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Lasercutting foam board

#22
so none of you have concerns about lasercutting foamboard?
i recently found out my hometown has a makerspace with several CNC mills and a 100w CO² lasercutter,
but the guys there don't allow cutting polystyrene(the foam in foamboard) with the lasercutter because of the resulting gas.
could you link me to the resources you used to determine lasercutting foamboard is safe? or did you just trial and error?
if it is harmless i would like to convey that to my local makerspace and sources would be very helpful
 
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kilroy07

Well-known member
#24
I have had this pic for years, who knows where I picked it up at.
CO2_Laser_LowPower.jpg

Is the laser vented to the outside or internally (I assume with a filter box)?
If internal, it might not be about toxicity as much as smell.
Smoke (from wood/paper) will be mostly particulates where as acrylic and polystyrene (foamboard) will stink if they don't have carbon filters.
 

kilroy07

Well-known member
#25
Here's a pretty good link (quick google search) again, NOT hazardous gases, but a risk of fire...
http://www.atxhackerspace.org/wiki/Laser_Cutter_Materials
And yes, I HAVE had FB torch on my laser... (mostly in complex curves... inkscape creates Many (sometimes thousands) of lines to represent a b-spline curve...) if I don't catch those sometimes the laser slows WAY down in those corners and starts a burn.

Do they have an airpump to force air out the nozzle?
 
#26
The lasercutter is a Radium Laser Model 1390 (attached pic below), i think it's an old industrial machine. I can't find documentation online so far.

i have not used it yet, so im not sure on the specific features it has. All i did is read the makerspaces self-compiled material list and talk to members there.

When i researched foamboard and lasercutting i found a lot of makerspaces allow it, although most of their material lists seem to be from experience.

I found a few reports that white foamboard can be problematic because it reflects too much light, has that been an issue for you guys? is black or brown foamboard better?
I have had this pic for years, who knows where I picked it up at.
[PIC]
Is the laser vented to the outside or internally (I assume with a filter box)?
If internal, it might not be about toxicity as much as smell.
Smoke (from wood/paper) will be mostly particulates where as acrylic and polystyrene (foamboard) will stink if they don't have carbon filters.

Here's a pretty good link (quick google search) again, NOT hazardous gases, but a risk of fire...
http://www.atxhackerspace.org/wiki/Laser_Cutter_Materials

And yes, I HAVE had FB torch on my laser... (mostly in complex curves... inkscape creates Many (sometimes thousands) of lines to represent a b-spline curve...) if I don't catch those sometimes the laser slows WAY down in those corners and starts a burn.

Do they have an airpump to force air out the nozzle?
first off, eager to help as always, thank you!

yes they have a ventilation system leading to a bathroom (you can see the PVC pipe in the left bottom corner), i'm unsure if it is filtered. I'll find out next time i go.

in your first link i cant find polystyrene or foamboard?

the ATX link is pretty damning and says its a big firehazard.

i'm not sure what a FB torch is?
Also dont know about Air at the nozzle, i would assume so but ill find out.



Or more probably they use a polystyrene compatible cutter with adequate vent/filtering.
Well yes im not saying it is impossible or dangerous, the makerspace is saying they dont allow it (with their cutter). im looking for experience and possibly proof i can use :)


i personally found these two sources and think they make a good case for it
http://cdn.dickblick.com/msds/DBH_132020000.pdf
https://www.ulsinc.com/materials/foam-core-board


 
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kilroy07

Well-known member
#27
That looks like a pretty amazing bit of kit! Mine is a chepo Chinese laser... :cautious:

I guess what I was saying is I've never seen it on a list of Don't cut for fumes reason. And I concede there is a fire risk (but there is with most things you laser cut... Just the nature of the beast.) I was trying to say I have torched a sheet or two of foamboard in my time.

