View Full Version : Fire takes my laser down - looking for ideas.

Martin Reynolds
11-13-2010, 4:18 PM
OK, I had a laser fire. Lesson learned. Now I have to pick up the pieces. Basically, the laser finished the job but there must have been a small ember burning under the table. That got going, and at some point the exhaust hose fell off, so I lost the cooling effects of the airflow. maybe good, maybe bad - who knows?


Damage list, so far:
- Chemical powder and black smoke dust all through the upper chamber
- Polycarbonate cover unrecoverable
- Control panel display failure - may come back
- damage belt on X axis
- Destroyed honeycomb panel
- X axis seizes at the fire area
- Portions of the wiring cover are seized (looks like a tank track)
- Bed epoxy failed , causing the bed plate to delaminate from the base

Don't know how much got into the lower chambers, but at first blush the thing isn't too far from functional although I expect the spare parts to be pricey.

I may fix this laser, or buy a new one. Here's whare I am wondering.

1) This is an Explorer II. Very good machine overall, but we always had trouble getting a nice edge on PETG. Might be a power issue, never really figured it out. So we'd be interested in another machine. Any recommendations? I'd think about going up a bit from 30W.

2) Things would be easier if we could contract some cutting. We are in the San Francisco bay area, our blanks are 32x19.75, would be interested in anyone who would like to cut for us. The material is .060 PETG, which is a dirtier cut than acrylic so there is cleaning to do. Mostly, it dirties up the cutting grid. Also, the edge quality is critical.

Bruce Volden
11-13-2010, 4:58 PM
Martin, were it me I would jump in and try to salvage the machine. BUT, I would also look at buying a used system from a reliable source to get things going again. Lasers have become quite cheap and "disposable" (don't beat me up here people) and in your area of the country there should be many businesses utilizing them. I enjoy the challenge of renovation probably more than the graphic design of things, so, that is where I personally would start. However, if you don't have a technical background, then by all means farm things out and make sound decisions accordingly.

Sorry about the fire:(


Martin Reynolds
11-13-2010, 5:07 PM
Thanks. Bruce. I am already up to my elbows in the thing. I just ran a basic test, and the servos are all running fine so the motion systems and electronics are all basically functional - despite the damaged belt. I have not cleaned the lenses yet, so I don't know how bad they are. Also, with the exhaust off, stuff got drawn into the tube and electronics chamber - I have not been in there yet. The good news is that the laser tube was not running at the time, and the head was parked at the "cool" end of the laser bed.

I have had a couple of goes at the display board, but still no display so I can't see more deeply into the system. And my x axis still has a hard spot where the fire was.

Given the need to cut, a replacement laser is a serious option.

Chuck Stone
11-13-2010, 5:46 PM
I seem to remember reading that the display was about a $50 item, and
it just plugs in. So I wouldn't be overly concerned about that one. The
lenses and mirrors will certainly need a good cleaning but it doesn't look
like they were damaged from what little I see in the photo.

I'd like to replace wiring harnesses even if they seem to be working, because
if the covering has burned away anywhere (even if you don't see it) you
could get a short that goes back to the main board.

Cover and honeycomb .. what, can't you wash those? :p

Washing off the fire extinguisher powder might be a challenge.. that
stuff is DESIGNED to stick!

Of course, you can't tell anything without the control panel, but if you
replace that, you'll have a better idea about the rest of it. I'd want to
salvage it if possible, even if it is a backup machine.
If not, I can always use a backup machine :p

Scott Shepherd
11-13-2010, 6:07 PM
Sorry to see you had a fire. From the photo you posted, I'd be in the fixing it camp. Doesn't look like that much real damage, part wise to me. Sure, it's ugly, but all in all, a box of parts and you'd be back in business. My guess is certainly for $1,000 or less you'd be back up and running. That's a lot cheaper than a new laser.

Martin Reynolds
11-13-2010, 7:05 PM
I've done an "air cut" with it, so the motion systems are all working. Not sure about the laser, but I think it will be OK.

The chemical fire extinguisher left a powdery mess, but it cleans up easily. The soot is worse.

