QUICK START & OVERVIEW
This page gives a quick overview of all the important topics to get started with lasering with your Sculpfun laser. I have created in-depth pages on most topics on which detailed information is available. Afterwards, you can read the overview of basic principles of lasering, if you are new to the matter.
Important facts in a nutshell
- When setting up, make sure that the mechanics are set correctly. Some settings can’t be adjusted at production stage, so you have to do it yourself.
- Instructions can be found here: Mechanical Settings
- Especially often the small gears on the motor axle are not properly attached, the small grub screws should be checked in any case.
- Once connected, do not move the motors / gantry / slides very fast manually anymore. The motors will act as generators, produce current and destroy the main board! If you need to move the laser head manually, do it SLOW.
- The small protection shield at the bottom of the laser provides only very basic protection. In addition, the glasses are not particularly high-quality. So: buy suitable / certified safety glasses!
- NEVER leave the laser unattended! I read daily reports of burned lasers! This can happen at any time!
- Since many toxic gases are produced (they are always produced, regardless of what is lasered!), you should take care of good ventilation. If the device is used in living rooms, you can not avoid a housing with ventilation to the outside!
- You usually need a driver for the laser to be recognized (CH340).
- LaserGRBL is a good and free software to start with. Far more powerful is LightBurn, the majority of users use it and the easiest way to get help with problems is here. The tool costs about €60 (The license is valid for life, but there are no more updates without annual renewal. You can install the software with one license on two computers). You require the G code version of LightBurn.
- For more information, see Setting up the software.
- There are several general settings that you should set. These can also be found on the Software Setup page.
- There are no general settings for each material! You have to figure out for each material, every laser and every taste what works best. More in-depth information is available in the settings-guide.
- Alignment of workpieces
- This is often a difficult topic at the beginning, as you first have to familiarize yourself with the conditions of a laser. I have an article about this here: Coordinate Systems.
- The laser does not automatically know where it is located.
- The position at startup is its zero position.
- You can retrofit automatic referencing (hardware), which simplifies positioning.
- There are a number of tips and tricks on how to simplify alignment. Everyone has to adjust this according to their preferences. A few hints can be found in the article on coordinate systems.
- Hardware Enhancements
- You can upgrade the laser with a number of useful and not-so-necessary upgrades.
- Two topics are particularly interesting: Air Assist and limit switches. An Air Assist uses a nozzle to blow high-pressure air onto the laser point, removing dirt particles and smoke. This creates a clean cut and the laser can penetrate the material better. You need fewer passes for cutting. The limit switches help with automatic positioning.
- Rotary roller: This allows you to edit round objects. If you expand your repertoire, sooner or later, you will also want to make this upgrade.
The following points should be checked regularly.
- The mechanics should be checked regularly to see if there is any backlash in the axles and whether the wheels produce strong abrasion. This indicates incorrectly set mechanics. If necessary, follow the instructions in the instructions .
- Cleaning the lens
- This is one of the most important points to keep in mind. If you don’t use a perfectly tuned Air Assist, it’s very likely that dirt particles will accumulate on the lens over time. This is a great danger for the laser! When the dirt on the lens heats up due to the laser beam, the lens becomes blind or even jumps! This is the most common cause of defective lasers and decreasing laser power. Better to check once more often than once too little. Depending on the use, the interval may differ, but with frequent use, this should be done every few hours of operation. Cleaning can be carried out with a cotton swab and cleaning agents such as alcohol, isopropanol or specifically intended optical cleaning agents. Here are a few more details described.
Before you start, you should be aware of some safety aspects. Although such lasers have become so cheap that everyone can afford them, they are still NO TOYS. So, you should first think about how to deal with the machine not to harm yourself or someone around you. Next, I need to mention, that I’m no laser (optics / photonics) expert, so you are better off to ask some real experts than completely rely on information you got from Facebook, YouTube, or this page. I read a lot of false information the last weeks and tried to condense the main facts that are mostly reliable following my research.
The optical power of this laser IS DANGEROUS. You should make sure that NOBODY can EVER get in contact with the laser beam or its reflections! NEVER run the laser without proper eye protection! (Do not only protect yourself, but everyone who is in the same room)
The glasses and little protectors delivered with the lasers are mostly NOT CERTIFIED. So, it is better not to rely on them. Search for glasses with certified protection. The level of transmission of light through a filter is measured using the optical density (OD) value. The higher the value, the less transmission of the respective wavelength can pass. The Sculpfun S6 / S9 lasers have a wavelength of 455 ±5 nm. Check for glasses with a high OD value for this wavelength. And you should also check that your wavelength is not at the edge of the specification (e.g., glasses that protect from 250-450 nm) because you never know how it behaves outside this specification. So, 400-500 nm would be a better fit. If you ask experts, they recommend certified glasses from local dealers (not cheap dealers on Amazon) where such glasses typically start around €100. You can also go for cheaper ones if you trust your dealer. Remember, you only have one pair of eyes. One glitch is enough, and you can never repair the laser damage…
The laser creates toxic fumes!
You should be aware, that the laser is burning your material, which produces particles + fumes. Such are NEVER healthy, though, some are more, and some are minor dangerous. There are some collections / lists out there where you can get an idea of what materials are safe and which are not (like this PDF from Make or https://lahobbyguy.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=16). And even if your material is not toxic, fumes in general are not good for your health. If you can, put your laser in a place with good ventilation and no family members running around (garage, workshop etc.). If you must place it in a living area (like me presently), you should build a housing with fume extraction fans (see article about my box).
Lasers are prone to catch fire! Never leave it alone without any fire protection!
Of course, this causes some extra investment. I would advise calculating at least €200 for periphery if you buy a diode laser. This is something you need to be aware of. After these words of warning, we can start setting up the system.
Further reading (links)