Number 04 – RDWorks Learning Lab 075 – What have I learned from 1 year of owning a Chinese Laser Engraver

The Top Ten RDWorks Learning Lab Videos

These are the top ten RDWorks Learning Lab Videos ranked by average number of views per month. In this Session, Russ Sadler gives an overview of his first year of ownership of a Chinese laser engraver.


  • My early mistakes with eBay tubes
  • My great experience of buying a new tube and power supply
  • Chart of tube power characteristic sowing 70watt output.
  • Non linearity of Laser tube output.
  • Understand your laser tubes current limits and fit an ammeter to monitor it
  • Summary explanation of how a Laser tube works
  • Don’t use 100% power EVER. If no ammeter then stop at 65%
  • Discussion of axis speeds
  • Converting the machine into a “dream machine”
  • Cheap temperature control relays
  • Look at my ONE YEAR OLD distilled water. Still pristine.
  • Look at the water temperature control system.
  • Failed bouncy castle fan….motor burn out
  • New fan very noisy. Needed a silencer.
  • New air higher volume assist pump for future fitting
  • Quick look at my home made copper mirrors
  • I would not have learnt as much if the machine had been perfect
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Laser Cabinet of a Chinese Laser Engraver Machine
Laser Cabinet of a Chinese Laser Engraver Machine

Transcript for 1 year of owning a Chinese Laser Engraver

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0:00well welcome to another RDWorks

0:02learning Lab this is Russ normally you

0:06only see these bits and maybe a little

0:08bit of this sometimes but today you’ve

0:11got the whole of me because we’re doing

0:12a review for one year I’ve had the

0:16machine just over a year now and it

0:21basically quite a good machine during

0:25the past year I’ve learned a hell of a

0:27lot about this machine and also a great

0:31deal about the way in which the Chinese

0:33operate and sell these machines on ebay

0:35now anybody that’s watching this and

0:39thinking about buying a machine the only

0:43thing that I would say to you is you’re

0:45not going to get quite what you expected

0:48if you buy a 50 watt machine it’ll be

0:52fitted with an 800 millimeter long 40

0:56watt laser tube they don’t have a 50 watt

0:58power supply in it but the laser tube that’s

1:02fitted won’t be very good it’ll work for

1:09a week a month six months

1:15but be prepared when you buy one of

1:18these machines to think about the cost

1:21of replacing the laser tube because that’s

1:24something you’re going to have to do

1:26fairly shortly after you’ve purchased

1:28the machine because either the laser tube

1:31won’t work or you’ll be very unhappy

1:32with its overall performance I kept my

1:36first laser tube for something like about six

1:40weeks and then I purchased a second laser tube

1:43which was to be honest not a lot better

1:48because at that point in time I was very

1:49naive and I didn’t understand how the

1:52Chinese system worked and I bought a

1:55replacement laser tube and it was a

1:57replacement almost like for like so I

Transcript for 1 year of owning a Chinese Laser Engraver (Cont…)

2:01replaced rubbish with a little bit

2:03better rubbish and I soldiered on making

2:07my series up to about eight months where

2:10I tried to use the laser tube as a learning

2:14aid to try and investigate just how

2:17these machines work why the tubes up

2:19rated in the way that they did and

2:22eventually after eight months I bought

2:25myself a proper upgrade and as you might

2:28be able to see in the background this

2:30white lump hanging out at the back of

2:31the machine here is the extension for my

2:34proper 60 watt – well I ordered a 60

2:37watt laser tube but because I’ve done a little

2:40bit of negotiation beforehand we’d

2:42managed rather the people that I bought

2:44it from

2:46I think they saw the potential in in

2:49this particular channel that you’re

2:51watching and so in fact they sent me a

2:5370 watt laser tube instead of a 60 watt laser tube

2:56now that was both great and not great at

3:00the same time because a 60 watt laser tube is

3:031,200 millimeters long and I had built

3:07my little case here extended to take a

3:111200 millimeter long laser tube when the tube

3:14arrived and it was 1,250 millimeters

3:16long was I going to complain no I

3:20finished up remaking this so I’m

3:26actually very lucky in that I’ve got a

3:2870 watt laser tube and a proper 70 watt tube

3:30in this machine I bought a power supply

3:33to go with it and it’s an absolute dream

3:36I just absolutely love coming out here

3:38just turning on the switch dialing in

3:40some numbers and I get what I asked for

3:43now I’m just going to show you this

3:44because this is the calibration chart

3:47for the machine in other words the power

3:51characteristic is actually quite steep

3:53up to this point here which is something

3:56in the region of about 25 percent power

3:58so after this point although the

Transcript for 1 year of owning a Chinese Laser Engraver (Cont…)

