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Laser Engraving/Cutting - Where To Start?

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As an Ender 3 owner, a few things kept me from exploring this route though I've been curious about it too.  Foremost, I already have access to a Glowforge laser cutter via a Makerspace I help run.  It's shown me the importance of a good ventilation system for smoke and fumes, but also the value and probably greater precision of a system designed for cutting from the get go.

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Engraving is different than cutting. With cutting, the beam will go through the wood to whatever is below the wood.   It should be non-reflective and the wood piece should be above the base.   Typically, engraving doesn't take much power but fumes and smoke can be a problem especially inside a structure where there's smoke alarms.   Both cutting and engraving need a good exhaust method.   Lasers typically use a hose about 4 inches or bigger and there's a fan on the laser to pull the smoke out of the cutting chamber and force down the hose to the outside.   Many use an insert to fit into a window for the hose to connect to.


The other issue is you need is something to enclose the laser cutting area to prevent the beam from bouncing out of the "box" along with interlocks to shut the beam down if any access lid/door is opened.   Even clear plastic sheeting will work.   I'd shudder to think firing off a 20 W or bigger laser without having at least that much material.   Laser beams are nothing to trifle with. At a minimum, wear eye protection.


Do check out Makerspace if you have one locally.   They have experienced folks to help you set up your cutting/engraving and answer questions.  

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Learning from mistakes is my speciality so I have no fears there, plus I have a huge stock of offcuts from various DIY projects on which to experiment. I’m more or less at the same stage as when I was first thinking of buying a 3D printer, I wouldn’t know a good laser from a bad one, don’t know if it really is that straightforward to hook up to the ender (I have a total mental block when it comes to any electronic work, to me it remains a dark art) or if the ender conversion is really worthwhile. It turns out there is a makerspace quite nearby and this might be something I’ll try first. I hadn’t thought about all the ventilation etc, but remember how lethal these things can be from using industrial kit 30 or 40 years back.

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