One thing you might try is just working with them, acknowledge the risk and ask their lead laser guy to help you dial in the power levels. You said it was 100 Watt?... It might be hard to get that laser tube to fire and JUST mark the foamboard... I run mine pretty close to the bottom end when marking.

Also, Set the values low enough so it takes two passes to cut through. First reason is you will see less undercutting of the foam and second it should reduce the fire risk quite a bit.

I think if the guys see how it cuts foamboard (and you show genuine respect for the equipment) they might relax a bit.
 
#28
That looks like a pretty amazing bit of kit! Mine is a chepo Chinese laser... :cautious:

I guess what I was saying is I've never seen it on a list of Don't cut for fumes reason. And I concede there is a fire risk (but there is with most things you laser cut... Just the nature of the beast.) I was trying to say I have torched a sheet or two of foamboard in my time.

One thing you might try is just working with them, acknowledge the risk and ask their lead laser guy to help you dial in the power levels. You said it was 100 Watt?... It might be hard to get that laser tube to fire and JUST mark the foamboard... I run mine pretty close to the bottom end when marking.

Also, Set the values low enough so it takes two passes to cut through. First reason is you will see less undercutting of the foam and second it should reduce the fire risk quite a bit.

I think if the guys see how it cuts foamboard (and you show genuine respect for the equipment) they might relax a bit.
yeah it's quite the monster, i got a bit excited when i saw it :D

i have mailed the lead laser guy and i hope he'll at least let me test it.
I just wanted some ammo/knowledge first before i write my mail. thanks for your input.
If i get to test it ill keep your recommendations in mind
 
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#29
I'm thinking of replacing my laser with a spin saw, which is basically a tiny router. Not because of the fumes, just the time it takes me to cut anything out. I realized my cheapo Chinese laser gives me a good basis to start, its software, basic as it is can handle 3 axis control and I'm thinking I can make something with a brushless RC motor to give me fester less "smelly" cuts. it would also mean i can use the water proof papered foam from here.
 
#30
I'm thinking of replacing my laser with a spin saw, which is basically a tiny router. Not because of the fumes, just the time it takes me to cut anything out. I realized my cheapo Chinese laser gives me a good basis to start, its software, basic as it is can handle 3 axis control and I'm thinking I can make something with a brushless RC motor to give me fester less "smelly" cuts. it would also mean i can use the water proof papered foam from here.
I might sound like cpt obvious, but check the 2nd thread of this subforum if you haven’t already
 

kilroy07

Well-known member
#31
I might sound like cpt obvious, but check the 2nd thread of this subforum if you haven’t already
I second that! Do you have a 3D printer to make the parts for a mpcnc?

The problem with the router idea is first you aren’t going to get clean cuts. Second the z height is going to be tricky (for 50% cuts for example.

The needle cutter is really the way to go!!
(If your driving your current setup with a ramps board, that should be fine for the mpcnc. )
 
#32
Well you may consider yourself "Captain Obvious" but that squarely makes me "Admiral Oblivious" because that needle cutter is EXACTLY what I need. I do have a 3D printer and will see what I can crank out over the next few weeks, wife, kids and work not withstanding...

Thanks for that.
 
#33
Realizing I am a bit late to this thread...

I have a couple co2 lasers both 80 w & have been playing around for settings on the Adams white foamboard on my Chinese Laser . I do get a bit more cutback then I want, but haven't played around all that much yet. It was enough to do a trainer...to get me started.

And setting between the adams white & the other board can varry by machine so I think you really need to experiment. I have decent air flow so no fires while cutting.

A word on the makers machine & why they may not allow use... there is a combination (and I have forgotten it at this moment) when you Laser it produces a toxic gas....similar to a ww1 style mustard gas... so great care should be exercised...even with a good venting system.

I was in a Trotec office & one of there techs flew rc aircraft as a hobby... he cut a plane & asssembled it (nice clean cuts) as a sample demo in the sales office. So very doable
 
#36
I can understand that on most machines...I dialed in a differnt setting today that seems to work better. My Chinese Laser only fires at about a minimum of 13% & I am cutting at about 16-17%... seems to be good enough for the glue pocket as well.
 
