Billy Hell

40W Chinese Laser - Engrave and Cut Leather - Discuss

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Ok this thread is pretty big and I'm on a train so I'll give you some of my experiences with my K40 laser I bought from ebay.

Wiring was fine inside the unit

Earthing, it tells you to connect a wire to a ground probe... screw that. In Australia we have 3 prong power sockets. The bottom one is an earth. I connected the earth wire to a specially designed cable that has an earth wire running to the male end of a lead. It also has a female one on the back of it and operates like a double adapter. Just plugged that into the power outlet. Done.

The pump works fine, but just any old aquarium pump will work fine if you wanted to replace it. It is dangerous from the perspective that you typically have an open water container next to an electrical outlet and equipment (in my case, the pump is in a bucket on the floor. But the hose isn't long, so you don't get much reach, which means it'll usually be right beside the laser.... which becomes a serious hazard when the hose pops off the pump and water starts spraying all over the place (i.e "power board")like a fountain... I recommend using a compression clamp to hold the hose in place.

Also, use only demineralised water. Otherwise you'll get mineral buildup in the laser and tubes. I pour mine into the bucket, operate the machine, and then funnel it back into the container to avoid evaporation loss of my demineralised water.

The fan is junk. Mine died early, and even when it worked it didn't do much. It also has a stupid way of fitting it, including a rectangular attachment to a round fan... which leaves everything pretty open and the smoke escapes. I sealed it with duct tape. Done.

The laser is dangerous when in operation, so always keep the lid closed and wear safety gear if necessary.

Aligning the mirrors sucked. Took me a long time, but once done holds its own.

The rails appear to be sliiiiightly out of square on my unit. Not enough to worry about, but cutting a large acrylic template it was off by about 1-2mm

I removed the lense and turned it upside down, because it wasn't cutting well, now it cuts better.

For software: have a look at K40 whisperer. I just switched to it, and it seems really great. I think they may support mac? Not sure though... k40 whisperer  does some cool stuff, like enabling you to run cut, vector engrave, and raster engrave using different colours in your design file. It will also run with any DXF file, so you can download draftsight for free and make all the things you need, and feed them straight to the laser. MASSIVE improvement, and no need to touch Corel draw...

Now lets talk about cutting and engraving.

3mm extruded acrylic: loves it.

3mm cast acrylic: nope.

Thin stuff like pigskin or kangaroo, or leather around 1.5mm (3-4oz): no problem.

I have not tried much thicker than that since I first got it and worked out most of the kinks. I will have a go next I'm in the shop and let you know. But as a general rule: the bigger it is, the more power, the more charring... but I'm still learning.

Engraving, is good. I use mine for doing initials mostly, and sometimes cool logos and things. It's pretty fun. But you are basically vaporising the leather, and that leaves soot behind. Cleaning it out is easy enough, but then it gets soot all over your leather.

So, if you plan doing cutting or engraving with natural veg tan, I'd recommend using something like frisket film, or any other low adhesive contact film to protect your work surface... which will vary in success depending on the patterns you are engraving!

The smell... oh the smell... it's horrible. BUT it dissipates over time. The leather itself will smell pretty bad for a bit. Less so when you clean it and apply finishes.

If I missed anything, or if you want to know more, or if you want me to try something, let me know!

Just in time... train is pulling in at my station :)

Edited by Wedgetail

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I was only curious about the lazer...

Brillant review! Thanks.

What was the total cost of the lazer and any other extras?

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As far as getting one in some where in Europe you might check with ebay shippers or Amazon for pricing and shipping to you, now for the laser again.

What you will find even by looking at the photos posted of the k40 machines, they all very just a little in build (old stock new stock) as for me I tried K40 whisperer and it became a real nightmare and still haven't corrected all the software problems it created for me, I am going to buy a new usb board made by a guy over in Auzzy land it will make it easy to run, but I do understand that a lot of people have had good luck with whisperer but again even the person that wrote it indicates it is experimental.  I did upgrade mine with an air cutting laser head, removed the funky air duct for exhaust removal.  The new cutting nozzle and the removal of the air duct made a big difference, in cutting and engraving but I have not done as much as would like at this point.  I did not have a problem with mirror alignment and I checked the rails and they are square to the housing that is one thing that helps. 

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a few other little tidbits not sure how many people are aware  of www.thingiverse.com it is a website for 3d printer people that make and post their ideas on the site.  There are several makers who make different parts for the laser machines if and when you want to make changes to your laser,  I found a guy in my location who has posted some of his creations as well as making a few items for my laser cutter. Hope this helps for anyone looking for ideas in changing or upgrading their machine.     

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16 hours ago, KingsCountyLeather said:

I was only curious about the lazer...

Brillant review! Thanks.

What was the total cost of the lazer and any other extras?

Yeah cool,

I bought the laser from ebay. In Aussie dollars, it was bang on $500 delivered to my door. 1 aud currently buys around 75c USA.

