Laser Cutter for Styrene and cardstock

Discussion in 'General Modeling' started by HaVoC373, Sep 4, 2015.

  1. HaVoC373

    HaVoC373 Active Member

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    Hi,

    I am looking for a laser cutter that lets me cut cardstock but also styrene. i want to get into scratch building a bit more rather than 3d printing. but I suck at presision cutting with a hobby knife.

    So I was wondering if there are any small laser cutters (Around A4 - A3 Size) that anyone could recomend me? I'm not looking for the big ones that also cut metal. but something relatively cheap that would fit on a desktop here in my workshop?
     
  2. DaveG

    DaveG Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Unfortunately the terms "relatively cheap" and "laser cutter" shouldn't be used in the same sentence! The laser tube, optics, electronics, driver software and precision components just add up to make machines that are not cheap to manufacture. Decent laser cutters start at around $5,000. There is a cheaper desktop machine from Full Spectrum Laser That sells for $3,500. But a buddy of mine bought one for his shop and it's a POS! Very poorly designed and cheaply manufactured mechanical movers that get out of alignment easily. He's sorry he bought it! There is another machine from Ten-High in China for around $1,000 list that I've seen for $550 on Ebay but I would be very leery.

    As far as laser cutting styrene is concerned, yes, laser cutters will cut styrene but not cleanly. Since styrene has such a (relatively) low melting point the edges tend to get a little melted ridge and are not clean like you would get with a knife. Acrylic cuts beautifully as does cardstock but you are likely to be disappointed with the results on styrene, especially if you are doing a lot of really intricate cutting that would be difficult to do by hand. If there is a Maker Space in your area with a laser cutter I would recommend doing some test cutting in styrene to see if you are happy with the results.

    I have heard of people using a CNC vinyl sign cutter to score thinner styrene and then snapping the parts out, but I have nodirect experience with these machines. They are relatively inexpensive though, $250 to $500.

    Good luck!
     
    TazMan2000 likes this.
  3. BornKilr

    BornKilr Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I have worked in the graphics-sign industry for a long time, and I can say that the roll vinyl plotters do cut thin styrene quite well. You just have to crank up the pressure and occasionally have it double cut the shape, but then it can be snapped apart quite easily. Very small parts with a lot of detail don't work as well, though.
    As for the laser, the place I'm at now has one, and though I haven't used it yet, I've been told not to cut styrene on it because of the toxic fumes it produces. Can't verify that, but you may want to look into it.
     
  4. DaveG

    DaveG Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Where I work we have to submit any proposed materials for laser cutting to our Health and Safety department for fume review. Styrene is fine. It's stinky, but no worse than acrylic, polycarbonate or other plastics. That does however bring up a good point, you really need to have a system to extract the fumes (and smoke it you're cutting wood or cardstock) from the machine and get them outside.

    Just a side note. do not cut PVC plastics of any kind with a laser cutter. The fumes contain an acid which can etch the optics (mirrors, lens) and ruin them. The warranty on our machine specifically states that cutting PVC will void the warranty.
     
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  5. moffeaton

    moffeaton Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    My laser bed is only 12"x16", cost $10k, and then another $1k for the air assist compressor and exhaust fan/system. Add $300 for a craptop to run the windows only driver and never goes online! It is NOT cheap to get a laser.
     
  6. xl97

    xl97 Sr Member

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    I personally have a FullSpectrum laser cutter (5th gen).. and do NOT share the same opinion as Dave G's "buddy"...

    Matter of fact... I'd like to see alternatives that match the same specs (or better) at the same price point? (I havent seen one)

    Hobby size.... hobby price.

    (FYI @ OP CO2 laser dont cut metal.. it just gets reflected.. you'll need a different laser for that sort of thing)

    While the 5th gen might in fact be an import from China.. (good luck importing one yourself.. lots of leg work and annoyances AT BEST!)...

    but the software and controller card are not, and made here in the US and support by them....

    (print from any application as normal.. instead of selecting your printer.. you select the FSL driver instead to send to laser)

    Its definitely something you need to tinker with initially to get set up.. but I havent had problems with mine..

    it lacks in certain areas.. but thats in comparison to machines that START @ $10k..

    its not a HUGE work envelope.. but bigger than most hobby machines (21x12).. it also has removable floor to work on material that doesnt fit INSIDE of the box/lid...etc


    @OP

    Maybe check out instructables or Hackaday for some smaller, DIY 'laser cutter' machines... see if those will work for you.. most are made form old CD rom drives... and other easily found parts... (work envelopes are usually quite small though)

    good luck!
     
  7. HaVoC373

    HaVoC373 Active Member

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    thank you all for your responses. looks like cutting my stuff at the local makerspace is going to be the most affordable option for me.