4:01milliamps are going up nice and steadily

4:02most of the gain in power is happening

4:05around this first third of the range and

4:08then we got to another two thirds of the

4:10range and we get to somewhere in the

4:12region of about 65 percent here and this

4:15is 22 milliamps which is the typical

4:17running current for a 60 watt tube and

4:20I’m up here just at about 70 watts so

4:23the tube delivers exactly what it says

4:25and I’m extremely pleased with it the

4:28only reason I’m showing you that

4:29characteristic is because a lot of

4:32people think that when i dial in 10% i

4:35get 10% power and when i dial in 20% i

4:38get 20% power

4:39why not dial in 80% like 80 percent of

4:42whatever the tube power is it’s a nice

4:45idea but it doesn’t work that way

4:47because of the non-linearity of the

4:48output of the tube so just remember that

4:52the other big lesson that I learnt

4:55was not to over stress the tube know

4:58what the current is that you’re supposed

5:00to be putting through attitude and make

5:02sure that you fit an ammeter to your

5:05machine now this is the best friend that

5:08you’re going to have because it would

5:09stop you destroying your tube now when

5:12you’re buying one of these machines you

5:16think you’re buying a 50 watt machine

5:19but in fact you’re buying a 40 watt tube

5:21a 40 watt tube should be run at 18

5:25milliamps maximum a 50 watt tube at 20

5:28milliamps maximum and a 60 watt tube

5:31typically 22 milliamps of maximum those

5:35are typical figures that you want to

5:36stick to and then you will not be over

5:39stressing or what they call overdriving

5:41the tube now I did a very in-depth study

5:44partway through the year of how a tube

5:46works and if you just put too much

5:50current through the tube you start

5:52causing the gas within the tube to break

5:55down into carbon monoxide and oxygen now

Transcript for 1 year of owning a Chinese Laser Engraver (Cont…)

6:00in a few moments you’ll see the tube

6:02going pink there we go that pink is

6:04basically the idea the nitrogen being

6:06ionized it’s got nothing to do with the

6:09co2 that’s in there the fact that the

6:11nitrogen is excited brings the co2 into

6:15play just because you’ve got a pink beam

6:17doesn’t mean to say you’re going to get

6:19power out at this end of the beam here

6:20the pink beam is a necessary mechanism

6:22to make the lasing action happen but the

6:26lasing action is all dependent upon the

6:28co2 that’s in the gas mix now if you put

6:32too much current through your tube then

6:35what happens is this nitrogen excited as

6:38is has so much energy that it will start

6:41breaking down the co2 into carbon

6:44monoxide and oxygen and over a fairly

6:47short period of time if you start over

6:50driving your tube continuously then you

6:53will destroy all the carbon dioxide in

6:55that tube it will still glow pink but

6:58you’ll have less and less power coming

6:59out of this end of the tube

7:01so just heed that warning because I

7:03destroyed my first tube by doing exactly

7:06that not understanding

7:07that 100% was in the machine but you

7:11can’t use it so it’s very important that

7:13you understand you control your machine

7:15by whatever the maximum current is now

7:19it could be that you get to your maximum

7:21current of 18 milliamps and you can only

7:23use maybe 50 or 60% as the number that

7:27you can use well 60 percent is the

7:29maximum number that you’ll be able to

7:31use because 60 percent equals your

7:32maximum current 100 percent will start

7:35shortening a tube life dramatically so

7:38just a warning don’t go there

7:41it wasn’t until partway through my

7:43second tube that I realized my mistake

7:45and by then it was getting a bit too

7:48late anyway and my second tube was not a

7:50very good performer anyway so basically

7:52that’s the first and most important

7:54lesson that I’ve learnt this year that

7:56the Chinese oversell their machines and

7:59you don’t get what you’re expecting you

Transcript for 1 year of owning a Chinese Laser Engraver (Cont…)

