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Orange laser cutter

The Orange Laser Cutter is usable by members who have had an induction.

Top-level specifications:

  • A2-ish Bed size, 600mm x 400mm
  • 60W Laser Tube (1250mm long / 55mm diameter)
  • Awesome Extraction
  • Air Assist
  • Red-dot laser for bounds checking
  • Smart cooling
  • Rise-and-fall bed, Super useful for engraving stuff on stuff

Preparing a file for laser cutting

Inkscape

For vector editing and manipulation, we suggest people use Inkscape. It is a free and powerful vector editing package, and integrates well with Visicut. It can be downloaded from the Inkscape release page.

Operating the laser cutter

Visicut

Visicut is the software that converts vector files into the code that drives the laser cutter. You can download Visicut from https://visicut.org.

Some versions of VisiCut had issues on OSX; this is believed to be fixed, but if you see problems with it only redrawing when you resize the window, see this issue on GitHub.

On first run, Visicut will ask if you want to download settings. You do, just select Manchester, UK: Hackspace from the list and Visicut will automatically install the latest settings for our laser cutter. You can use this same method to reset your settings back to the default, under the menu item Options > Settings > Download Recommended Settings. You may get an error message, error importing settings. If this occurs, just close and reopen Visicut for the settings to apply.

If you have Visicut and Inkscape installed, and have run Inkscape at least once (so it creates its folders in your home drive), You can install the Inkscape addon for Visicut by clicking Extras > Install Inkscape Extension in Visicut. Close and reopen Inkscape and you should have new options for sending vectors directly to Visicut. This isn't necessary to use the laser, but may be helpful.

Safety

  • The coolant pump must be running before cutting starts. This is a metal box near the laser cutter which has a two-digit temperature display when switched on.
  • Leave the coolant pump on for at least 5 minutes after cutting finishes.
  • Fume extraction must run while the laser is cutting. This starts automatically when the laser is working. If the extraction doesn't appear to be working, stop cutting.
  • Stay close to the laser cutter and watch it at all times when it's cutting. Fires can start very quickly.

In the event of fire / emergency

  • There is an emergency stop button on the top panel that is functional. Opening the lid will also stop the laser from firing.
  • If you can smother the fire in-place using a piece of stock, do so.
  • If you can't smother it in place, put it on the floor and try to stomp it out.
  • If the fire is in the laser and you can safely fight it use the CO2 extinghuser available next to the laser
  • If you can't do either of these, leave the space immediately, and call 999. The address is Wellington House, Pollard Street, Manchester, M40 7FS

Problems other than fires

If the laser cutter does anything out of the ordinary please make sure it's reported to a laser maintainer. If the response is "please put the out of order sign on the cutter" then do that. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FIX THE CUTTER YOURSELF. If it is clearly not functioning, put the out of order sign on it and then report it. We will fix it as soon as possible.

Even if the cut didn't work, let the cutter cool down for 5 mins before turning off.

Control Panel

  • There is a small set of keyboard keys and small LCD screen which controls the laser. Menus can be selected by pressing left and right and pressing '*'.
  • The red button is a 'back' button in menus.

Positioning the part

With the orange laser the only thing to worry about is the Z axis. There is a switch on the right hand side of the machine that can be used to lower or raise the main bed of the machine. It's a bit slow, but make sure not to crash the bed into the laser head, since there isn't a limit switch installed.

There is a small wooden guide inside the machine that can be used to position / zero the height against the bed (the default position). This goes in between the bed and the left-hand part of the laser cutter, as in the following photo:

Image of bed height guide

  • For cutting materials up to 6mm it's best to have the z height set to bed level.
  • For cutting materials over 6mm, try to keep the z height 6mm into the material. Multiple passes may be needed.
  • For engraving set the focal point to the height of the material by placing the guide on top of it.
  • If you want crisp engraving on thick stock, you will need to do a 2-stage engrave / cut with the focal point initially set to the top of your material, and then re-set to the correct height for your cut.
  • If your material has a protective cover, try to leave the cover on both sides of the material, or if only one side the bottom (not the top)

Test the Laser positioning

Next we're going to do a boundary test to make sure the laser cutter is working on the area we think it's going to:

  • Click Execute in Visicut
  • Wait for the small LCD on the Cutter it to say the file name
  • Press the right arrow on the laser cutter to select "Boundary"
  • Press the centre '*' button, which will cause the red laser to trace the box outline of where the cut will be done on the material.
  • This can be done with the lid open to assist in placing your part, however please keep your hands/hair/ties out of the way of the moving parts.
  • Press the '*' button again to go back to the main menu.

Do the cut

At this stage you should now be ready to do the cut for real.

  • Make sure the lid is closed, The laser won't fire with it open.
  • Check the coolant pump is still working and the temperature is below 25.
  • The LCD should show Run on the screen.
  • Press '*' button to start the run job.
  • Start a timer on your phone or watch so you know how much your job costs.
  • Keep watching the laser while it cuts to check nothing goes wrong (e.g. fires)
  • Check the extraction fan is working (you can tell either by the noise it makes, or by vibration of the exhaust hose).

Logging and payment

  • There is a log book for keeping track of usage of the laser. Please write down your name and the length of time you've used the laser for in the front of the book.
  • The laser is currently billed by 10 minute or 1 hour increments, with the rate written on the laser cutter.
  • Laser fees can be paid in cash into a box near the laser, which should be clearly marked, or from your member balance at the members' system laser page.
  • If you owe the laser fund money or have some credit (e.g. have paid with a £10 note and only used £3) record your balance at the back of the log book.

