A while back we secured a unit in a shared studio in Hove, for making messy things and generally doing the kind of things that are likely to either upset the family home or the neighbours (laser cutting, CNC routing, screen printing etc.)
Our LS3020 laser cutter from HPC has been in storage for a long time -maybe about 12 months or so - and it was to great delight that we got it connected up and working again last night.
Given the amount of hassle the laser cutter at BuildBrighton has caused in recent months, we were terrified that the mirrors might need realigning, the cutting lens could be damaged... any number of things that could have gone wrong with it, as it's been dragged around a few different places and never actually tried out, for a long time.
Amazingly, we switched on the old PC that was driving it last time, plugged everything in and hit "go". It cut our 3mm acrylic sheet at 15mA and at 16mm/sec, straight through, first time!
Because Nick, Charlie and Paul were also at the unit during the first test, they each got a yellow nameplate. The cuts are spot on - no beam spreading or half-cut lines; the cuts are nice and "tight" and well focussed. Some of the pieces needed pushing from the sheet - not because they were badly cut, but because the cutting was so precise, the parts had to be lifted exactly vertically to get them to come away.
Sometimes, on the BuildBrighton laser, everything falls away from the sheet as it's lifted off the cutting bed. While this is encouraging (at least the laser manages to get all the way through the material) sometimes it's only after two or three passes. And that means that sometimes the cuts are wider than they would normally be. Not only were all our cuts cleanly through the entire material, the cuts were so tight that the pieces were a little bit "squeaky" as they were removed from the sheet. At 16mm/sec we erred on the side of caution - there's a chance that we might even get away with cutting at a faster rate.
But for now, we're just thrilled that we have a working laser cutter once more. Admittedly, the extractor wasn't connected up properly during the test cut, and the studio did smell a bit like pear drops for a while, but as soon as that's all plumbed in, we'll be super-productive, laser cutting night and day, no doubt (for a while, at least!)