what to look for. So, I’m looking for some recommendations of the type of laser to buy and specks ect. Again, thanks for all your help.

Check out these systems.

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The Mini-18 is the one I decided on, after a fair bit of research. :smile:

@JeneJohnson - I am building my own Laser Cutter from scratch - not sure if you want to walk this way.

This was one of Bart’s previous projects - it is Open source and there is lots of info there.

You can also view my small blog

Have fun

There are lots of cutters out there but for the most part you can categorize them into two types. Chinese cutters and not. The Chinese cutters use a glass tube and the others don’t. Epilog and Universal Lasers are the two big players in the non-Chinese cutters and you pay for it. So most hobbyist and and cost conscious people go with the Chinese cutters. Full Sail laser has their own model of the Chinese cutters and what you are paying for there is support. They are the best in that area but the machine is ultimately the same mechanically. The buildlog lasersaurus is a derivative of the same type of design. Building a laser cutter is only slightly more complicated than building an X-Carve. Working with the tube and water cooling and aligning the mirrors is the real problem. Most of them are using a DSP controller (although there is a few RAMPS based models) and using it is pretty straight forward. They come with a Corel Draw or autocad plug-in. So the first thing you need to decide is how big of a tube you want and how big of a cutter you want.40W is a good starter tube. You can engrave most materials and cut 1/8" wood and acrylics. 60w is good enough to cut 1/4" acrylic and MDF. 80w is good for speed engraving and reliable cutting. 100w (What I’m running on my current machine) is the speed king but since it is so powerful it can make engraving on soft materials and fabrics a challenge. As for cutter size the larger you go the harder it is to align the mirrors so don’t go big just because you can but don’t go to small or you’ll regret it.

I’ll leave you with two links.

Here is a recent rebuild I did on a $2,500 laser cutter from eBay.

A great site for parts and a good forum that is based in California. They carry all of the parts used in Chinese cutters and they also carry a great series of gantries and frames to get most people started. You could pretty much source an entire machine from there if you want to build your own.

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Very Impressive! Your cutter is not as much a laser cutter as it is a tamed military weapon. I have never seen a laser cutter carve completely through a 2x4 before.

That is the exact machine I have been tempted to purchase, If I left the stock 40 or 50 watt tube, would I need to replace all the optics? Also are you using the bundled software or did you need to purchase something else?

Aside from needing to purchase a real water cooling system and replacing the wiring, are there any other “MUST DO” modifications to make it reliable?

Sorry for all the questions, but you seem to be the laser expert.

If you plan to run it stock 50w (don’t forget on my model they label it 60w even though it’s 50w) then water cooling is the one “must do” before you even get started. The other “must do” or really “must not do” is use the plugs on the back for the chiller/exhaust/air pump. They pull too much amperage in the machine and it melts the wires. I bought a energy saving power strip that turns off plugs when the main plug isn’t pulling power ($20 on Amazon or eBay)

Tech notes:

You should get yourself a pair of laser goggles, not necessary but recommend ($50 at I insist on it if you have kids watching it cut. It’s not the brightness but the UV bouncing back that hurts your eyes over time. Or just look away.

Water chillers, you will be tempted by a CW-3000 model. Don’t get it because it doesn’t chill the water, it’s just a pump and tank. Get one you’ll grow into. They are sized by the tube power. Having a bigger chiller doesn’t hurt smaller tubes but having a smaller chiller hurts larger tubes. Sometime like a cw-5000 or 5200 is good up to 100w. Either eBay or lightobject has good ones.

Room temp, you are running water through a glass tube so don’t put this in a shop or garage where the water will freeze or get close to freezing. Or your tube will shatter. Ideal temp is 50f to 110f

Use only distilled water (any grocery store has it) and add a tablespoon of bleach to every gallon of water. You don’t want things growing in your chiller, hoses or tube.

Venting, most cutters have a 6" exhaust on it. Always exhaust outside and be aware it smells like burnt wood or melting plastic. Make sure your neighbors don’t hate you. The exhaust of acrylic and some plastics can be toxic so do exhaust it over the dog house or next to the kids bedroom. Mine is exhausted out the window and I cut the insert on the laser cutter. They do make filter systems that start at $1,500 but you have to replace the filters and I wouldn’t suggest them for plastics.

Software, buy a copy of Corel Draw. It’s supported the best and has the best interface. I consider it my CAM software and do my real work in illustrator or AutoCAD.


Thank you everyone for your input. Now, to build or not to build? THAT is the question??? :wink:

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Really? It’s a question? I thought we were all builders/makers? :smile:

If you have the confidence level to build from a BoM without a kit? Go for it!

If I wasn’t wanting to get up and rolling in a business way (and wanting factory support) I’d be very tempted to do the same. :smile:

@JeneJohnson - this is a very good question - to build or not. . . Here is my logic:

Price - if you do things right, have the experience, tools and know how to use them, in most cases you will be able to make it cheaper than the one in store, assuming low/medium level machines. In reality, some times you pay more because you might do some silly things, things not fit etc.

Fun - I like the challenge ! you learn so much from building you own machine, mainly because you have no other choice. I built a CNC router and 2 3D printers, and when I started, I did know almost nothing about it. In time, I had to learn it all to the level that I am happy with. When it finally works - you can be proud you actually did it and had fun to build it.

Maintenance - This is the BIGGEST pro I have found in this - if something goes wrong, what do you do ? If this is your own machine, you will know in very short time what is wrong, and what is needed to fix it. I always stock some crucial parts as spares - not to get caught with a big issue. Now if you got this from China for example,what are you going to do ? You do not have enough info to understand what is wrong ,they usually have troubles with English, and in most cases they will want you to send the machine to China, unless they have a rep here. Thinking of the cost of shipping and fixing charges - in some cases it will bite you hard.

Of course - if you go for the high end ones from the USA - then you pay for it.

So - if you have the $$$ and don’t want to mess your hands in building, go ahead and order one from overseas. In case you don’t - then I guess building one is a good option.

You have very good points. Without any knowledge of a cnc. I have assembled the X- cave 1000mm from Inventables and it has been working like a champ. I am trying to stay away from a overseas prebuilt. Like you said, if something goes wrong with the cnc.I’ll have a pretty good idea what’s wrong. Do you by chance know of any well designed kits for lasers? By the way… Have you checked out the Glowforge laser? Thanks

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I second they have just about everything you need to build one including a frame kit and gantry with optic mounts, motors and belts ready to go. After that get the DSP controller and power supply, laser power supply, stepper drivers, laser tube, chiller, air pump, exhaust fan and so forth.

After some consideration, I purchased a cheap Chinese laser since for the price, $366.00 delivered, it was cheaper than the parts that were in it. I am upgrading it with parts from lightobject so by the time I am done, it will still be a fraction of the price if I built it myself. When the tube dies, I will upgrade with one from lightobject. Still learn a lot and when I can spend a lot of money, I will more than likely build my own from scratch.

Any one ever checked out this laser? Seems to be pretty stout for the price!