The only extras I bought are the earth cable adapter for the power outlet, a bucket, and a zip tie that is serving as a compression clamp. I haven't bothered replacing the fan yet but my shed is well ventilated... in all, probably $20 worth of stuff. Maybe 50 if you use an in-line extractor fan and upgrade the pipe too.

The unit is pretty big, and you won't want to move it around much, so I built a little desk for it with a sheet of plywood and 4 off the shelf legs.

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I am in about 75.00 as this point and that is for an air cooled nozzle and the lens and mirror for the air cooled nozzle.  I changed out the cutting table as well for an expanded metal table top that was around 15.00, the next upgrade will probably be the USB driver board with shipping from Aus will be around 125.00.  If look around will find that some of the higher end models come with some of the upgrades that I am stepping up to hence the higher cost for a more equipped machine,  there will also be an ongoing cost of deionized water that will need to be changed based on the use of the machine, the higher the usage the more often the need to change water

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Thanks guys.

Do you actually make money from the laser or is it another addition to a good hobby?

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Oh yeah, it has totally paid for itself.

I have used it to engrave nameplates, and things like coffee sleeves with logos and names. People looooooove personalisation. I charge a few bucks extra for it too, but more than anything it helps make a sale. I'll post some examples.

I also make all my small parts templates. Everything from wallet backs and T pockets, to rounds, and I just finished some designs for belt end templates in various sizes for one of the members here who lives nearby (just need to get back to the shed to cut them).

I also use it to cut stencils for spraying dye with my airbrush... I'll post some examples on that too.

It's by no means perfect, but all in all, I would buy again: any day of the week.

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Nameplate on a handbag. Etched onto veg tan leather directly.

2017-10-26 18.54.33.jpg

Laser etched coffee sleeve

FB_IMG_1499754647965.jpg

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Examples of stencil dyed custom orders.

The crow silhoette on a coffee sleeve was one of the first I tried.

The book and cover were for fellow wargamers. Even the words on that bookmark are stencil cut using the laser and then sprayed on with dye... just need to find a font with bridges to each of the voids... like e's amd p's for example... pretty damned durable, and really cool.

Anyway, just some ideas.

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14362436_1669613800021672_2523661470366428337_o.jpg

21743462_1933631243619925_6881589915964380278_o.jpg

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On 10/24/2017 at 1:55 AM, LatigoAmigo said:

Any updates to this adventure in laser cutting and engraving? I've been on the edge of my seat waiting to see something happen!

I haven't cut a bunch of stuff but I have been finding some decent ways to utilize the engraving portion of it. Ive made more $ selling drinkware for the time being but I really love the idea of cutting and engraving holster patterns. I went a little crazy and bought a USA made 50W. So far so good. The biggest headache by far is trial and error with the speed and power settings to get the desired effect you want on different media. 

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22549696_1812104689087152_3487314101957127251_n.jpg

20953149_1791864267777861_171991352869250678_n.jpg

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That American made must be sweet it is what a Chinese tries to be, I bought mine to be able to engrave leather as well, logo's etc,  The Chinese are sort of hit and miss as to how they come out of the factory, I was reading on the K40 google site this morning that someone received one without the software disk.  On the site I just mentioned you can find a lot of info of the imported one's you can also find many other sites from there that share images already made and can be downloaded and used either free or minimal cost, that can be used on leather and maybe add to another product line the options can be endless.

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Thought I would show you what a Chinese laser (in this case a 100-watt) could do. It has taken me a while to get the swing of it, i.e., beam alignment, focal adjustment, and more. So, after many YouTube videos, a class at a local maker-space and a test of my patience, I am very happy with the results, and am willing to share anything that I've learned in the process. 

Wine Bag Collage.jpg

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Great thread guys I'm thinking about getting one. 

 

May have to jump in

 

 

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I blew mine up... hot tip, pay attention and make sure you have the aquarium pump on. Lol

Got to replace the laser tube now, which will be a bit pricey, but otherwise easy to do... should be all OK.

Actually tempted to just upgrade to a bigger one and keep it for spare parts.

The number of times I needed a template juuuuuust a touch bigger than the cutting deck size.

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4 hours ago, Wedgetail said:

number of times I needed a template juuuuuust a touch bigger

I know what you mean. A friend of mine has a 500mm X 700mm cut bed, but a design he was working on last week ended up being 460mm X 720mm.

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3 hours ago, Rockoboy said:

I know what you mean. A friend of mine has a 500mm X 700mm cut bed, but a design he was working on last week ended up being 460mm X 720mm.

Haha, exactly.

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OK so.. first off check out newer machines not the same that you have been waiting 4+ years to pull the trigger on. For example the glowforge and a large number of the machines within the beginner market are only 40w, which with proper focus and speed control will happily slice thru 7-9 oz leather, let alone any engraving desires. The tech has came a long way in even the recent year and most of your worries have been updated by even the cheapest of chinese companies. Water temp should never be felt by hand anyhow (what is that accurately going to tell you?? Use a digital probe). Also with the speed at which your work will be getting cut it wont even have time to heat up the water cooling system even. 