All of the optics cleaned up nicely, although I had to use an organic solvent to get the film off.

The bed to plate is warped, and the epoxy has let go on one edge. That's going to be tricky.

That's good news on the display board. I've been unable to find the display itself anywhere, but if I can get it for $50 that will be helpful.

Bruce Volden
11-13-2010, 8:18 PM
Martin, make certain you clean the optics further with the proper solution ie; don't try to burn through the organic stuff. Also as far as the bed / table is concerned go to the hardware store and get a sheet of metal the size you need (quite cheap) and shim things to the proper height. The metal will also allow you to use magnets for positioning things. Belts can be found on the 'net and are very affordable-I by mine by the foot (got lots left over but still cheaper than the laser mfgr!) Perhaps some cleaning on the cover will be easy with a plastics refinishing kit like they sell for headlight refurb's? One last thing re: the display, the ribbon connector for the LCD is quite suspect to be a problem as there isn't much to them (very thin) so you may as well try to reseat it a couple of times. Glad to hear to motion system is working.:cool:


Richard Rumancik
11-13-2010, 8:42 PM
[QUOTE=Martin Reynolds;1557648 . . . This is an Explorer II. Very good machine overall, but we always had trouble getting a nice edge on PETG. Might be a power issue, never really figured it out. So we'd be interested in another machine. Any recommendations? I'd think about going up a bit from 30W. . . . [/QUOTE]

Sorry to hear about the fire.

Something is making you believe that you should be able to get better edge quality on PETG than what you are currently achieving. Did you see samples of better edges? PETG cuts won't be beautiful - it will not cut like acrylic. My point is, before you buy a different laser based on this issue make sure you get samples of PETG cut to your files. Perhaps you should also ask GCC for a sample of cut PETG to see what they think is normal quality.

Another thing you could consider is trying different manufacturers and/or different formulations of PETG and see if a different grade will give better results.

Martin Reynolds
11-14-2010, 1:09 AM
We've got to the point where our PETG has a clear, smooth edge. But sometimes, we'll get rough edges and we end up tweaking for a day. Bigger lasers with more air get a matte edge. The problem occurs when the edges flow bach together and re-adhere. Anyhow, I'm well down the path of fixing this one - although the PETG question remains open.

Martin Reynolds
11-14-2010, 1:12 AM
OK, I am well on the path to recovery. The new control panel fixed my communication issues, I have a new lid, table and belts, and am now cleaning out all residuals of the fire powder. Tomorrow's reassembly and complete realignment. I'd have been well under $1,000 if my table hadn't separated.

Robert Walters
11-14-2010, 1:23 AM
If you're just looking for LCD display try Halted in Santa Clara or Excess Solutions in Milpitas - both are surplus electronic houses.

Do you know what the LCD was? 5x20? 4x20? 4x16?

You should be able to find bearings and toothed belts at McMaster.com

These guys sell on ebay as well http://www.vxb.com/

Martin Reynolds
11-14-2010, 2:12 AM
It is actually a 160x80 graphics display. I found a similar part on line, but I have replaced my entire control panel - problem solved. I need to get this machine cutting by tomorrow night!

The replacement belt that I have is too short, so that sets me back a little.

Dan Hintz
11-14-2010, 9:38 AM
Was your cutting table on of those plastic coverings for light fixtures? If so, I would consider using metal...

Martin Reynolds
11-14-2010, 10:40 PM
Yes - that stuff was most of the burn. Unfortunately, I get too much flashback on metal. Usually, the air flow keeps everything under control but the vents falling off was a big problem.

Richard Rumancik
11-14-2010, 11:24 PM
If you are running production parts then maybe it would make sense to make a dedicated holding/cutting fixture rather than using any grid at all, plastic or metal. It is best if there is nothing at all behind the material to reflect off; for short runs a metal grid is a necessary compromise as you still may get some tick marks as the beam crosses the metal. But if you are running many identical parts I would seriously consider making a fixture. The beauty of a co2 laser is that it can usually make most of the needed fixture components.