I have purchased the Sienci.com laser module. Course it won’t arrive till August…but I’m researching how to use it properly. I however have a question. Currently I’m using Aspire. Aspire has a laser module that can added to their software. Anyone here running with Aspire and the laser? I hear a lot about laserburn…so I just wasn’t sure.
@chapklc - Kari, the Vectric laser module works with Aspire, VCarve Pro and Desktop and Cut2D versions. You use it like any of the other toolpaths to create your gcode. When you install it you get some extra icons in the toolpath panel. You would still use either GRBL Inch or MM for the post processor. The nice thing about it is that you use it as though it was a regular cut toolpath. Laserburn (guessing you mean LightBurn) is a stand alone separate program that you can design in or import other files to burn. It’s a very good program. Has nothing to do with Vectric programs. Both options are paid programs. Lightburn is $40 and I believe the Vectric laser addon is $49. I use LightBurn since I moved my laser from the LongMill to an old 3018 cnc I have.
@chapklc you can also use the laser on Vectric products (I have Vcarve Desktop) without purchasing the laser module and just defining the laser as a tool (EM) with a very fine point. You control the laser intensity by defining the spindle speed. It works very well. I did purchase the laser module and have played with it a bit and have to do a bit more playing to decide which I like better. At this point I’m leaning towards defining the laser as a end mill.
Heyward43, I may just stick with Vectric so that I don’t have to learn yet another software interface… hoping that makes things a little easier on the learning curve.
I have not yet received my laser yet, but I’m sure it is soon, since the end of August is near. Aside from fire and eye precautions, is there anything else I need to prepare for?
I would like to ask for clarification – My thoughts were that if it is a thinner piece of wood, that I could use the laser to CUT completely through the wood…
and do we use the laser for “carving” design? or just enhancing…?
Is there a recommended way to utilize the laser?
I’m a little nervous with the laser …more so than I was with the router itself… I just don’t want to burn anything down or kill my eyes!
@chapklc I’m sure that @Heyward43 and @paullarson will give you the benefit of their experiences, Kari. Like Paul, I tried the Vectric laser module, but I chose not to buy it. I was doing projects other than VCarve Projects, so I went with Lightburn, which I can use with any file coming out of CAM/CAD programs or drawn in LB.
You are correct in that you can use the laser to both etch and cut. Much depends on the strength of the laser and the thickness of the wood. I tend to use the router for cutting and the laser for etching/burning. My laser is not very powerful, so it’s just quicker to use the router to cut through pieces.
In terms of safety, give thought to smoke removal. Depending on the material you are burning, the fumes can be very toxic. As an example, the glue in plywood gives off fumes that are beyond nasty. The fumes from etching on ceramic tile, glass and mirrors are also something that you want to get out of your shop.
@chapklc - Kari, just to add to what @gwilki (Grant) posted. If I am not mistaken the laser being built by Sienci is a full 7 watt laser. The laser I have (and Grant also I believe) is supposed to be a 5 watt but in actuality is probably under 2 watts. It will probably burn up your material before it cuts through. The 7 watts will be able to cut material if I remember what I’ve read so far if you use the proper lens. It may take a few extra passes to accomplish but it’s not a 40-60 watt laser. Also as I previously posted, to me the Lightburn software is the way to go. It was so easy to learn and jump right in. I know it’s an additional learning curve but it wasn’t bad.
I don’t have much to add to what @Heyward43 and @gwilki have already said. I have a 10W laser and I can cut through 1/8" BB Plywood in 2 to 3 passes. I haven’t tried anything thicker. I have several lenses. Choosing the right one is important because the different lenses have different loss and different focusing lengths. Originally I had a G3 which has very little loss but it has a short focused length which means the lens has to be very close to the wood’s surface which can be awkward at times. Now I use a G7 which has a much longer focused length with just a bit more loss.
Lightburn is the easiest program to use, but if I’m trying to do something for which I generate tool paths for both the router and the laser from the same design file I use Vectric Desktop. I did end up buying the Vectric laser module recently, but I have not really used it yet. What you can do instead, and what I’ve done, is to set up the laser as a very fine/narrow end mill and use the tools RPM setting for adjusting the power of the laser. There is a little more to it than that, but not much.
You don’t have to worry too much about your eyes. The laser is pointed down towards the work surface so it will never beam directly into you eyes. If you were etching something shiny it could reflect and I’m sure that you shouldn’t stare at it but it’s not like a brief glance is going to blind you. So wear your laser safety glasses to be on the safe side, but you don’t have to live in fear of killing your eyes.
Talking about the smoke being harmful depending what kind of material one is working with didn’t I see mention of an “Air assist” coming with our new lasers? I can keep the dust collection vac also running to collect any smoke I would think.
Say I am working on a 3d carve and want to lasers in some text would the Vcarve laser mod work better or can Lighburn be configured to add text to the same 3d area?
@rob I’ve used LB to etch details on a project that I cut in VCarve. Obviously, you need to be careful to set your X0Y0 as precisely as you can. However, that is the same issue using the Vectric laser module. The laser dot is not in the same XY coordinates as the router bit is, so you still have the issue of accurately getting X0Y0 dialed in. I want to add that I did not buy the Vectric laser module, so my experience with it is limited to using the trial version.
Thank you, yes I understand that I will need to careful with XY homing. Hope the new laser will begin to ship soon.
@rob, regarding the laser air assist, its purpose is to improve the results of the laser’s etching/burning. It is just a small jet of air pointed at the intersection of the laser and the work surface. It doesn’t have much to do with smoke dissipation. It will blow it around, but not get it out of your shop. I don’t think a vacuum will help much.
If I’m just doing a short etch of a wood I don’t worry about the smoke. If I’m doing something more serious that’s going to generate a lot of smoke I set up exhaust fan (actually a dryer vent fan) connected to a 4" hose and suck the smoke in and blow it out a window. There are some materials that have hazardous smoke, but I haven’t messed with them.