8:00need to buy the smallest machine that is

8:03big enough to do your job this

8:06particular size that I’ve got here 3450

8:08is actually a super size because

8:12everything is small and light and it

8:14moves around quickly it hasn’t got very

8:15much mass the next size up starts to get

8:18bigger stepper motors bigger beams that

8:21everything gets heavier and the whole

8:23thing has to get mechanically bigger

8:25because it gets bigger so with this

8:27machine we’ve got five hundred

8:28millimetres of a second that we can use

8:30in this axis and 400 millimeters a

8:32second that we can use in this axis and

8:34I do find when I’m even running at 4 or

8:38500 millimeters a second on scanning I

8:40get very little problems of overshoot or

8:43anything like that it’s a really tight

8:44little machine to use so I’m really very

8:47pleased with the mechanics of this the

8:50other thing about it is if you buy this

8:52as a 50 watt machine it’ll come with a

8:5440 watt – as you can see with a small

8:56amount of extension over here I can put

8:5960 watts into this machine and all of a

9:02sudden it becomes an absolute dream of a

9:03machine I bought my power supply direct

9:06from from China and it cost me about

9:10just over 200 pounds for a power supply

9:12and a 2

9:14excellent value for money but it also

9:16cost me just over the same amount two

9:18hundred pounds plus to get it from there

9:20to here via DHL it arrived in four days

9:23super but it doubled the price but I’m

9:28not complaining couple of three other

9:30things I need to just quickly talk about

9:32first of all we can see down here I just

9:36move my power measuring device oh the

9:43last time you saw this instrumentation I

9:45probably had a rather expensive

9:48microprocessor controlled temperature

9:50display at the top here I borrowed it

9:52off of a job and after six months the

9:55client came along and he wanted to build

9:57his machine so I don’t take it off my

9:59machine and redo this so what I’ve now

Transcript for 1 year of owning a Chinese Laser Engraver (Cont…)

10:01got is a very cheap little meter here

10:05which is around about six or eight pound

10:07for a digital thermometer with its own

10:11temperature probe and it’s got a relay

10:12in it so I can use it to control various

10:15things around the machine I’m using it

10:17to control lights for heating during the

10:19winter now this tank as you can see it’s

10:25hanging on the lid just going to turn

10:27the hold of the Machine off and I’m

10:30going to take the lid off of this tank

10:31snug fit everything’s a snug fit and

10:35normally what I’ll do maybe once a month

10:39I’ll take this out use it as a dip stick

10:41which is my thermometer and I’ll both

10:46smell and feel the water now this is

10:49distilled water I will just take that

10:58off there for the time being just

11:01because it’s easy to move it we take a

11:04look in here and what do we see in there

11:08clean water now this is distilled water

11:13and I just taste it

11:17tastes perfectly fine to me it’s clean

11:21it’s clear and would you believe it it’s

11:25been in there for a year now I haven’t

11:28even topped it up it’s getting a little

11:31bit low so this is the first time in one

11:34year that I’ve opened this lid some

11:46people are finding it difficult to get

11:47hold of but the easiest place to get

11:48distilled water is at the pharmacy so I

11:51just thought you’d be interested to know

11:52in this particular country most of the

11:54year we’re anything between 10 8 on a

Transcript for 1 year of owning a Chinese Laser Engraver (Cont…)

