Im not going to go into detail about my laser cutting setup and details. I’m a beginner.
- Laser: K40, I don’t know the board in it. I got it of eBay for less than $500 US.
- Water Cooling: still using cheap pump it came with. Plastic tub below laser has distilled water. I drilled small holes for electric and hoses. If I ran the laser harder, I might have to add ice to the water.
- Venting: Blue plastic pipe that came with laser. Using same cheap fan that came for back of laser. Shimmed it too tighten seal and get better draft. The box fan in the garage window pushes remainder of smoke out the window. Double garage door is open when cutting and just six feet to left of laser.
- Software: Using K40 Whisper (check Google and YouTube, it’s free). Has worked great on my system. Use inkscape for basic art work and adding color to paths. It’s also free. For detailed CAD, I’m currently using SolidWorks, but would go with Fusion 360 if I did not have access to SOLIDWORKS. SOLIDWORKS is run on my work computer, the rest is run on my home laptop, only 8GB machine. K40 Whisper reads .svg files output by inkscape and inkscape reads dxf from CAD. Use Google and YouTube to learn more.
- No modifications to laser. Using stock bed, mirrors and no air assist. My laser has worked well straight from the box. I might be the lucky one or my expectations are low.
- Materials – till now have only cut plywood. How to cut basswood in future, including miles sheets. Also likely to cut acrylic, styrene is a no no, the fumes are toxic and gunk up the mirrors, it melts so not likely to cut well by laser.
I’ve had my system for 4-5 years but never used it till now. Ok, I made a few test cuts. I think I’ll be able to get my money out of it, but if I were buying a tool now… I’d start with a 3D printer (resin) and then get a craft cutter for styrene. I’d bypass the laser.
Excellent Dave! Glad to see you using the laser… It’s a very helpful tool for model builders, and especially helpful for modelers that model obscure prototypes with not a lot of product support. The K40 is perfectly fine what what you want to do, so long as the machine and laser function well, you’re good to go, at least once you have DXF or drawing files that you want to use to cut parts from.
If you have SolidWorks, there is usually a 2D CAD program that is part of the install. It’ll either be “DWG Editor” or “Draftsight Enterprise” depending on what version of SW you have. I use this for most of the 2D design work I do (I reserve 3D design for 3D printed parts and/or locomotive mechanisms). It’s generally faster for simple stuff, though sometimes it is helpful to design structures in 3D, then break them apart into 2D for laser cutting. Also… SolidWorks has a fantastic embedded interactive tutorial. I actually started with that, well before I had any formal training in SW. By the time I participated in a formal SW training class, I pretty much knew most of the stuff they went over, most of which I’d learned from the tutorial.
You’ll find that cutting acrylic is no big deal, but you definitely need to vent the smoke from cutting outside (same for all materials, even wood). Basswood, surprisingly, requires more laser power or slower feeds at a given power than plywood, at least for thicker basswood.
If I can be of any help with the laser, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Jeff, thanks for the tips. Some of my parts were virtual in the assembly and the saved to unique files. I have wondered if a 3D part could be split into multiple parts to become an assembly. As the design might be simpler within a single part. Day a can for instance, then split off the walls later, depending how to construct.