Laser Cutter

From HackPittsburgh Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

This is our one laser cutter. It has 150 watt tube. This one is named "Trogor" because of its burninating power.

Note: Also see Laser Cutter Reminders and Laser Cutter Cleaning


| Name = Trogdor

| Owner = Shop Owned, purchased with funds collected from far and wide.

| StorageLocation = West wall, near the bathroom.

| MakeModel = Jinan G. Weike / WKLaser LC6090

| Documentation = The setup manual, is located on the laser cutter computer in the documents folder. Is worth reading, if only for a laugh. Inside the cutter, a Leetro MPC6515 control board coordinates the motors and laser firing. Its documentation is freely downloadable. So much grief has arisen from the awful state of the documentation and software, that an entire Chinese laser support forum has arisen for the hapless owners of these machines help each other. Also Check out i3 Detroit's awesome LaserCut5.3 Alternate Manual.

| Rules =

If you are not trained yourself, operation of the laser cutter must be done under the supervision of one of the trained operators. Trainers who can get you trained are: Chad E., Bob B., Alex R., Dave C. and Allan, B. See the section below about Damage Prevention.

HackPGH asks that users donate $0.25 per minute or $15 per hour that the beam is active. This is to replace consumables, especially the VERY EXPENSIVE bulb. There is a wooden donation box near the laser cutter for said money.

Approved Materials List

  • Most Wood
  • Acrylic
  • Leather
  • Antlers/Horn
  • Wool
  • Non-Chlorine Rubber
  • Silicone Rubber

'Etching only

  • Ritz Crackers
  • Pumpkin Pies
  • Granite
  • Glass
  • Glazed Ceramic
  • Metals "Remove surface coating only" (PCB)
  • Chocolate
  • Exotic Woods

Here are more approved materials from Epilog Laser:

Non-Approved Materials List

  • Polycarbonate
  • ABS
  • PVC
  • Most Vinyl
  • most Foams
  • Bakelite
  • Anything with Chloride
  • PETG
  • Polyester
  • Metals
  • Foils
  • Mirrored Surfaces

Stock Material Sources

Vendor Item # Description URL Length (ft.) Width (ft.) Thick (mm) Thick (in.) Cost ($) $ / sq. ft. Last Updated
Michaels Baltic Birch Plywood (25% off coupon) 2 1 6.3 0.250 $ 5.16 $ 2.58 11/10/2015
Michaels Baltic Birch Plywood (25% off coupon) 2 1 9.5 0.375 $ 6.75 $ 3.37 11/10/2015
Lowes 5202 Lauan Plywood 4 2 5.2 0.204 $ 5.33 $ 0.67 11/10/2015
Lowes 6177 Lauan Plywood 2 2 5.2 0.204 $ 3.69 $ 0.92 11/10/2015
Lowes 6196 Birch Plywood 2 2 5.2 0.205 $ 6.85 $ 1.71 11/10/2015
Lowes 6210 Oak Plywood 2 2 6.4 0.250 $ 6.85 $ 1.71 12/01/2015
Lowes 15483 Masonite (FashionWall Wall Panel) 8 4 3.2 0.125 $ 9.52 $ 0.30 12/01/2015
Lowes 239981 Optix Clear Acryic Sheet 2 1.5 5.6 0.220 $ 23.30 $ 7.77 12/01/2015
Lowes 78778 Optix Clear Acryic Sheet 2 1.5 2.0 0.080 $ 10.90 $ 3.63 12/01/2015

| Instructions =

Get material that will fit on the bed of the laser cutter, which is 600cm x 900cm: 900cm wide from left to right, and 600cm long from the front to the back. Your piece must be able to fit on the bed itself, because the bed will lower to put the surface of your material in focus. However, in case anyone needs to know the whole interior of the bay for some reason: there is 99mm of clearance between the two rails the gantry runs on (the same width as the machine's bay door). 99mm is also the measurement from the front lip to the back wall of the machine, but the door itself takes up 3/4 of an inch of that.

