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Anybody got laser engravers?

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Investigator

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#1
Just thinking someone else here might have the same interests as me, and might have some information. I'm looking at the possibility of getting a fiber laser engraving machine to do some fun projects with, like marking and engraving firearms and components. Just wondering if anyone here has one or any information on them.
 

ttabbal

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I'm getting a CNC router with an attached laser, but it's a basic laser unit. Solid state 2.8W. Not enough to directly etch metals. I might play with some of the laser safe masking tape made for sandblasting to see if I can do it that way. I got the laser mostly for wood projects. The fiber lasers look like a step up from the sort of thing I'm messing with. If I like working with it, I will think about getting one of the bigger units. I am curious to see what you come up with though, the software workflow should be similar.
 

samstu

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I have a chinese k40 laser. 400 bucks delivered last year. Maybe 30 watt output. OK, so not in same category your are considering, but cheap enough for a starter / hobby unit. No metal engraving but will etch metal with molybdenum spray first. Does nice job in wood, plastic, acrylic. Software is crap, but there's some american software on web called "k40 whisperer" that makes it run like a dream using inkscape open source drawing program. With inkscape, it's easy to grab a jpeg off net and burn onto something.....
 

Investigator

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I have a chinese k40 laser. 400 bucks delivered last year. Maybe 30 watt output. OK, so not in same category your are considering, but cheap enough for a starter / hobby unit. No metal engraving but will etch metal with molybdenum spray first. Does nice job in wood, plastic, acrylic. Software is crap, but there's some american software on web called "k40 whisperer" that makes it run like a dream using inkscape open source drawing program. With inkscape, it's easy to grab a jpeg off net and burn onto something.....
When you say etch metal, what does it do? I'm unclear on what the difference in lasers are. Yours is a CO2 laser right?
 

samstu

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Sorry so long of a post, insomnia....

Yes, its a co2 laser but low power. Doesn't cut metal but will do a form of etching or maybe better termed marking. This is the video which I watched before I bought my laser and does a nice job of explaining what the k40 laser etching is and isn't. www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_06laAjMPc If the link doesn't work it's "RDWorks Learning Lab 59 Marking Metal" on you tube. There are many other vids on youtube about k40 and cermark vs moly. I haven't tried Cermark or Thermark because of cost - over $50 per can but apparently does a better job. I have used the CRC moly dry lube at about 10 bucks a can. It's also nice stuff for other uses.

I recommend watching k40 laser vids before considering a purchase. Mine needed mirror alignment when it arrived. Not difficult but not for everyone. Despite what vids might show, close lid when aligning laser or if alignment is just a little off, the test fire button is right in line with laser (ask me how I know).

Over the summer, somebody on another forum dedicated to pro machinists, wrote how disappointed they were with their k40. I don't remember specifics but I think they were expecting a plug and play experience and expecting clear documentation and professional software. With the k40, you get a nice starting point with many upgrades available such as air assist heads, bigger tubes (more power), etc. In place of written documentation, there are literally hundreds of videos on the net and a user base which likely exceeds all the high end laser systems combined. Pretty much the definition of a hobby grade machine....

The k40 whisperer software is by donation and the inkscape software is open source, giving a huge improvement for a little invested time and money. Apparently, there are some k40 laser boards which are not supported by k40 whisperer, so some research is needed before purchase. Inkscape also has fonts for stencils and making custom stencils is another option.
 

Holescreek

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#6
I'm getting a CNC router with an attached laser, but it's a basic laser unit. Solid state 2.8W. Not enough to directly etch metals. I might play with some of the laser safe masking tape made for sandblasting to see if I can do it that way.
Most common is to use the laser to cut the tape out then use low voltage electro etching (salt water and a wall wart) to etch into the metal. Another thing I've seen is to paint the metal with a black paint then burn the paint off with the laser. Then they make a dam around the area with some tape or clay and electro etch the metal. The salt water won't eat the painted area, just what is exposed by the laser.
 

ttabbal

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#7
The tape idea came from a video I saw that looked interesting..


I'm sure there are other options.
 
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