Author Topic: He's at it again! Yet another cheap Chinese laser engraver! (better this time)  (Read 715 times)

culturejam

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Okay, so this is my third cheap Chinese laser engraver. The first one worked great, but was limited in carving area (a ludicrous 42mm x 42mm area). Read the long thread here, if you care: http://www.madbeanpedals.com/forum/index.php?topic=25637

Then I got a bigger one with a more powerful laser (2.5W) and a much larger carving area (200mm x 130mm). But, I could never quite get it properly squared up and aligned, so while it was powerful enough to burn down to metal with two passes, the second pass always lowered the fidelity of the artwork. So I disassembled it and sort of gave up (but I did keep the controller board, stepper motors, and laser module for some future project).

So now I have found a "Goldielocks" unit that's more or less in between these two. It has a similar motor system to the first smaller unit (appears to be CDROM carriage motors instead of stepper motors), and with the same power at 1.5W, but it's got double the carving area at 80mm x 80mm. And, like the larger one I had, this one does not have a platform that moves on the Y axis; it has X/Y up top and you simply free-position your cutting material underneath.

This one is *almost* big enough to do full face 125B, but if you don't need to etch all the way down by the footswitch, it will get the job done without needing to set up multiple position etching runs. But I'm sure a 2-off art setup can be figured out. Right now I'm doing some tests to figure out the native resolution so I can create some Illustrator templates.

Now some pics and comments on this particular machine:




This thing feels smaller than the original small unit, but it's actually wider (and also shorter). It has a built-in safety glass shield on the front, which is very cool (negates the need for green glasses when just checking progress).

My unit arrived (via BangGood) with a faulty laser module that would barely mark wood with laser power maxed and speed at minimum. I pulled the laser from my original small unit and it was a perfect match for this one (and works great). They offered me a measly $5 refund for the laser, which will cost me $20 to replace, but since the whole unit was only $85 shipped, I guess I shouldn't bitch too much. :)

This thing is SLOW for cutting powdercoat. Thin layers of rattle can paint is a lot faster to work with. Wood marking is pretty quick, as is leather. It can cut cardstock or very thin cardboard and paper. That's about it for cutting.



Accuracy/consistency on multiple passes is excellent. Two passes at max gets pretty deep into a thick powdercoat. A third pass yields marginal benefits over two. After that, you either have to be okay with a dark brown color, you can back-fill with acrylic or some kind of ink, or you can physically remove the last bit with a dental pick (or something similar). 1.5W just can't quite get down to metal by itself. And there aren't any more powerful laser modules that will fit this machine without major modifications and perhaps some firmware changes and/or power supply upgrades. Still, for the price vs performance, it's a good deal and a fun thing to play with.

Finished / cleaned out etch:




As with all my idiotic adventures........more to come!

cooder

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Very cool! Looking forward to see more of what you can whizz up with this!
85 dineros isn't too bad, do you have the link to find this exact unit?
Also: how would it etch acrylic that has been spray painted on back?
Like a mirrored image lasered on the spary painted side of acrylic if that makes sense.
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culturejam

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85 dineros isn't too bad, do you have the link to find this exact unit?

Here's the same thing on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MuiYw9

Honestly, I'd order on Amazon because of the return policy. I think it's worth the extra $20 to be able to get a full refund if you get a dud.

cooder

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Cool, cheers.
Any idea about the spray painted acrylic surface engraving?
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alanp

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I'm expecting a K40 laser, next.  8)

Or that one from Goldfinger.
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Have you tried out any typefaces/text?

culturejam

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Cool, cheers.
Any idea about the spray painted acrylic surface engraving?

I haven't tried this, but I suspect it would be up to the task. Doesn't seem to take much power to burn off a bit of paint.

I'm expecting a K40 laser, next.

Believe me, I've almost bought a K40 several times. In my current living situation (which is unlikely to change in the near future), I don't have a good space for it that has access to ventilation. For something that powerful, you really need to vent to the outside if doing anything other than lightly marking wood or paper. Maybe I could rig up a sort of "bong" water filter and push the vent gas into/through a bucket of water, haha.

