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Thread: 2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase

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    Default 2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase

    Over Christmas, I was mentioning to my brother that I purchased a CO2 laser cutter and was in the process of upgrading it. He mentioned that he would love to use it to cut airbrush stencils (he does auto detailing.) The stencil material is about 3 mil to 10 mil thick in various materials including mylar.

    Anyway, I said the CO2 laser cutter was probably overkill for something like this and claimed that I could make a laser cutter in an aluminum briefcase for less than $300 using a laser diode. So, he took me up on the challenge and here we are now.

    Looking around at options, I couldn't find any good sources for laser power vs. cutting capability. So, I looked for what what the most powerful I could get for a reasonable price. I settled on a 2W 445nm laser diode with a GaAs lens, copper host, and a built in driver (as I understand this diode can go up to 3W if an appropriate driver is made and the laser is pulsed) for simplicity. $125 shipped. I also picked up an aluminum heatsink to fit the laser.

    I received the items today, so the build has officially started.

    Before I get too far into it, I wanted to mention this: I set up the laser with a momentary pushbutton just to make sure it was working. Knowing how powerful these are (and not having the proper safety glasses yet) I set up a black target, looked it the opposite direction of the beam and pressed the button. It freaked me out how bright this diode is. So, now I am quite paranoid about the safety of this laser and know I need to do a lot more research before calling the build finished. These things are no joke! It may have been misinformation, but I had been reading that at about 3W, these 445nm laser diodes are as powerful (cutting ability) as my 40W laser. I am skeptical of that, but that was what I stumbled on in several forums.

    On to the build...

    So we start with a typical aluminum equipment case. Dimensions are 17.5x12.5x6 inches. The stencil material is found in either 8.5x11 or 8x10 sizes. I decided on a 12x12 cutting area since the electronics will take up very little room. I am basing the XY stage on the CoreXY design which is very compact and takes up only a little more room than the cutting area itself.

    I decided that I wanted to use parts that I could find in a typical hardware store as much as possible. I also have a 3D printer which will assist me in a great deal to get just the right design.

    The corexy platform consists of two steppers with gears/pulleys and 8 idlers. The motors are mounted parallel to each other and both are driven at the same time to produce the motion. Since the carriage will only be carrying the diode with heatsink, I am able to get away with a very lightweight system. Instead of timing belts and gears, I will be using Spectra 100lb braided fishing line and custom 3D printed pulleys. The Y axis rods are standard 1/4" steel rods you can find in just about any hardware store and 1/4" brass bushings. The X axis consists 1/2" aluminum C channel.

    2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase-parts-jpg All the parts with the C channel and laser heatsink for clarity
    2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase-carriage-jpg
    The laser carriage up close with details shown

    2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase-guides-jpg
    And the guides for the Y axis. The other parts shown are the motor pulley, idler pulley, spacer, and the stepper mount

    2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase-mini-blaze-009-jpgThe laser mounted in the carriage. That is actually a prior iteration. But the new iteration is just beefier and a better fit.

    2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase-mini-blaze-011-jpg The gist of the mechanism. I need to cut the metal rods and C channel drill and rivet the guides to the C Channel, and polish the rods to ensure uniform thickness.

    The aluminum case will serve as the majority of the structure. The rods will be mounted to the walls of the case. The rear pulleys will be mounted on a bracket that will also attach to the back wall. Same with the steppers on the front wall. I tore out the felt lining from the case mainly for static reasons. I haven't decided what I will re-line it with yet.

    2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase-mini-blaze-012-jpgCheap 5V geared steppers common on Ebay (2 for $6, I think) with the gearing, they achieve a step angle just under 0.9 degrees. The gearing is very strong, I can barely turn the pulleys with my fingers. I will be using these same motors, but I ordered another set with a more friendly mounting arrangement.

    For the electronics, I will be using an Arduino Uno with CNC shield and DRV8825 stepper drivers capable of 1/32 microstepping. A customized GRBL firmware will be loaded and many g-code sender programs are capable of supporting GRBL. This may get a customized open-source treatment, though.

    I started to cut a window in the aluminum case, but realized after seeing how bright that laser is, that standard anti-glare plexi isn't going to cut it. I am trying to research what I can use that would be relatively safe. Transparent red acrylic might work with a UV protection film applied.

    The case has the combination locks on it, and I will be interfacing interlock switches to these that will only allow the laser to operate when the case is latched shut. The case will be decorated with brass hardware and the build area lined (and stiffened) with anodized sheet metal.

    Similar Threads:
    Last edited by Retroplayer; 01-04-2015 at 02:51 AM.


