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Robert Ray
04-12-2008, 10:46 PM
I am still researching lasers, and now I am trying to find out all I can about the LaserPro Spirit model. I know I can ask my local Laser pro rep, and he is a great guy, but some things do not add up.

The price for a 30W Spirit is $16K, and the price for a 40W Spirit is $21K. Another new LaserPro model, the C180 Table Top lists a 30W at $11K, and the 40W at $13K.

Now, if say, for instance, my LaserPro rep refuses to sell me a 40W Spirit for $18K, then would it be possible to purchase a 40W C180, and a 30W Spirit, swap the lasers.
Then I could sell the 30W C180 for $11K, and in effect net a 40W Spirit for $18K, saving $3K?

OK, so what I am saying is I do not understand the Spirit pricing. Is is gouging, or are they trying to be like car dealers and sell you some fancy trim, or other features that the 30W don't include?

I know I need at least 35 watts to do the same work I am currently doing at the same throughput, but the 35 watt lasers are no longer offered, and I don't want to go any slower, but I don't want to throw good money away just for show either.

My friend has the Mini 24 40W, and had spent considerable time trying to get his speed up to match my 35w LaserPro Venus, but he still runs 25-30% slower to get the same quality work. The problem is the XY mechanism on the Mini 24 vibrates and draws squiggly lines at any faster speeds. The LaserPro mechanism is much tighter, with less oscillation of the head. This is on thin .018" plywood. On the thicker .032" plywood, the Mini is faster due to the power and the radiance optics.

I do very little engraving, mostly all vector cutting. My material comes in 12" x 48" sheets, and the more I can load into the system, the less material swap time I have. Sometimes I swap a sheet out of my laser every 2 minutes, and doing 500 is a hassle.

Any wisdom? Anyone intimate with a LaserPro Spirit's insides?

-Thanks,
Robert

Richard Rumancik
04-12-2008, 11:34 PM
. . .The price for a 30W Spirit is $16K, and the price for a 40W Spirit is $21K. Another new LaserPro model, the C180 Table Top lists a 30W at $11K, and the 40W at $13K.

Another way of saying it is that for the Table Top, the 40-watt upgrade costs $2K additional while for the Spirit the 40-watt upgrade costs an additional $5K. If so, then the pricing does look odd, but do both models have the exact same laser tubes? If so, why not straight out ask the rep what the reason is for the apparent discrepancy? You probably don't want to buy two lasers and try to resell one.

Rodne Gold
04-13-2008, 1:27 AM
Spirits come with both Synrad and Coherent tubes so a swap might or might not be possible.....

However if you need at least 35 watts , the 40 watt model is not enough as you have almost no leeway if the tube power goes down due to dirty heads or going out of alignment. I would look at 50-60w.
I would also look at a bigger working table that will give you the best yield , the gx at 38 x 24 inches sounds the best , it will fit 3 half sheets of your 12 x 48 side by side by side , ie 3x 12x24
to give you a 36 x 24 material load.

Mitchell Andrus
04-13-2008, 9:23 AM
I have a Spirit 60W. Don't skimp out - I'm glad I didn't.

I don't need the pass-through often, but the times I did I made money and kept a client happy. Likewise with the extra power, the ability to cut in the extended 'ramp up' areas at each side of the table, the extra depth inside the box, etc.

I'm able to make a cut 28" wide on veneer sheets 44" long cross-wise INSIDE the box. Not hard, veneer is flexible....

Figure out what you'll be doing with the laser, and figure out what else you'll be able to do with a little more power, room, functions... Also, make sure you can actually fit the cabinet into the space allowed. Don't laugh, mine cleared a tight corner by less than 1/2".

Are you in the NJ area?

Robert Ray
04-13-2008, 11:57 AM
True I really don't want to buy 2 machines, I just was wondering why the big price discrepancy between a table top machine and the Spirit machine, when you would think the larger laser upgrade would be the same delta for both machines.