Yes it smells, ALL lasers cuts should be done with proper filtration/ventilation in place and turned on. Your literally burning flesh, it will smell as such, but isnt intolerable either. I know many leather workers that use lasers daily in their work, many of which (including myself) stream live on twitch quite often and can answer any questions you may have. 

On the software side anything that will create an svg image can be used for most laser cutters. Be it corel draw, inkscape, etc, so dont think Mac uses are left out at all. 99% of lasers use an svg file for the tool path generation. Although some may require a secondary program to create the gcode, but that can easily be found also with a few minutes of google. Inkscape has laser plugins to generate gcode for example. 

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Paintshop Pro can import, export and save files in SVG format.

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I have the small hobby laser from Boss Laser https://www.bosslaser.com/boss-ls-1416.html

65 Watt. It's a good machine. I bought it to cut leather but found it's better for engraving. Of course, the bed is often not quite big enough. It does have pass-through doors on all 4 sides which helps. I'll attach a couple of examples 

leatherengraving.jpg

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That Chinese laser is what we started on. Used for about a year then moved up. We wanted to be able to cut through 12 oz leather in one pass and cleaner engraving. It has saved us time and is more precise than the Chinese lasers

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On 5/22/2018 at 1:04 PM, Jason046 said:

That Chinese laser is what we started on. Used for about a year then moved up. We wanted to be able to cut through 12 oz leather in one pass and cleaner engraving. It has saved us time and is more precise than the Chinese lasers

So what did you replace the Chinese laser with? I'm familiar with Trotec lasers and what a wonderful job they can do , but from my experience it appears to be nearly ten times the price of a Chinese equivalent ($36,000 vs. $4,500). 

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On 5/3/2018 at 4:16 PM, chuckgaudette said:

I have the small hobby laser from Boss Laser https://www.bosslaser.com/boss-ls-1416.html

65 Watt. It's a good machine. I bought it to cut leather but found it's better for engraving. Of course, the bed is often not quite big enough. It does have pass-through doors on all 4 sides which helps. I'll attach a couple of examples 

leatherengraving.jpg

have some questions as I've been looking at Boss laser. You state you bought it to cut leather but found it is better for engraving. Can you elaborate on this some as I would like to do both, cut and engrave. Is the 65 watt not enough power or is there another reason.  I'm looking at the LS-3655 to get the larger work area. From what I read on their site and online 65 watts is enough to cut leather but some say 1/8" and some say 1/4". I have to wonder if some of the problems of burn marks etc would be negated by using a higher watt laser that can cut through quicker and easier. I know next to nothing about this tech and I do plan on talking with whomever I buy from before buying but I would like to educate myself at least a little with unbiased opinions. Lets say I'm lacking in trust when talking to a sales person that is probably working on commission and will tell you just about anything to make the sale. With Boss lasers being in Florida and me in Utah, going onsite for a demo isn't in the cards.

 I'm also curious about your experiences with ease of use. Did you get the option with their PC so you had a dedicated PC with all the software all set up for your machine? How is their customer service if you needed it? To give you an idea of my tech level...and I can hear the laughs now...It was probably 2015 before I learned how to send a text message on a smart phone. Now I know how to do 2 things with a smart phone..oh wait, 3, I know how to charge it.

 

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I work mostly with soft leather about 2 - 3 mm thick. The 65 watt laser will cut it but the resulting charing of the edge takes a lot of work to clean up. If you cut thinner leather than this it often shrinks from the heat. So I often just use it to score where I want to cut and then use a knife to complete the cut. At least that way I can get the exact same pattern line every time. Engraving works better but its always a lot of trial and error on each material to get it right.

 

I run my machine from my Mac using Parallels emulation software. The Laser Works software comes with the machine and works fine. When I first got the machine the water pump didn't work. Boss sent me a replacement immediately. So I have no complaints about the customer support.

 

Overall using a laser is a learning curve and you go through a lot of material figuring it out. I don’t think its actually paid for itself, but then it cost a fraction of what a Trotec or Epiloq cost.

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7 hours ago, chuckgaudette said:

I work mostly with soft leather about 2 - 3 mm thick. The 65 watt laser will cut it but the resulting charing of the edge takes a lot of work to clean up. If you cut thinner leather than this it often shrinks from the heat. So I often just use it to score where I want to cut and then use a knife to complete the cut. At least that way I can get the exact same pattern line every time. Engraving works better but its always a lot of trial and error on each material to get it right.

 

I run my machine from my Mac using Parallels emulation software. The Laser Works software comes with the machine and works fine. When I first got the machine the water pump didn't work. Boss sent me a replacement immediately. So I have no complaints about the customer support.

 

Overall using a laser is a learning curve and you go through a lot of material figuring it out. I don’t think its actually paid for itself, but then it cost a fraction of what a Trotec or Epiloq cost.

Have you tried any 6-7 oz veg tanned, cutting and engraving? That is mostly what I would want it for, veg and Latigo. I might do some engraving on 5-6 oz chrome oil tanned but I cut my pieces on a clicker for that.

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