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    Default Re: 2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase

    cool!

    with laser machines its alwasy wise to protect your eyes. There are glasses you can buy specifically made to block out wavelengths from certain lasers. Most machines come with a pair, but may pay to invest in a pair?

    Cant wait to see the finished product.

    Side note... be wary of what materials he wants to cut (i am not familiar with mylars chemical properties), some vinyls etc are bad news for lasers as they give off hydrocholoic acid :/



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    Default Re: 2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase

    The bought stencils made of mylar are lasercut, so no issues there. There are several posts about using it for solder stenciling as an example. My only real concern is that the uv diode may not be able to cut it since it is transparent/translucent. I keep reading that a visible beam laser cannot cut transparent or white materials, yet I keep seeing examples of people doing it. So, *shrug*

    I see posts like this where people do it: DIY laser cutter built to make stencils | Hackaday

    Notice he is using a 1W diode... lol. I went way overkill here. Thankfully this first one is actually mine My brothers will probably get the 1W diode to knock the cost down quite a bit. The article above also mentions that the builder planned to add a slide out drawer to put the stencil blank in and no windows. Hmm, not a bad idea and easy to do with the corexy platform. The entire build area is un-restricted.

    You can read more about it here: CoreXY | Cartesian Motion Platform

    And here's a picture of the concept:

    2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase-blue_preview_featured-jpg
    image credit: DUBL-CROSS corexy gantry by BV3D - Thingiverse

    As for safety goggles... absolutely. I only have ones designed for the CO2 laser. But I ordered up a pair for the blue diode. I won't be playing with the laser without them again, trust me. The entire room lit up from that laser.

    One application I had planned for this was to expose photosensitive PCBs by drawing the traces right into it. Though I am sure 2W is again way overkill. With the carriage design, it should be easy to swap out different lasers.



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    Default Re: 2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase

    you would wont to add a small fan to blow the fumes away from the laser smoke can wreck the lens

    2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase

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    Default Re: 2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase

    Quote Originally Posted by daniellyall View Post
    you would wont to add a small fan to blow the fumes away from the laser smoke can wreck the lens

    There will be a 12V air pump for air assist and 120MM fans in the case. I just haven't gotten that far in the build details yet. Definitely requirements.



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    Default Re: 2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase

    Have you been able to actually cut anything with this laser? That doesn't look that heavy and I do a lot of cardboard cutting and I always am thinking it's a waste of the laser time so I was wondering if it would adapt to the CO2 laser head for cardboard runs? Are these life limited like the CO2?



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    Default Re: 2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase

    Quote Originally Posted by buddydog View Post
    Have you been able to actually cut anything with this laser? That doesn't look that heavy and I do a lot of cardboard cutting and I always am thinking it's a waste of the laser time so I was wondering if it would adapt to the CO2 laser head for cardboard runs? Are these life limited like the CO2?

    Not until I am absolutely 100% positive and educated about the safety.

    Here is an example of what a 2W laser can do!:





    This is just at 1W (warning annoying music):


    This thing is no freaking joke. Far more powerful than I had recknoned and I have much more respect for it than I did at the outset. The module I bought has the 2W driver which is not directly adjustable. I cannot turn it down for focusing and alignment tests or cutting/engraving lighter materials. I am looking at other drivers or the possibility of rolling my own PWM controlled supply and getting a diode with GS lens and with the diode pre-pressed into the housing (the hardest part.) With a proper driver, you can drive these down into the milliwatts and up to about 3W with proper cooling. At 2W, you are driving 1.8A into the diode. One watt is about 750mA. Any constant current supply will work. Many people use LM317 in current regulation mode to build simple drivers. I just ordered an adjustable 3A constant current regulator board for $5 from China meant for LEDs. Point being that the drivers are the relatively easy part.

    I have been also reading that this 2W laser should only be run for a a couple minutes max without active cooling. If you care for them properly, they should last several times longer than a CO2 tube. Heat is really the only thing that kills them.

    I think a 2W diode like this is also way overkill for cutting cardboard and would likely catch it on fire very quickly. Even at 1W, it is probably overkill.

    The diode and heatsink are very light. The copper host is probably the heaviest part. I will measure it on a kitchen scale, but the weight is no more than a small handful of pocket change. After seeing some videos on youtube (search M140 laser or 445nm laser on youtube) I am less skeptical about the power of this diode coming close to the power of the 40W CO2. The main difference is that CO2 being IR can burn a wider range of materials while a visible laser will just pass through transparent materials and reflect from white or shiny materials. It will heat them, but won't be able to cut them.



