GCC Laser Engraver

Filled under: Miscellaneous

Date posted: January 9, 2014

Attending a community college, such as Germanna Community College, has many advantages. One of which is the ease of a single person making an impact on the college and leaving a legacy. For me, I co-founded an engineering club, the Applied Engineering Club (AEC) with the goal of providing hands on experience that will allow our club members to better understand problems and solutions in future endeavors.

A major initiatives was acquiring a laser engraver that will provide fabrication options for our future club and college projects.

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Six weeks after I made a proposal to the Student Government Association and college officials, our laser engraver and materials arrived in the lab!

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The laser chosen was the Full Spectrum Laser 45W Hobby 5th Gen. because of it’s decent price, small footprint, and ‘ease’ of use.

The blue bucket is filled with water and a pump that pumps water through the glass laser tube. At the bottom middle of the table you can see the air pump for the air assist. Joe made the anti-vibration mount.

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I built the simple custom fitted table from two by fours.

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Joe gave me a hand here and there.

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Since laser engravers are dangerous in untrained hands, it was best that we add a lock to the system that will only fire the laser for authorized users.

I requested Full Spectrum to add a simple key switch, but they wanted an extra $1000 dollars! Seriously, $1000 to drill a hole in the metal frame to add a $5.00 switch connected in series to the water protect line, come on guys.

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To save money, I made my own interlock using an Arduino Nano, a relay, LEDs, and buttons. The relay connects in series with the water protect sensor. I figure anyone that takes the initiative to manually override the interlock successfully is also capable of operating the laser engraver, so I had no worries about the easy to open frame.

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This is how the machine was wired when it arrived. Pretty messy, eh?

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For fume extraction we are rather fortunate to have a car exhaust collector unit in our lab. We just pull this down and connect it to the laser engraver via a dryer vent duct. You can see our wood adapter.

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Inside the laser has a combining lens for the laser dot. The red dot is rather handy for precision part placement.

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The head and it’s focus lens works good, but I do not like how the focus lens is exposed. However, there is air assist on the bottom side, which is not really visible in this picture.

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The bed of the laser is poorly designed. By default the honeycomb table just sits on the bottom of the laser bed. With this, gasses become trapped under the part and cause markings and overheating of the cutting spot. Joe designed and printed out some nifty honeycomb table corner lifters. Another problem with the laser bed is that when the exhaust in activated, due to suction, the bed lifts up about 3/16″ due to the bottom over the laser engrave being constructed from thin gauge sheet metal.

This post is not really intended to be a review of the Full Spectrum Laser 45W Hobby 5th Gen., but for our needs this laser is acceptable.