Using that 50 Watt laser machine (see “Getting Control over a 50 Watt CO2 Laser Cutter from China“) for several weeks now, I have added a few upgrades to the machine.
To better align items on the honeycomb, I have cut out an alignment helper from 5 mm plywood. With that I have found out that I really have a 39.5×39.5 cm cutting area and not 40×40 cm. Maybe I can adjust this with moving the zero position.
Measuring the height of the honeycomb bed, I noticed that the left lower corner was 1 mm off. Fixed that with a 1 mm washer. Added plastic zip ties to keep the honey comb in place.
To tie down the wood properly to the honeycomb, I have added strong magnets to keep things down.
Works ok, but if the wood is deformed I need a different solution (see later in this post).
Water and Air Tubes
Originally the air and water tubes are just like this on the back side:
While not really necessary, adding proper protectors makes look more professional :-):
Front Door Stops
As the machine lid is hitting metal on metal, I added two small buffers to the bottom part to absorb the energy when closing the lid:
The default illumination was not enough for me, and hard to see things while cutting because of the tinted window (the two white stripes are the reflections of the lamps on the ceiling):
I added 4 LED stripes with a total of 600 Lumen to the inside of the cover:
That makes the view to the cutting area better:
High Voltage Wire
The red laser tube high voltage wire was very close to the water pipes:
So I moved the water inlet tube away:
Later I added some protection for the water tubes here too:
Additionally the wire got an extra black protection tube and better fixture tot he tube:
The wires for the lights got a better fixture too:
That one for sure is the biggest upgrade I did. My workshop is not air-conditioned, and I saw that with cutting material the cooling water warmed up to 30°C, so I had to stop using the machine.
The original laser tube cooling is with a small aquarium pump with no active cooling. I tried the usually tricks with using ice packs to cool the water, but this all was really messy :-(.
I looked at the usual PC CPU cooling system, but this would have been rather messy too. An alternative would have been to use aquarium chiller systems which still needs an external water tank.
I asked around and checked many forums on that subject. What I ended up was adding an industrial cooling chiller (yes, again from China). I considered the CW-3000, but that one only has passive (fan) cooling so would not be good enough as the room temperature can be up to 30°C. I decided for the CW-5000 which is commonly used for laser tube cooling. So here is now the shiny (and overpowered) cooling engine:
It has an internal pump and water tank, can run in ‘intelligent’ mode (cooling temperature based on environment temperature) or ‘static’ mode (cooling to a given temperature). Yes, that one looks huge and usually is designed for laser tubes up to 100 Watts, but I did not find any good and smaller alternative. But who knows, maybe a next machine will need that extra cooling power :-).
The tubing has been a bit challenging because of different diameters. The chiller uses 10mm tubes, but the laser had 8 mm ones. To connect the different tubes, I had to 3D print a custom connector:
This now connects the two different diameters. I plan to replace the original flexible tubes, but for now it works fine with no leakage.
Dealing with Plywood
I had some issues keeping down larger pieces of plywood. From the hardware store I organized heavy brackets which not only allow me to keep the material down, but serve as well as alignment tool.
Ah, yes: safety first. I still did not add a reed contact to shut down the laser if someone would open the lid. But added other safety measures:
Luckily I did not had to deal with fire yet (except a really, really tiny one 😉 ), so I have now a small water pump which can easily extinguish a small fire, of course only after shutting down the machine. For a bigger emergency I have a (powder) fire extinguisher ready, but that would be rather bad if I ever have to use it.
I always run the laser with the lid closed, but still I feel better wearing laser protection glasses. So I organized some special CO2 light protection glasses. Not sure how well protecting they really do for $20 from China, but I feel that might be better than nothing.
Over time I have added a few things which make that machine more effective or more safe to run. The biggest thing for shure is the water cooling system. There might be other DIY solutions, but really I did not want to mess around with ice cubes or anything like that. Overkill? Yes, for sure. But that’s a laser cutter as well :-).
What else I have in mind?
- Laser cutter machine stand: Right now the machine is sitting on top of box with wheels. Need something better/higher. Something to put the cutting material/chiller/air pump etc inside
- Air pump: I’m not happy with the wiring and the location of the pump, and I would like to turn it on/off.
- Cover (reed?) switch: for safety reasons I want to be able to turn on the laser only if the cover is closed
- Water cooling and air tubes: replace the original (soft) ones with more durable tubes
- Air: now the ventilator of the machine uses the room air and blasts it out the window. I’m thinking about installing a second tube to get air from the outside, probably to the hole in the bottom of the machine.
So far I’m really happy, and I wish I would have more time on the weekends to operate the machine. But the lecture work has a higher priority for now. And if you have your own ideas and experience updating such a laser machine, let us all know with posting a comment!
Happy Updating 🙂