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Versalaser

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Oracle
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Joined: 06/22/2010

I'm surprised I can't find this in the forum search.

I've been reading about the versalaser tool. It's a laser engraving/cutting tool. It sounds like the dream prototyping tool for us.

It can cut plexiglass, wood, matboard, etc 1/4" thick as precisely as if it were die cut. (Think perfect hexes or other shaped tiles).

The prices is kind of steep, around $13,000 with enough accessories to actually use. I'm trying to find a place to rent time on one.

Kreitler
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Versalaser

Oracle wrote:
I'm surprised I can't find this in the forum search.

I've been reading about the versalaser tool. It's a laser engraving/cutting tool. It sounds like the dream prototyping tool for us.

It can cut plexiglass, wood, matboard, etc 1/4" thick as precisely as if it were die cut. (Think perfect hexes or other shaped tiles).

The prices is kind of steep, around $13,000 with enough accessories to actually use. I'm trying to find a place to rent time on one.

My brother is a model railroad enthusiast who has done some research into laser cutters. I spoke to him about using one for prototyping. The largest drawback is discoloration caused by smoke. Apparently, some materials -- especially wood and paper -- show darkened borders because of this.

Nevertheless, the idea is really promising. Please post again if you get a chance to try one.

K.

Oracle
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Joined: 06/22/2010
Re: Versalaser

Kreitler wrote:
My brother is a model railroad enthusiast who has done some research into laser cutters. I spoke to him about using one for prototyping. The largest drawback is discoloration caused by smoke. Apparently, some materials -- especially wood and paper -- show darkened borders because of this.

Nevertheless, the idea is really promising. Please post again if you get a chance to try one.

K.

I figured it would have blackened edges on card stock, I haven't found anywhere else that confirmed that, so thanks. I'm not sure if that would be a big problem for game parts.

Do you know how the edges on plexiglass come out?

What do model railroad enthusiats do with these machines? I know one, and maybe I can get him interested in a laser cutter.

Kreitler
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Versalaser

Oracle wrote:

I figured it would have blackened edges on card stock, I haven't found anywhere else that confirmed that, so thanks. I'm not sure if that would be a big problem for game parts.

Do you know how the edges on plexiglass come out?

What do model railroad enthusiats do with these machines? I know one, and maybe I can get him interested in a laser cutter.

I don't know how plexiglass comes out, but apparently some plastics come out with little or no discoloration, for whatever that's worth.

Railroaders use them to cut parts for homemade kits. Laser cutters allow people who want to sell their modules to make limited runs for other modelers.

K.

seo
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Joined: 07/21/2008
Versalaser

I recently saw some works produced with a laser cutter (don't know the actual brand or model, tohugh), and was impressed by the quality and fine detail they acheive. This guys provide the service mostly for buissiness gifts and architectural scale models.

Here is a sample of their work. The piece is about an inch wide, and the upper case of the smaller text on the lower left (set at 4 or 5 pts) is about 1mm high.

They charge less than USD 3 for cutting pieces from a 2 feet by 2 feet piece of MDF, a bit more if the have to also engrave the pieces before cutting (apparently they do this as a two step process, first engrave, then cutting).

You can priovide an AutoCAD or CorelDraw file (I guess an AI or EPS would do too). I haven't tried the service yet, but I think it might be a good option for small runs or prototyping, specially if you're planning to paint the pieces. The borders are definitelly dark, but quite tidy; the surface close to the cutting is a bit brownish, though. If the pieces aren't going to be enameled, that might be a problem fo production purposes.

Seo

nickdanger
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Versalaser

I'm lucky to have access to a laser engraver and have to say it is a temendous tool for prototyping. I use it to cut plastic and plexiglass and have made some pretty intricate pieces with it. Not to mention it was used to create the original Dice Boot proto.

I can't see how you could possibly cut paper or cardstock without it erupting into flames though! It's a laser and cuts via heat for crying out loud.

While I absolutely love using it and can't imagine trying to do some of the stuff I've done without it, there's no way I could ever justify actually buying one.

I will gladly answer any questions anyone has about them though - I've been using one for many years now and am the guy in charge of fixing it whenever it goes down, as well as cleaning and realigning it as needed.

Oracle
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Joined: 06/22/2010
Versalaser

nickdanger wrote:
I can't see how you could possibly cut paper or cardstock without it erupting into flames though! It's a laser and cuts via heat for crying out loud.

