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Sending prints to a laser cutter

#1
Forgoing the if it will or will not work,
When you send a plan to the cutter (LASER) What programs are you using, and how does it know to etch, score, or fully cut the material without having to send the file multiple times?
I am familiar with a 3D printer I have a QIDI X-Pro.
I would hope a program would interpret a certain color line as to the type of etch or cut to make. The printer would just vary the speed and power of each cut.
 

Flying Monkey fab

Well-known member
#2
I have a Glowforge and that is exactly how it does it. I make sure that each type of operation is a color and then set it in the software. I have cut, light score and heavy score for Adam's foam boards as presets.
 

kilroy07

Well-known member
#5
I get the plans to a DXF (using inkscape if FT and the cad program if it's homegrown).
RDWorksV8 is the software that came with my laser... It's pretty basic and HORRIBLE to try to create/draft anything in so I do all my work in cad first.
As FM said, you usually set specific colors to linework to specify what settings are applied (to cut/etch and/or mark.)

Whether the laser cuts or marks is typically determined by two attributes, Speed and power.
So in the software (in my case RDWorks) you assign a speed and power to the imported DXF and then (in my case rdworks drives the laser.)

If your setup is G-code based there might be a third step to get it outputted to the laser.
.
 
#6
I thought getting the hang of Simplfy3d was hard.
The laser I am getting is suppose to support the following : Wifidevelo, T2-Laser, Candle, Benbox, GrblController, LiteFire, etc. All GRBL-enabled software .
What it will use remains to be seen.
 

kilroy07

Well-known member
#7
Humm... Sounds like the laser is going to use gcode.

You can certainly make your life difficult "exploring the settings" in Simplyify3d!! :LOL: Boy, do I know it!!

Most likely the CAM program provided will allow the import of DXF files (it's the ASCII of CAD files.)
You may get lucky and it might pull right from inkscape... but soon or later you are going to start designing your own parts...

Sounds like you already have a basic understanding of the process, every workflow has it's own uniqueness.

Is your laser a kit, or will it arrive assembled?
 
#10
It is a kit, 15 Watt (probably 8-10 RMS)
Ordered a larger rail kit 500x600mm fixed Z axis.
Figured if I really get into it, I'll upgrade the controller and add a powered Z axis later. Mostly want to cut foam board for now.

When you retire...... you get into stupid stuff.
 

jhitesma

Some guy in the desert
Mentor
#11
I use LightBurn on my cheap laser. They have a gcode version and a "DSP" version - if your setup is GRBL based (which it sounds like it is) then you'll want the gcode version which is nice since it's cheaper. There is a month free trial - I got just a few days into it before deciding it was well worth the cost.

The rest of what's been said already is pretty much what I'd say. My laser is smaller than my needle cutter CNC so I don't do foamboard on the laser. But the process is more or less the same with either. I use inkscape to open the PDF and remove anything I don't need and re-arrange parts to make optimal use of my material. Then I switch over to my CAM package. For the needle cutter I use estlcam and for the laser Lightburn but the process is very similar. Basically you select lines and assign operations to them - Cut / Score / Mark

With the needle cutter I do that by specifying a Z depth for the tool. With the laser it's done by setting speed and power - which will take a bit of experimenting to find the best settings for your particular machine. One big tip for cutting foam with the laser - multiple lower power passes usually works better and gives a cleaner cut with less undercutting of the foam. If you just blast through it in one powerful cut it can work...but you'll get a lot of melting on the foam.

Note - this is assuming your laser is a CO2 laser and not a diode laser. Cutting foam with a diode laser is a LOT harder and more power doesn't really help (partly because higher power diodes usually have a larger spot so the power is less focused but also because the wavelength just isn't as effective on foam.) I have a laser diode on my CNC which is nice since my CNC can handle much larger stock (about 2.6' x 3.6') while my CO2 laser can only handle about 10"x13" material.