General Instructions

Time-of-cut Checklist

  1. Download design from LaserCut software.
  2. Use the file > Import option to import your .dxf file. Your .dxf file will need to be in millimeters.
  3. If you have sections of you part that you want cut first such as through holes before the part outline add them on other layers.
  4. Select the sections of the part you want on another layer and select a different color from the bottom of the program.
  5. Then from the menu on the top right use the UP DOWN buttons to set the order of your different layers.
  6. You may want to test to see what your cut will look like you can do this by clicking on the Simulate button (It looks like a print preview button).
  7. Make sure there is nothing obstructing the path of the laser head toward the right rear of the working surface!
  8. Turn keyswitch to on, and wait for boot and home to complete.
  9. Click the 'Download' button on the bottom right of the screen to send your file to the Laser Cutter
  10. Place material onto bed.
  11. With the D-pad, jog head over to center of material. Be sure the Auto Level Head will clear before proceeding. Press ESC to activate the D-pad.
  12. Press "Z" to enter the mode to raise or lower the bed.
  13. Use the provided acrylic focuser to focus the laser (These are normally located in the orange 3d printed vase).
  14. Using the up and down arrow to rase and lower the bed. CAUTION! If you hold the button for a long time the table will move faster.
  15. Press "Z" again to exit Z mode.
  16. (optional) Check the lens for debris, and clean if necessary, especially if cutting something smokey like wood or MDF.
  17. With the D-pad, jog head to start of cut. You can also run the head left / right and watch the red dot to see if it moves parallel to the edge of the material. Adjust as needed.
  18. Keep one hand over emergency-stop while using the "Test" button to check boundaries.
  19. Lift the fire extinguisher and set it back down. This verifies that your muscle-memory knows where it is. It also gives you strong muscles.
  20. Turn on the black and gold power strip located toward the back of the laser cutter. This should bring up the chiller, air-assist pump, and blower.
  21. When you turn on that power strip on you should hear an alarm go off. It should be a few beeps then a long beep of a different tone. Also verify that the green normal light is lit. This verifies that the chiller works. If you can't verify this DO NOT USE MACHINE! It will KILL THE LASER! If the alarm goes off any time during your cut, Immediately power off the machine using the E-Stop to prevent damage!!!
  22. Wave hand under head and verify that air-assist is blowing. DO NOT USE MACHINE IF AIR ASSIST IS NOT WORKING! It will Damage the machine!
  23. Verify that Blower is working! DO NOT USE MACHINE IF BLOWER IS NOT WORKING! It will Damage the machine!
  24. Press "Start".
  25. DO NOT WALK AWAY. Watch the machine the whole time! See for why.
  26. When cutter finishes, observe elapsed time on LCD and put money into box. Please round to the next minute.
  27. Make sure that there is no debris in the way of the laser head and send it home by pressing "Datum."
  28. Remove debris from the honeycomb and the bottom tray.

How to use the manual focus gauge

The manual focus gauges are normally located in the orange 3d printed vase. More are in the laser cutter box. They are small L-shaped pieces of acrylic with "55mm For use with 55mm lens" engraved on them, corresponding to the 55mm focal length lenses currently installed in the laser cutter. To check the focus, place the gauge on the surface of the material you are cutting. The underside of the nib should rest against the top of the knurled fitting, as shown in the pictures to the right.

To re-cut the manual focus gauge, or to modify the file for a different lens, use the files found in... TBD

Immediate Mode

In the software above the Download button there is a checkbox called Immediate. This changes where the origin is. If it is checked, It will start the cut where the laser head currently is. If it is unchecked it moves the head to the coordinates on the laser table and starts cutting. We recommend playing with it if you are unfamiliar with how it works. Just be sure that there is nothing on the bed and the bed is lowered when you try it for the first time.

| OtherReferences =

| MaintenanceInfo =

Cleaning the laser head

If speed for CUT in 1/8" MDF falls below 20, then check the focus and have a trainer clean both mirrors and lens.


