Since I’ve got my first 3D printer kit I got deep into the DIY world. I had to learn a lot about troubleshooting stuff. Yes there are big communities around 3D printing but I never wanted to be that person which is asking the community for every little problem. So I tried to learn everything about the mechanics and electronics which is necessary and used this knowledge to jump into laser cutting and engraving. At first I bought a 2.5W laser and mounted it to my 3D printer. Everything worked well enough for most of the projects but soon the laser area wasn’t big enough anymore. I started to design and build my own Laser Cutting machine. See this picture here.
What should I say. It took about 2 weeks and I discovered that this build space is also to small for the wood I got. The thing is, it’s not easy to find usable laserable plywood out there. Many suppliers only got plywood with branches in it or many glued spots. But at the end I found a supplier here in germany (www.balsabar-shop.de) which sells 50x50cm (or bigger/smaller) sheets of birch plywood. So I didn’t wanted to cut every plywood sheet I received and ordered a ready to build laser frame from ratrig. The OpenBuilds Acro frame was easy to build and I’m still using it. I’ve ordered the 1000x1000mm frame (they scale up to 1500×1500) cause this was what I could fit in my workspace. Also this time, I planned to build a fully enclosured system for safety reasons and to make it easier to get rid of the smoke.
In the following pictures you can see my setup. Later on I also installed an air assist system to get even sharper,cleaner and faster cuttings and engravings.
In the beginning I’ve mounted the 2.5W china laser to my system but also was searching for something more powerful. I gave the 5W china lasers a try but wasn’t very satisfied with the outcome. By doing some research I’ve came to the endurance laser website. I was scrolling through their products and quickly discovered the 10W laser and all the possibilities it could give me. At that point I’ve already earned some money with my lasers and was able to afford some small parts but not the big 10W laser from endurance. So I reached out to a company that I have already done some work and asked for an investment. In return for that I will do some jobs for them to payout the costs of the 10W laser.
Using the laser now for about a year and like any other machine my system needs some maintenance. This is where the struggle started and I had to learn a lot, again.
One day my workshop and system looked like this:
I disassembled nearly the whole frame and replaced the worn out belts and wheels. By doing that, I discovered some issues which the frame has. Like the belt tensioning system or the tightening of the wheels. That’s why I mounted the laser to my CNC machine to get some jobs done and went back to the drawing board and currently redrawing the brackets for the y and x axis and the belt tensioning system. Also the mount for the laser on my cnc machine still needs a redo as you can see here.
It is mounted to a quickly designed and 3D printed plate and the tape is preventing the wobble I didn’t thought about before.
Also for my big acro frame I want some changes in the controller. I was using a Ramps 1.4 board all the time with a standard marlin 3D printer firmware. Worked well enough for my jobs but not perfect at all. Now I’m planning to use a cnc controller with grbl firmware to get better performance.
Over all I’m thinking that the DIY community is nice to get into mechanics, electronics and stuff to create your own things. You just need a project to start with.
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Charles Stephenson received a Masters Degree in Engineering from MIT University. Charles has been working in the Industrial 3D Printing industry for over 5 years. Charles regularly contributes content to several 3D Printing websites including Pirate3D.com.