Two things I didn't account for with the laser that have really limited it's utility for me are ventilation and cooling. Having used the small diode laser on my CNC I thought I knew what to expect...but going from a 3w diode to a 40w CO2 both of those are much bigger issues to deal with and are a big reason why I still prefer the needle cutter for foam - it may be a bit slower and louder but it has no undercutting and no mess (no smoke - no smell - no dust) unlike laser or a rotary bit CNC setup.
 
#12
This is suppose to be a 405nm (purple) laser which from what I have read is the better wavelength for cutting foam. If it will cut/etch other stuff all the better. I could not justify a Co2 laser cost. Or the ones I could afford would never cut a full wing in a single sheet of foam board.
Time will tell, I have read mixed reviews of people cutting foam with Laser Diodes. Some say it works great, some say it wont cut at all.
If it takes it 30 minutes to cut something well, I'll be happy. 3D Printing the nacells for my EDF version of the guinea pig took 8 hours for each 1/2 of the nacells, so I am use to waiting. I thought about a needle cutter, but Id have to use it outside due to the noise.
WIll have a look at lightburn. Thanks for the tip.
 
#14
jhitesma
Spent last night and all this morning looking at You tube videos, and reading stuff on light burns website. I really like the software and think I am going to use it. I really appreciate your suggestion, even though my eyes and head hurts now.

Bob
 

jhitesma

Some guy in the desert
Mentor
#15
Glad to hear it was helpful. Lightburn is still in fairly heavy development but is definitely production ready and quite a nice piece of software.

My diode laser is a 445nm and doesn't really matter how slow I go it can't do anything useful to foamboard, it can get through the top layer of paper but that's about it. I can cut white poster board with it no problem, but foam - no go. As soon as it hits the foam it just diffuses the light and no actual cutting occurs. Sometimes it can melt the foam from the heat of cutting the top sheet of paper - but that's anything but a clean/usable cut :( I can cut black craft foam with it (this works REALLY well, better than cutting it with a knife or scissors - leaves a nice "cauterized" edge!) but the same foam in white or other lighter colors - nothing.

Not sure if that 40nm difference will be enough or not but I do wish you luck. If it's not - you may not be totally out of luck as a needle cutter is a pretty light low impact tool and a couple of people have converted cheap machines originally designed for lasers to use a needle instead. So even if you don't have luck with the laser don't give up! And the noise from the needle isn't as bad as it seems in my videos - my small echoey office makes it sound a lot worse. I've checked it with a SPL meter and it's quieter than my shopvac. And even with a laser you'll need an exhaust fan going which can be almost as loud and requires somewhere to vent. (Foamboard does NOT smell good when being cut with a laser and I doubt it's very healthy to breath the fumes either.) It's certainly not silent....but it's also not as loud as the trim router I use as a spindle or the shopvac I use to clear chips when using the spindle.
 
#16
Just thought I would follow up on my progress.
First off, for cutting foam board with a laser, a Co2 laser rules. But they are cost prohibitive when you look at a size that will cut a full size sheet of foam board. Not the best thing to have seams in a wing panel. yes there are many available for less than $1000 but they are small in cutting size.
I have yet to find proof, but I guess a 405nm laser will cut the stuff, but about the most powerful I can find is 5 watts, not sure if that will or will not cut it or not.
the 15000 mw (15 watt) lasers are at best only 8-9 watts but at 450 nm wavelength. Again not sure if that will cut or not.
I may just get some modules and have to do some testing. It is all the the wavelength that is used. Above 420 nm just reflects off of the white foam. (Do they make black foam board). I am going to try and reach out to some of the laser manufactures and see what they can do in some sort of testing.
Most of the laser kits you can find on Ebay, Banggood, and aliexpress, are clueless as to the controller boards they use, or what they really can and can not cut. Although the type of X&Y drives they use will allow for about any cut size(material) you want.
I need to find a blog place and start keeping track of all this.
 
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#17
Sometimes it is cheaper to find someone locally with a decent large flatbed & get them to run the job for you with full sheets of foam board. Yes you miss the coolness of having your own system but that is balanced against unit cost & sometimes the headaches that go with running jobs...😀. Another option worth considering.