That's another thing I don't know yet, is what the effects of laser alignment going out on a larger machine has to the beam, with the longer X axis. Does it take extra power to compensate for this effect? Also, does the beam waist grow much larger with a 60W, versus a 40W laser? I need to keep the kerf of the cut the same so I don't have to re-draw my drawings.

I would be worried the parts might fall off the sheet. I have attached the test file I will send to the engraver dealers, and ask them to cut one sheet at the top left, and another sheet at the bottom right of the vector table. Then I would also need to know their cutting time, to compare with mine. If interested you can look over the drawing I attached to see what I am doing.

Thanks,
Robert

Richard Rumancik
04-13-2008, 12:34 PM
. . . That's another thing I don't know yet, is what the effects of laser alignment going out on a larger machine has to the beam, with the longer X axis.

. . . I would be worried the parts might fall off the sheet. I have attached the test file I will send to the engraver dealers, and ask them to cut one sheet at the top left, and another sheet at the bottom right of the vector table.

The longer the distance through air the more attentuation of the beam so in the bottom right beam quality is not that great. I know how to align but with my laser it is impossible to get as good a quality of a cut or raster mark in the bottom right as in the top left. Consequently I tend to think of the useable area of the table as "L-shaped" i.e. I try to use the left half of the table or the top half of the table. If I have to use lower right it often means special attention and perhaps higher power in that zone. Which adds complications to setups and adds inconsistencies. I can also expect more rejects. (Cutting through 95% of the way isn't good enough.) I don't like to waste time trying to salvage parts that almost cut through. Trying to recut the 95% parts wastes lots more time for me than indexing.

So it is a tradeoff between a more complicated setup or more material handling. I still like to have a larger table size though, as smaller table = smaller sheets = more waste. I can set up jobs where it cuts the top half of a sheet, then I trim by laser or manually and index the rest of the sheet back up to the top of the table. Or sometimes I use the pass-thru and index without trimming.

Other people seem to be able to use more of their table but this is my experience.

If at all possible try to see the laser in action, at a trade show or demo. And have them test upper left and lower right in the same setup, not as separate jobs.

What do you mean by parts "falling off the sheet"?

Rodne Gold
04-13-2008, 1:51 PM
The kerf wont change with the increase of power , it wil change with differing focal length of lens.
The power output over the bed of the table may or may not vary, but considering you are cutting wood and generating smoke and particulates in your cabinet, its almost certain to do so.
The beam going to the focal lens is a lot larger than the cutting section , often beam expanders or collimation devices are used to maintain beam linearity (so it doesnt diverge with distance) prior to it hitting the focal lens so distance is not really much of an issue if these are used.
What is , however , is alignment. If a beam hits a mirror and bounces off at a less than optimal angle , the further the next mirror is , the more the deviation, If the next mirror is 2cm away , deviation might be 1/10th of a mm , at 50cm distance it will be a LOT more and thus by the time it enters the very simplistic lenses used in lasers its pretty much way off target to dead centre and thus is subject to astigmatism and other distortions

Your Corel drawing is full of broken objects....like rectangles and parts that arent closed objects.....is this by design?

Mitchell Andrus
04-13-2008, 4:14 PM
1/64 ply? That's mighty thin. Your file is 3.1" x 2.1" - Is this right? I ran a quick test cut in some birch < edit - Beech > veneer - holy cow these parts are small. The kerf is about as wide as the "1" in the date on a dime, depending on the power settings needed to get though the material being cut.

If you'd like, I'd be happy to play with this. I haven't got ply anywhere near that thin though - if you'll send a few pieces to play with..... Just to 'speriment.

Rastering 1/3 and 2/3 thickness will be a tough thing to do consistantly unless you go for a manufactured product. Wood is too variable. Some of these rasters will cut through.

Robert Ray
04-13-2008, 4:17 PM
Yes, the drawings are broken by design. This way the kit parts stay on the sheet. The modeler removes them as needed during kit construction using a sharp hobby knife.

These breaks in the drawing (attachment points) have to be small enough that the modeler can cleanly cut the part off the sheet with minimal effort, as plywood is very hard to cut with a hobby knife.

