APMM Community Forum : Laser Cutting
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 Subject : Re:Darkly Labs.. 08/16/2019 10:26:41 AM 
Jill Kenik
Posts: 262
By way of an update in my laser hunt, I barn found, literally, an Epilog Summit for $400 on a tip from an APMM member cross-state. Working my way through a clean and rebuild is the educational experience I needed. A gamble purchase since I could only confirm that the machine would power up and move a little before I loaded it on the borrowed van.

I remain uncertain on the machine's life expectancy, but it will at least answer my questions as to laser value in my workflow. Absolute worst case is that I learned a lot and I understand I can resell the Synrad tube when the motherboard dies to recoup a little.

Once I cleared out the spiders(near-miss on a brown recluse, big lesson learned) and mud dabber nest, the machine appears to be in pretty good condition and I'm guessing fairly low hours. All-in, with a Windows 7 computer, some venting equipment, the recharge, new mirrors and lenses, building an air assist, I'm at about $1800 and 20 hours labor (more interesting than TV).

The recharged tube is back in and firing. I have excellent geometry and dimensioning, so my last step is replacement of the 25 year old, badly fogged, mirrors and lenses. Can't say that I'm looking forward to next week's mirror alignment, but I'll get through it.

Thanks for the discussions, tips and telephone calls. Despite my knowledge of rigidity on CNC mills, that's huge point I neglected to consider on the hobby lasers. Clearly, that won't be an issue with this Epilog.

I'm looking forward to the laser workshop in Seattle---See you there!
 Subject : Re:Darkly Labs.. 07/01/2019 10:48:50 AM 
Jill Kenik
Posts: 262
Received a note back from Darkly Labs indicating that while they are confident on cleanly cutting .020" styrene, anything thicker will begin a struggle.

A fellow APMM'er provided laser cut .030" thick styrene samples on my thin picture frames. Really nice--that would work out fine!
 Subject : Re:Re:Darkly Labs.. 06/27/2019 09:29:45 AM 
Jill Kenik
Posts: 262
I have requested a styrene sample from Darkly--haven't heard back yet, but it hasn't been long. One of our members is graciously providing a laser cut sample in stryene cut with a pro machine, so I can see results in person.

Andrew--I'm also looking at a vinyl cutter. I had another member call me with the same suggestion (he actually uses the consumer grade Cricut) and I started looking at those. Forgive me for laughing at the TV commercials--regardless of the styrene issue, I could put one of those to work for sure. I had no idea they were so versatile and inexpensive. In my shop, the models are always small, so I can often get away with non-pro equipment based on scale alone.

I'll update here as I gather more information.

One of our members owns a 1st generation, kit built, Darkly Emblazer, and loves it. He claims great support, good accuracy for what it is, and would definitely buy it again. The newer Darkly Core that I'm looking at is twice as powerful, and the build theory is that it will be easily up-gradable.

There are several APMM members that I've been discussing lasers with off-forum. We are in the learning stage of figuring out what lasers can do in the shops, and comparing various machines in the under $15K category. We need to bring our discussions on-forum--if lasers haven't been part of your model training, the difficulties of figuring out what questions to even ask is a bit overwhelming. Prices continue to drop, making the breakeven more manageable as a standard shop tool that doesn't necessarily get used every day.

Charles--your brief discussion of diode vs. CO helped point me in a good research direction. I see now that 10 watt diodes are coming soon. I work alone and can place it in a low use room, so the lockouts won't be a concern.

I'd like to setup a workshop in Seattle dealing with lasers, but perhaps 2 sessions would be better. One on evaluating equipment from hobby lasers up to serious pro models, and another "bring us your toughest problem" session. We're trying to entice a couple laser companies to join us at Conference. Thus far, we've contacted AZ Lazer, Glowforge(they turned us down)and Full Spectrum. Any suggestions for workshops and contact info for your suppliers will help us plan. Call out your ideas please!
 Subject : Re:Darkly Labs.. 06/25/2019 01:34:34 PM 
Charles Overy
Posts: 32

Generally I agree that you need to have a test part cut and understand how long it takes on that machine to find out if this is going to work for you. If the mfg wont do it, I would be a bit concerned but you could see if you could find someone on their forums who would.