Materials that can be used

Material Class Material Hazard Status Potential Hazards Special Notes Suppliers
Wood Laser-grade MDF

Potential Risks

Increased risk of fire on multiple passes Makes the laser filthy which makes it harder to use and reduces the lifespan of parts - preference is for users to not use this material unless it's necessary Fred Aldous

Kitronic

Hobarts

Wood Standard MDF

Banned

Chemical off-gassing, laser damage Glues use formaldehyde, which is both carcinogenic and damaging to the laser
Wood Laser-Grade Plywood - Birch Ply

Low Risk

Fred Aldous

Kitronic

Hobarts

Wood Laser-Grade Plywood - Poplar Ply

Low Risk

Fred Aldous

Kitronic

Hobarts

Wood Laser-Grade Bamboo

Low Risk

Wood Standard Plywood

Banned

Chemical off-gassing, laser damage Glues use formaldehyde, which is both carcinogenic and damaging to the laser
Wood Balsa wood

Potential Risks

Potential for combustion, smoldering Pre-soaking with water may be safer - requires a high level of vigilance while cutting/engraving Fred Aldous
Wood Paper

Potential Risks

Potential for combustion, smoldering Light paper can easily become tinder. While etching is 'kindof' possible, it more leaves a carbon dust behind rather than impacting the paper. Cutting is functional and works well.
Wood Card/Cardboard

Potential Risks

Potential for combustion, smoldering Channels in cardboard can allow for unseen combustion, please cut and engrave with caution
Wood General Wood (unprocessed/treated)

Low Risk

Woods with lower resin content cut and engrave better.
Wood cork

Potential Risks

Potential for combustion, smoldering Channels and gaps in cork can allow for unseen combustion, please cut and engrave with caution, pre-soaking with water may be safer
Plastics Thin Polypropylene sheet (<1mm)

Low Risk

Plastics Acrylic AKA Perspex

Low Risk

Plastics Foamcore (non-PVC variety)

Low Risk

Plastics Correx (Genuine non PVC)

Low Risk

Plastics Depron Foam

Potential Risks

Plastics Plastics containing PVC (e.g. Sintra, Foamex)

Banned

laser contamination, emissions Off-gasses chlorine gas when lased
Plastics Plastics containing ABS (e.g. 'sheet styrene', Plasticard)

Banned

laser contamination, fire risk
Plastics Polycarbonate

Banned

laser contamination, fire risk
Plastics Polystyrene

Banned

laser contamination, fire risk
Plastics Polypropylene

Banned

laser contamination, fire risk, emissions
Plastics HDPE

Banned

laser contamination, fire risk, emissions
Foam PlastaZote Foam

Low Risk

Thin material will need weighing/taping down, may cause bounce-back rarely. Engraves and cuts super-well
Textiles Cotton

Low Risk

Abakhan Fabrics
Textiles Hemp

Low Risk

Textiles Unwashed/Greasy Wool

Banned

Fire risk Lanolin in wool can cause fire and smolder
Textiles Acrylic Felt

Low Risk

'Welds' the edges and can give a fray resistant edge, although this edge can be rough Abakhan Fabrics
Textiles Polar Fleece

Low Risk

'Welds' the edges and can give a fray resistant edge, although this edge can be rough Abakhan Fabrics
Textiles Stretch Cotton Jersey (t-shirt material)

Low Risk

Abakhan Fabrics
Textiles Veg Tanned Leather

Potential Risks

Foul odour, emissions, risks with tanning method Please check from the supplier that it is specifically vegetable tanned - other tanning processes and ingredients can be harmful. Cutting leather can also give off foul smells and be highly anti-social - please be aware of this when using the laser, and of your other hackspace members.
Textiles Leather chrome-tanned, or unknown tanning agent

Banned

Emissions
Textiles Fake Leather

Banned

laser contamination, emissions Off-gasses chlorine gas when lased
Textiles PVC

Banned

laser contamination, emissions Off-gasses chlorine gas when lased
Ceramics Stone

Low Risk

Engrave only.
Ceramics Ceramic tile

Low Risk

Engrave only.
Ceramics Glass

Low Risk

Engrave only.
Composites Fibreglass

Banned

laser contamination, fire risk, emissions
Composites Carbon fibre

Banned

laser contamination, fire risk, emissions
Metals

Banned

Can cause laser damage She might ''seem'' really eager, but it's probably best not to listen to her...
Other Food

Banned

laser contamination, fire risk, emissions
Other Body Parts

Banned

Other Lucy

Banned

laser contamination, safety hazard
Other Fresh Flower Oasis

Banned

emissions Contains formaldehyde
Other Laser rubber

Potential Risks

laser contamination Requires immediate cleaning of the laser after cutting - this takes significant time, and takes the laser out of service until its done. Please only do this after consulting with the laser team.
Other Non-Laser Rubber

Banned

laser contamination, fire risk, emissions
Other Flexible Magnetic Sheet

Banned

Emissions (HCl) If you find a supposedly laser-safe version, please contact the laser maintainers for approval
Other Asbestos (all types and products)

Banned

Laser Contamination, H&S Someone asked, so we had to put this entry in

Status

Status can be seen on the members page at the members' system laser page. If there is a notice on the laser itself saying it is out of order, that takes priority.