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Old 11-13-2019, 09:24 PM
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jaffro jaffro is offline
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Questions regarding Laser Cutters

I've had a bit of a poke around the forums in search of answers, there's a few threads covering various laser cutters that I'm aware of, but I have questions.

Apologies in advance, this might get a bit long winded. I want to make it perfectly clear what I want this thing to do and there's a lot of different factors that need to be addressed.

I am interested in hearing from people who are using laser cutters in card modeling, I know there are a few of you here.

I've always been interested in laser cutters but I know you need to spend a decent amount to get a decent cutter, up till now I've never been able to justify the outlay.

I'm a big fan of laser cut parts and most often will buy an accompanying set of laser parts if available for a kit I purchase. I have recently bought a few kits that have no laser parts available so I made some enquiries with a local laser cutting company about having some former/tyre tread/tank tracks parts scanned and cut. The price quoted was somewhat insane, $88 AUD for 2x A4 pages, and I need about 20 pages cut...

Back to the drawing board.

I recently purchased a 3D printer. Not an expensive one, but it's very good for the price I paid, I'm very impressed with the accuracy it can print at small scales.

I've also recently discovered there are addons available to turn a 3D printer into a laser cutter, you pretty much just buy a laser unit and slap it on the extruder/print head of the 3D printer and with a bit of modification and manipulation of the 3D printing software... voila, you have a 3D printing laser cutter.

My questions are in relation to a number of things.

Firstly, the power of the laser. These addon laser heads start at around 500mW (500 milliwatts) that's about half a watt, meaning it's very weak and not capable of much more than burning a pattern onto wood/paper etc.

The average power of a low end C02 laser cutter is around 40 watts, these printers can set you back around $5-600 for a cheap chinese brand.

I've done some research, and there are people who have had success with cutting 1mm cardboard with a 2.5W laser head, using multiple passes (ie: repeating the cut 3 or 4 times). Based on this, I'm thinking something around 5.5W might be good enough to cut 1mm cardboard, maybe still using multiple passes. I can pick up a 5.5W laser for an affordable price, maybe even something a bit more powerful if neccessary, what I want to also know, is if I'm going to be able to use this thing the way I want to.

I only want this thing to cut formers and various other basic shapes like tyre treads and tank tracks etc. Maybe even some scratch built stuff I will design myself in graphic software.

So, some questions I have relating to telling this laser what I want it to do...

Can I scan a parts sheet, such as formers or tracks etc, then clean it up in graphic software (ie: removing text and lines I don't want cut, adding "tags" to hold the parts in place on the sheet etc) then send them to my cutting software to have them cut at exactly the same size as the scanned parts?

What software do you guys use, or would you use for this kind of thing?

I'm not interested in cutting out whole models, just the simple stuff like frames, formers, treads etc. I'm willing to learn how to use new software and spend time on some pre-production to prepare parts pages for cutting, I'm aware this won't be a simple "point and click and it's done" procedure.

I basically want to know if it's worth investing a bit of cash to do this and save myself a lot of annoying, repetitive cutting of 1mm cardboard. I find it frustrating that some of the people who design these laser cut parts will include a lot of basic shapes in the laser set but neglect to include parts that are an absolute nightmare to cut accurately.

If you're still here, thanks for taking the time to read this, now... Discuss!
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