Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Unfinished gifts and items for purchase

    I recently finished lasering a set of wood coasters (as a gift) as well as my first coasters for resale.  After lasering, wood requires a bit of sanding to remove the smoke stains caused from the burning material and it also needs to be varnished to protect the surface.  There are products such as LiquaMask that prevent stains from depositing on the working material during cutting and engraving, but for wood that could use a bit of sanding anyways, it's really not cost effective.  If I begin to work with more costly or delicate materials, preventing these stains from forming will become more important.   I was originally having some trouble preventing burn marks on the underside of the coasters (caused from a reflection of the laser after cutting through the material), but this was easily prevented by placing card stock beneath the wood.  I also happened to discover that colder wood cuts easier and engraves better than room temperature wood.  I'll be exploring this further on future projects.

Set of four unfinished Red Oak coasters
Oak and Poplar unfinished coasters to be sold

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Laser Cutter Settings and Experimentation

     When a boy gets a new toy it's a guarantee he'll push it to it's limits.  He'll build the tallest Lego tower possible, race his RC car through the deepest puddle, ride his bike off the highest curb, it's just what young boys do.  When he grows up this doesn't change much.  Really, the only difference is his toys.
     Similar to Tom at Will it Blend?, I've been seeing what cuts and what doesn't with my laser. I've been cutting and engrave anything I can get my hands on, with mixed success.  To keep track of the materials and settings I've tried, I put together a Google Docs spreadsheet.  This should serve as a good reference for future projects and a way to share my work with others.

Failed attempt to engrave a Lightscribe CD with a CO2 laser
     One recent test I performed was to try engraving on a Lightscribe CD.  In the proper computer CD drive, these special CDs can be flipped over to their backside and "printed" on using the drive's very own laser.  Great idea, but as it turns out an incredibly slow process.  Why not use the laser cutter to speed things up?  I prepared a CD alignment guide cut from a piece of cardboard and set the cutter to 100% speed, 1% power (the weakest setting).  The 40W laser easily burned through the data layer of the CD even at these low settings.  I thought about further reducing the power by manually limiting power to the machine, but it's probably better to stick with the original method of using these CDs.  Lesson learned.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Good, but not too good...

The Virgin Mary (carbon on taco-sized flour tortilla)
    Having begun to get acquainted with vector cutting and engraving on my FSE 40W laser, I branched into using the raster mode today.  For lack of better materials, I decided to print on a tortilla and later a slice of bread.  What better image to print than that of the Holy Virgin?  After all, I might even sell it for $28,000.  Here's a video of the laser in action.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ushering in the Era of Home Manufacturing

Vector Engrave on 1/4" plywood at 80% Power / 20% Speed (15ma limit on FSE 40W laser)
    If one were to glace around my 11'x11' bedroom in Santa Paula, it might seem more like a workshop than a living space.  My recently acquired laser cutter takes up a good portion of my room alongside the sewing machine, eggbot, and soldering station to name a few other tools laying about.  I'm still learning how to manipulate power and speed for the best results with the cutter and hope to post my findings/examples here for other laser users or anybody curious to see what I've been putting together.

    Here's an excerpt from a report to the White House regarding the emergence of home manufacturing.

Personal manufacturing is where personal computing was in the 1970s, before the advent of home-scale computers and consumer software. Recent rapid technological advances in personal manufacturing technology, combined with shrinking costs of machines, increasingly available design software and raw manufacturing materials, plus most peoples’ tendency to conduct more daily activities online, are tipping personal fabrication from the realm of hobbyists and pioneers to the mainstream.

    The full document can be found here.