Specifically about very low cost cutters.
If it uses a diode laser in the blue/violet range (445 nm or thereabouts) it will be less well absorbed by styrene sheet, particularly white (you could try black) than a "standard" CO2 or a fiber laser which are in the IR (beyond red) end of the spectrum. That means for the same output power rating on the laser you will have to go slower which will mean a more melty cut. There are IR diode lasers coming out a up to 10w so maybe wait for one of those or see if this one does or can have an IR diode.

Optics will also be of lower quality on a small laser but this is offset by the fact that the laser diode is on the head. However, if there is an upgrade for a better lens, do it.

The rigidity of the mechanism itself. Make sure that the mechanism is rigid enough that you don't get "ring" or vibration as the head changes direction.

The thin acrylics are out there. Caloric and others but they are VERY much more expensive than styrene.

Regarding the no interlock, if there are any employees in your shop I would think some sort of "positive", key based, interlock on the machine is a must. It is just too easy for someone to "try out the laser" on a bit of aluminum etc when you are not looking.

Overall it may be an improvement over your CNC method but the only way to know is to get a sample. IMHO, it MIGHT be better but it is definitely NOT a slam dunk.
 Subject : Re:Darkly Labs.. 06/25/2019 12:52:50 PM 
Jill Kenik
Posts: 262
Thanks for all the input so far.

I should have been more specific on my needs. As a newbie to lasers, I'm learning every single day.

Typical jobs that I'd like to send to the laser are white styrene at .020", .030", .040" and .050" thickness. Most often they are little frame-like pieces. Best example would be a 1-1/2" square frame, where the needed frame is about .060" wide. Like a little picture frame. Also, lots of small .030" thick rectangles 3/8" wide x 1-1/4" long.

Now, I double stick tape styrene to waste board on a CNC mill cutout using 1/32" or smaller straight end mills. Then, pick the parts off the tape and the tape off the parts, which always leaves some goo that requires a bit of solvent and a little sanding to clear any small burs. I'm not fond of the interior radius and expect at some point to start getting complaints over it.

I was hoping the laser would eliminate some of the hands on effort it takes to produce this sort of part. If I'm at $10K, then its not worth the cost, but if a little hobby laser would handle this, it might be.

I'll explore getting samples of the specific materials cut at my spec. and see what comes of it.

I understand that styrene isn't necessarily ideal, but I'm having trouble finding friendly materials in those thicknesses. That parts require top-coating and cardstock isn't going to hold up.
 Subject : Re:Re:Darkly Labs.. 06/24/2019 12:32:55 PM 
Andrew Renwick
Posts: 7
I agree with Michael about lasering styrene, We have a universal and it does a good job on thin sheet larger pieces, but very poor results past 1/8th inch or very narrow parts.
If the thickness of styrene is thin you might look into something like a vinyl cutter. If you score styrene correctly you can break out the part, you are left with a slight bur though. Might be more work than you want to go to though.
 Subject : Re:Darkly Labs.. 06/24/2019 11:47:23 AM 
Posts: 208
Location: Overland Park, KS
No experience with this laser, but I did want to make a note regarding laser cutting thin styrene. We don't do it often for our work at Garmin, but on the occasions that I've had reason to do so, I find the material does not laser well at all, especially for small-scale detailed applications. The edges melt and pool, and it doesn't maintain outline accuracy like acrylic. I've spent some time trying to tweak settings and never did come across what I'd consider acceptable results for anything requiring exact detail (which I know you will expect). If this is what you want the laser for, I'd highly recommend sending a file to someone who has a laser at their disposal (any laser really), so they can send you a sample part, just to make sure that even a professional laser system can produce parts within your acceptable threshold using thin styrene stock. If a Universal or Epilog can't produce parts that meet your needs, I question whether a homebrew style system will either.

With that said, I'd be thrilled if someone out there has spent enough time with this material on their laser to produce quality results, and would love to hear feedback from anyone who has regarding their process and settings.
 Subject : Darkly Labs.. 06/24/2019 11:24:26 AM 
Jill Kenik
Posts: 262
Does anyone have any experience or knowledge on these units?
The pre-assembled, ready to run unit (Emblazer 2) is about $2500. I'm considering the build it yourself kit (Core) which starts at $1000.

They utilize a solid-state diode laser. Class 4 laser, wide open with no safety filters or shut offs. Only a warning to wear your safty glasses. As long as I'm not pulling an all-nighter and gone stupid and sloppy, can this be managed safely?

Really low end--I understand, but I'm just needing to make cutouts in thin styrene right now. CNC milling the thin stock has become very tedious.

As much as I'd like to just order a real machine, the break even isn't there. Yet.
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