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Old 06-29-2012, 10:27 AM #1
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Default Where's the "Noobs shouldn't touch a laser before reading this" thread?

Maybe I'm missing something but I haven't been able to find the thread that teaches the very basics. I have seen many great tutorials that assume you know all the terms that I could follow and likely work through but I would prefer a little more background before jumping in. Maybe I could search through all the threads for each question I have but it would seem this info should be in one topic because I'm sure I won't know all the questions to ask.

My main interest is in lasers is cutting and engraving. I've seen some incredible machines and some very reasonably priced but all out of my price range. Actually I've seen some on ebay cheap enough I could afford but the table size is way too small for my purposes. So to press on, I saw a video, "Start slicing things for under 50 bucks" that showed how to make your own. This person is able to cut construction paper with what I think was a 225mw laser. I want to do a little better than that to start with and grow bigger and better as I learn more. I can build the table and write the software but I know very little about what type of laser I should use.

Questions:
1. Safety goggles. From taking a quick look at several types, it seems there are specific goggles for for different types of lasers. Is there a "All in one" or do I need to buy goggles after I buy a laser?

2. Which laser. I never knew there were so many different types. Obviously the more watts the better it should cut but how many types of lasers are there and do some get hotter at less wattage? Does the laser's color make a difference? Is there a table somewhere that says "This is the types of lasers available and this is what their used for"?

3. Need more than just the laser? Looks like I'll also need a heat sink, driver, power supply, amp regulator, lense... what else am I missing and how do I find what works best with whatever laser I end up with?

Maybe what I need to start with is a typical, "Components of a laser" diagram and assembly instructions. I know there will be 100s of variations but something simple and typical so I can get a basic understanding to start building off of.

Any suggestions as to where I should start. Thanks in advance for your help.


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Old 06-29-2012, 10:42 AM #2
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Default Re: Where's the "Noobs shouldn't touch a laser before reading this" thread?

What exactly is your given price range?
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Old 06-29-2012, 01:53 PM #3
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Default Re: Where's the "Noobs shouldn't touch a laser before reading this" thread?

The ebay engravers would be about $850 including shipping and it's 40w. I'm sure it's not going to be the greatest quality.

I thought I'd start somewhere closer to the "under 50 bucks" guy and try to build something around 1watt. If that's successful and I've learned enough I'll try moving up from there. I'd say maybe $200 this go 'round so if I fail I haven't got too much invested.

Realistically, I can have the parts I need done for me for no more than $800 but this looks like something I would enjoy, even if it's just a hobby, so I'd kinda like to learn.
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Old 06-29-2012, 11:33 PM #4
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Default Re: Where's the "Noobs shouldn't touch a laser before reading this" thread?

What are you trying to engrave? These hobbiest lasers may pop black balloons, or trash bags, or maybe light matches, but realistically they're pretty lame for burning or engraving. Maybe you could use it to, uh, melt some foam? "Engrave" construction paper? Other pretty lame stuff?

For the "real deal" you should look into CO2 lasers. They're an order of magnitude more powerful (40W vs 2W at the high end for a 445nm), cheap (as a function of power), and literally produce a "heat beam". You don't even need super special goggles to protect your eyes.

Before you buy any lasers though, get your automation machinery up and running. Something like a MendelMax is a good way to get into 3D printing (and engraving). Then once you have that set up you can purchase lasers, or drills, or other stuff to do stuff. Otherwise you're not going to have much in the way of an engraver, but rather just some laser that burns stuff.
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Old 06-30-2012, 05:59 AM #5
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Default Re: Where's the "Noobs shouldn't touch a laser before reading this" thread?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bionic-Badger View Post
Otherwise you're not going to have much in the way of an engraver, but rather just some laser that burns stuff.
That's pretty much what I'm figuring for a first step. The "Under 50 bucks" guy was cutting construction paper, I'm hoping to at least cut and/or engrave foam board for my first laser project although the point is learning, so what it cuts is not really relevant.

MendelMax looks fantastic, I'm still just thinking 2d although thought about 3d, I'm even more interested now that I know 3d is being done. The 50 buck guy used a parallel port program to control his machine. I just wrote my own parallel port program a few months ago and unlike others I've seen it has 12 controllable outputs instead of the normal 8. I've been picking up parts here and there the last few days so I'm on my way to getting a machine built and starting with pencils before switching to the laser.

Using CO2 lasers is the type of stuff I need to learn. As I said, I want to start gathering information and learn what I'm doing before jumping in full blown. I now at least have a direction to start with, thanks.
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