  • Use alcohol from the laser box and cotton ball.
  • The convex lens side goes toward the laser.
  • The capture ring tool is in the white box.
  • Use tweezers for removal of o-ring.

Power and Speed Rankings

TW- I have noticed that the laser seems to lose power over time. To better get a handle on this I am going to start running Cut Rankings. Every time I use the laser, I will make a test of small squares on the 1/8 mdf, which is usually around as scrap, you shouldn't have to use 100 power... it will shorten the life of the laser. They will be staggered at speeds of I will put the results and date. If others could do this to we might start to see what we need to do. If these settings are outdated, do your own test cuts as too low a speed produces a lot of smoke.

Cutting values:

Material (include thickness) Speed (mm/sec) Power (%)
1/8" acrylic 60? 40?
1/8" plywood 60 40
1/4" acrylic 40 60
1/4" plywood 40 60
True 1/4" Void Free Plywood 25 60

Etching values: See etching guide pieces (usually sitting on top of the laser cutter).

  • Cut means fall out / Popout means req'd push to release / No Cut means not seperable: Per i3...
  • 6/2/13 1/8 MDF 5 CUT 10 CUT 15 POPOUT 20 NO CUT
  • 6/9/13 1/8 MDF 5 CUT 10 CUT 15 POPOUT 20 POPOUT
  • 6/10/13 1/8 MDF 5 CUT 10 CUT 15 CUT 20 POPOUT
  • 6/11/13 1/8 MDF 5 CUT 10 CUT 15 POPOUT 20 POPOUT
  • 6/12/13 1/8 MDF 5 No CUT 10 NO CUT 15 NO CUT 20 NO CUT
  • 7/31/13 1/8 mdf 30 cut 33 cut 37 popout 40 popout
  • 8/6/13 1/8 mdf 20 cut 23 cut 27 cut 30 popout
  • 8/12/13 1/8 mdf 20 cut 23 cut 27 popout 30 nocut
  • 11/14/13 1/8 mdf 12cut 20 no cut
  • 11/14/13 1/8 mdf AFTER Cleaning 20 cut 25 cut 30 popout

Damage Prevention

The most common way the laser can injure itself is colliding its plunger with something when it moves itself. Moving itself takes place during a job, when going to the logical origin that has been set to begin or end a job, or when homing to the upper right corner of the bed. Homing takes place when pressing the Datum button, or when the machine powers on, such as recovering from an emergency stop. If the plunger is mounted on the wrong side, it can collide with the machine frame during homing. The plunger can collide with material or with weights that are holding down material. During a job, sometimes a flexible material will lift off the bed through heat curling, or when cutting releases its pent-up spring energy. Continuing the job might cause the head to collide with the newly-emerged edge.

Only use the auto-focus feature (z-datum) when plunger is over material (we removed this feature but don't press datum when you are in Z mode). Otherwise, the plunger tip goes into the bed without being pressed down, so the Z-motion doesn't stop itself, and crushes the lens head into the bed. Keep your hand over the emergency stop when auto-focusing. Everyone should practice hitting the emergency stop button. Pressing the emergency stop does not cause an emergency.

Be very careful when removing the emergency stop, because it homes itself during every power-on. So, be sure the lens head is free. If the table is so high that the plunger is stuck in the bed, open the lower doors of the laser, manually pull the belts on the screws so that the bed goes down. After this, this procedure will have to be reversed, measuring the distance from both sides of the bed to both sides of the gantry.

Coolant failure will destroy the laser, so each time the laser is used, verify the chiller to ensure that the you feel water going through it.

Be sure the exhaust is on, or the smoke gathering in the machine will damage the mechanics, the optics, and any nearby humans.

Never laser-cut polycarbonate. It is highly flammable, and will produce toxic, highly corrosive smoke. Also do not cut plastics containing chlorine. Acrylic and delrin are currently the only known-safe plastics.

On that note... Our landlords love us and we don't want to piss them off... So be excellent to them!

Before cutting something with an reflective surface, consult a user who is qualified for training or maintenance.