    I was hoping i'd be able to try out my stuff easily at home. but i Guess this stuff is still too expensive.
    In anycase, thank you for your suggestions.
     
  8. knightdriver2001

    knightdriver2001 Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Avoid the new one from Micromark.com There's is just around the $2000.00 mark but is a horrible piece of junk.

    We picked one up and tinkered with it for a week, turned around and sent it back. It was a 40 watt machine
    but no matter what we did, it would only cut paper. Anything else it would just torch but not cut through.
    Very large machine too but the cutting area is only 9 inches square. Save yourself the aggravation and get
    something better.
     
  9. zenix

    zenix Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I got a $6500 80w 3'x2' laser and its awesome. Watercooled, exhaust, compressor for nozzle blower, rotary attachment etc. I know of a small 9*14ish $750 machine.

    Sent from my XT1254 using Tapatalk
     
  10. xl97

    xl97 Sr Member

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    zenix what machine did you pickup? 3'x'2 is a nice work envelope.. and 80w and rotary attachment to boot!

    re: rotary, is it a roller or chuck style?
    @KNIGHTdriver (and everyone else)

    I think the FLS machine I has also has an overrate tube/wattage on it... labeled as a 40w..but more like a 30w...

    I think it all depends on how the specific places measure the wattage...is how they classify them
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 8, 2018
  11. moffeaton

    moffeaton Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Mine is an Epilog. All made in the USA, rep came and set it up for me/taught me how to optimize my machine - spent a whole day hanging out. 40 watt, cuts 1/4" acrylic like butter! 12"x16" is more than enough for 95% of my needs - if I need bigger stuff etched or cut, I holler at Greg Watson ;)
     
  12. xl97

    xl97 Sr Member

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    Epilogs sure are nice.... but they also come with a price tag to match! :)
     
  13. DaveG

    DaveG Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    We have two Epilogs and an old Laser Camm at work (I don't think the LC is even manufactured anymore but it's a beast, with cut through 3/4 plywood like butter!). The Epilogs are great, can't recommend them highly enough. Yes they are expensive but they are designed for reliable commercial use. Trotec also makes good machines but they are in the same price range as the Epilogs.
     
  14. moffeaton

    moffeaton Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Yeah, Greg has a Trotec!
     
  15. hdtheater

    hdtheater Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Thats what I am looking for.

    I saw Rockler started selling the Full Spectrum last month. My local store is doing a demo on 9/26. Figured I go check it out at least. My biggest concern is that. 6 months later I will want to double the size.


    -Eric
     
  16. teslabe

    teslabe Active Member

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    http://www.micromark.com/laser-cutter,12026.html
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/262011384052

    Here is the same cutter on ebay for $362.79 and you don't need a step-up transformer, the real cost of that cutter is enough to keep me away....
     
  17. RogueTrooper

    RogueTrooper Well-Known Member

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    A laser cutter for styrene and cardstock is serious overkill.

    Buy a cheap XY (sign) plotter $100 and ramp up the knife pressure and slow down the speed. That's how we score styrene and then we break the pieces out. With card stock you need a perforated cut profile which is a software setting, same speed less pressure. bingo bongo doneski;)
     
  18. HaVoC373

    HaVoC373 Active Member

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    Interesting, got any recomendations on models?
     
  19. Mockle

    Mockle Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    laser will cost But if you need to cut vinyl or even stock-card. you may want to look into Brothers Scan n Cut.

    [​IMG]
     
  20. xl97

    xl97 Sr Member

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    For vinyl cutter/plotters... I personally have the Silhouette Cameo..

    and I think its great... (if you dont need a large size cutter).. I think its 12" x 10' (if you use a roll)..

    IMHO.. versions like the Cricut.. are junk. You need 'cartridges' to change fonts or images..etc where as the Cameo just prints/cuts whatever.. (no proprietary cartridges needed).. [keep that in mind]

    I cant comment on the styrene.. never tried it.. but for cardstock, vinyl/stickers... its great. I even use my to cut my own solder masks for the pcb work I do. (saves me about $25-$35 each time!)
     
  21. HaVoC373

    HaVoC373 Active Member

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    i've found youtube video's of people using the Silhouette Portrait plotter to cut up to 1mm thick Styrene. and seeing as that's only 180 euro's i think i'll take my chances with that :)

    btw does anyone know how often you need to replace the cutting blades on these things?
     
  22. RogueTrooper

    RogueTrooper Well-Known Member

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    Buy an old Roland brand cutter. They are bullet proof. Mine is 10 years old and still going strong. We chewed more blades when we did styrene, but slow speed and test for the best pressure and your blades will last longer, remember you're trying to score the styrene to break it, not cut it through.
     

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