Has anyone upgraded their laser?

I am still awaiting my SM2.0 - Just got my ship notification. But my neighbor just got a dedicated laser engraver/cutter. ($295 from Amazon - 3000mW) I was playing with it and discovered that, even at full power, (according to the software) the laser could not cut through a fairly thin piece of cardboard. The SM claims that it can cut with its laser. If the SM laser is rated at a bit over half the power of the gizmo my neighbor has, how if this going to cut anything? Hence, my question… Has anyone upgraded their laser to something powerful enough to cut, usefully?

(I am new to all of this stuff, so please be gentle…)

I wouldn’t recommend actually doing this yourself, but as a test I have cut through 1/4" plywood. Laser cutting is material dependent. Here’s a good list of materials that can be cut / engraved:

This laser is 450nm wavelength (a blue laser diode). 450nm wavelength energy is readily absorbed by organics like leather, wood, etc. But inorganics like glue do not readily absorb the energy. What this manifests as is solid wood cuts well, but MDF, plywood, and other composites that have significant amounts of glue struggle moreso and require slower feed rates and more passes with smaller Z height changes. Additionally the thickness of the material matters a lot, with thicker materials not performing well.

For example, 3mm plywood can be cut in 4 passes, but the 6mm plywood I tested required 50 passes. MDF, being significant amounts of glue holding the paper fibers together, cannot be cut reliably at all, except maybe the thinnest amounts.

Corrugated cardboard and grayboard have significant adhesive in their composition, but corrugated is quite thin sheets of paper whereas grayboard is thicker.

CO2 based lasers are popular in part because the laser is extremely short wavelength and can ablate even inorganics, leading to fast cutting.

Diode lasers are better for engraving as they darken wood nicely and evenly. Laser engraved designs on wood cannot be done with CO2 lasers and it doesn’t brown wood, it ablates to different depths depending on power.

If you are primarily looking to cut thick materials then a weak diode laser is not a good fit, and a 40W CO2 laser would be more appropriate. Unfortunately they are also very expensive.

With diode lasers, after a certain thickness it’s usually better to CNC cut the part, leaving a few holding tabs on, then replace the toolhead and finish engraving the design with the laser, if you so choose.

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Thank you, @brent113, for a very helpful response. I am looking forward to playing, but they are claiming up to 45 days for shipping. Patience is not a virtue I embody…

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As brent pointed out, what you can cut is really dependent on the type of laser, but also on the focal length that you get out of the laser lens. In this case, both the machine that you have and your neighbor have are similar diode laser based, the only real difference is that you may need to run it a bit slower (ie. move the laser slower) to get the same output. Not a really big deal IMHO.

As for CO2 lasers being expensive, you can get a knockoff version of the Epilog CO2 laser cutters (search for K40 for example) or even make your own (see various CO2 laser builds), but keep in mind that some of these are missing some safety features (eg. proper fume extraction, air assist, door interlock, proper cooling system, cooling system failure detection, etc.) and convenience features (eg. red dot to trace the outline, as the CO2 laser is invisible to the eye).

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I’ve used the 1600mW laser on my original SM (haven’t tried with my A250 yet). I use it to engrave 2 color plastic then I cut it the piece with the CNC. Really works well. There’s a process but if you get to that point I can share that process. Here’s a link to one of my controllers. The whole think was made with an original SM. https://youtu.be/cMiZ_yIXdDs

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I’ve done a number of laser photos-on-wood, as expected takes some fiddling to get the contrast right. But, it works. Problem - it takes FOREVER. My solution? K40 CO2 engraver. :slight_smile: And as said, you better know what you’re doing. At that power level, your eyes will not get a second chance. On the plus side the 10 um wavelength is very effectively blocked by simple things like polycarbonate goggles. That said, I still love my Snapmaker. Great to be able to swap between print, CNC, laser, I need all of those modes at various times.

Is this for a flight simulator? :o really interesting!

This is interesting for less than $400:

-S

Man i would love to get something like that :smiley:

I would love to have this on my SM2… :heart_eyes:

Looking at that, it says the laser tube is good for 1000 hours or so.

It also has a 50 watt upgrade laser thing for it, which has 3000-4500 hours of life, but says you should only run it up for 4 hours at a time. this cost $130 bucks!

or you can get 100watt version for $550! 8000 hours life some others in between

it doesnt say what you can do with the stronger ones. the starter on can cut up to .12 inches (thats pretty impressive really)

then they have some fiber optic lasers there too :smiley:

so cool

I have this in my garage. Thought about merging it with my snapmaker xD

And here, I thought I was doing something wrong, or that I had a defective machine like I see in so many other posts. I tried cutting the 1.5mm plywood boards that came with my SM, neither of them cut all the way through. I was having issues with auto-focus, so I tried cutting the test box twice and it still didn’t cut the way I thought it would.

Last night, I read a post about updating the firmware, tried that, then auto-focus worked. I cut up a bit of cardboard and the SM is working on that now. I guess I’ll find out in a bit if it really can cut through cardboard or not. Based on the article I read @brent113 posted, the 200 mW laser doesn’t cut through anything but stickers and “colored card” (construction paper?).

The SM2.0 doesnt come with a 200mW laser, only a 1600mW laser.

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Do you really have one of these?
The price is amazing. Especially compared to a Glowforge starting at 3K.
Love to hear some info on it.
-S

I wonder how difficult it would be to mount this laser head on my Snapmaker 2.0:

Duct tape would do the trick.

-S

I have a alternative solution - Hot Glue (Its a trick from my grandpa)

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well, mounting it shouldnt be hard, you can print an adaptor, but the question is can you control it with the snapmaker

what does the snapmaker cable have, voltage, ground, pwm and i think i heard a direction pin.

so i think if you had a 12v power supply controlled by a relay on the voltage and ground and combined the ground from the snapmaker and the 12v supply, i think the pwm would work and can probably just jump direction to ground

not clear on if that is sufficient or if there is more to it than that

Yeah, stands in my garage, but haven’t used it for a year now.
It’s delivered by default with a pond pump for cooling, so you need a bucket with water standing in the near to use it. The exhaust system is not really good. The Laser power is enough for 6mm plywood, but you need to mod it for beeing really useful. Just made some wood signs, and wood coins with it in good speed. I also engraved glass and etched aluminium. It needs definetly some modding to be really useful.
There are some Howtos around to mod it, like air assist, leveled bed and so on.
Oh and grounding needs to be improved too ;D

This thing is more work than a snapmaker :smiley: - but fun.