If material catches on fire, hit the emergency stop, yell "fire!". For smaller fires we first ask you to use the spray bottle of water to put it out, if the fire is bigger use the fire extinguisher mounted by the laser. Use Your Own Judgement. To use the fire extinguisher, pull the pin, and spray carbon dioxide gas in a sweeping motion over the flames. It just dispenses carbon dioxide gas, not foam. This will do no damage. It's just loud.

| ToDos =

New cylinders to hold different lenses, make it easy and safe to change them without smudging or damage. Sector67 has indicated they may make some of these. (The existing cylinder has too narrow an opening for the lens that gives a long focal length. Its beam is so wide that it hits the lip and heats up the cylinder.)
Payment-measuring timer.
One way to do this would be to measure current to the machine and time how long it runs at laser-firing power. It would be good to put a button on the timer that would re-set it to zero.
Another way, used at other spaces, is to use the "blow" output contact from the controller, which is meant to trigger the air-assist, in case bottled gas is being used for special cutting.

| FAQs =


When running TEST I get a SOFT STOP message on screen and no test.
That usually means your cut runs off the laser table. Check your origin point on the file and where you have the laser head starting. Sometimes it means that Logical Origin is set to ON which places your cut off the table, no matter where you have manually set the laser head.
How can I turn off Logical Origin?
To Cancel Logical Origin use the keys on the Control Panel on the Laser and the Control Panel Display.
  1. Hit ESC 3 times.
  2. Hit the RETURN key (the one with an arrow that goes down and to the left). This should highlight the current file name.
  3. Hit RETURN again. This should pop you to the Logical Origin screen.
  4. Hit Right Arrow until the field Cancel Logical Origin YES is highlighted.
  5. Hit RETURN.
My Test doesn't start where my laser head is and I have turned Logical Origin off
  • Make sure to check the IMMEDIATE box and save before Downloading AND turn off Logical Origin to allow the origin to be the manually set position of the laser head.
  • This could also mean your cut is running off the table, or close to the edge.
It takes several minutes or infinite minutes to compile in LaserCut
I have had this happen with some (but not all) DXF files from OpenSCAD. Open the dxf file in CorelDraw and then save it as dxf. It will "clean it up" and you compiles will now be very quick. I have no clue what is happening.
When cutting 1/8mdf through it takes 100% and slower than 20 speed.
Check Focus. If problem persists have trainer clean lens and mirrors. DO NOT attempt cleaning if you are NOT a trainer.
When downloading file to laser cutter, no file appears in the DownLoad window or on the laser cutter
Your file is too big (some combination of actual size and complexity of design) to be transferred via the cord. You can download your design directly to the laser cutter via USB flash drive.
  1. In the LaserCut Download window, choose "Export file" instead of "Download Current"
  2. Find the files, a .mol and .txt and put them on a flash drive. They don't need to be the only files on the drive, but probably should be the only .mol file
  3. Plug the flash drive into the laser cutter USB port. The port is located on the right side of the laser cutter, about 2 feet off the floor near the front edge. (someone should add a picture of the port location)
  4. The file will be downloaded automatically- it might take a while to download, but it'll give you the progress as it goes.
  5. Proceed as normal- you should see the name of the file in the menu as usual.
The laser head moves through the design, but the laser doesn't fire!
  • Laser power setting in LaserCut should be above 17.
  • Check the air nozzle to make sure it isn't knocked out of whack and blocking the laser path. Check the mA meter just above the control panel. If it jumps up around 10-40 mA, then the laser supply is firing and just getting blocked
  • Make sure the chiller is on (safety interlock)
  • Make sure the door is all the way closed. The door interlock uses a small magnetic sensor on the front right bezel into which the door sits when closed. The magnetic sensor requires a small gap between it and the magnet. If the door requires re-alignment, TELL A TRAINER. DO not try to fix it yourself, just let someone know to re-align it so you don't make it worse.

Other Resources

The note sheets that go on the clipboard are located here:

Thanks i3 for unwillingly donating their wiki page.