I would have thought that makes sense to think about it, but hte promotional material for the machine says it does do paper and cardboard, for example:

http://www.versalaser.com/english/laser_applications/market_sellsheets/D...

Quote:
I will gladly answer any questions anyone has about them though - I've been using one for many years now and am the guy in charge of fixing it whenever it goes down, as well as cleaning and realigning it as needed.

My first question would be are there places that rent time on one of these in the same way kinkos will rent time on a compter? :) ..or even rent the machine for a few days to use at home.

Since you're the fixing person, how much maintaince does it involve? Does it break often and need cleaning often? Knowing very little about them to start, is it something that can be safely bought used?

How powerful a laser do I need? It sounds like 10 watt is just for etching so wouldn't be useful for prototyping. There's a $1000 difference between 25 and 30 watts though and the website doesn't imply there's any difference in practice.

How much noise does it make/emissions does it give off? Could I run it in my comptuer room/den?

How finely can it etch? For example, can I etch the declaration of independance onto a 4x6" piece of sheet-aluminum?

Can you make 3D objects? For example someone here was talking about making custom coins. Could I make an embossed image like a real coin in plexiglass before cutting out the circle?

nickdanger
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Versalaser

Quote:
I would have thought that makes sense to think about it, but hte promotional material for the machine says it does do paper and cardboard,

I'll admit to never trying it, and I guess if the power level is low enough it might do it without bursting into flames, but I'd have to believe a good rotory cutter would still be the better way to go for that material.

Quote:
My first question would be are there places that rent time on one of these in the same way kinkos will rent time on a compter? :) ..or even rent the machine for a few days to use at home.

I've never heard of any place doing something like that. Not to say they don't exist, but it's not really that portable - though I've never seen the smaller units like the versa. The one I use has a 24" x 12" engraving field.

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Since you're the fixing person, how much maintaince does it involve? Does it break often and need cleaning often? Knowing very little about them to start, is it something that can be safely bought used?

The one we use is a used machine and we've been using it for nearly ten years now, close to 8 hours a day - 5 days a week. I've replaced darn near everything on it including the laser itself. But it does need regular cleaning and we go through optics (mirrors and lenses) a fair bit. Replacement parts are not cheap. But they are pretty easy to work on, if you're the type that doesn't wince at that kind of thing.

Quote:
How powerful a laser do I need? It sounds like 10 watt is just for etching so wouldn't be useful for prototyping. There's a $1000 difference between 25 and 30 watts though and the website doesn't imply there's any difference in practice.

We have a 25 watt. It can go through 1/8" plastic on one pass but when I do 1/4" plexi it takes multiple passes. You get a better result at multiple passes on a lower setting rather than plowing through on max and generating a lot of heat.

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How much noise does it make/emissions does it give off? Could I run it in my comptuer room/den?

Again, this is talking about a larger machine but the engraver itself isn't too loud but the exhaust system required sure as heck is!

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How finely can it etch? For example, can I etch the declaration of independance onto a 4x6" piece of sheet-aluminum?

You can get lenses with different focal lengths and get pretty darn fine. To answer your question, I'd say yes, with the right lens. (FYI - a lens runs about $450.)

Quote:
Can you make 3D objects? For example someone here was talking about making custom coins. Could I make an embossed image like a real coin in plexiglass before cutting out the circle?

You could do an embossing depending on the material. It would be tricky to get the power and speed settings right. In the end, I just don't think it's practical just for prototyping because of the costs involved. It's a nice side benefit if you were going to use one for a business - making awards, signs, etc. They really are a cool tool to play around with.

Hope that helps some.

Oracle
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Joined: 06/22/2010
Versalaser

nickdanger wrote:
I'll admit to never trying it, and I guess if the power level is low enough it might do it without bursting into flames, but I'd have to believe a good rotory cutter would still be the better way to go for that material.

I'm thinking along the lines of mat board though. A rotary cutter won't do the job there. It will take a commercial cutter costing around the same as the versalaser :).

Also for hexes, even with a rotary cutter for cardboard or a commercial cutter for mat board, it will be more work than it's worth.

Not to mention, it would be nice if they're as close to the same size as if they were die cut.

People here have been looking for good hex tiles for ages. I don't think a source has been found yet.

Quote:
I've never heard of any place doing something like that. Not to say they don't exist, but it's not really that portable - though I've never seen the smaller units like the versa. The one I use has a 24" x 12" engraving field.

Actually the versa is a 16x12 field, and about the same size as my laser printer. It also has a slightly larger 24x12 unit.

