Laser Cutting in the Garage

Operational Instructions
1. Clear any debris from in and around the laser cutter
2. Turn on water pump
3. Ensure water is running into return
4. Turn on air pump
5. Ensure air pressure is blowing out of nozzle
6. Turn on exhaust
7. Ensure the exhaust is pulling negative pressure
8. Place the material with the upper-left corners aligned in the bed
9. Power on the laser cutter
10. Plug in USB cable to laptop
11. Launch K-40 Control Software on laptop or computer
12. Ensure the laser cutter is detected in the software
13. Click Initialize Laser Cutter
14. Click Open Design File
15. On the Laser Cutter adjust the Power Settings knob
16. Click one of the following: Raster Engrave, Vector Engrave, or Vector Cut
17. When cutting look for: Excessive smoke, flaring, mechanical errors, anything suspicious.
18. Wait for the cut to finish and for the smoke to clear.
19. Remove any foreign debris.
20. Power off laser cutter
21. Turn off the exhaust
22. Turn off the air pump
23. Turn off the water pump

I have been putting this off for sometime and am so glad to have had plenty of time at home to focus on lingering projects. A few years ago I purchased a small laser cutter and did not start using it immediately. It sat in the garage as a trophy of my limited time. Diving into the project in quarantine felt like the appropriate solution to removing it from my To-Do list, or at least pass the time in a productive manner.

After doing some research on cheap laser cutters and being amazed at the price for what is received, I made the purchase all too promptly for about $320 shipped. Before getting the laser all setup like a reasonable person would do, I found an article that described the upgrades that can be made to the cheap K-series laser cutters to increase precision and longevity. Adding in these parts cost around $200, which brings the total of the “cheap” laser cutter to $520.

The cheap laser cutter came with a tiny piece of orange plastic as a way to shield a person’s eyes from the intense radiation which was not reassuring. The concept of having no idea what I am doing in terms of aligning all the mirrors definitely slowed the project down, that and the balance of work, friends, family, and health. The tools I have are not the best and the angles to reach all the mirrors are tricky. The garage is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, unlike the climate controlled comfort of the Hacker Lab. The allure of being able to use a laser cutter without the competitive scheduling of the Hacker Lab is the boot of motivation that kicks me in the ass.

Here is the guide that made the complication of things much easier to understand. https://diyhacker.com/upgrade-your-cheap-chinese-laser-cutter

And so I bought all this stuff

K40 Laser Upgrades – Essential upgrades for your 40w Cutter

Best K40 Laser Upgrades – Upgrading my Laser Engraver Part 3

I have outlined the steps to getting the technical steps to make the work more palatable.
Setup Instructions
Download control software: https://www.scorchworks.com/K40whisperer/k40whisperer.html
Plug in USB cable
Ensure the software can detect the hardware
Configure the K40 control software
Cut and etch a test piece
High-level Maintenance Instructions
Push test button
Replace mirrors
Push test button
Align mirrors
Clean mirrors
Align mirrors
Aligning and cleaning the mirror is the major maintenance that is so intimidating. This post did not make it any less intimidating, but I was more confident in the theory: https://hackaday.com/2018/11/09/the-how-and-why-of-laser-cutter-aiming/

Future enhancements https://awesome.tech/product-category/laser-cutter-controllers/:
Replacing the Bed with honeycomb:
Low water flow detection
Control board replacement
Automation for water and air
Rules and instructions posters
Cool plastic snake for air tube

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