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    Default Re: 2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase

    Quote Originally Posted by buddydog View Post
    I was wondering if it would adapt to the CO2 laser head for cardboard runs?
    Missed this question. The heatsink is 19mm at the widest part and 15.5mm in the thinnest part. The space between the fins is 1.9mm. The head mount on the K40 is 12mm dia. So, you would need a modified holder. I redesigned the holder in sketchup, so you could easily change the diameter and make a holder that fits. For that matter, it shouldn't be much trouble to make up an adjustable holder. I can throw something together for you

    I don't know the focal length of the laser lens. It should be adjustable. It is a GaAs lens, so the focal length is typically longer than ZnSE by design.



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    Default Re: 2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase

    Hmm, I just went into my sketchup model to mash something up and post it and the thickness is 2mm, and the holder diameter is 15.7mm. So, it would work as is (by opening the front of the holder to slide the heatsink in.

    EDIT: Here you go:
    K40 Laser Cutter New Lens mount by Retroplayer - Thingiverse

    2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase-adjustable-lens-mount-jpg

    You can use zipties, wire, or whatever around the prongs to secure the lenses, but should be a tight fit already for both.

    Last edited by Retroplayer; 01-04-2015 at 12:35 PM.


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    Default Re: 2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase

    Metal has been cut, rods polished (though I need to make a jig for this to be more accurate... I do have an old cordless drill with dead batteries...)

    I began some assembly and realized I needed to tweak a few things.

    So, the carriage was redone: Bigger front face to mount a fan or peltier/fan. Added tabs to the edges to mount the filament line instead of screw holes on the top. Tweaked the contact points with the heatsink to lessen the amount of contact (in case it gets hot enough to melt the ABS.)

    Attachment 263176Attachment 263178

    I designed the rod ends that will get installed in the walls of the case.

    The Y Guides were redone to fit two brass bushings (one on each end) and I thickened the tab that goes into the C channel stock. It was far too thin and cracked when I installed the rivets. Also with the rivets, you cannot remove the carriage. I will be switching this up to 4mm screws and the tabs are now the full depth of the C channel. I also adjusted it to be printable in the orientation to give it the most strength. It still needs supports, but on a superficial face than can be sanded.
    Attachment 263180



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    Default Re: 2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase

    I eventually found some acrylic window material with laser safety ratings, but it is $200 per sq. ft!!!

    So, instead... I will be installing a cheap board camera and LCD monitor for a simulated window. I can replace alot of board cameras for $200!! I will need to get one with auto-iris control or modify the lens so it doesn't get saturated when the laser comes on. But if mounted properly, it shouldn't suffer any direct hits and if it does... these things are like $20. Much cheaper than blindness.

    EDIT: Two cameras and a 7" LCD - $55 Cameras are probably crap, but I expect them to give up their sight for me so no complaints at $15 a pop.

    Last edited by Retroplayer; 01-04-2015 at 03:33 PM.


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    Default Re: 2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase

    Build is slowing down a little. I am waiting on some parts right now and also doing a lot of research to understand this laser better. I am also tweaking the mechanical stage right now since I have the metal cut and I can dry-test things a bit. Identifying several things I need to tweak and also trying to make the printability bullet-proof as much as possible (3D printing is an art form sometimes!) You want to ensure you have a good first layer surface, that the layers are orientated for strength, and that you reduce the amount of support material especially in areas where tolerance is very important. The carriage is the hardest part.

    For the carriage, I was originally going to use round standoffs and bearings to create rollers, but the ABS on aluminum moves really smoothly as it is. I shaved off .2mm and will try applying teflon tape to the interface between the plastic and metal to make things glide really really well. But even as-is, it moves with very little resistance once I sanded and buffed the aluminum C-Channel.

    The 1/4" steel rods I picked up from the hardware store are a different animal. They are not precision rods, so I am experiencing slight sticking in a few places on the bushing. I do have some 6mm precision rods and linear bearings coming, but I really wanted to design this with hardware store bought parts. One way to get the rods smooth is to attach the rods in a drill chuck or lathe and sand with ever increasing grit paper. Stopping to keep an eye on the diameter in several places (you can mark areas where it is sticking.) You need to move the sander up and down the spinning rod at a relatively even pace. It doesn't need to be absolutely perfect, but you don't want sticking from too much thickness and you don't want a bunch of slop from too thin, either.

    I have also needed to return to work starting today, so that will interfere a bit. Anyway, I should be at a point to show off the mechanical stage under GRBL control in the next few days I think.



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2W 445nm Diode laser cutter/engraver in a suitcase

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