Quote:
The one we use is a used machine and we've been using it for nearly ten years now, close to 8 hours a day - 5 days a week. I've replaced darn near everything on it including the laser itself. But it does need regular cleaning and we go through optics (mirrors and lenses) a fair bit. Replacement parts are not cheap. But they are pretty easy to work on, if you're the type that doesn't wince at that kind of thing.

I guess that's why they sell replacement lenses so prominantly, I was wondering why. The price of replacement parts and options is really shocking to me...$250 for a lens that's basically a chunk of salt. The exhaust fan/filter is a $2500 option.

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Again, this is talking about a larger machine but the engraver itself isn't too loud but the exhaust system required sure as heck is!

How are the emissions with that noisy exhaust system? Where I am now I don't really have much of a work space.

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You can get lenses with different focal lengths and get pretty darn fine. To answer your question, I'd say yes, with the right lens. (FYI - a lens runs about $450.)

What would be the reason for having a less fine lens then?

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You could do an embossing depending on the material. It would be tricky to get the power and speed settings right. In the end, I just don't think it's practical just for prototyping because of the costs involved. It's a nice side benefit if you were going to use one for a business - making awards, signs, etc. They really are a cool tool to play around with.

Yeah if I got one, I'd have to try and start a business selling things made with it. I'm trying to decide how practical and possible that will be. I'm worried about spending that much on it and being unable to sell anything.

Quote:
Hope that helps some.

It helps a lot but it's just the tip of the iceberg, there's a lot of less important details that will become import before buying one. For example, what's the cutting surface under my material? Why doesn't the machine cut out it's own bottom and the table under it? Is it because it only cuts over a very short depth for which the beam is in focus?

What sort of machine does those crystal cubes with 3D images in them? I'm thinking the points inside it are the convergence of multiple beams to heat an internal point.

What happens if I try to cut/etch very shiny metal, will the beam just bounce off?

Do you know if the laser cutter can be used to fabricate printed circuit boards? I know CNC's are a popular way to do it. Electronics is a hobby of mine and it would be a very nice perk if it could.

Thanks for your answers.

Jason

nickdanger
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Versalaser

Quote:
I'm thinking along the lines of mat board though. A rotary cutter won't do the job there. It will take a commercial cutter costing around the same as the versalaser :).

Ah. I'll give it a shot and see what happens. One problem might be keeping it from getting sucked into the exhaust - that things pushes a lot of air through. The one thing you don't want is any smoke hitting the lens.

Quote:
Also for hexes, even with a rotary cutter for cardboard or a commercial cutter for mat board, it will be more work than it's worth.

True. I use it to make hex tiles a lot. But from plastic or plexi.

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The exhaust fan/filter is a $2500 option.

And it's not really an option. You have to have some kind of exhaust system.

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How are the emissions with that noisy exhaust system? Where I am now I don't really have much of a work space.

Depending on the material they can be quite nasty. We vent through the wall to outside. To do it indoors qould require a really good filtration system.

Quote:
What would be the reason for having a less fine lens then?

If you're doing more graphical stuff rather than text you may want to remove a bigger chunk of material on each pass. With a finer focus it will take a lot longer. Some of the stuff we do takes over an hour to engrave. One Dice Boot was taking me nearly twenty minutes to cut out. They are generally for custom work and not any kind of "production" run.

Quote:
For example, what's the cutting surface under my material? Why doesn't the machine cut out it's own bottom and the table under it? Is it because it only cuts over a very short depth for which the beam is in focus?

It's not powerful enough to cut through metal. It won't even etch plain metal. We use an anodized aluminum plate for the tag we engrave the model and serial numbers on. It burns off the anodizing and is "etched" that way. It sure can deliver a nice little burn on skin though!

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Do you know if the laser cutter can be used to fabricate printed circuit boards? I know CNC's are a popular way to do it. Electronics is a hobby of mine and it would be a very nice perk if it could.

Boy, I don't know enough about PC board material to give an educated opinion on that I'm afraid. Sorry.

Oracle
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Joined: 06/22/2010
Versalaser

nickdanger wrote:
Ah. I'll give it a shot and see what happens. One problem might be keeping it from getting sucked into the exhaust - that things pushes a lot of air through. The one thing you don't want is any smoke hitting the lens.

Am I right in assuming the lens is made of salt? If so, does humidity in the air shorten its life?

Quote:
True. I use it to make hex tiles a lot. But from plastic or plexi.

I wonder what the bgdf community would pay for plexi hex tiles.

