Consumer targeted laser cutter video

Saw this laser cutter video and thought bridge rectifier people might find it interesting.

Things that intrigued me:

  • dumb hardware, software in cloud working on any web browser
  • interesting bit about wavelength, mode and how it affects penetration and dispersal in different materials
  • How cheerful and gung-ho he was about the tool undermining years of a leather crafts person’s skill and investment.
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Yeah, Glowforge is, interesting. The cloud dependency part isn’t great, although they promised to GPL the laser cutter firmware. Some nice features, but on balance I think I’d prefer to have a more industrial unit from HPC. Was pretty sure the tubes in theirs are TEM00 mode also and, of course, the wavelength will be the same with all these CO2 lasers, i.e. 10,600nm (far infra red). So I’m not sure what their point is.

I’ve started collecting the parts to build a 60W diode-pumped Nd:YAG, which lases in near infra red at 1,064nm. This is seemingly not so great for acrylic, but doesn’t get reflected so much by metal. And if you then add in a Q-switch to take it from continuous wave to pulsed (super short pulses, but with high repetition possible), you can switch the effective power level up into kilowatts and the beam starts to have an ablative effect and will blast away the metal surface. This is how metal laser engravers work.

Not sure if I’ll get as far as Q-switching Nd:YAG, as there may be complications with trying to continue using simple optics steering the beam via an X/Y CNC controlled gantry, and I don’t fancy trying to build and set up proper high-res scanning with galvos and expensive lenses. In any case, playing with 1,064nm and seeing what you can cut/etch without Q-switching should be fun…