Old 12-24-2009, 04:06 AM #1
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Default nOOb questions about laser for acrylic etching/engraving

Okay, I am a noob when it comes to laser work. As such, my questions may seem rather elementary but please bear with me. Eventually I plan on doing some etching work on acrylics using a CNC but I have no firm timeline on this. Cost is a HUGE consideration so most of the stuff will be homebuilt, else I would just buy something already together. Further, I have done a couple of days worth of searching here and couldn't find the apporpriate answers to my questions, so here I am. Moving on...

1) What is the lowest power laser I could use to do serious and precise engraving? Something of this quality for instance:

Glo-Tech Innovations Canada Corp. - Detailed Product View

For instance, would it be suitable to pick up one of those 3W IR diodes 808nm and focus that to a nice dot and do this etch? Or would I need something of higher power? How quickly might I expect to be able to do an etch of this quality given lower power lasers?

2) What are the options and making an array of lasers combined with good optics to combine beams and get more power?

I saw the DIY by wannaburn on combining 4 diodes to get 1 beam and believe I could do this. I even have a few ideas of my own on how to do this, which I will likely MS Paint shortly for collective ridicule . I have read that there are more extensive arrays that have been make by DIYers but I can't locate those threads. Any links/info?

3) I have read that IR of the 808nm variety is not that great for etching, and that CO2 is better because of the longer wavelengths. How accurate is this and how strong of a diode laser would I need to overcome this obstacle?

4) Any other information? For instance, using a laser in the visible spectrum better? Any other cheap options that should go for my consideration? Any other questions I should answer before you give me a recommendation?

Thanks all! Be easy, first time poster here.
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Old 12-24-2009, 07:12 AM #2
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Default Re: nOOb questions about laser for acrylic etching/engraving

Hey welcome to the forum!

1) If your looking into quality like that, please be aware that a homebuilt system will cost a pretty penny.

2) If you are seriously considering this, I would recommend going with 1 laser, combining laser beams are pretty tricky to say the least. This is not a good idea.

3) IR is ok for etching, CO2 is better but a CO2 laser is a gas laser and IR is a laser diode. Difference is, that CO2 lasers need external power supplies, are bulky, fragile, need optics to take the beam to the CNC head and are relatively expensive.

What I would do if I were you is to buy a high powered IR laser, around 5-10W. Depending on your CNC, quality and precision will be determined by the machine. Speed of the cnc can be adjusted, so I guess you will have to experiment with settings in order to get it working right.

Hope that helped! –Adrian
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Old 12-24-2009, 06:56 PM #3
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Default Re: nOOb questions about laser for acrylic etching/engraving

That is helpful thus far. However, I can only spring for the cheapest diodes and thus, outside of those cheap diodes providing enough power (which is unlikely), I have to do some beam combining.

Or, could I grab one of those c-mount IR 5W diodes and use some form of fiber collimation to get a nice beam. Perhaps I could even swing the trouble of combining beams and then use the fiber optics to still collimate the beam to get the desired power?
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Old 12-25-2009, 04:05 AM #4
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Default Re: nOOb questions about laser for acrylic etching/engraving

Okay, I have another nOOb question. What is the difference between multimode and singlemode diodes and how do I tell the difference on a diode I am about to buy? I have read that multimodes are harder to focus because you need a minimum of two lenses to do a semi-decent job at focusing while single mode just requires that standard single focusing lense.

I have also read that an easier way to grab that high powered IR diode is to canabalize a cheaper green and then adjust the other electronics as needed. Good idea?
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