If the attachment point is too small, then the part falls off and is sucked up the exhaust. That renders the whole sheet as scrap.

My use of the laser engraver is unique in that I am producing scale models at 1:220 of the prototype, so I am pushing this technology to the limits, where my competitors stop at 1:87 scale for these caboose kits using laser engraver technology.

I might be better off sticking with the LaserPro Venus for these kits, due to it's small table size, but I also produce large quantities of structure kits which could get away with a less focused beam in the bottom right of the vector table.

The problem with the Venus is that they stopped producing the 35 watt model, and it does not have a vector cutting table so I must use lighting fixture diffuser panels as vector tables. The exhaust setup is less than optimum downdraft.

Mitchell Andrus
04-13-2008, 11:19 PM
Robert,

Stretch stainless steel screen over the grid and glue it down to keep it flat. Stainless because it won't burn through from the outgassing during cuts as fast as aluminum. McMaster has it, pretty cheap in different mesh sizes.

Richard Rumancik
04-13-2008, 11:42 PM
Robert I have done a few kit parts but nothing quite so fine as this. You have quite a challenge ahead. Here's a few comments and questions . . .


These breaks in the drawing (attachment points) have to be small enough that the modeler can cleanly cut the part off the sheet with minimal effort, as plywood is very hard to cut with a hobby knife. If the attachment point is too small, then the part falls off and is sucked up the exhaust. That renders the whole sheet as scrap.Most of my parts are thicker and not nearly so fine as yours. With basswood, I have to make sure that all of the "tabs" are in the direction perpendicular to the grain of the wood. Otherwise, the parts break out with almost no effort if they are aligned to the grain. This MIGHT not be as important with plywood as you have three layers of .005" in the 1/64" sheet that you are using. I do a few parts in 1/64" but they are completely cut out. But maybe you should consider if tab orientation can be optimized. Since a broken piece means a whole panel is scrap, you might want to test if it would be better to try and place the tabs so they were perpendicular to the grain. I realize it is difficult on some parts to put the tabs perp. to the grain. Whatever works for you . . .


My use of the laser engraver is unique in that I am producing scale models at 1:220 of the prototype, so I am pushing this technology to the limits, where my competitors stop at 1:87 scale for these caboose kits using laser engraver technology.

Yes, you are doing something pretty challenging. Are you using a 1.5" lens? If not you should be. (In fact, for what you are doing, I might even consider trying to find a special lens with even shorter focal length. Of course your depth of field will be shallower though. Try the 1.5 first.)


I might be better off sticking with the LaserPro Venus for these kits, due to it's small table size, but I also produce large quantities of structure kits which could get away with a less focused beam in the bottom right of the vector table.The problem with the Venus is that they stopped producing the 35 watt model, and it does not have a vector cutting table so I must use lighting fixture diffuser panels as vector tables. The exhaust setup is less than optimum downdraft.
I really think you will have poor results in the lower right. This is high precision work and there is just too much variation. If you want to use aluminum diffuser panels, you could build a frame and have the diffuser elevated from the table to improve draft. But the frame must be very accurate and you might need to be able to adjust the diffuser elevation so material is in-focus over the entire cutting area. I use a special fixture and cut "in air". The fixture has adjustment screws to level it so my material is in-focus all over the cutting area. I would also clamp the vector table down to the main table and clamp my material down. Vibration, carriage motion, air assist, and exhaust air can move your material. Even a few thou is too much.

I see that all your cut lines are .003". I thought most lasers raster any lines that are .003" and wider. How do you tell it that these are cut lines and not raster lines? Also, do you compensate for kerf (burn) width in your designs?

Mitchell Andrus
04-14-2008, 8:01 AM
I see that all your cut lines are .003". I thought most lasers raster any lines that are .003" and wider. How do you tell it that these are cut lines and not raster lines? Also, do you compensate for kerf (burn) width in your designs?

I my test, none of the raster lines were engraved, likely for this reason. There may be a tweak to set this up better.

