Please make a note that if you are going to do this yourself, you owe it to yourself to buy a pair of nice ($35 or so) color filter safety glasses designed for the particular wavelength of the laser you are going to use. Mine is 650nm – red. I specifically wanted a laser in the visible part of the spectrum – if it’s going to burn my eye I want to at least know about it and give my reflexes a fighting chance to blink and shield my eye(s) from more damage. An infrared might have been more efficient and less picky about colors (with red laser forget about cutting any light colored material) but it requires more safety discipline.
The CNC machine it’s based on is Sable-2015 which I bought in the Summer of 2009 from eBay seller Luke-Chen in China. I have also bought the controller and the 24V DC power supply from Luke-Chen and had it running within hours after the package came in the mail.
The original idea was to use it for PCB milling but I got hooked onto laser cutting and decided to use the machine as my testbed. Below is a wider shot that shows more of the CNC router and the laser diode housing. The housing is not a more widely used AixiZ. I tried it on an earlier setup and did not like it. The one I use is black anodized aluminum and is slightly larger than AixiZ, has enough volume inside to house the driver PCB and dissipate the heat that both the driver circuit and the diode produce. I bought the TTL-controlled driver and this “upgraded” housing from an eBay seller o-like1983. It was shipped from China but came rather quickly and was very much worth the wait.
You’ve probably noticed how painfully slow this process is. In the videos above it’s actually running at 50 mm/min. This is the speed that I’ve found that works best with blue colored foam. When I’m using black foam (which I use for majority of the projects) it cuts very well and clean at 100 mm/min. So, unless you really do need color, stick with black foam.
There is one more good reason to cut quicker – the laser diode as well as the driver get really hot which means that they are probably not going to last as long as the manufacturer intended. When inside the housing, you can feel the heat but it’s OK to touch. If you were touching the driver (not so much the laser) while ON, you’d burn yourself for sure. I actually have an extra driver as well as extra laser diode for just in case. This machine has cut probably 4 hour in total so far. This very cut you see on the video is the longest I’ve ever done – 47-some minutes.
Here is how the finished product looks like:
I’ll be posting more on the subject and will be making the GCode and SVG files for both the rocket and the launchpad stand available for your free downloading pleasure later.