Monday, August 25, 2014

Off-Topic: Lasers!

My apologies for delays in getting new posts up, but I've had a few work-related items drop in my lap as well as a special project come up where I couldn't say no.  I write non-fiction (technology) books for a living, and part of that requires me to create proposals for new books. I'm "down" right now -- meaning I have no books to write. I usually try to be finishing a book as I'm starting a new one, but that doesn't always work out. Last week I was working on a new book proposal that required a LOT of my time...

The other item that stole my time last week was a chance to assemble a laser cutter. Two, actually. I traveled to my parents' house to meet a good friend of mine, Patrick Hood-Daniel. Patrick owns, where he sells DIY CNC machines, 3D printers, and... laser cutters. Patrick and I wrote a book together years ago called Build Your Own CNC Machine and then followed it up with a Build Your Own 3D Printer book. Patrick has since designed a new laser cutter called BlackTooth, and he came to Florida to help my dad and I each build our own laser cutter. It was a good learning experience as well as a great time to catch up and visit.

Building a laser cutter was definitely interesting. The shell of the laser cutter is made of MDO (medium density overlay), and while it looks like wood, it's resistant to moisture and it resists burning (flare-ups after the material is cut by the laser are unlikely to set it on fire). This is a 40W, so not super powerful -- it can cut 1/4" plywood but slowly. It's got an exhaust fan where I'll be able to vent the fumes from cutting plastics/acrylics.  A water pump circulates water to cool the laser and a small air pump blows air out at the point of the cut to further help prevent flare-ups. This one works like a CNC machine, with two motors controlling X and Y axes... there is no Z axis, however, since the laser controls depth of cut by modifying the power to the laser as well as the time the laser is turned on.

Wiring it up was tricky... and not tricky. It follows a fairly straight forward path, with a power supply providing power to both motors and the laser as well as the fan and water and air pumps. Tubes and wires have to be carefully routed because you've got moving parts inside, and that's where Patrick's help was invaluable. A lot of people have built this laser cutter all on their own, but I have to admit it was nice having the designer there to double-check everything.

Anywa... I'm back in Atlanta now, so I'll be trying to catch up this week on some new posts now that I've got the proposal completed AND the laser cutters assembled.

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