10 – RF Laser Engraver: What Is The Point Of HYPERDRIVE?

The Tangerine Tiger Series with Russ Sadler

In this Series, Russ has purchased a new 500 x 300mm, 50W laser machine from eBay with a view to modifying and upgrading it. In fact, he rips out the glass laser tube and high voltage power supply and replaces them with an RF laser source and PSU from Cloudray. Find out how this RF Laser Engraver compares to a glass CO2 laser tube and decide for yourself if it’s worth it!

If you are considering purchasing an air cooled CO2 laser machine with an RF laser tube source from one of the big boy suppliers, I would suggest you check out this series before making a decision!


I am beginning to question high speed engraving with an RF CO2 laser. The underlying principle seems to be limited by the power available. The higher the engraving speed the more power is required to match the damage threshold of the material you are marking. That is a simple physics fact. So is high speed engraving with RF a bit of an illusion where the engraving speed is actually low but the acceleration is high.

This video shows how slow speed and high accelerations can yield faster cycle times under certain circumstances and that depth of cut (colour) disappears as speed increases. RF refers to the means by which the beam is generated and not the manner in which the beam is controlled. That control is managed by a simple fixed amplitude PWM signal that allows only duty cycle and frequency control. I will go hunting for some POSITIVES in the next session. Response speed promises to be one.

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RF Laser Engraver - 50% Power at 500mm/s
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Transcript for RF Laser Engraver: What Is The Point Of Hyperdrive?

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0:00welcome to another session with my

0:01little tangerine tiger

0:04baby tabby cat that i discussed last


0:08but today we’ll find out a little bit

0:11more about

0:12what this little beast can do um

0:15i’m very confident that it will run

0:19fast i’m not quite too confident now

0:23that the rf laser will be able to keep

0:25up with this

0:28but we will find out

0:33so the first thing we’ve got to do is to

0:36jump into the vendor settings and

0:38oh no the first thing i’ve got to do

0:42is to apologize to who knows how many


0:46it’s been a hectic couple of weeks

0:48trying to get the new parts of this

0:50shipped to different people now

0:54lots of people have wanted parts many

0:56different combinations of parts

0:58and look i’ve told you before i’ve only

1:01got two grey cells left and sometimes

1:03things slip down between those gray

1:04cells so if

1:06you happen to be one of the people that

1:08i have somehow appear to have

1:10not ignored please excuse me will you

1:13write again and remind me that hey i

1:16have ignored you

1:18b you’re still interested in something

1:21and i will deal with it because the rush

1:22is now

1:24more or less over and i think i can

1:26concentrate on just one or two things at

1:28a time

1:29now if you’ve ordered a mark ii head you

1:32will require

1:33some of these targets to help you set up


1:36now quite a few people i think most


1:40i’ve sent a copy of the targets to even

1:43those people sometimes with a mark one

1:45head which these won’t fit

1:46so if you have not got any of these

1:49targets by the time you come to use your

1:51mark ii head please contact me again

1:54and i will send you the file so you can

1:56make some apologies over

1:58let’s get back to the current project

2:00the primary essence of this machine

Transcript for RF Laser Engraver: What Is The Point Of Hyperdrive? (Cont…)

2:03is to be an engraving machine a fast

2:05engraving machine

2:06we don’t need speed for cutting we only


2:10speed for engraving so what i’ve got on

2:12here i’ve got my compound lens

2:14so i can get the thinnest possible line

2:16and we’re going to do a very

2:18simple test on here to start with to see

2:20how the machine is configured

2:21from the back so i’ve just set that up


2:25about 11.2 i have not got any extraction

2:29on at the moment because we’re not going

2:30to produce huge amounts of

2:32smoke i’ve got the power on here set to

2:3525 kilohertz 100

2:38power there’s no pulsing involved at all

2:41this is

2:41exactly like a glass tube laser now but

2:4530 watts

2:48now you can see what’s happening

2:51we’ve got a large amount of over travel

2:54at the end

2:54of the stroke now how much is that over


3:00well let me do another one and i’ll show

3:01you what i’m going to do to measure the

3:03over travel

3:04i’ve just got a drill here which i’m

3:06going to lay in the bearing track i’m

3:08running the program

3:09at 500 millimeters a second that’s the

3:12top speed

3:13that has been allowed on this machine

3:15and i’ll show you where that’s been


3:18in a few moments so what i’m going to do

3:21is gently

3:22push that

3:29and if you look carefully you’ll see

3:31just there that there’s an

3:33oil mark where the wiper has pushed the


3:37to exactly that place there where my

3:39drill is

3:40i’m going to move very gently onto that


3:43and there we go so now if i put another

3:46pulse down

3:48there that will tell me what the over

3:50travel was between the end of the


3:53and that pulse mark so there’s our

3:55starting reference

3:56500 millimeters a second with a 28

3:59millimeter over

4:00travel quite a few you guys will be

Transcript for RF Laser Engraver: What Is The Point Of Hyperdrive? (Cont…)


