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Old 07-15-2014, 09:21 AM   #1
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Default Hard decision to make ...

I have a large archive of plans .... covering literally all types of flying models ... from WW1 through to todays stuff ...
As most appreciate - it's not the building that's the real problem - it's the intricate variety of parts ...

I have for quite a while been trying to decide whether to buy a Laser cutter ... and watching videos of even the cheap Chinese 40W jobs just shows me how much easier plan built models would be ...

Here is a machine that I my finger is hovering over the Buy it Now button ...

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/201109159351

By time I pay shipping, taxes etc. - I'm looking at £600 total ... a lot of dosh to cut a few ribs etc.

If I can sell a few kits of parts ... and of course get supply of decent Lite-Ply ... then maybe I can get back some of the costs. But at end of day - it's an expensive tool on my bench.

I would of course prefer a much larger working size - but that gets into high priced arena.

Oh decisions decisions !!

Nigel

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Old 07-15-2014, 10:34 AM   #2
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As you have posted your dilema I'm assuming you are looking for opinions...

My personal opinion is if you are doing this mainly for your own use you would be much better off just cutting your parts by hand. Laser cutters are expensive and require a great deal of effort to learn how to operate and how to use the software. The CAD cutting files themselves take longer to produce than it would take to hand cut a one-off kit (trust me on this I've been there many times). You also are likely to get some significant wastage of balsa while you get it set up. The capabilities of budget price cutters also mean that you will be very restricted on size and probably thickness of parts that can be cut.

My view is that it only makes sense if you are doing 'mass production'. Even then there is a very limited market for laser cut kits these days (hardly anyone builds) and there are a number of well established vendors already meeting the need that is there, so a very hard business to break into.
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Old 07-15-2014, 10:48 AM   #3
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maybe a few guys in your club would like to go into it as a joint venture, and you can share the laser between yourselfs

I may be getting Older, But I Refuse to grow Up I am Having to much Fun to Grow Up LOL
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Old 07-15-2014, 10:49 AM   #4
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Yep - opinions ...

I've ruined plenty of balsa over the years trying to hand cut ribs etc. Even had the Dremel Motoshop ... and my new bench jigsaw - both exhibit same problem .... cuts are difficult to get neat and actually vertical. There's always a distortion to the saw blade and it twists when you want to curve etc.

The Tiger Moth plan I have .... old traditional formers and stringer build. hand cutting has put me off for years .... a laser cutter would have her done ...

I do wonder about the learning curve on the graphic files ... but surely considering that the Moshidraw and Newlydraw software imports the jpg's etc. - there's no need for AutoCAD knowledge etc. ?
The machine linked to is also supposed to import CorelDraw ....

I'm stuck ... still hovering over that button ....

All input is gratefully rec'd ... I really am stuck with this ...

Nigel

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Old 07-15-2014, 10:53 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by CHELLIE View Post
maybe a few guys in your club would like to go into it as a joint venture, and you can share the laser between yourselfs
If it was UK ... then probably a course open ... but in Latvia - money is a lot tighter and unlikely to get others paying in.

I have considered cutting and kitting for the street market ... the laser kit cars and toys could fit into the limited work-size of the machine.
But in reality - the machine is never going to actually pay for itself. But it would open up more of my scratch-build possibilities.



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Old 07-15-2014, 10:54 AM   #6
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I would recommend visiting the CNC zone website and doing some serious research prior to hitting the send button.
Dave’s lesson learned/data points
I have a very large Chinese laser; I did a year of research on it prior to importing it.
They have some real quality issues that you will most likely have to deal with.
After purchase tech help… not good
At some point you will have to fix it… I have a lot of data points fixing my laser.
Most of the Chinese manufactures require a wire transfer of funds… once you hit the send button you have no security net to get those funds back in the event of an issue (many have been burned).
Don’t forget duty, import fees, and all the government nonsense you will have to pay, depending on the size and weight this can significant (for me it was greater than 15% of the unit cost).
Safety… in the USA the FDA governs laser safety Yes the FDA…, I did not hit the send button until said Chinese company had FDA approval, If they do not… Customs can and will seize this property.
Myself and others who own this type of laser have considered contacting the FDA do to the fact its safety devices are not functioning.I have been burned by the laser due to the fact the door micro switch do not work.
I spent the extra cash and had Panasonic motion controls installed within it so I did not have to mess with low quality low precision Chinese stuff.
The mirrors and lenses will need replaced so one should have spares. There are different focusing lenses so do your research and sort out the one that provides your objectives
The tubes do not have a good mean time between failure rates… Tube failure has an impact on the components in the high voltage chain.
The power supplies can be of lesser quality and typically cannot stand off high voltages… when the tube starts to fail the power supply receives nasty reflected energy.
At the end of the day it is what it is… you get what you pay for.
They are amazing machines that can cut things that you cannot cut by hand.
If interested the below is the pic of the laser I imported.
40 watts... not big enough in my opinion (time is money).
http://www.wattflyer.com/forums/showthread.php?t=60763&page=6
Best of luck,
Dave
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Old 07-15-2014, 11:03 AM   #7
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Hi ...HO-229...

