Purchase The Orion Motor Tech 60w Laser Cutter Engraver From Amazon:
Many of you know that I've had the J Tech 4.2w Laser add on for my Shapeoko XXL CNC machine for a while now. While it works great its just to under powered and slow to be a real workhorse. That's no fault to J Tech. It's fairly powerful for a diode laser, but diodes are not meant to be production mode devices.
After a lot of deliberation and internet research, I decided to purchase a Chinese Laser. I decided on the Orion Motor Tech 60 watt chinese laser yellow and black (upgraded version from the black and red version) color. An american made laser was just not in the budget so I took the gamble on a Chinese laser.
I know and have zero experience with a CO2 laser so I thought I'd do some blog posts to help others in my similar situation.
I decided to purchase the laser on Amazon because I knew I could easily send it back if there was some sort of issue. If I went with Ebay I would have to deal with a Chinese seller if things went south and who knows what would happen from that! The packaged arrived via a freight company. I think it originated out of Texas. They called the day before to set up a delivery day and time. It did included lift gate service (so you don't need a forklift to get it off the truck). We wheeled the pallet into my driveway. It was in a 500lbs ish crate. There were screws holding the top and sides of the crate to the bottom. After removing those, the top/sides lifted right up.
Everything was fully assembled on the laser. Inside was the air pump, water pump, water and air lines, and the fume extraction blue hose (2x) . Underneath the laser there is a void inside the legs where the Chinese fume extractor motor was. The legs were screwed down to the bottom of the crate. Once i removed the 4 screws in the legs, the laser was free of the pallet and we could move it!
My shop is in the back of my house, so we had to push it on its wheels through the side of my yard and through the back yard. This was no small feat, but with a few breaks the two of us did it. If you do purchase this, make sure you can fit it through your door opening. My shop has double doors so I wasn't worried. If your putting it in a house or office, you'll need a 36" door (and probably will have to remove it from it's hinges) to fit it though! It's big!
Once inside the shop, it was time to set everything up. They provide a Rubbermaid like bucket to hold the water but it had no lid, and being in a sawdust environment, this was a no no. I ended up getting a cheap $15 dollar 10 gallon fish tank and cut (with the laser) a piece of acrylic to cover the top, with holes that would allow the water lines to and from the air pump. This way the water was enclosed and I wouldn't have to worry about dust. Now, if your new to this like I am, you might not be aware of something called a chiller. This keeps the water at a constant temperature. Think of it as a small air conditioner for water. It's an all in one unit that's fully enclosed with an alarm that will alert you when the water is out of temperature.
It's extremely important to keep the water cool. The glass laser tube is cooled by the water and if the water is hotter than it should be you end up degrading the life of the tube much faster than normal. Usually most put the water right around 19-20 degree C. What I have been doing with the fish tank and water pump (until I purchase a CW-5000 chiller) is placing some ice packs inside the water while running the laser and switching them out for newly frozen ones when they turn liquid. This keeps the water colder at a much cheaper price than the chiller (around $500 US HERE).
Another thing to consider is the voltage for your shop or country. My shop is wired with one 220 outlet for my heater/air conditioner. The one i purchased is 110v which is perfect for my shop. Make sure all the accessories are also the same voltage. While were on the topic of power, lets talk about the power strip in the back of the Chinese laser. DO NOT USE IT! The Chinese do not have the same standards as we do and they used to small of a wire gauge for the strip. It's prone to over heating and could cause a fire. I purchased a Monster power strip that is made for heavy duty equipment and has protection against fire (here). Better to protect your multi thousand dollar investment with a $35 dollar power supply than trust the Chinese one on the back.
Before trying to cut anything, align the mirrors and clean them with some denatured alcohol. I watched and followed THIS YouTube video. It worked really well. Any clouding or smoke dust on the mirrors and lens can degrade the power output so familiarize yourself with cleaning these before use. This is why smoke extraction is essential. If you don't extract it, not only will you smell and inhale it, it will create debris on the lenses and degrade power. And since most Chinese lasers are actually lower watt than what they advertise (my 60w is more like a 50) getting every bit of power I can is paramount.
Speaking of smoke and fume exhaust, the one that comes with the machine is HUGE and LOUD! Running it is around 80dbs. It's much louder than a shop vac! I immediately turned to amazon to find a replacement. I found THIS EXTRACTOR. It's SUPER quiet, more efficient (but doesn't push quite as much air as the original). It's around 40-50 db which is MUCH quieter. The air pump for air assist is actually louder. I highly recommend this upgrade.
The benefit to this particular laser is it's controller. This one comes with a Ruida (model number here). A Ruida controller is highly sought after. It's also compatible with Lightburn software, which is hands down the best laser software on the market. Check out the free trial HERE. The benefit of Lightburn is that its made and supported in the USA. Most software is Chinglish (poorly translated English from Chinese). It directly supports AI files, which is really nice for design. If you buy a laser, search for one with a Ruida controller.
Optimal Focus. Getting the correct focus is important. The laser beam will shoot out like an hourglass. If your too far away the beam will get wide and if your too close it will get wide. Trying to find that point where the beam is thinnest. That's the optimal spot for cutting and engraving. Typically, the manufacturer will provide a piece of acrylic that will be cut to the proper focal length. The one that came with my laser was off by 4mm. This is a great video detailing how to set focal length HERE.
Finally, you're ready to cut. But now you have to figure out what power and speed to use for each type of material. This one is trial and error. In another blog post I'll post a chart of feeds and powers that have worked for me, so you'll have a good starting point.
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below. You can check out the YouTube video I did of the unboxing, assembly, and first cut of the 60w Orion Motor Tech Chinese CO2 Laser below.