12:00really hot day we might get up to 28 or

12:0330 degrees C but that is very very rare

12:05you can see the ambient temperature in

12:08that water is 23 if we take a look

12:11here’s the return line here and you’ll

12:15see that I’ve got my temperature probe

12:17strapped to the end here so the water

12:20returning from the tube passes down here

12:22and over that NTC measuring probe that’s

12:27about 5 pounds for a 5 liters but I’ve

12:31spent 10 pound and it will probably last

12:33me another year so 5 pounds a year is

12:36not bad for a water cooling system as

12:39you can see it holds something in the

12:42region of around about 9 liters my

12:44system here and I find that perfectly

12:46adequate to deal with my 60-watt too

12:48because I don’t use it continuously

12:50I’m not production shop I’m just playing

12:53so it’s very rare that I used my machine

12:56for more than maybe two three hours at a

12:58time those were the guys will have

13:00noticed that I have removed my

13:03extraction plan my centrifugal bouncy

13:06castle fan a word of warning a couple of

13:11weeks ago it started smoking the fan

13:17stopped working

13:19well I burnt the motor oh how did I do

13:22that well if we take a look here

13:25something I forgot to do I forgot to

13:28remove the grill

13:30and we got also lots of little bits of

13:31paper and dust stuck on the grill it was

13:36seriously restricting the airflow and

13:39I’ve had to replace it with a much more

13:41powerful fan now purely because it was

13:45cheap and plastic and more powerful the

13:50only problem is the more powerful fan

13:53it sucks better but it also makes a lot

13:57of noise as you can hear it’s got a

Transcript for 1 year of owning a Chinese Laser Engraver (Cont…)

14:00really annoying wine which is going to

14:03annoy everybody including yourself

14:08and so what I’ve had to do

14:11I’ve had to go for myself

14:13silence ebooks

14:24and watching the sea down at the bottom

14:26there is where the air is now coming out

14:28so consequently what I can do is I can

14:31close my workshop door

14:34just about there

14:37it’s now down to a whisper out here so

14:40it’s not too bad at all this is still

14:42that wine there but it’s not a terrible

14:44loud wine now so that’s a significant

14:51change that I’ve had to make no just

14:54underneath here you’ll see I’ve actually

14:56purchased a bigger air assist pump now

15:03it delivers about probably 10 times as

15:06much flow as this one but at the end of

15:09the day but the time you try and force

15:11it down the pipe work you can only get

15:13about twice as much flow through the

15:14through the nozzle but this one has been

15:17working for a year now and it’s been

15:19working quite hard and somehow I think

15:22it seems to be little bit labored so I

15:24thought well I’ll get this one so that

15:26when this one packs up I could fit this

15:29one so in the not-too-distant future

15:31there will be a video of me fitting and

15:33testing that as a part of improving the

15:37general performance of this machine I

15:39finished up making my own copper mirrors

15:41and those copper mirrors have been in

15:43here for about five months now yeah

15:47February March April May June July

15:50August yeah best part of six months now

15:52they’ve been in so this is the first

15:55time that this mirror has been out since

15:58I put it in and in fact you saw me

Transcript for 1 year of owning a Chinese Laser Engraver (Cont…)

16:00fitting it on video there is a small

16:03amount of oxidation on the surface a

16:06very small amount but it’s only when you

16:11catch in the light I’m absolutely sure

16:14the reflectivity at ten point six

16:17microns wavelength is not going to be

16:20affected by that at all because when I

16:23did my reflectance tests with very crude

16:26raw copper which was well and truly

16:29oxidized on the surface it was still

16:31giving something like about 96 or 97

16:33percent reflectivity and so I’m very

16:36confident that that is still delivering

16:38quite a reasonable amount of power I

16:40might have lost half a percent if that

16:42we will go back and check that very

16:45shortly and I’ll do a proper test on it

16:48to see just what the power drop has

16:51across these mirrors in six months so

16:53summer after year would I go through the

16:57same thing again well that’s a very

17:02difficult answer to give because because

17:05the machine was not perfect and I found

17:08so many small Nikoli problems with it

17:10and there was so much that I didn’t

17:11understand I have learned a huge amount

17:14in the last year if I’d have had the

17:17perfect machine and I needed to run it

17:20for a business then I’d have probably

17:22been can I be crude and say pissed off

17:26with the machine because all I want to

17:28do is use it for me it was a

17:31recreational exercise for my retirement

17:33and it served its purpose extremely well

17:36and apart from the videos that I’ve made

17:39I’ve also made hundreds of really very

17:43good friends from around the world and

17:45all I’d like to say is thank you very

17:47much for all of you who have spoken to

17:49me and written to me and participated in

17:51this learning experience that I’m I’m

17:54having and I’m still learning so thank

17:58you all again for participating and

Transcript for 1 year of owning a Chinese Laser Engraver (Cont…)

18:00joining me in my trip in my venture and

18:03the story continues

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