Our laser upgrade kits are versatile tools that can be used for many projects and applications. It is extremely good at engraving objects such as wood, and even cutting thin materials like plastic and balsa wood. It is also good as a foam cutter, working on some hobby foams and the pink foam from Home Depot. We have done most of these applications at 1W to 2W power levels, which is plenty of power to get the job done.
The laser can be focused to a very small spot, which can give it the opportunity to engrave and mark very small fonts and logos or pictures with very fine detail. Since the spot is so small, there are no obvious “rectangular” oddities that appear with some other diode laser etching machines.
Below are some pictures and links to the blog articles for particular applications. As we continue to experiment, we will update to include more and more great applications of this laser.
Click on the TITLES to go to more information!
The 2.8W laser kit has plenty of power to engrave and cut through acrylic. If you want to just engrave, then it is a fast and easy process. If you want to cut, then it can be done at around 60 mm / min with three passes for 1/8″ acrylic. It works with many types of acrylic including opaque and semi-transparent.
We have teamed up with the folks over at PicEngrave.com to add support for our upgrade kits in their photo engraving software. With the software you can create awesome engraved images on your CNC machine or your 3D printer! Take a standard .BMP image, load it into the software, and generate the G Code file to make it come alive on wood, mirrors, and other materials.
We now offer SW licenses of PicLaser for generating the g code files needed to engrave images with our laser upgrade kits!
The inkscape plugin does great for making outlines for engraving and piclaser lite is great for greyscale photos, but when you want to make just a black and white engraving and have it go very fast, then use the new product Laser Etch to make your G Code. It uses an “Optimized” rastor based approach to decrease the engraving time by more than 50% on most occasions. Use it to engrave logos, PCBs, ID Tags, QR Codes, or just images.
Engraving on Wood
This laser has plenty of power to engrave wood. Typical speeds for wood engraving are in the 400-600 mm/min, which is quite fast. You can turn the power down even more to get less char and run the machine a bit slower. Different wood types will also get different results. The harder the wood, the more detail you can get and the most consistency. Here are some pictures of some thin birch plywood that we quickly did some text in inkscape and used the laserengraver plugin to get the G Code file to run.
Here are some test pictures, one with Arial 8 point font and the other with 20 point:
Here is a customer video of engraving a turkey on wood that turned out pretty good. He is using a PWM signal to control the power at a slow rep rate (which is why you see the spot flashing). Also, this is viewed through a laser shield which gives it the amber look.
A lot of people are using the lasers to make very nice cutting boards. Here are a couple of examples:
Engraving on anodized aluminum is easy and fast. While we know it works on all of the types we have tried here, all anodizations are different. It will not work with most “hard anodization” coatings (they will be shiny). If you want us to test yours before you buy a kit, get us a sample and we will test it for you!
Engraving on Plastic, Fiberglass, Carbon Fiber, etc…
While the laser might not have enough power to cut all the way through thicker dense materials like plastic, fiberglass, and carbon fiber over 1/8″ thick, it sure does a nice job of engraving. At 1W, the laser will produce a mark with a depth of 1/64″ on the surface at very high speeds (>400mm/min). Some smoke and soot are produced when using plastic materials, so a fume hood or some method of smoke removal is advised.
Here is an example of a customer who engraved in G10 fiberglass. Power was 1W. Total time: 9 Seconds.
This is one of the cooler applications of the upgrade kit, the ability to cut thin balsa and basswood. Hobbyists like to use this to make their own model designs and try them out. Other people use it to make art. Any way you use it, it is pretty neat to have a light cutter right on your desktop in your 3D printer or on your CNC machine.
Balsa can be cut up to 1/8″ thick as well as Basswood. These are very non-dense woods, so they cut pretty nice. Click here for more information on cutting wood. Here is a picture of some test cuts:
You can get pretty adventurous with your creativity and make some interesting art pieces. Below is a cut butterfly and a box made by a customer:
Cutting Thin Plywood
The 2.8W laser is just powerful enough to get through some thin plywood. Customers have demonstrated cutting up to 3mm ply sheets, but you might be doing a lot of passes to get through it. We are going to be making a full article with parameters here soon on plywood cutting.
Picture of 3mm plywood cut.
Foam is an excellent material for use in many hobby projects. Many people make airplanes and drones out of them and architects can use it for complex models for showcasing new designs. The good news is that it cuts the very cheap Foamular brand foam found at Home Depot (up to 1/2″) as well as the thinner hobby store foam board and office depot presentation board. It also cuts into black Depron really good! Click here for more information in the blog post.
Here is a 1/2″ thick Foamular cut with the laser and some cuts with hobby store foam:
The laser has enough power to cut very thin plastic for use in many applications. Here at J Tech Photonics, we cut thin transparency sheets (the kind for the old overhead projectors) to make SMT solder stencils for new board projects. It cuts really good with very defined corners with minimal melting.
For more information on cutting solder stencils using our process, read the blog post here: Laser Cutting Solder Stencils
Sometimes it is needed to put marks into the FR4 layer of a circuit board for specific sorting or documentation purposes. The laser works perfect for removing just enough FR4 to create a visible mark or text. It also works on the silkscreen areas where hand marking is normally done. For more information, see the blog post here.
This is an easy application for the laser and it performs very good! You can cut all types of poster board and paper and make very intricate designs for projects. Here is the entire blog post with details.
Engraving on Leather
Leather is a great medium for engraving. It allows for a dark lettering or designs to be permanently displayed in the leather. Let you imagination guide you with your creations!
If you are using the toner transfer method to make your own custom prototype PCBs then this method is WAY better. Get higher resolution, finer trace widths, higher pitch, and more control over your PCB. Just paint the copper with flat black fast drying spray paint (available at Home Depot) and remove it with the laser. Check out the details in our blog post here.
Check back for more exciting applications! There certainly are plenty of things to accomplish with such an easy to use and maintain laser upgrade to your CNC or 3D printer!