View Full Version : laser basics

Bill Falkenbach
03-06-2004, 10:52 PM
What are some of the capabilities of these types of lasers? How thiick and of what type(s) of materials can they cut?
Very curious, Bill

Keith Outten
03-07-2004, 7:30 AM

Most laser engravers these days are sold with a power supply option, the larger the power supply in watts the thicker the material that can be vector cut. The print driver that is used allows you to set both speed and power as a function of 100% of rated capacity. Lowering the speed and using full power is how you adjust for different material thicknesses when cutting.

My 35 watt laser will cut acrylics up to about 5/16" thick. Wood varies depending on the species, some types of wood like purpleheart, won't cut at all. Most common types of wood like walnut, maple, ash, poplar, oak, etc will vector cut easilly up to 1/4" thick. Using a slow speed with wood isn't always an option, you can slow the speed down too much and it will catch on fire. Another possibility is to cut twice, make two passes with the same speed and power settings. I believe that a 100 watt laser tube will cut 3/4" thick lumber in one pass provided the species is capable of being cut.

Raster engraving mode can be used on glass, wood, acrylics, mirrors, leather, stone, ceramics, stainless steel, aircraft aluminum, antler, etc. The biggest no no is PVC materials, they will give off dangerous gas and are very corrosive to the metal parts of the machine. Cloth can be cut and some types like denim can be engraved.

For woodworkers, besides the obvious new work a laser will enable you to accomplish there is the capability of making your own precision templates for routing and inlay work. Templates for custom dovetails and other joints are a snap. If your project is small enough to be cut inside the engravers cabinet you can make both inside and outside cuts for inlay work, for large projects multiple templates can be made and there is virtually no size limitation.

Templates for painting, sandblasting and other types of jobs are easy to make and can extend the overall capability of your shop projects and increase the possibility of materials that you can integrate in your projects. For instance acrylic mirror can be laser cut to any shape and is very easy to use as an inlay material. Acrylic mirror can be engraved as well, the options seem endless.

I think that in time most shops will have some kind of laser capability, they are the most versitile machines I have ever seen.

Andy London
03-14-2004, 4:39 PM
I am curious as the shops and wood shows around here have never had one on display. Generally speaking, what would a 35 watt? unit cost, I assume this is a starter unit..?

Keith Outten
03-15-2004, 1:38 AM

The small desktop units generally start at about ten grand. A 35 watt full size unit is about $18,500.