#37
I have a cheap Chinese 15W visible light engraver/cutter and while it won't cut the white foam board with the water proof brown paper from Flight Test (sadness) I found it does cut black board from Staples.

It's not fast, and trial and error and more than a few fires later I find that 2 passes at 150mm/min will cut the paper then U must speed it up to >200mm/min on the foam itself to avoid melting. 3 to 5 passes gets through the black foam to the second lower sheet of paper then it gets problematic. If I run slower than 200mm/min I risk getting large melted areas but even though it cuts the top sheet at that speed the bottom sheet seems more resistant. maybe because of the residual melted foam being a bit too reflective. I'm not sure. I'm still experimenting. Maybe again because of the melted foam on the bottom sheet even cutting it out with an Olfa blade seems to rip the paper and result in a messy finish. The top looks great though.

View attachment 114563 \

I tweak the downloaded PDF files using the PDF-XChange Editor and use InkScape with the JTech Photonics free plugin.
I may need to try the black foam board when my laser arrives and see if that makes a difference over the white foam board. I bought one of these lasers http://endurancelasers.com/diode-lasers/10w-endurance-laser/ and they are much more powerful than the 15W Chinese lasers which normally produce between 5W to 8W though they claim and sell them as 15W.
 
#38
I second that! Do you have a 3D printer to make the parts for a mpcnc?

The problem with the router idea is first you aren’t going to get clean cuts. Second the z height is going to be tricky (for 50% cuts for example.

The needle cutter is really the way to go!!
(If your driving your current setup with a ramps board, that should be fine for the mpcnc. )
I am working on an MPCNC, though I have what I need to build a needle cutter I also ordered a laser from http://endurancelasers.com/diode-lasers/10w-endurance-laser/ so I am trying to decide which to go with. I like the needle cutter but not the constant needle failures that I read so much of. The laser will have it's own issues but would most likely cut black foam board without an issue.
 

Attachments

jhitesma

Some guy in the desert
Mentor
#39
I like the needle cutter but not the constant needle failures that I read so much of. The laser will have it's own issues but would most likely cut black foam board without an issue.
To be fair...I probably had more needle failures than everyone else combined with my first needle cutter. But with my latest design (the one you printed based on your post in the needle thread) I've only had a two failures in over a year. The first wasn't really even a failure - the needle just came off the bearing while trying to cut cardboard and push the limits. The other failure was an actual failure and came after cutting probably close to 2 or 3 cases of foam over a year....and probably could have been avoided if I had listened to my intuition and sharpened the needle since I noticed it was getting dull.

The big key was getting a tach and dialing in my needle speed. Before I had been trying to calculate the speed based on voltage and motor kv - but that only works if you're going 100% full throttle since ESC's aren't always linear in their throttle response. So I was running almost twice as fast as I thought I was - once I slowed the needle down my failures all but went away.
 
#40
To be fair...I probably had more needle failures than everyone else combined with my first needle cutter. But with my latest design (the one you printed based on your post in the needle thread) I've only had a two failures in over a year. The first wasn't really even a failure - the needle just came off the bearing while trying to cut cardboard and push the limits. The other failure was an actual failure and came after cutting probably close to 2 or 3 cases of foam over a year....and probably could have been avoided if I had listened to my intuition and sharpened the needle since I noticed it was getting dull.

The big key was getting a tach and dialing in my needle speed. Before I had been trying to calculate the speed based on voltage and motor kv - but that only works if you're going 100% full throttle since ESC's aren't always linear in their throttle response. So I was running almost twice as fast as I thought I was - once I slowed the needle down my failures all but went away.
Well this is very encouraging to here and I will definitely setup the needle cutter and give it some runs! Thanks for the work, tips and information.