4:03reluctant to go in and mess around with

4:05your vendor settings

4:07but let me put your mind at rest file

4:11vendor settings when you go into vendor

4:15settings the first thing you need to do

4:16is press read

4:18and it will read the information back

4:20from the machine

4:22into the pc now when we

4:26take a look at the maximum speed that’s

4:28been set from the factory

4:29it says 500 millimeters a second

4:33do you know what i’m going to change


4:36to 2 000 millimeters a second

4:41you’re joking sure you’re joking well

4:45this is only a safety limit it just

4:48means that when i go

4:49elsewhere in the program and ask for


4:53it won’t ever do 2500 will only ever do

4:562 000 millimeters a second

4:59okay so it all that does is to set

5:02a safety limit it doesn’t control the


5:09now what else can we change in here

5:10right acceleration

5:13now at the moment the acceleration is

5:14set to five

5:16thousand i’m going to change that to

5:21forty thousand forty 000

5:25and right and we’ve only messed around

5:27with the x-axis at the moment yeah while

5:29we’re in here let’s just have a look at

5:30the y-axis doing the y-axis is set to

5:32400 millimeters a second

5:34but we’re taking a bit of weight off the

5:36x-axis so maybe i’ll reset that to 500.

5:40i’m not going to go

5:41too high on the x on the y-axis because

5:43the y-axis is

5:44quite a lot heavier the acceleration on

5:47there is only set to

5:491500 that’s ridiculous

5:52so i’m going to set that to something

5:54like about

5:555 000 so we’re right

5:59so we’ve just all we’ve done is really

6:01allowed the machine now

6:02if we want to run faster so we can exit

6:06from here

6:07and now we can go and reset things as we

6:09need them in the user tab

6:11the first thing we have to do again when

6:13we get in here is to read and you can

6:15see the maximum acceleration in here at

6:17the moment is set to 3 000.

6:19we’re going to put that up to 20 000

6:23remember 3 000 to 20 000

6:2820 000 if i’ve exceeded

6:32the capability of the stepper motor

6:36to accelerate that fast you will hear it

6:39and see it it’s not dangerous

6:42so don’t get worried run exactly the

6:44same program at 500 millimeters a second

6:47but this time the acceleration factor

6:50has gone from three

6:51to twenty

6:59move on to my drill and

7:02pulse i have demonstrated this before

7:05but now you can clearly see

7:07the effect of acceleration

7:11we had 25 28 millimeters it took to slow


7:14stop turn around and come back to do a


7:18look at the relationship between the

7:20distance of

7:21over travel and the distance of actual


7:25it takes longer to slow down and turn

7:28round than it does to actually do the

7:30scan line itself

7:32and that was done with a 3 000


7:35per second per second acceleration

7:39this is the same program with 20

7:42000 millimeters per second per second

7:47i’m not going to push it too much

7:49further than that because

7:51i’m going to now do something

7:52significantly different

7:54i’m going to push the speed up to a


7:58and see whether or not at a thousand

8:00millimeters a second

Transcript for RF Laser Engraver: What Is The Point Of Hyperdrive? (Cont…)

8:02what the effect is with twenty thousand

8:05millimeters a second a second


8:18okay so here we are at a thousand

8:19millimeters a second

8:21and i’m going to now run this with an

8:24acceleration of 30

8:26000 millimeters a second a second

8:30yeah i can see where it is

8:34it’s just there so go from 31 to 23 now

8:41the question is how much further can we

8:43go with the acceleration

8:45should we try 40 000

8:48let’s be silly should we 40 000 you’ve

8:50got to remember that i’ve

8:52lightened this head considerably i’ve

8:53taken all the load off of here and all

8:55we’ve got

8:56is just this one piece of pipe that’s

8:59offering some sort of resistance in that

9:01direction the only mass that we’ve got

9:03is this head here the belt

9:06the inertia of the wheels negligible in

9:10relation to the mass of the head and

9:11we’ll see what happens at

9:1340 000 millimeters a second per second


9:16it will lose steps now

9:20omg it’s gone down to

9:24about 20. so now

9:29where do we push it to have you ever

9:32seen this machine run anywhere near it

9:341500 millimeters a second

9:37let’s give it a try shall we now

9:41i am expecting step loss this time

9:44because i’m asking it to do something

9:46pretty phenomenal 1500 millimeters a


9:49forty thousand acceleration i should

9:52just pause the cycle

9:53if it starts to go bonkers

9:57do you see what i mean you can’t mistake

10:00when it’s losing steps now it’s lost at

Transcript for RF Laser Engraver: What Is The Point Of Hyperdrive? (Cont…)