I did visit many foryms and sites about this some time ago - but found them difficult to get what I needed ...

So many times they went of into areas of modifications, theoreticals that meant very little to me.

I was looking for simple FAQ's ... but hard to find.

I've had PM's saying - excellent - works ... I've had PM's saying stay clear ...

I could spend £2000 ... but then that would be virtually impossible to justify for my needs ... spending what is approx. £600 incl taxes / import is far more attainable.

As I understand it - the K40 machine as linked to - is a basic generic Chinese model relabelled by many from only a few actual factories.

Still 50-50 !!

Nigel

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Old 07-15-2014, 11:10 AM   #8
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Nigel,
I recommend you start here.
http://www.cnczone.com/forums/laser-...ting-machines/

You will find my experience within... Allot of good information is shared within this forum (EXLAS).

Dave
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Old 07-15-2014, 11:15 AM   #9
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http://www.cnczone.com/forums/search...archid=2205320

Search by HO-229 and you will feel my joy/pain

I offer this only as a reminder of what can be expected

Dave
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Old 07-15-2014, 11:37 AM   #10
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Cheers Dave ...

Just have to sort a 12,000 ton Chemical tanker and I'll be back to read through your links ...

Nigel

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Old 07-15-2014, 11:45 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by JetPlaneFlyer View Post
As you have posted your dilema I'm assuming you are looking for opinions...

My personal opinion is if you are doing this mainly for your own use you would be much better off just cutting your parts by hand.
I kinda have to second that, based on Nigel being an avid scratch builder. I spent a number of years as a Pro-e solids designer, and the irony is that it is what helped me to be able to rapidly design and build without the aid of CAD. If I had to spend the time of drawing a CAD model, I would lose interest and probably never complete anything. I would consider the likes of Tim Hooper to be my mentor, who rapidly hand draw a design, and then get right to the hand balsa cutting. I even have so little patience that I went to foam for a while, and only returned as a balsa purist, after developing the ability to build models like the Curtiss America and Saro TG263 in two months each, again having no patience for long projects. You have to decide what type of modeller you are, as the assistance of CAD and accurate laser cut parts have their appeal, but are not for everyone. It is certainly very difficult to make money from the art also. Many of those who do fit the "it's not who you are but who you know" category also. Their are likely 100 better designers, to every 1 well known model designer.
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Old 07-15-2014, 12:03 PM   #12
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Absolutely agree Bill!
I find myself sorting out CAD methods more than building.

Your a great example of results versus tinkering with design methods.

I find myself relearning method and very little time building.

At the end of the day one must choose a path and stay the course no matter how painful the journey.
Hopefully... Fingers crossed! My CAD system knowledge is at a level to start kicking out cut files

Dave
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Old 07-15-2014, 12:46 PM   #13
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Nigel,

Working from hand drawn plans JPG importers dont work to the standard required to produce files for a laser cutter. i've tried several, trust me. This includes big bucks professional software that I've used in my day job.
The line work they produce will use the wrong line types and the line ends wont be joined to the precission required. They also tend to produce a jagged/wavy lines with many data points that slows the laser, burns the wood and produces poor quality parts (if the cutter will follow them at all). If you adjust the conversion settings to smooth the lines out then all the corners that should be there also get rounded and smoothed out.

The accuracy of most hand drawn planes isnt good enough either, sometimes due to original drafting tolerances but often due to scanning distortion.

The only files I've ever been able to successfully import to CAD are first generation .pdf vector files that were themselved exported direct from CAD drawings. As soon as you convert to jpg or any other bitmap format your subsequent conversion back to CAD goes down the pan.

