Banggood 2500mW Laser Engraver Setup / Fan Repair
After using the Laser Cutter at the UDK in Berlin, then no longer having access to it once my girlfriend had graduated, I'd convinced myself that I needed a laser engraver for engraving all my perspex panels that I'll build in the future. Now obviously the one at the UDK cost something like €30k and was the size of a car, so I wasn't going to be getting one of those anytime soon, so I set my sights a little lower, like €300, and the size of a normal printer. For that price you can only really buy kits from China and then build it yourself. Once you get to the €600 mark, you can get the pre-built Chinese ones that may or may not meet EU safety standards. Seeing as though building a kit didn't scare me (ok it did but I'm cheap) I took a gamble and ordered a 2500mW 30x40cm laser engraver from Banggood.com
I settled on this machine because the next most powerful laser was nearly double the price, and also the print-bed was the largest I could find on banggood. 30x40cm should cover most of the objects I need engraving, and the bigger ones I can bodge together.
The machine itself is basically 3 stepper motors connected to a frame that's controlled by a cloned Arduino Nano. The kit comes with absolutely no instructions or software, although now it looks like banggood may have added some vague details to their site. At the time all I had to go on was this rather blurry video;
It took about 5 hours to build and by far the worst part was having to listen to that fucking song a thousand stupid times. Finally built, and with only a few screws and washers leftover (which I told myself were 'extras' and not leftovers. Definitely.), it was now time to hook it up to the computer and engrave some stuff.
THROWING MONEY AT PROBLEMS
This is where I hit my first major problem, I have a mac and I struggled to get to get much printed at all. Banggoods website says that this is for windows PC's only, but I knew that GRBL (the controller software for the arduino) is freely available for the Mac so I was pretty confident I could run it. After literally a month of trying different setups I finally gave up trying. I'd managed to use GRBL and Inkscape but the laser wouldn't turn off when it was supposed to. I've no idea why, and once I'd played around with the g-code and still couldn't get it working I took the lazy way out and threw money at the problem: I bought a windows PC. I ended up getting a Lenovo Thinkpad X220 for pennies on eBay. These were originally made by IBM before they were sold off and are used on the international Space Station due to there reliability. So it should be good enough for me.
I loaded up 'Benbox' which is what banggood recommend to engrave with and it worked first time.
FIRST TIME!!! After a month or two of fiddling with the Mac!
The problem now was that I noticed the fan that cools the laser wasn't working. Banggood sent out a replacement but that still meant waiting for another month until it arrived. Using the laser without the fan will drastically reduce its working lifespan, and seeing as though the replacement laser module costs nearly as much as the whole engraver I though it was best to wait.
Putting on the replacement fan was as simple as desoldering the old one and re-soldering the new one.
For now I've been using the Benbox software as it seems to be doing everything I need, so I'll put off moving onto any more advanced software for the future.
One of the Banggood reviewers has some great tips for using the Benbox software over on his site;
The site's in French but Google Translate does a pretty good job deciphering it. Basically it boils down to keeping the speed and the feed rate the same.
Writing on Card:
Here are my settings I've found pretty good for writing fine lines (not cutting) on card;
Engraving woodFor fine lines on MDF I've found these settings pretty decent;
Engraving Perspex:Actually since taking this photo, I now engrave perspex at a speed of 300, feedrate of 300, time and step of 1. I haven't fully figured out the best steps for perspex, but this is where I'm currently at. I might consider lowering these specs and then simply pressing the engrave button twice if they're not sufficient.
I'd have to say I'm pretty happy with the Engraver now. Just remember to wear those eye goggles because this machine is very easily capable of blinding before you have time to react (so don't use reflective perspex!). Here's a quick preview of where I'm at currently with my perspex engraving (I'll write about this build in the future);