10:04and we shall have to now reset the

10:07machine so we just do a reset

10:09because it needs to know where zero is

10:11we’ll be a little bit more

10:13um gentle with the machine should we

10:15should we take it to twelve hundred

10:19it’s happy at 1200

10:22okay 1300 millimeters a second

10:29okay so let’s take a look at those

10:30numbers and see what is a reasonable


10:33for us we get 23 millimeter

10:36over travel doing a thousand millimeters

10:39a second with a 30

10:41000 acceleration

10:44if we increase that to 40 000 we can

10:46reduce it from 23

10:48to 20. i think that’s about the best

10:53that we found

10:53to be honest

10:57a thousand millimeters a second we start

11:00going up to 1200 millimeters a second

11:02which is a faster speed

11:04but we get more over travel so i don’t

11:06think there’s a net gain there in terms

11:08of cycle time

11:09in mind this is the same program this is

11:12500 millimeters a second

11:15this is a thousand millimeters a second

11:18and this is 1300 millimeters a second

11:21do you notice anything quite significant

11:23that’s happened

11:24the power is the same the focus is the

11:27same acceleration

11:28has no effect on the color

11:31that you see on the pattern this

11:34absolutely confirms what i was telling


11:38last time when we were talking about

11:42speed being the major controlling factor

11:46you do not have any control of power on

11:48this machine to get any reasonable color

11:52we can forget 1300 which we could run at

11:56we could even forget a thousand

12:02we’ve run out a puff beyond 500

Transcript for RF Laser Engraver: What Is The Point Of Hyperdrive? (Cont…)

12:07we just don’t have the power to burn

12:10this wood

12:10even with this very very sharp lens

12:13let’s take a look at these under the


12:16now what we’ve got here is a 0.1 wide

12:20reference line so i think you’ll

12:22probably see that these lines here at

12:24500 millimeters a second

12:27are pretty close to 0.1 because we’re

12:30going in

12:30quite deep and we’re going slow

12:33so the lower power part of the beam the

12:36gaussian shape of the beam

12:38as getting a chance to scorch rather


12:42burn okay now that’s at 500 millimeters

12:44a second

12:45let’s move up to a thousand millimeters

12:48a second

12:48and see what the difference is pretty

12:50close to one you’ll notice how

12:53relatively speaking light it is let’s go

12:56up to

12:57thirteen hundred millimeters a second oh

13:00we’re going so fast but look how faint

13:04they are we’re distributing the power

13:07so thinly we’re sharing that power that

13:10we haven’t got any depth of cut there

13:13there’s nothing i can do to increase the


13:17because i’m running at 100 power already

13:19i’m afraid that on

13:21hardboard it’s very difficult to see

13:24what’s actually going on

13:25so what i’m going to do i’m going to

13:27change to a piece of card

13:29and i hope that you’ll see the

13:31difference on

13:32a piece of white card just set the focus

13:35to eleven

13:37point two

13:43and run the same thing again

13:50just beside that i’ll run 100

13:58well there is a slight difference

13:59between 100

Transcript for RF Laser Engraver: What Is The Point Of Hyperdrive? (Cont…)

14:01and 50 but let’s go and look at it under

14:05the microscope because maybe

14:07your eye is actually not seeing it quite


14:11well there they are side by side that’s

14:1450 percent

14:16and that’s 100

14:19not a lot of difference if i


14:29this from 25 000 to 1000

14:38okay now we do exactly the same test


14:42now we’re running slowly you can see the


14:4650 pulses 50 on 50

14:49off but look at the color of the pulse

14:53we’ve changed the frequency and all

14:56we’ve done

14:57is actually change the rate at which the

14:59pulses are going down

15:01we compare that with 50

15:05at 25 kilohertz not a lot of difference

15:09at 100 there is no difference regardless

15:12of the frequency they’re switched on 100

15:16of the time and running 30 watts at 1300

15:20millimeters a second

15:21the only reason we’re getting a change

15:23of color is because of the speed

15:26so let’s back that speed off from 1300

15:29to 500 we’re still on 50 50 remember

15:32still on slow speed the only thing that

15:34we changed

15:35is the speed

15:42so that is 500 millimeters a second

15:45let’s do it at 100 and compare that at

15:48this end

15:54i don’t think we really need any further

15:56proof than that

16:01i mean we can go and look at this under

Transcript for RF Laser Engraver: What Is The Point Of Hyperdrive? (Cont…)

