Monday, March 2, 2015

I need a shark and some duct tape...

Some of the best toys come in boxes that you cannot read. It also helps when said box is rather large.
I do have to say, I've been rather anxious for this to arrive. Its the largest thing I've ever ordered, thats for sure. Inside the box, was another box. Surprise! I'll spare the details, but once I got past the Matryoshka doll packing job I was greeted with my brand new 40 watt CO2 Laser engraver/cutter.

All is not well though. Once I spun the machine around to access the laser tube, I noticed something was a bit off. My brand new laser cutter seemed to be crying. The rear panel was wet. Well, it did just travel halfway across the world for me. I'm sure the trip over was a bit rough. I've been worried about the laser tube breaking during shipment ever since I ordered it. This laser had been test fired before, and seemed to have passed. So, off to packing it went. Unfortunately, they didn't drain all of the water out of the cooling system that surrounds the lasers core tube. Water + Winter = Ice. Ice expands. Glass does not take kindly to this act of physics, naturally, but it does leave some pretty cool icicles behind.
Well, that explains why there is water leaking all over the place. There is supposed to be a glass port for the water inlet over on this side, but the ice expanded inside and broke it off. After letting the ice inside the tube melt, everything else seems to be fine. I've already contacted the seller and told him what happened. Right now they are on holiday for the Chinese New Year, but he said he should have some more information for me by the 25th. Of course I'm not going to settle for anything less than a new replacement tube. If I were to purchase one myself it would cost about $200 before shipping. *NOT* cheap to replace. Once I get the new tube in, this one will be making a trip to Kokomo Opalescent Glass to see if they can stick a new barb where the old one broke off. I don't think the laser core glass is damaged, but if it is I'll still have a really cool looking wallhanger.
As far as the electronics go, the controller and software supplied with these engravers SUCKS. So much so, that it is better in the long run to cut your losses and buy a new off the shelf controller system to stick in here. There are several options, some of which can easily double the amount of money you have invested in the machine. I chose to go with an Arduino MEGA and RAMPS 1.4, running a modified version of the Marlin firmware.

Since I am still waiting on a new laser tube, I went ahead and gutted everything from inside the machine. No sense wasting any time.

Even though there is a lot going on inside the machine, none of it really takes up a whole lot of room. I toyed with the idea of extending the gantry to cover the width of the machine, hiding the electronics under the laser tube, but decided that it would be too much work at this time. I'm more concerned with getting the laser up and running before I go adding in bonus features like an extended cutting surface or a motorized Z axis. It really is pretty spacious inside once its stripped out, but it fills back up pretty fast too.I'll have to do something different with the smoke hood. It is WAY too small, even for this machine. Another project for another day down the road. What I'll probably end up doing is ripping the whole assembly out and then just leaving the hole in the back wide open for a new (higher power) blower motor. I'll have to come up with a way to seal the cutting area off into its own little "room" so to speak, to keep excess dust and smoke out of the electronics bay and laser tube. Probably something as simple as adhesive vinyl sheeting, since it won't be in danger of any sustained laser strikes.

Now then, I finally have the gantry out for all the world to see. After a quick dusting (cleaning isn't part of their assembly process btw) I can start figuring out how its all wired up.
The flat ribbon cable connects to this board, and carries the signal from the X and Y limit switches back to the mainboard, as well as the 4 signal wires to control the Y-axis stepper. The X-axis stepper has a standard 4 pin plug, and about 10 feet of spare wire tucked into its tidywrap.

Oh yeah.. when I was taking the laser tube out I realized there was a bit more broken than I had thought. I don't think its going to be able to be repaired though. The way these tubes are constructed, the end caps are siliconed on. I don't think a glassblower would appreciate a bunch of silicone burning off right where they are trying to make a repair. What I might be able to do though is have a new cap made that will fit over the old cap. I'm not too concerned with repairing this one though, not until I get the replacement and the machine is working. So, for now, it'll sit on the shelf looking all sexy and laserish.
Well, that about covers it for the teardown. I'm already a week behind with keeping the buildlog updated, so expect another post in the next day or so. LOTS more pictures to document.


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  2. Did they reply? have you gotten your replacement? is it cheaper to build one from scratch or buy this on ebay?

    1. If you buy a Chinese machine you can move all the parts to a bigger chassis down the road.