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The Possibilities with Diode Lasers

Posted August 12, 2019

There are a ton of different things you can do with a diode laser. So, in this article I want to take a look at some of my favorite projects that I’ve done so far with my 10W diode laser mounted to my CR-10.

Engraving on Glass

If you’re like me, you would never think that a 10W blue diode laser can engrave on glass. Surely the melting point of glass is way higher than what this laser can achieve. And yes, the melting point it higher, but still you can actually engrave on glass quite easily.

The way it works is, that the laser heats up the glass in one tiny spot. This then creates tiny fractures, which are nicely visible when you arrange them in the pattern of your design. If you go slow enough, you can even have the top bit of the glass break away completely, just leaving a rough surface that breaks the light differently than the rest of the bottle.

Image credit: David Wieland

How to set it up

As with every engraving project, you will need your design, that you want to engrave on the piece. Something to consider is, that with glass you can’t produce too fine details. So, make sure, that your design is big enough to be clearly visible. In terms of speed, I did some tests on my 10W laser and found that anything between about 100mm/min down to 20mm/min works fine.

Image credit: David Wieland

Image credit: David Wieland

If you go faster, you will just create surface cracks, which look milky white. If you go slower, you can actually have the top layer break away, which creates a slight recess and looks a bit more like the color of the glass. One neat thing is, that you can combine the two settings and create a two-tone finish.

Creating flexible Plywood

I had seen many pictures online before, of people using a laser to make plywood ‘flexible’, but never tired it myself. So, in this adventure, that’s exactly what I’m doing. It actually turned out to be not all that complicated, mainly requiring many parallel cuts in the wood that are offset to each other.

What comes out is quite remarkable. It isn’t just a little bit flexible but can be bent completely 180 degrees in a quite tight radius. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities, with everything from bracelets, to full on clothing.

Image credit: David Wieland

How to do it

I used illustrator to design my piece, but any other vector editing tool would work as well. What you want to do after you made the outline of your design, is to find the areas that you want to make flexible. With 4mm plywood, I would recommend at least 3cm for every 90 degrees you want to bend the wood. In thinner wood, of course you need less, and in thicker wood more.

Next you want to add a bunch of lines parallel to each other, with a small gap every 3cm or so. The spacing between the lines should be about the thickness of your plywood or a bit less. Then make sure the gaps between the lines are offset, so you get a pattern that looks a bit like the image.

Image credit: David Wieland

The cutting

To cut the pieces I am using my standard settings for my 10W laser. These are 170mm/min with two passes. I also turn on the air assist, and step down 1mm between the passes. For me this gives the cleanest results.

More ideas

Of course, you aren’t just limited to achieving the flexibility with straight lines. This fundamental technique of making a hinge by having long thin parts can be applied to many more shapes. I’ve seen waves, flowers, triangles, and many more. You can also play around with the length of the lines, trying to find the balance between flexibility and strength.

Overall this is a very interesting technique, which you can use to give your projects a special spin. It is quite impressive when you see if for the first time and can actually hold it in your hand.

Making Metal Business Cards

I came across these very cheap metal business card blanks on eBay, so I had to try them out. They come in a variety of colors, so whatever your preference is, you’re covered. Other than that, they are really thin, probably about the same as one made out of paper, so they don’t take up too much space in your wallet.

The only thing to keep in mind is that they of course are a lot heavier, so if you carry a lot of them, you’ll feel it. The durability isn’t the best, you can easily kink them if you want, but it’s certainly usable.

Image credit: David Wieland

How it works

When engraving on these cards, you are stripping away the paint where you hit with the laser. This is quite easy and doesn’t take too long or that much power. On my 10W Laser I used 70% power at 700mm/min, which is about the fastest that makes sense with my setup.

The only thing you need to make sure, is to set the interval to at most 0.1mm. With engraving wood and other things, I can get away with 0.15mm, but when I tried that with these cards, I was able to see lines on the engraved part.

Image credit: David Wieland

Things to consider

To make sure the design is perfectly centered, I engraved the outline of the business card on a piece of wood first, then placed the card there and used the same work coordinates. This gets you very close to perfect.

You will still want to oversize your design a bit though, if you want it to go all the way to the edge, to ensure you don’t get a small border. This is especially important if you invert the design and laser everything except the design and logo away.

The results

Overall, I am very pleased with the results, especially the inverted one looks really sharp and professional. You can tell even more there that it actually is a metal card and not plastic. If you are looking for some unique business cards, I can definitely recommend this. Just keep in mind that it does take quite a while, even at 700mm/min.

About the author (David Wieland):

I am a tinkerer, hacker, DIYer, and YouTuber. I do everything from 3D printing, to laser engraving, CNC, or even woodworking, as long as it has something to do with making. I also make videos for the Endurance Lasers YouTube channel.



Article received via Endurance Lasers

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