The laser cutter purchase was supported by a grant from two councillors' locality funds with the remainder coming Hackspace savings. The operating and maintenance costs are expected to be minimal, so the Laser is currently free to use for all trained members.
A laser cutter is a great way to easily produce accurate and complex 2D forms in various materials, and can be designed for with limited experience in various drawing or CAD applications. The laser we have is a Blacknose A3 Laser Cutter with a cutting area of 420x305mm and an upgraded 50W laser. Currently the laser cutter is in the office/lab area of the hackspace with the extraction duct built in to the room.
- What materials can the Laser cutter cut ?
- It cannot cut metal! Not even wafer thin metal.
- Acrylic up to 10mm thick
- Laser grade Plywood and MDF up to 6mm thick (special non-toxic adhesives used)
- Paper (with care to avoid fire)
- Cardboard (with care to avoid fire)
- Some other materials providing they don't produce toxic/contaminating fumes.
For more information on suitable materials please take a took at our Laser cut-able material reference table. If you want to try cutting something not on our list then please check with the machine maintainers listed below who will be able to advise you.
Laser Cutter Controller Upgrade
The Laser Cutter has been upgraded. The original controller, manufactured by Leetro, was a bit limited in what it allowed the Laser cutter to do. Also the accompanying software was locked to a dongle meaning users had to connect to the PC attached to the cutter to upload, edit and submit jobs to the Laser Cutter.
We have installed a new Rudia RDC6445G controller module. This gives us greater flexibility with the laser and also access to better software tools like Rudia's own RDWorks package or the commercial package Lightburn ( links below). The new controller will also allow us to add additional enhancements to the Laser Cutter including additional safety improvements and better control over the Air Assist blower system. Additional features include enhanced Laser Engraving capability and Network Connection of the Laser.
- Network Interface = xxx.xxx.xxx.150
The laser cutter is only to be operated by those who have been trained. The full training process is linked to below. A summary of the operating procedure is available on our Laser Cutter Operating Procedure page. A key part of operating the laser is to only use materials that are safe to Laser cut. Please check out the Laser cut-able material reference table for more information. This includes links to suppliers and preferred cutting settings. Laser cutting designs can be generated by any 2D or 3D CAD/drawing package that can export to 2D DXF. Have a look at our Design for Laser cutting guidelines page.
Training and Maintenance
- Paul Britton
- Mark Mellors
- Richard Cowley
- Andy Mansfield
Trainers / maintainers each hold a set of keys for the laser cutter. The machine cannot be operated without a trainer / maintainer present to unlock the machine.
- Max (by MM 24/8/15)
- Rob Berwick (by MM 31/08/15)
- Dave Booth (by MM 31/08/15)
- Alex Palfreman-Brown
- Paul Cuthbertson - still to do demonstration piece (trained by RDC 21-Sep-15)
- Jonny Leach
- Simon Overell - still to do demonstration piece (trained by RDC 21-Sep-15)
- Adam Taylor - still to do demonstration piece (trained by RDC 9-May-16)
- Jordan - still to do demonstration piece (trained by RDC 9-May-16)
- Mark Thompson (trained by RDC 9-May-16)
- Dave Edmundson (trained by RDC 9-May-16)
- Mike Roberts - still to do demonstration piece (trained by MM 9-Jan-17)
- Nicolas Pike - still to do demonstration piece (trained by MM 9-Jan-17)
- Louise Hughes (by MM 9-Jan-17)
- Brian Widdas (by MM 9-Jan-17)
- Andy Little - still to do demonstration piece (by MM 9-Jan-17)
- Ellie Winter (by MM 9-Jan-17)
- Alister Ware (by RDC 20-Nov-19)
- Ben Griffin - still to do demonstration piece (by RDC 20-Nov-19)
- Gerry Taylor - still to do demonstration piece (by RDC 20-Nov-19)
- Robin Taylor - still to do demonstration piece (by RDC 20-Nov-19)
- Martin Loomas (by PB Jul-21)
The machine will need to be cleaned regularly (by every operator) to stop residues from building up and becoming a fire hazard. Please follow the Laser Maintenance Plan.
Health and safety
The laser is very safe to use, when it is well maintained the main risk is of out of control burning of materials like wood, card or residues that have built up in the machine. Hazards include:
FIRE (under normal operation) - Cutting at the wrong speed or the wrong power can result in the material igniting
FUMES - The laser cutting process will release different smoke and fumes depending on the material.
TRAPPING - The head and bed of the cutter can be moved by the front panel menu or programs in the machines memory.
LASER BURNS/LIGHT - A 50W laser can do real damage
For further information please review The Full Risk Assessment.
- Laser cutter: £3000, inc chiller (maintains tube life and cut consistency) The laser cutter was bought from Just Add Sharks who ceased trading in 2017 . Support for their Laser Cutters was taken over by Smoke and Mirrors who have a Legacy support page.
- Laserable plywood mixed pack
- Acrylic mixed pack
Training and Operation
Design and External Information Resources
RDWorks is Ruida's own product and suffers a bit from translation issues. However it is free to use and can drive the Laser Cutter directly. Instructions on use to follow. https://rdworkslab.com/
- Download Link https://rabbitlaserusa.com/index.php?route=information/information&information_id=15
- Setting up RDWorks For use with our Laser Cutter
Lightburn is a commercial product. We are looking at getting a copy for the Hackspace and possibly getting access to a licence / subscription deal that would allow members to also use the tool.
- Download Link https://lightburnsoftware.com/pages/trial-version-try-before-you-buy
- Pricing https://lightburnsoftware.com/collections/frontpage/products/lightburn-dsp