Laser Cutter

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This tool cannot be operated without completing a training course.

Laser Cutter

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. We have added a new wiki page with details of the 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.

Example projects

Laser cut things

Installation Details

  • Network Interface = xxx.xxx.xxx.150

Operation

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

Trainers/maintainers

  • Paul Britton
  • Mark Mellors
  • Richard Cowley
  • Andy Mansfield

Trainers / maintainers each hold a set of keys for the laser cutter. A set are also stored in the keypress at the hackspace.

Trained users

  • 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 - (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 Loomes - (by PB Jul-21)
  • Istvan Szvabo - (by MBR Oct-21)
  • Luis F - (by ML Dec-22)
  • Marcus - (by ML Feb-23)
  • Craig Warwick - (by ML 24-May-23)
  • Mark Garratt- (by ML 30-June-23)
  • George- (by ML 30-August-23)

Maintenance

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.

Initial Purchase

Related pages

Training and Operation

Maintenance

Risk Assessment

Materials Selection

Design and External Information Resources

Software

RDWorks

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

Lightburn is a commercial product. We purchased a copy for the Hackspace and have subscription deal that would allow members to also use the tool.

https://lightburnsoftware.com/
Download Link https://lightburnsoftware.com/pages/trial-version-try-before-you-buy
Pricing https://lightburnsoftware.com/collections/frontpage/products/lightburn-dsp

See also Designing for laser cutting - Lightburn Software Guides

Lightburn Config File

If you would like to use Lightburn with our laser Cutter please download this Lightburn Config Zip File . You will need to extract the zip file and then load it in to your copy of Lightburn.

Old Software

LaserCut 5.3

LaserCut 5.3 Documentation
Corel Documentation
Techniques
Physical Tweak Documentation

Fusion 360 (3D Design software)

This section is under construction

  1. Start Fusion 360
  2. Create a new sketch
  3. Create a rectangle
  4. Set the width and height
  5. Add a circle for a hole for a switch
  6. Add 4 more circles for mounting holes
  7. Export a DXF file

Fusion 360 is a 3D Design program. It can be used for many things but this section just describes a "get you started, step-by-step instructions" on how to create a DXF file to import into Lightburn for a simple control panel consisting of a rectangle with mounting holes and some holes for switches etc. Note that Fusion is cloud-based, so your projects will not be stored on your computer. But of course when you later create a DXF file, that will be.

N.B. The user-interface of Fusion 360 might not be entirely what you are used to. One aspect is that when you are in the process of editing some shapes, parameters etc the mouse pointer will change and you have to do "ordinary" mouse clicks (not holding the shift key (to drag) or right mouse button etc). I will try to warn/explain what to do at the various parts of this description.

If you have not yet installed Fusion 360, do it now [click here]

Start Fusion 360 You will be in an empty "Untitled" project. Click on the "Save" icon (at the top of the screen) and give your project a name, say "panel". As you work on your project, you can click that icon any time to save the current project. Not that it is not stored on your computer but in the cloud. Every time you click on that icon, your project will be saved with a new version number (you can go back to earlier versions later).

Look in the top (menu/tab) section for the word "CREATE" with a drop-down arrow. Click on it and a drop-down list should appear with various options. Click on "Create Sketch". The main area will display an interactive view allowing you to select which "plane" you want to work on - the choice is the horizontal plane or either of 2 vertical planes. Move the mouse pointer around and note that each of the 3 planes is highlighted as you move over that area. Click on the right-hand (vertical) plane. The display will change and you will now be editing a sketch. This is a 2D editor that lets you draw various lines and shapes. Usually, people using Fusion want to create 3D designs and for them, this (2D) phase allows them to define parts of their designs as "engineering drawings". But for us, this 2D design is all that we want - we will be exporting a DXF file from this once we have defined the rectangles, circles etc.

Hover your mouse over the option "Rectangle" (don't click yet). Another option list will appear to the right (don't click yet). Move your mouse pointer over the option "2-point rectangle" and click (and now release the mouse button). Note that the mouse pointer has changed to a cross-wires together with a small rectangle. Move the mouse pointer to anywhere in say a little to the top-left of the centre of the screen (don't worry about exactly where, you will be able to change anything easily later. Now click and release the mouse button (don't click on anything else yet). Now move the mouse around in a few directions and Fusion will draw a rectangle that moves and resizes with your mouse. Move the mouse pointer to a convenient place and click once. You should now see the new rectangle in place. Note that the mouse pointer is still showing the cross-hairs and rectangle shape. This is because Fusion is giving you the chance to carry on creating as many rectangles as you want without having to click on the various menus for every one. Since we have finished creating our (single) rectangle, press the keyboard "Esc" key. The mouse pointer will have now changed back to normal. Notice that you can move the mouse and click any corner or side and drag it to resize or move etc.

Next, let's set the width of the rectangle. Press (and release) the "D" key on your keyboard. The mouse pointer will change to show that Fusion is now in a mode to set dimensions/lengths/widths/heights. Note that you can reset/get out of this mode by pressing the "Esc" key.

Legacy Hardware Reference

For historical reference only: