Laser commissioning

We have a laser…sadly not attached to a shark…actually, not attached to anything much. It’s more a Laser kit without instructions!
Our Laser is a generous donation from the Reading Hackspace and appears to contain everything you might need to make it operational but it is going to take some work to understand the what, how, why, where and wtf.

Laser1
A peek under the bonnet reveals all…our Ikea building skills are required

The unit itself appears to be a Rabbit HX3040 40W CO2 laser and contains the laser tube, High Voltage Power Supply Unit (PSU) required to fire the laser, a 24v/5v PSU required to power the servos and controllers and a couple of controller/driver boards. The main cutting area looks good with the X Y Servos and mirror arrangements all in place. Mechanically it looks good but there is much to do to test, understand and reintegrate all of the main components to turn this into a functioning laser cutter…a perfect Hackspace challenge.

Laser2
Mama mia – just missing the meatballs

The starting point has been safety. Before we do anything, how do we ‘play’ with a laser to test and align it without anyone losing their sight or experiencing unexpected tattoo removal? Finding people with laser experience is critical.
We will need to build and integrate a cooling system for the laser itself and an extraction system to move air across the cutting area (to prevent fire) and to duct away any harmful fumes from cutting materials. We also need to consider safety and protecting the system so will look at interlocks to ensure that the laser won’t operate without the lid being closed, coolant flowing, extraction running, etc. Idiot proof is the description we’re looking for here.
With minimal information about the current system we’ve started tracing the wiring and drawing together manuals and data on all the components currently in the box (a work in progress).

Laser3

One of the key tasks is going to be getting the control systems back up and running. Fortunately NADHack have some experience in this space with quite a few members who have already built CNC cutters and 3D printers and who understand the control systems and servo driver requirements to operate an X Y positional cutter. No pressure there then…

Laser4
Prototyping board with Smoothie interpreter/controller

It’s going to be quite a project to get this beast back into working shape so the phrase of the day at NADHack is likely to be ‘divide et impera’

Written by M Sansom.

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