The method I used to 'convert' old plans was to import the JPG file as an image into CAD and trace over, correcting for any distortion and errors in the original plan. This is time consuming and requires that you are competent in the chosen CAD system but produces good results.

I've never had any real problems hand cutting parts (back when I was keen enough). Ribs you can do by the sandwich method and formers just with a modelling knife and straight edge. For ply parts a jig saw is required, but if you are patient you can do that by hand too. Yes it takes a lot of time but usually for a one-off less time than the laser option would take, all things considered.
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Old 07-16-2014, 02:18 PM   #14
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Now I know some of you will want to slap me around ....

I spent a few hours with Victor here ... he has a CNC Router and also able to program up Laser etc. He may be working on job alongside me ... but he has sideline biz in Russia on this stuff ...

He brought along a beautiful Church Icon he did in Elm wood ...

He also had etched laser work ...

I was waiting to see a prolonged session of intricate PC moves and vector poly-lines, polyblocks etc. - (I actually use Vector a lot in creating GPS charts .... ) .... but he switched on PC ...

Drew a Tourist style advert on top of a town photo in Corel Draw ... exported to DXF .. imported to ARTCAM and then ran the simulation etch ... all in a matter of minutes. It blew me away ...

I mentioned the horror stories and various stuff I had read on many forums and posts ... and he admitted that much of it is true. But he also said that as long as I was only looking to stay with simple stuff ... then it should not be so hard.
He's even offered to keep in touch for assisting in vectorising any plan / item I need.

Overall .............. I appreciate the posts earlier and the horror stories ... the heartache etc.

My take so far :

Seems an even split of success and heartache with the cheap Chinese machines. But in general they have mostly worked, even if some work had had to be done.

The biggest hurdle is the programming / converting the plans to cutter standard. With Victors aid - I think this is manageable.

Seems the cutting and etching once got working is more than enough for my needs.

Parts are easily available to replace worn out or to upgrade the basic machine.

The K40 machine I looked at is the same machine as many others are selling ... most actually higher priced.

So I ended up with a pad and pencil ... Pros and Cons .... and at the end of the list - it came out 60-40 in favour of the machine.

I accept that I will likely have to study a few youtubes and threads on forums to sort any error in the machine to get it to work fully.

I clicked Buy it Now .. and expect to receive mid August. £495 incl shipping. Taxes will be 21% of whatever invoice is incl. in the box.

Machine is supposed to have latest Moshidraw (I know it's not rated very high !) but it's supposed to be fine with Corel Draw and AutoCAD. machine has DSP mode and PC direct USB. Air collector and water system incl.

So once I get it ... and IF it works !! I shall post up some videos and thread about my trials and tribulations for all ....

Now where is that Tiger Moth plan I had ??



Nigel

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Old 07-19-2014, 10:25 AM   #15
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Nigel,
Congrats regarding your acquisition!
I am sure you will enjoy the machine

I have become the EXLAS Laser technical support network for jacked-up operation.
When you run into an issue… and I am almost 100% sure you will (hopefully later rather than sooner)… remember, most likely someone has been down your path before and can assist you in sorting out the problem.
I would recommend downloading or reading the John Powell book “C02 Laser Cutting”. I found it incredibly valuable when I had to sort things out.


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Old 07-19-2014, 12:26 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by HO-229 View Post
Nigel,
Congrats regarding your acquisition!
I am sure you will enjoy the machine
I have become the EXLAS Laser technical support network for jacked-up operation.
When you run into an issue… and I am almost 100% sure you will (hopefully later rather than sooner)… remember, most likely someone has been down your path before and can assist you in sorting out the problem.
I would recommend downloading or reading the John Powell book “C02 Laser Cutting”. I found it incredibly valuable when I had to sort things out.
Tks ... I appreciate that some may feel I've ignored their advice ... that's not true. It all went in to the 'pot' stirred around ... emptied out to see result.

I shall seek out the book you mention.

One of the repeated comments I had off-forum ... for £500 - I can have a machine that will work. Get practice ... get used to working with laser - THEN look at a decent sized / priced machine with more capability. Look upon the K40 as the 'Trainer model' .....

£500 is a not a small number - but is survivable if lost. £2000 is a different ball-game.