Robert Ray
04-14-2008, 1:40 PM
Yes, I have a 1.5" lens, and 35W laser. The whole project is Vector drawings, and the LaserPro treats everything as vectors.

The breaks (attachement points) are a scale 2" @ 1:220 so .009"

For 1/64" plywood I use:
1000 DPI
250PPI
50% power, 100% speed for black, scores 1/3 deep
100% power, 15% speed for red, cuts all the way through
90% power, 100% speed for green, scores 2/3 deep to male flexible sheets
and 100% power, 20% speed for blue, to cut out the individual sheets.

-Robert

Robert Ray
04-14-2008, 1:54 PM
Lately I have been modifying my drawings as I use them to put add more attachment points for extra strength.

I am using a 1.5" lens with 35 watts, which in effect concentrates the beam to the same power a 60W laser with a 2" lens hits the material at. It makes table flatness very important, but yields great looking cuts where in focus.


I do have poor results in the lower right of my table lately. I think my laser is getting old, at 5.5 years it might be getting near a replacement. I still have all the original mirrors and lens, and keep them clean, but being trained to properly clean optics at my day job (Ultratech Stepper).

The LaserPro treats lines under .002" thick as vector lines, so i draw using hairline under Corel.

Being that my designs are 1:220 scale, I do have to consider the kerf of the cut, but i use .005", or .0025' on each side when I draw, to get a good fit.

-Robert

Richard Rumancik
04-14-2008, 2:43 PM
Lately I have been modifying my drawings as I use them to put add more attachment points for extra strength.

But don't overdo it either. I also like to keep them in two diagonal corners or else along the same edge to make it easier to remove the parts.


I am using a 1.5" lens with 35 watts, which in effect concentrates the beam to the same power a 60W laser with a 2" lens hits the material at. It makes table flatness very important, but yields great looking cuts where in focus.
Sounds good. My table is not accurate enough for fine work and too hard to adjust the 3-point jacks to make it level (relative to the plane of the carriage travel.) That's why I use a second "table" above the main table that can be leveled more easily. I can't say I am thrilled with the main table. The idea of a three-point suspension is valid; 3 points define a plane. But the table is too "soft" at the top right and botton right, as it tends to tilt if any significant load is applied there. I think it could have used a bit more design work.


The LaserPro treats lines under .002" thick as vector lines, so i draw using hairline under Corel.

Being that my designs are 1:220 scale, I do have to consider the kerf of the cut, but i use .005", or .0025' on each side when I draw, to get a good fit.

Pretty much what I do too. But I draw vectors .00001" so I can see the nodes and the geometry well. Hairlines are .003". Not sure why but I only saw .003" lines in your file. Are the black and green (engrave part way through) vectors or raster?

Not sure if your budget permits it, but this might be a case where better optics could be put to use. eg Radiance optics etc. (Don't know if GCC offers a comparable option.) You could get down to a spot size approaching .002" that way. If you want to be "exclusive" in this area of kit manufacture it might be a way to achieve it.

Mitchell Andrus
04-14-2008, 3:24 PM
No, Laserpro treats any color as raster if you tell the driver to do so. The driver may however treat all hairlines as vectors.

We can get hairlines to cut only so deep as vector cuts by cutting back on the power, but if it's a hairline, it'll be a .003" wide vector 'cut', not a raster. Is that width OK? If it's just for flexibility, it should do.

Wayne Morris
04-14-2008, 3:35 PM
Hi Robert,

No advice. Just saying hello. We corresponded a while back (I was producing the N Scale Sears kit houses.)

I'm hanging around these forums learning more while I save up pennies to buy my first laser. I'll be starting up the kit business again soon. Just moved to Maine to supervise an engineering department for a company building 1:1 scale houses.

Anyway, thanks for your previous advice about buying a laser.

Wayne (Muddy Creek)

Robert Ray
04-14-2008, 3:42 PM
Well, I started researching a replacement laser last summer. I had came to the conclusion the Epilog Mini 24 with 40 watts would be perfect.