16:02the microscope and it will it will be


16:05like that but look as we get faster

16:10they are all approximately the same


16:14the big change is when we change the

16:16speeds is one kilohertz

16:18this is 25 kilohertz so the kilohertz

16:22has no effect 50 100

16:2550 100 there is no difference

16:29what i’ve just proved is the theory that

16:31we talked about

16:32last time this machine operates on a

16:34very simple

16:35what they call pwm principle it has a

16:38square wave

16:40which is the pulse width modulation

16:43wave that looks like that that

16:47frequency can range anything from zero

16:50so i’m told to 25

16:54000 hertz cycles a second now to make

16:57life easy for myself

16:59i’ve written a very simple little

17:00program here so we can just instantly

17:02get the results

17:04at a frequency of 25 000 hertz

17:07the pulse length one cycle has 40

17:11micro seconds and if we use 50

17:15power we’ve got 20 microseconds of

17:19on power and 20 microseconds of

17:22off power if this is a 25 000 kilohertz


17:26that’s one cycle and it takes 40

17:31microseconds now this laser

17:35only operates at one power

17:3830 watts whatever the power is that’s

17:41all you get

17:44in this mode of operation there is no

17:46change to the power

17:48at all the power is always

17:5530 watts

17:59and those 30 watts can either be on

Transcript for RF Laser Engraver: What Is The Point Of Hyperdrive? (Cont…)

18:06or off

18:10at the moment this is set here

18:13to be 50 power

18:17on and 50 power

18:20off and that’s what those patterns were

18:24that you saw

18:25the dashes on

18:28dash on dash on

18:32if we move it slow enough the speed is

18:35fast enough

18:36so that we can actually see these on off


18:42but every one of those pulses is

18:4530 watts now we spoke last time about

18:49damaging material

18:52here’s our piece of material

18:55when we’ve got 30 watts

18:58on we can damage the material by

19:01that amount and those are the dashes

19:05that you’ve seen the only thing is

19:10those dashes are not

19:13dependent upon power

19:18those dashes are dependent upon time

19:22now we can make

19:25the dashes longer or shorter

19:29by changing the percent power

19:33so the percent power is not really

19:36changing the power at all

19:38it’s changing the average power because

19:41if i draw a line through here like that

19:45i’ve got 50 more power there than i have


19:50so that 50 and that 50 join up

19:53and we’ve got on average 15 watts

19:58not 30 watts we’ve got 30 watts in a


Transcript for RF Laser Engraver: What Is The Point Of Hyperdrive? (Cont…)

20:02but on average we’ve got 15 watts

20:05but we’re not using average watts to


20:09this channel we’re making this pit here

20:13with 30 watts

20:16there is nothing here to make a pit so

20:19there won’t be any pits and this is the

20:21point i’m

20:21really trying to get over to you and

20:23approved today

20:25that the depth of this cut here

20:28is dependent upon speed

20:34we’ve got a constant power that’s on

20:37and if it’s constant we should get a

20:39constant depth of cut

20:43the only thing that can change that cut

20:45is either the power which we can’t

20:48change because it’s fixed

20:50or the speed so if we run

20:53over that pit at twice the speed

20:57we’ll get half the depth of cut

21:01and that’s why at 500 millimeters a


21:09we get a cut like that and at 1300

21:12millimeters a second

21:14we get a cut like

21:19that a different depth a different color

21:23so the color of the cut the amount that

21:26you burn

21:27has got nothing to do with power

21:30we’re stuck with 30 watts

21:34if we start sharing it out we get less

21:37and less color and we share it out

21:40by running faster it’s exactly like

21:45passing your hand over a candle flame

21:48the faster you pass it over

21:49the less it will hurt the faster you

21:51pass it over the less it will damage

21:55so that means that we’ve got to run this

21:57machine slowly

21:59to get color

Transcript for RF Laser Engraver: What Is The Point Of Hyperdrive? (Cont…)

22:03and that seems to defeat the object of

22:05having a fast machine

22:08yes i’ve shown you the machine can run

22:11very fast

22:12but we’re not going to get any benefit

22:14from running fast

22:16this is not rocket science this is fact

22:20and the big boys are either using a more

22:23powerful laser

22:25to get their results they’re certainly

22:27not using a 30 watt laser

22:30because we’re not going to be able to

22:32run at 1300 millimeters a second get a

22:34decent color

22:36maybe if we add 60 watts we might be

22:38able to do it i think

22:40that’s the main reason why i’m saying

22:41this is less of a tiger and more of a

22:43tabby cat

22:44yeah we can do something but we’re going

22:47to have to do it

22:49at that sort of speed which is not much


22:52to what we could do with the standard


22:56glass tube machine but this is just an

22:59initial disappointment which

23:01i theorized last time proved this time

23:04and i’m reinforcing yet again the reason


23:08it’s not as dramatic as i thought it

23:11might be

23:13the confusing issue is color comes with

23:17speed and not with percent


23:25that doesn’t work that’s about as much

23:28as i’ve got patience for today

23:29i’ve got to go away and have a think

23:31about where we go next

23:34so until the next time thank you very


23:37and i’ll catch up with you then

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Last updated April 25, 2024


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