22 – Air Assist – The Ultimate Answer (14:19)

The Lightblade Learning Lab with Russ Sadler

The Lightblade Learning Lab is a series of videos that Russ did for Thinklaser Limited based on using the Lightblade 4060 Laser Cutting and Engraving Machine. Thinklasers Lightblade 4060 has a 400 x 600mm bed size and was supplied with a 60W EFR laser tube. In this session, Russ develops his own Ultimate laser cutter with air assist project.

Ultimate laser cutter with air assist project
Ultimate laser cutter with air assist project

Contents

  • Follow up from last video – how to engrave one way and cut another – one way is to change the programming
  • Going back to RDWorks and save two programs – one with the engraving layer set with ‘Is Output’ to ‘no’ and one with the outline layer set with ‘Is Output’ to ‘no’.
  • Running the engraving program without air assist and the cut outline program with it on.
  • Trying a different approach to the problem. Set both layers to ‘Is Output’ to ‘yes’ and add an object that will not actually be cut but which will give you time to open the lid and switch the air assist on.
  • Using the ‘If Blowing’ feature to switch off the air assist for the engraving
  • The solenoid air control feature on the laser and Russ’s modification of it cutting a slice of bread!

My thanks go out to Tom at Thinklaser for giving permission to embed these videos on this site. If you are looking for a new laser machine from a quality supplier, then I would suggest you check out their website: www.thinklaser.com.

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Video Resource Files for Ultimate laser cutter with air assist project.

The Ultimate Air Assist

The Ultimate Air Assist Mk 2

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External Resource Links for Ultimate laser cutter with air assist project.

www.thinklaser.com

www.rdworkslab.com

What can a laser cutter cut?

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Transcript for Ultimate laser cutter with air assist project.

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00:15

Welcome to another Lightblade learning lab, what we see here is basically where

00:21

we finished off on the last session we had a dilemma…. we need full air assist

00:27

for cutting and no air assist for engraving to get optimum results, so

00:34

where you have a composite job like this how are we going to solve this problem?

00:39

There are three possible solutions that i can think of; the first solution which

00:46

we’re going to talk about is to break this program into two so we’ll run two

00:51

programs a bit messy but doable we’ll go back to RDWorks and we will modify this

00:57

program to deal with the issue. Here’s our original program all we’ve got to do

01:02

is something very simple, if we go to the cut layer parameters is output yes. We’ll

01:09

swap that to no, that’s all we have to do and I shall save this to a USB stick

01:14

and now we go to the scan layer is output? No and we save that as a

01:21

program ok well here we are back with our trial material so that we’ve got all

01:28

the data that we need for comparison right now we’ve got the air extraction

01:33

on so we’ve got a through flow of air we’ll turn the air assist off

01:40

and we’ll close the door

01:44

you can hopefully see the smoke being drawn away quite efficiently

01:50

and it stops and now without doing anything else I’m just going to change

01:55

the program to the cut program and I’m also going to turn the air assist back

Transcript for Ultimate laser cutter with air assist project (Cont…)

02:02

on

02:08

and there we go, pain free, not a bad cut around the outside no

02:15

serious browning on there but a little bit so that’s quite a nice clean job and

02:24

nothing on the back

02:27

okay now that’s one way that you can solve this problem break it into two programs here

02:35

is a slightly more elegant way of dealing with the problem I say slightly

02:41

more because basically what we’re going to do now is we’re going to put both

02:45

layers back to outputting so we’ve put the cup and the scan back to normal so

02:52

they’re both operating on the same program still on different layers

02:54

because we need different parameters but they’re operating in the same program

02:58

even though it’s shown up here as second in the list etching will always take

03:03

precedence over cutting okay so what I’m now going to do is I’m just going to put

03:08

an object in it doesn’t really matter what it is just out here somewhere I’m

03:13

going to put that circle on a different layer we’re going to put it on a red

03:17

layer and we’re going to make it a cut yes output yes speed so this is not a

03:28

walk away job this is a stand by the machine job and we’re going to make that

03:33

speed operate at say something fairly slow maybe two millimeters a second two

03:39

millimeters per second and the power well we’re going to set the power down

03:44

to one percent now one percent is not going to cut so what’s going to happen

03:52

in this instance when it gets to the red layer it’s going to go out here and it’s

03:58

very slowly at two millimetres a second going to traverse around this circle

Transcript for Ultimate laser cutter with air assist project (Cont…)

04:01

now when you see it going out there what you’re going to do is you’re either

04:05

going to press the pause button or you’re going to lift the lid and then

04:10

you’re going to turn the air assist on so you start off with the air assist off

04:17

and then you turn it on now in this particular instance we’ve got to make

04:22

sure that things happen in the right order so we want the black layer to

04:27

happen after the red layer and we’ll just test that to make sure it’s all

04:32

working okay

04:37

wrong I haven’t got anything set up in my cut optimise I always leave mine

04:43

completely open if you remember and so what I normally do i do cut optimize and

04:51

i’ll set the cutting properties now i know what i want to do i won’t have a

04:54

choice about doing this but we should have to put it in first and then we want

04:59

to do this element here next and then finally we want to do the outside – job

05:06

done now it will work. Right so this next test we need the air assist off because

05:13

we’re going to the engraving to start with, close the door

05:22

now we don’t have to panic because you’ll see the Machine at the end of the engraving will

