I Got A Laser Cutter

OK so I didn't buy one, well not at this moment in time (I no way have the 💰 for that!). No this was crowd funded a couple of years ago when I was in my Toxic Corporate Soul Sucking But Well Paid Job™ #painforlasercutters

Now this was a couple of years ago, and I was pretty chill about not getting it right away. But then, welp it pretty much just landed on my doorstep a few weeks ago. The delivery person was all a bit 'what is this' (that was a conversation). And tbh I actually don't support projects like this anymore because they do finally come I'm just not interested anymore.

But not this time.

You know when you were a kid and you didn't have Sonic the Hedgehog, but your friend did and you'd go for a sleepover and stay up really really late playing because you wouldn't have it in the morning and it was loads of fun and you just wanted to play some more.

It's. Like. That.

But this time: It's THERE IN THE MORNING!!

It's SO COOL. I'm having the best time. I keep thinking it's going to 'run out' like ink on a printer, or pen on a plotter, but it's not going to do that.

Oh I need sleep.

What can you cut with it Ruth?

So it came with some maple hardwood 3mm, some draftboard 3mm (we call this MDF in the UK), some clear acrylic (I will refer to this as perspex) and some leather.

All of these have settings already set up on the cutter, so cutter and engraving them is pretty straight forward.

However, you can set up the cutter with custom settings (I'll get to this hang on), so I have also tried to cut; other leather, leatherette, lots of different perspex, cardboard (correlated and craft), acetate, cotton.

I am a laser cutting 🙈 #omg #socool #laser #lasers #lasercutter #glowforge

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It won't cut metal, you need a super powerful industrial laser for that. It will engrave glass apparently. And I haven't tried rubber, cork and denim yet, which I would like to.

Most of them have been successful, the acetate melts very quickly as you'd expect, so small shapes are a big no no. The leather I tried was real leather (some scraps I found on ebay) and burnt straight away, like literally caught alight. The cutter keeps this all enclosed so it wasn't dangerous. However the Rumyra Studio™ stank for like a week!

I've made an airtable to keep track of settings of different materials. It's very much a work in progress and I'm constantly tweaking, but it's here if you're interested:

How does it work Ruth?

You plug it in and switch it on. Open the lid and pop in your material.

It hooks up to my wifi and there's a browser based piece of software you run where you upload SVGs - oh yes the best format of shapes! Once you've uploaded the SVG you can 'place' it where you want it cut on the bed and just click 'print'.

The cutter has a camera at the top of the bed and does a little scan so you know where to place your shape.

The software allows you to move, rotate and transform the shape to place it. It also allows lots of different settings for cutting and engraving. Mostly based on speed and power. Modifying these for custom materials should get the desired result (or set things alight, depending on your goals). There's not a great deal of information about this yet. There are some forums, however I've found trial and error is the best as every material is different.

Measure twice, cut once

In this instance, trial cut like 10 times on a new material!

Where did you get it from Ruth?

It's called a Glowforge. Dubbed as 'desktop' which it sort of is. It's smaller than the ones I've seen at hackerspaces and it does fit on my table (there's no stand). However, I did think it was going to be a teeny bit smaller but :shrug" whatevs. It's cool. It's neat. It's about one meter by 1/2 meter.

It has a 30cm x 50cm area to put something (flat) in, and I would say cuts 25cm x 45cm. There are different models. I have the basic which means my extractor is a big metal tube which I pipe out into my garden through my big studio doors. You can get models with air filters and one comes with a feed through for the material, so you can do much bigger sizes. However what I have is amazing and I absolutely don't miss these extra filters.

My laser cutter
A photo of my laser cutter

Why this one? I had been looking at laser cutters for a few years actually. You could get cheap ones from China for about £500, but the reviews weren't great. Or hackerspace ones starting at about £3,500, but that was a little pricey and also those ones do take up a lot of room. When this came out it was somewhere in-between (bear in mind this was before Brexit and the fall of the pound).

Now I don't use this blog for advertising or sponsorship in anyway, and this post isn't either. However if you are interested, this link will get you a discount on one should you feel like you need lasers in your life https://glowforge.us/4sNRHd

What do you know about lasers now Ruth?

I can cut fabric, well I knew I could, but it hadn't really crossed my mind. I had considered wood, perspex and leather, possibly cardboard & paper. But it's cool it cuts cotton, I make a lot of clothes, so I feel this could be great. Apparently you can engrave denim as well, this excites me.

It smells a lot. It has an exhaust and my studio has double doors which I open when I use it, so I have loads of ventilation. But a few hours of laser cutting and I have a sore throat. I've been considering one of those masks cyclists wear. (You can buy each model with an air filter for extra monies).

Materials are expensive, but you can buy bits off eBay quite reasonably. So far I've bought a small amount of leather scraps and perspex to play with, neither of which have broken the bank, but at some point I would really like to get some merchandise on my Etsy shop. I'm designing so watch this space. Bulk is going to be a big payout. The cheapest thing is old cardboard boxes, next up would be draftboard/MDF from the diy store. This would be another thing to note, if you're prototyping or trying something, try it in MDF first 😃

A laser cut lampshade I made
A photo of a laser cut lampshade

Big designs take time. Especially if you are engraving. DON'T LEAVE IT! It's really safe as it stands, but you just don't want to leave the room whilst it's cutting and some cuts can take hours, so be aware of that.

I don't regret my life choices. It's one of the nicest bits of kit I own and I have a studio, with a wide variety of bits of kit in! One day I'll give you a tour...

Can you cut me some laser cut goodies Ruth?

Yes I most surely can! As it's very much a bespoke process. You're looking at design time, cutting time and material costs. But I am happy to work out a quote with you based on your needs. And as I've mentioned watch this space, I'll be putting things on my Etsy shop soon.

Can I come and use it myself Ruth?

For sure, pop over! I also serve tea. Again we can work out costs on what you're wanting to do 😃

Have you had any problems Ruth?

Not any big ones no. I'm pretty happy. However it's still a relatively new product, so there's a few niggles for sure.

If you use one of Glowforge's own materials there's no indication of the power and speed settings. Which makes it really tricky if you were to pick up some draftboard/mdf and go for it yourself. You just have to select the predefined settings and hope for the best. So far this has never gone wrong, but it would be good to know what settings these actually are.

The software for placing the svg and cutting is definitely in early stages. I really hope they spend more time on it. I am impressed with how robust it is (it's never crashed or failed to cut) however it's clunky from a usability perspective.

The camera has misaligned recently (there's one just under the hood which allows you to see what's on the bed for svg placement), but looking at the forums allowed me to take tips to clean the bed itself and that seemed to put the problem right.

Would you advise getting one Ruth?

No! Damn I want to be the only laser cutter in the world!

Really tho it's awesome. I've made presents galore, a pretty cool lampshade, a pen holder for my studio, pot holders for my garden. There's no more buying new jewellery, heck I just laser the crap outta that now! I usually post lots of photos of my stuff on Instagram if that takes your fancy.

And no it's not cheap, it's worth more in dollar than my laptop, my car, my surfboard (ok not hard 🏄🏻‍♀️) but here's that link again if you are interested https://glowforge.us/4sNRHd