Have you tried out any typefaces/text?

Yep. Works just like the other little engraver in that regard. It's capable of very fine detail, but as you turn up the power, you lose a bit of crispness at the edges. So for really fine text, you'd probably need to do several runs at low power. But regular old text is fairly easy, especially outline style.

culturejam

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Can confirm that paint etches really well with this laser. Three or four light coats of rattle can paint on an aluminum enclosure is a nice starting point. Etches right down to the metal with one pass, and fully clean with two. Plus, the etching is effective at about 50% Depth (which is really a speed control), which is a big improvement over the speed setting for powdercoat etching.

I'll post pics and settings in the next couple days. My initial tests are done on some really fugly paint work.

culturejam

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On a whim, I tried out etching a thin layer of Plasti-Dip. There are actually a few brands that offer the same sort of rubberized spray finish. It's surprisingly easy to apply and dries a lot faster than I would have suspected. Also, when etching, it's really not at all smelly like powdercoat.

The result below is one pass with laser power at 100% and "depth" (speed) at 80%. I applied a thin coat of the paint. It's definitely not down to the metal, but it's kind of cool looking. I will try again with everything maxed out and also with two passes. At this level, it's more of a "marking" than a true "etching". But we'll see how more power and more passes changes things.



culturejam

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So I couldn't get the laser to cut through even a fairly thin coat of the Plasti-Dip spray. But it marks it in a very cool way, and they make a clear coat for it, which should also help with contrast (I think).

So I gave another go with white powdercoat with some adjusted goals, and I think this might be something I could use ongoing. I'm no longer attempted to cut it all the way down to metal; this little guy just can't pull the power for that. But the "ash" or whatever left in the etch looks pretty cool as is and has enough contrast on lighter finishes to work. I think I'm going to shoot some clear over the top to make sure the "ink-ash" doesn't work itself out (it's actually super-dark brown). I assume clear over powdercoat will work out. We'll see!


pickdropper

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So I couldn't get the laser to cut through even a fairly thin coat of the Plasti-Dip spray. But it marks it in a very cool way, and they make a clear coat for it, which should also help with contrast (I think).

So I gave another go with white powdercoat with some adjusted goals, and I think this might be something I could use ongoing. I'm no longer attempted to cut it all the way down to metal; this little guy just can't pull the power for that. But the "ash" or whatever left in the etch looks pretty cool as is and has enough contrast on lighter finishes to work. I think I'm going to shoot some clear over the top to make sure the "ink-ash" doesn't work itself out (it's actually super-dark brown). I assume clear over powdercoat will work out. We'll see!



I don't think you actually want to get to raw aluminum with white boxes.  You lose contrast at that point.  Even the Epilog won't take it down to raw aluminum in one pass.

If you look at the Third Rail or Cannon etches, you'll see that the etched areas are gray, but that it's not raw aluminum.  It's interesting that yours are black; it's possible that, because of the lower power, the speed has to be cranked down and it's burning it a bit.  Either way, you're probably better off where you are now.

Btw, where did you source the white enclosures?  I've noticed with the Tayda enclosures they etch totally differently, almost as if they use some sort of enamel vs. actual powder coat.  It seems reasonably strong, so it probably doesn't matter to anybody putting a sticker or waterslide for graphics, but it's a bit different for laser etching.
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culturejam

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Btw, where did you source the white enclosures? 

These are from BLMS. The coating is fairly thick (especially the black).

You mentioned the Tayda boxes maybe being enamel. I tested some enamel spray paint with this little laser, and I noted that it mostly "dents" into it, but doesn't really cut or burn it.

alanp

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What could be quite cool would be some kind of psychedelic swirl paint on the bottom layer (you know, of the pail of water with a film of paint on top, dip it in, kinda swirl), bake that hard, and do a white layer of paint on top. With the paints done so that the laser cuts through the white, and lets the Dio-band shine through :)
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I tried the tayda boxes (green, orange, blue) with the elekslaser A3 and it can't get through the coating, even with 2 passes. The residue is brown/black and has a nice contrast, but it smells really bad, so covering it up is advantageous for that too.
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