A friend of mine was wanting to get a laser at that time, so I told him what i had, and recommended the Mini 24 with Radiance optics and 40 watts would be what I would choose at that time.

When his Mini came, we set it up ourselves, and defined power profiles so he could reproduce my projects. Now Chris does half of my monthly MTL order, which really helps me keep ahead.

The problem is that even with optimized driver profiles, the Mini is about 25-30% slower than the Venus.

I can run at 100% speed without getting jagged edges on small features like a 1/16" tab or 1/16" rectangle slot, but the Mini goes into a oscillation as speeds over 30%. Before we tightened the belts, it was stairstepping at 20% on small features.

The problem is the Mini has a relatively tiny rubberband belt for the X axis, relative to the length of it's travel. Something needs to be designed stiffer. When engraving, (rastering) the work is done almost in one axis of travel, (left to right movement), and the Mini is great at that. But a fast move in both X and Y is like plucking the strings of a guitar.

That's one of the things I want to know about the LaserPro Spirit, it it's XY drive stiff enough to do the job, or will it have problems too?

And as you pointed out the radiance optics scheme... That is something i do not know if LaserPro has an equivalant of yet. We use that same scheme at my day job on the bigger 3500-4000 watt lasers.

We use a beam expander to make the diameter of the beam grow from 6mm to 15mm, then the beam travels 8-15 meters depending on configuration, then we focus it down to 125 microns. This does something like keep the beam modes together, and eliminate astigmatism.

I am a firm believer in the technique. Universal calls it HPDFO, Epilog calls it Radiance, but who else uses it on their large table lasers? I hope LaserPro does.

So what do I need? A stiff XY mechanism for speed without oscillation, a flat vector table, a larger cutting table, a 1.5" lens, and 35 watts or more..

Rodne Gold
04-14-2008, 4:22 PM
The explorer uses a collimator , I have spirits but not sure whether they do , but beam quality on my spirits is better than my explorers , 1.5" lens will do what you want. No problems running 100% speed on the spirits

Robert Ray
04-14-2008, 9:35 PM
What do you think of the 30 watt Spirit Rodney? Do you think it is about the same as the 35 watt laser that LaserPro used to offer?

The reason I ask that is that I see them listed as 30+ watts, and am wondering if what came with my Venus is really a 30+ watt laser, rated 30 watts but measured higher so they sell it as a 35 watt back then? If that is the case then I am leaning towards the 30 watt Spirit, as it don't break the bank. I would rather pay cash than finance at this point.

I really am happy you said you can run them at 100% speed, because throughput is important. If I can load a big table like the Spirit has, then 25 x 18 would allow me to put two 12"x18" sheets in at a time, and give me 50% more material than the Epilog Mini, in about the same time.

-Robert

Robert Ray
04-14-2008, 10:01 PM
Hi Wayne, I remember you from Railroad Line or Atlas? I kind of lost touch with the N Scale forums after getting too far involved into Z Scale. I remember visiting your web site not too long back when Chris333 posted a list of N Scale structure manufacturers


I just joined recently to bone up on the latest equipment myself. My old laser is still going strong, but I started doing the Z Scale kits for MTL, and now I can use a faster newer machine.

The guys here are very helpful, and although my LaserPro dealer is also helpful, he is biased towards LaserPro and I wanted to find out about all systems available before I decide for sure.

Good seeing you here too.
-Robert

Mike Mackenzie
04-15-2008, 6:29 PM
Robert,

I decided to do a test of the file you posted, I ran the file on the ULS V460 using 35watts and a 1.5" len's.

I did the file in 4 different areas of the table and there was no difference the time it took to cut was 3:30 I believe that we can get the lines even finer using the HPDFO. I did not have that option on this system. I also just used some plywood I had laying around. It was not the same as you use.

I took some pictures but they are not very clear if you would like I would be happy to run some samples on your materials and send them to you for your evaluation.

I can set-up this system with the HPDFO Optic and would be happy to do the tests for you.

