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.


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