05:28

go to the corner and we get ready with the pause button to pause the cycle

05:32

there we go, it’s starting to go round a circle and if I let it go again look

05:37

you’ll see that it’s not actually cutting, see that very slowly

05:42

now that means we can stop at this point neat program turn the air assist on

05:51

and close the door again and press the pause button to start

Transcript for Ultimate laser cutter with air assist project (Cont…)

06:16

so that’s another alternative way

06:22

but as I was drawing that program I had a light bulb moment

06:32

I was going to show you something else, another way of achieving the same result

06:37

when all of a sudden I felt like a real idiot

06:45

there’s been a key by that door that I’ve been walking by for the last two years

06:54

I didn’t realise that that key unlocked that door! Back in RDWorks and we’ll

07:01

open up the cutting parameters for this particular little project and if we

07:07

start from the top we see we’re on the scan layer and it asked the question is

07:11

output yes well we know what that means do you want to actually produce a

07:15

program for this layer or not and we’re going to set the speed as fast as we can

07:21

and then we’ve got this question here is blowing no it says “if blowing” it’s the

07:29

same question is blowing and we have the choice of answering it yes or no now

07:35

from day one when i started using RDWworks I could never puzzle out why this

07:41

question was here first of all if you could switch the blowing on and off and

07:47

I didn’t know whether the blowing initially was to do with the extraction

07:52

system or the air assist system being Chinese it could have been either but in

07:57

reality what it is asking is do you want the air assist on or off logic says that

Transcript for Ultimate laser cutter with air assist project (Cont…)

08:04

you always want it on because if you turn it off then you could finish up

08:11

smoking the lens as we found out from our experiments although basically I’ve

08:15

turned the air assist off I haven’t fully turned it off there’s a certain

08:21

amount of leakage past the valve which is actually making sure there’s positive

08:25

pressure flowing out of the nozzle and hence protecting the lens so although

08:30

I’ve got it turned off I haven’t really it’s just regulated right the way down

08:35

to almost nothing but we’ve got this question here which asks us do we want

08:40

blowing or not technically we don’t want blowing so let’s answer that question no

08:49

we’re in scan mode we’re going to do that at thirty percent power and thirty

08:53

percent power okay now let’s check the cut mode and here again is output yes we

09:03

do want the output speed we’ve set is blowing if blowing yes or no well

09:11

this is cutting and we know absolutely that for cutting we need air assist and

09:18

as much of it as we can get so we leave that set to yes and we’re running at

09:25

sixty-seven percent power so let’s save that program and go and see what it does

09:29

for there’s six trial we’re going to try something completely different and I

09:35

think you might find this rather interesting, no I hope we’re not going to

09:40

get any flames, but hey let’s see what happens? I’m going to close the lid, because bear in mind

09:47

with engraving we need to blow across the surface

Transcript for Ultimate laser cutter with air assist project (Cont…)

10:27

okay that was interesting wasn’t it now I purposely used this very light laser

10:35

cutting hardboard or MDF because I wanted to exaggerate the situation I

10:43

would like you to see just how smoke-free the inside and the outside of

10:49

the letters are and the cut round the edge is not bad either but the cut

10:54

around the edge we can now have a go at doing something about because the two

10:58

processes are separate but together how did I achieve that? So you’ve seen how

11:07

we’ve programmed to create this lovely end result, how have we done it on the

11:13

machine itself well what we’ve done we’ve got a 24 volt solenoid valve, it’s a

11:19

two-way three port valve, and basically what happens is this, the air

11:24

comes in and in a normal rest condition like we are at the moment we’ve got no

11:31

air passing through here, well I say no air, we’ve basically got a very limited

11:38

flow through this restricter here and it’s just enough

11:43

to bubble past the nozzle and give the lens protection. RDWorks

11:48

is “if Bowing” and you answer yes what you’re really doing is switching on this

11:54

solenoid valve changing this direction of flow from here to here and it passes

Transcript for Ultimate laser cutter with air assist project (Cont…)

12:00

straight through the valve and you get full flow through the nozzle now you can

12:05

regulate that flow with the ball valve that is still adjacent to the head so

12:10

if you want half flow or quarter flow you can do that with the ball valve still

12:16

but basically what you’ve got the option here are doing is yes is cutting and

12:22

no is engravings and now you can combine both of those into one program

12:28

by setting the layers with different blowing parameters after we’ve looked at

12:34

these engraving trials and cutting trials all of a sudden it’s become clear

12:39

what this function is and I’ve had to modify the machine myself to make it

12:44

happen now this is not something that either Thinklaser or any other

12:49

Chinese machine that I’m aware of has fitted as standard but I daresay that

12:54

if you really do need this approach to engraving then you could probably ask

12:59

for Thinklaser to fit it as an optional extra I mean I know that they

13:04

modify their machine to suit all customer requirements you can ask them

13:09

to do anything you know if you want to bake cakes on this machine, they can

13:12

probably do that for you as well

13:34

it’s not quite baking a cake but it’s close thanks a lot for joining me today

13:40

I hope that’s been a very interesting session I did say that I was on a

13:46

journey of discovery and hey I’ve certainly discovered something maybe

13:51

there are many guys out there in the laser world that already knew this they

13:55

haven’t told me so I’ve had to find out for myself and along the way well this

Transcript for Ultimate laser cutter with air assist project (Cont…)

14:03

little trial, tastes a bit smoky

14:12

anyway

14:15

I’ll see you in the next session…

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