This is to get the ball rolling for the acquisition of a laser etcher/cutter for Bloominglabs.
What could we do with it? (The sales pitch)
First, what are the realistic capabilities of a laser we could afford? Acrylic and many plastics along with several types of light weight wood can be cut and etched with most "hobby grade" laser machines. Any thickness of metal can NOT be cut, but metal can be etched without too much trouble. To see some ideas of what can be done, take a look at Thingiverse for "laser cut" projects.
I think any laser we acquire easily has the ability to pay for itself and also for future maintenance costs (see Laser Tubes below). Most spaces charge non-members 50 cents to $1 per minute of laser time.
- cutting paper, wood, and acrylic for rapid creation of physical parts
- etching text and images on paper, wood, acrylic, and metal (macbooks have prime blank real-estate on them)
- creating solder masks for surface mount pcb's
- add ideas here
We would have to vent any laser system to the outside, they generate LOTS of smoke while in operation. Despite any claims to the contrary, this is a MUST. Also all lasers require water cooling to keep the tube cool. Any laser purchased would require both air ventilation and a water pump system. If we can save money by sourcing those components separately thats cool, but we should assume we need these components the moment a laser arrives at the space.
Most lasers have a rated lifetime on the tube, this will be the main reoccurring expense beyond the cost of electricity to run it. Full Spectrum's 40W tubes are rated at 1500 hours and cost $300 to replace. Their 60W tube is rated for 3000 hours and is $600. Yes that may sound expensive, but the cost is $.0033 per minute of laser time on the 40W. For the 60W it goes down to $.00167 per minute of laser time. It should be trivial to make the machine pay for it's own maintenance costs.
What do we want?
So there are a few common sizes of lasers out there. The hobby models are usually based on a 30-40W CO2 laser tube. Some low-end commercial lasers are in the 60-90W range. LVL1 has a Full Spectrum 40W CO2 deluxe laser and really get a lot out of it. It appears Full Spectrum imports this particular model but makes larger lasers for commercial use in-country. Higher power lasers mean faster cutting time and the ability to cut thicker material faster.
dosman - I am leaning towards the Full Spectrum Deluxe 40W at $3K, please update the list with other options if you know of any
- $1900 - 40W CO2 Basic Hobby Laser from Full Spectrum - Basic 40W laser, only compatible with Mach3 and other CNC software (parallel port)
- $3000 - 40W CO2 Deluxe Hobby Laser from Full Spectrum - priced with USB port, beam combiner, air compressor, shipping, shipping insurance, no extra warranty - water pump extra?
- $4100 - New 40W CO2 Hobby Laser from Full Spectrum - Same as deluxe laser with removable bottom, integrated visible red laser, upgradable to 90W
- $6700 - 60W Professional Series CO2 20x12 from Full Spectrum - priced with basic water cooler, shipping, shipping insurance, and no extra warranty
- $8000 - 35W Epilog Zing - Epilog's lowest end laser
Why consider the Deluxe 40W and not the entry level 40W from Full Spectrum at $1900? The stock machine is parallel port driven and works only with Mach3 and other CNC software. The Deluxe model includes a USB adapter board which they refer to as the "400MHz USB RetinaEngrave USB Processor". This combined with their proprietary print driver allows engraving and cutting using any Windows software which can print. Yes it's Windows based, but it works pretty well and means anyone who wants to use the laser doesn't have to become a CAD master to get anything done. Literally just print to the laser and off it goes. Also it comes with additional parts which are needed to properly operate the laser (exhaust fan and a honey comb table). Lastly the beam combiner puts a visible red laser dot at the same position where actual cutting will begin, after using LVL1's I think this is a requirement too.
Since we are so close, I think we should get the New 40W CO2 hobby laser instead./JS
I think we can say our choice is for this laser:
- New 40W/45W CO2 Hobby Laser (5th gen: 20"x12"+Removable Floor)
- Free Beam Combiner
- Free Water pump
- Air Compressor (recommended) +$150.00
- Large exhaust fan (recommended) +$250.00
- Lowest cost shipping (4-6 weeks) $125
- Insurance (for shipping) $35
- Plus 10% needed to make up for School Factory's cut comes out to just under $4500.
Flyer is here: File:LaserCutter Fund Drive.pdf
- $1000 - dosman (collected)
- $2300 - Jay (collected)
- $220 - Jenett (collected)
- $1000 - Nick
- $330 - Daniel (collected)
- $200 - Steve
- $100 - Zach
- $60 - Corey
- $110 - Adam (collected)
- $20 - Jenn
- $113 - Derek (collected)
- $50 - Vic
- $40 - Owen (collected)
Ok, we have exceeded our original goal of $4500! Jay has stepped up and increased his pledge to $2300! Also, he has indicated he would like to see all 3 of the optional focusing lenses purchased using the additional funding he has pledged, with adds $750 plus 10% of that to the cost.
We currently have $5320 pledged and need an additional $113 to make the laser happen at this point. We have to send $5210 to the School Factory, then we will get 90% of that back which is exactly $4809 which is how much the updated config for the laser will be (without sales tax which we shouldn't have to pay now).
The 10% is tricky to calculate as any additional money we put in to account for it gets 10% taken out too. This spreadsheet allows us to figure this out, the pledge for "Ghost" is how I am arriving at the remaining amount we need. File:!Laser.xls.zip
Care to make a tax deductible donation for this cause? Simply use the PayPal button on our front page and mark the donation for "Bloominglabs Laser Project".
Current Purchase Status
- Get pledges totaling our goal - pending
- Collect pledges
- Send money to School Factory
- Receive donation back from School Factory, (deposit into Bloominglabs account)
- Order Laser from Full Spectrum
- Laser shipped from Full Spectrum
- Laser arrival at Bloominglabs
- Laser setup and fully functional
Owners, Usage, and Safety
Bloominglabs will be the owner, donors receive a tax deduction. We are an awesome group and all play well together, I think we can craft usage guidelines as usage evolves.
- Jenett's comments
- I believe that people are going to donate this money to the space, and that the space will buy the laser cutter. This means that the space will own it and if we dissolve, we will have to donate the laser cutter to another 501(c)(3).
- Dosman - It might be nice if we have use of the laser be free for use for the first month or two to help get folks (non-members) hooked and possibly draw in potentially new members. Other thoughts?
- Daniel - I think we'll want to buy a new fire extinguisher to go with the laser cutter. LadyAda has some good information about appropriateness of Halotron vs CO2. The short version: Halotron beats CO2, despite higher cost and environmental concerns, since it suppresses and prevents reignition in type A materials (wood, paper, many plastics). Feld Fire (example retailer--we might be able to find a better deal locally or elsewhere online) carries both, with a 5lb Halotron can only slightly more expensive than CO2. Wouldn't hurt to look at other "clean agent" extinguisher options, but those are the two cheapest/most common.
Here are some links to other hackerspaces pages on their attempts at acquiring their own lasers.
- A Halotron ABC fire extinguisher, the 5lb one retails for $180