I've started on a test conversion while out here away from home ... a Neiuport 28 of about 53" span .. cutting and pasting parts ... cleaning up
ready for input to Artcam for making suitable for laser ..
It's becoming apparent that the 300 x 200 work space (basically if I set parts onto an A4 sheet - that is fine) is enough for all but the long fuselage sides / longerons / wing spars. So the small machine is OK for now.

I hope that I can post later the saga of my delve into Laser country !!

Nigel

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Old 07-19-2014, 12:44 PM   #17
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Nigel,
I don’t believe you ignored any advice, much like many others (including myself) we made a decision to accept some level of risk.
In the big picture I am pleased with my purchase.
My only recommendation is to be mindful of what/how to get it up and running again if you have an issue.
The troubleshooting tree is pretty spot on… the book recommendation has many tuning and optimization methods illustrated within.Again, I found it very helpful.
Cheers,
Dave
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Old 07-19-2014, 01:50 PM   #18
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Ok - one question ...

I see various on this one item :

Cooling water. I've read / seen where a guy puts ice in his bucket of water to bring temp down to about 35 F ...
I see other vids where the bucket is ice free and appears to be ambient temp.

What do others do ? I could in fact get a cooler ... I have a lab that I could 'second' a cryo ... but would be a major exercise to do ... and costly.

Is there a simpler system of cooler if needed ?

Nigel

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Old 07-19-2014, 01:59 PM   #19
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OK .. got the book ... now to sit back and BLOW my mind !!

Nigel

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Old 07-19-2014, 02:08 PM   #20
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Fish tank pump and antifreeze mixture tied into the on/off circuit.
Flow/temperature interlock to prevent overtemp (shutoff in the event of).

Regarding the book, focus on the troubleshooting chapter
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Old 07-19-2014, 02:24 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by HO-229 View Post
Fish tank pump and antifreeze mixture tied into the on/off circuit.
Flow/temperature interlock to prevent overtemp (shutoff in the event of).

Regarding the book, focus on the troubleshooting chapter
Anti-freeze ... mmmm I was more looking for temp at what to run this ..

The machine comes with pump etc. already ... but no cooling.

Flow / Temp shut-off ... now that is likely not incl. - this is a Chinese machine !!

what do you advise on that ? Problem is if a USA source - I usually cannot buy ... so a description or name would be good so I can search for similar over my way.

Nigel

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Old 07-19-2014, 03:03 PM   #22
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Nigel,
This is how I would do it, you will need the push button to get things started.
Were you put the sensor is up to you, may be better to put it on the output side of the laser.
Correction... it is better to have the sensor on output side... you know you have flow through the tube

Google "low cost flow sensor" your local auto parts store will most likely be able to aid you.
As far as temperature... I am not sure what the max is but as long as you have good flow I am with the belief you will be fine.
Your tank size should be minimal as my tank is not that large but it is equipped with a forces air heat exchanger in the chiller.


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Old 07-19-2014, 04:04 PM   #23
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It's funny that even with high cost lab gear - often a flow sensor is just the red bobble in the pipe job !

Temp - of course that's a different ball game.

I believe max temp is 45C ... which is a lot higher ambient than I want to be sitting in ...

Nigel

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Old 07-19-2014, 06:09 PM   #24
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I'm watching this thread with keen interest, as I may wish to follow in your footsteps, Nigel, depending on what you/we learn.

I'm content with my CNC routers for now, since I like to "cookie cut" the same types of Cub/Champ style planes in foam. Having read many of your previous posts, I realize you indulge in a much greater variety of aircraft types and materials. With so much expertise here, this forum is a fantastic resource.

Good luck

Tom
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Old 07-19-2014, 06:43 PM   #25
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Hi Tom ...

I'm lucky that when I go home - I'm home 24/7 ... no diving of to office or work ... So scratch-build is a feasible avenue and it takes me less days to complete than many. I don't really have much else except yachting to take my free time.

I have large area to work in ... as well.

But yes - my range is quite wide ! From gliders through WW1 ... to WW2 ... to modern day and EDF ... plus the odd speed machine and oddball thrown in. Current hangar is running to over 35 models ALL in flying nick ! Radios : 2 x 9x, 3 x 9xr, 1 JR, 1 RL and a spattering of RTF specials.

You could say - I have it covered !

Wattflyer has to have about the best for putting ideas together .. scratch and design ... and the friendliest bunch !!


Nigel

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