Richard Rumancik
04-15-2008, 7:02 PM
Mike - what width of kerf are you getting? Can you measure it with a feeler gage? You should be getting .004" or better. With basswood I have .002"-.003" on the underside. It looks like a very wide cut to me in the photo. I realize you don't have the right material but to be honest this tends to look rather over-burnt in the photos. (You can get 1/64" 3-ply it at Michaels).

You say there was no difference all over the table. For a conclusive test, you have to find the minimum power that will cut the material in the top left i.e. optimize for speed. Then compare to lower right and see if it cuts through. Did you do it that way? Or, cut a rectangle in the top left and bottom right, and measure them. Are they exactly the same size? If the beam is larger in bottom right, it won't cut as well and kerf will be larger.

If you have lots of margin in top left, then yes, it will also cut through in lower right. But the appearance may be negatively affected.

It is not a criticism of anyone's laser, it is physics that causes this. The longer the beam path through air the more degradation of the beam. Some people are making items that aren't bothered by this. But Ray's parts are quite unique and he might not be able to get away with it. He needs accurate, precise parts with predictable kerf width. It's not the same as say making tags where it is not an issue if the lower right ones look a bit different.

I think your HPDFO optics might be useful for this. I assume you can get a .002 or .003" beam.

Robert Ray
04-15-2008, 8:08 PM
I had no idea the Universal system was so fast. That's 25% faster than the cutting time I had Mike, and I used 1/64" plywood, which cuts faster that the stuff you used. It looks like 1/32" ply that you used.

Is the HPDFO optics tied to a 2" lens? I read something about the beam waist being .0015" wide using those optics? I am really curious about HPDFO. If it could do a .003" kerf or better all across the cutting table, that's worth a serious look.

-Robert

Mike Mackenzie
04-15-2008, 8:57 PM
Robert,

With the HPDFO they use a collimator so the beam intensity is very good across the table. It is set-up with a 2" focus this is one of the advantages of this lens.

Keep in mind that this plywood is not the optimum wood that I could use I measured the thickness and it is 0.064 also taking pictures of this is difficult (I am not a photographer). I will get some plywood from Michaels and run this test using the HPDFO on the ULS V460 with a 35 watt laser.

I also took a picture of the back of this part I think there is a lot of smoke and residue on the front I also did not use the air assist when I did this however I will do it on future tests.

Please PM me your mailing address and I will send them to you just so you can see what other systems can do.

Also the kerf can vary depending on the material and the reaction it has when lasered I will do a test of the full 24" area of just vertical lines from 0 to 24"

Rodne Gold
04-16-2008, 1:22 AM
Funnily enough , my Spririts using synrads rated at 25w are faster , cut better and have better beam quality than my 30w explorers which are supposedly more powerful , have collimators and are supposedly faster. My 25w machines all measure almost 30w at the table, my 30w machines measure up to 37w.
The wattage rating is supposed to be the minimum measured at the table. I dont think 35w is a 30w source "turbocharged" , its more likely to be a 40w source "dumbed down" , turboing the source wil radically reduces its life.
in terms of thruput, I subscribe to the notion rather to have 2 smaller machines at 25w than one larger at 50w. We have just picked up a really nice job cos the 2 guys that previously did it are both down with their single big machines and cos we have 6 smaller machines , we can easily slip it in.
So if I were you I wouldnt sell the one machine to finance a new one , rather keep it.

Robert Ray
04-16-2008, 10:58 AM
Yeah, I really don't want to part with the Venus, because it has been such a great machine over the years. But I do need another laser with a larger table for those big jobs.

Last month I had to do 250 sheets that took 3 minutes each, so swapping material was a pain in the butt. I practically had to stand in front of the machine the whole time, and it ended up taking 16 hours, because I tried to do a few things in that 3 minutes time, like sand a sheet of wood, make a sandwich, do a little web surfing, etc. With a larger table that would have been 10-12 minutes a sheet, and I could have trimmed 2 or more hours off the job, and had more time to do other stuff between each sheet swap.

-Robert