In an effort to raise standards whilst lowering the barrier of entry for multi-tooling your 3D printer, Endurance pushes things further with its 10W & 10W+ laser attachments.
Since the arrival of powerful diode lasers to mass market a few short years ago, the potential to outfit a 3D printer or CNC machine with a laser cutting tool head as powerful and efficient as its CO2 and fiber laser contemporaries has been a very real possibility.
The benefits of this newly commercially available tech for the home user are clear. Not only are laser diodes lightweight and small, often they are capable of cutting and engraving a wide array of materials including wood, leather, plastic, anodized Aluminum and stainless steel.
Combining a compact form factor with versatility, the laser diode makes for an excellent post-market laser engraving or cutting tool for the motion systems of 3D printers and CNC machines.
What Exactly is a Laser Diode as an Add-On?
Laid bare, a laser diode as an attachment for a 3D printer or CNC machine is composed of three things: the laser diode itself, a heatsink to keep it cool and running efficiently, and a laser driver to control the laser’s power via commands relayed through a TTL cable.
Particularly important to the whole getup is the heatsink. The laser diode typically sits at a little under 10mm in size, generating some 25 watts of heat when in operation. Should the temperature of the diode exceed 60 degrees Celsius, it is possible that the crystal inside will degrade. Only with an effective heatsink can you control the diode’s temperature and ensure that the heat generated is properly dissipated.
The laser driver is equally crucial in maintaining consistent and reliable performance. Stabilizing the current and voltage, a high-quality driver enables the laser to work continuously without overclocking and causing overheating.
Endurance 10W Diode Laser Add-Ons for 3D Printers and CNC Machines
Endurance’s range-topping 10-watt and 10-watt+ diode lasers are the ideal choice for high-powered laser engraving and cutting needs.
The beating heart of these high-power lasers is a NICHIA diode — a company first. Featuring four fans alone to keep the laser cool, accommodating this new tech lead to a design evolution with Endurance shedding the two heatsink design of old to create a single larger heatsink that provides a better airflow.
Each and every laser built by Endurance is capable of up to 72 hours of continuous operation and has a rated power output of 10,000mW (+/-5%).
Considered high-power for a desktop laser engraving solution, Endurance’s 10W laser 3D printer add-on allows for the fast engraving of a diverse array of materials including stainless steel, brass, copper, anodized Aluminum, glass, stone, and ceramics.
For “softer” materials like wood and plywood up to 5mm thick, a single pass of the Endurance 10W laser is all that’s needed to cut clean through. The same goes for acrylic up to 5mm.
Added versatility for the Endurance 10W laser can be found in the ability to outfit both G2 and 3-element lenses, allowing for maximal (but less focused) power and cleaner (but weaker) cutting applications.
Endurance 10 watt+: Off-board Control, Better Cooling
The latest innovation of Endurance is the 10-watt+ “Invincible Plus” laser, which improves upon the standard 10-watt laser in a number of ways. Most notably, the 10 watt+ features a laser control box, compared to the laser control board of the 10-watt laser.
Allowing for live monitoring of the laser diode’s temperature, voltage and current, the new laser control box also protects the laser diode from unexpected voltage jumps.
Additional improvements come in a nifty new polished Aluminum housing, a TEC cooling system as an additional safeguard against the diode overheating and a large focusing for easily finding the laser’s focus.
Simple Conversion from 3D Printer to Powerful Laser Cutter
Perhaps the best thing about adding a laser to your 3D Printer is that it does not require any drastic change to your existing setup; no soldering and little to no disassembly needed.
Indeed, electronically speaking the only wiring involved is the plugging a connector into the FAN 1 and FAN 2 pin outputs on your particular machine’s mainboard. A conversion guide with detailed instructions for a wide array of machines can be found on the Endurance’s website.
The benefit of diode lasers being small comes into play here again. Given their diminutive size, they can ride shotgun alongside your hot end or milling tool, sacrificing relatively little build area in the process.
Simple to memorize G-code commands control the laser functions, meaning printer control software with the ability to stream instructions have ultimate control over the add-on. Laser speed can be modified using the F command, with laser power adjusted through the range of S commands (S1 – S255).
Simple to use software solutions such as InkScape and the Endurance G-code plugin make job preparation a cinch, leaving little excuse not to give laser engraving a try.
As established, hooking a laser add-on to your printer or CNC machine is a cakewalk. There is, however, a calibration procedure that is crucial to getting optimal results that require careful action on your part: laser beam focusing.
It’s a fact that the better your beam’s focus, the more powerful the spot you will be using for cutting and engraving. Even a slightly out of focus beam will be incapable of engraving anodized Aluminum and stainless steel.
Thankfully the process of focusing your beam is relatively straightforward. The simplest way is to create a job that simply draws lines on a material. As the laser burns lines, you adjust your Z-axis, which will in a sense “tighten” or “loosen” the laser’s spot on the material, consequently resulting in a thinner line as the beam becomes more focused.
A more novel method involving a camera is detailed here.
Laser Diodes on the Market
Look at the usual suspects of affordable printers and printing accessories, and you will see an ocean of laser diodes available for purchase. Consumer choice is great, but an often overlooked aspect of these lasers is the lack of information regarding real power output.
Such information informs consumers of the actual power and capability of their laser and is a sign of real testing with the product.
The measuring of a full laser beam’s power is a complicated process requiring expensive equipment. For example, a 10-watt laser can easily cut dark acrylic up to 8 or so mm with a few passes. However, cutting white acrylic might prove problematic since a laser operating at the 445 nm wavelength will more likely be reflected, not cutting the material at all. That is why it is important to understand what exactly are you going to do with the laser.
Running with the example of a 445 nm laser, this particular power is good for cutting and engraving on almost on any materials and variety of colors with the exception of white and transparent surfaces. With that said, engraving on transparent acrylic and glass will work fine.
Check out Endurance’s guide to possibilities of different laser power outputs.