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And it's not really an option. You have to have some kind of exhaust system.

Yeah, which is why I find it so surprising and annoying that the manufacturer considers it an option.

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It's not powerful enough to cut through metal. It won't even etch plain metal. We use an anodized aluminum plate for the tag we engrave the model and serial numbers on. It burns off the anodizing and is "etched" that way. It sure can deliver a nice little burn on skin though!

This could be a big problem for some of the things I had in mind for it. I thought I could etch pictures into metal with it. Even for a test run I was thinking I'd cut open a pop can (with an xacto knife, not the laser), flaten it and etch pictures onto the inner surface. These machines can't do that?

Quote:
Boy, I don't know enough about PC board material to give an educated opinion on that I'm afraid. Sorry.

The surface is a very thin layer of copper (usually 1 ounce/square meter). The substrate is called FR4. It's a fiberglass material bonded with epoxy into a very hard board. It comes in various thicknesses, most common is 1/32". It would need to etch through the copper completely without doing too much damage to the substrate, but it would also have to cut through the substrate to make holes for the component pins and shape the board.

Oracle
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Joined: 06/22/2010
Versalaser

nickdanger wrote:
Ah. I'll give it a shot and see what happens. One problem might be keeping it from getting sucked into the exhaust - that things pushes a lot of air through. The one thing you don't want is any smoke hitting the lens.

Am I right in assuming the lens is made of salt? If so, does humidity in the air shorten its life?

Quote:
True. I use it to make hex tiles a lot. But from plastic or plexi.

I wonder what the bgdf community would pay for plexi hex tiles.

Quote:
And it's not really an option. You have to have some kind of exhaust system.

Yeah, which is why I find it so surprising and annoying that the manufacturer considers it an option.

Quote:
It's not powerful enough to cut through metal. It won't even etch plain metal. We use an anodized aluminum plate for the tag we engrave the model and serial numbers on. It burns off the anodizing and is "etched" that way. It sure can deliver a nice little burn on skin though!

This could be a big problem for some of the things I had in mind for it. I thought I could etch pictures into metal with it. Even for a test run I was thinking I'd cut open a pop can (with an xacto knife, not the laser), flaten it and etch pictures onto the inner surface. These machines can't do that?

Quote:
Boy, I don't know enough about PC board material to give an educated opinion on that I'm afraid. Sorry.

The surface is a very thin layer of copper (usually 1 ounce/square meter). The substrate is called FR4. It's a fiberglass material bonded with epoxy into a very hard board. It comes in various thicknesses, most common is 1/32". It would need to etch through the copper completely without doing too much damage to the substrate, but it would also have to cut through the substrate to make holes for the component pins and shape the board.

nickdanger
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Versalaser

Quote:
Am I right in assuming the lens is made of salt? If so, does humidity in the air shorten its life?

As far as I am aware, the lenses are made from glass.

Quote:
This could be a big problem for some of the things I had in mind for it. I thought I could etch pictures into metal with it. Even for a test run I was thinking I'd cut open a pop can (with an xacto knife, not the laser), flaten it and etch pictures onto the inner surface. These machines can't do that?

Not the one I use. I don't know if a 50 watt laser would be powerful enough for that or not - you could send Universal an email asking I guess.

I have used it to cut out wood hexes before but it does give you a burnt edge finish. I don't see anyway to avoid that, personally.

Oracle
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Joined: 06/22/2010
Versalaser

nickdanger wrote:
As far as I am aware, the lenses are made from glass.

Just thinking about it, how can the same beam be focused by passing through a glass lens and then immediately etch a piece of glass?

I did a bit of research, they're usually KCl (salt) or ZnSe lenses.

Quote:
Not the one I use. I don't know if a 50 watt laser would be powerful enough for that or not - you could send Universal an email asking I guess.

I did after I read this wednesday. They haven't replied but it could be because of thanksgiving.

Quote:
I have used it to cut out wood hexes before but it does give you a burnt edge finish. I don't see anyway to avoid that, personally.

I don't know how badly burned the edges will be but it could be a nice look if it's not too bad. As long as the edge is still sharply defined and doesn't feel burnt, and it's more brown than black, I think it would be okay.

Oracle
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Joined: 06/22/2010
Versalaser

If anyone was interested in this thread, I finally got my reply from the email I sent to the company.

"On paper, mat board and wood you will notice a slight tanning color on the edges (not burnt) and plexiglass will provide a very smooth clear edge quality."

Have you had a chance to try cutting mat board yet, Nickdanger?

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