3-Week Laser Cutter Update

I’ve had my new laser cutter for three weeks now, and I continue to be very impressed with its capabilities. I’m currently in China (see picture of crazy intersection outside my window) visiting the manufacturer, mainly to learn more about it and their other models. So I thought I would make an omnibus blog post showing the things I’ve been able to make so far.

At this point I have four mostly complete, smoothly operating mechanisms, shown here in my hotel room in Beijing. (Some of these have been in previous blog posts, others are new.)

First, this lock mechanism is slightly improved from previous editions, with pin numbers (so you know what order to put the pins in when assembling it) and an acrylic chain link holding the insert to the other end of the lock. The springs are still fake. Not shown is a matching lock picking tool for leaning how to pick locks.

Next up is the improved spring scale. This version is reliably smooth in operation, and has a dial that goes up to 11. The acrylic springs break when they are stretched about twice as far as the design allows them to, so I think it should be pretty robust.

This is the real spring scale from which the design of my acrylic version is taken (loosely). I've replaced all the outer covers, the weighing platform, and the dial with laser cut/engraved duplicates, so you can see the mechanism inside. But you still can't see it as clearly as in the diagram. My hope is that when people see the real thing side-by-side with the acrylic model, everything will be obvious.

I don't have an acrylic model of it yet (and may not make one), but here is the much bigger, and much nicer Toledo scale, which uses a counterbalance system in place of springs. It too has laser-cut replacement covers and dial.

Here is a small child for scale (ha ha).

This is the new, much elaborated 7-cylinder form of the radial engine described in a previous blog post. Most real designs had an odd number of cylinders, so my previous 6-cylinder version was not ideal. This one also has engraving lines representing the cooling fins, and if you look closely, you can even see dummy valve stems and spark plugs. I thought about adding actual valves, cams, and lifters, but decided that would be insane

Finally, this rope machine is very pleasing to spin. I'm really quite surprised that it runs as smoothly as it does. I didn’t think laser cut plastic could be such a practical engineering material.

Moving on from machines to art, this is the laser-cut version of Nina’s $1000 bill (mentioned in my previous blog post and repeated here so I have one post with everything I've done so far…).

Here’s a video that shows just how fast the engraving works.

The main problem is keeping the power level low enough, and the head speed fast enough, to avoid going too deep. I have since learned, from the manufacturer’s engineers, that it would probably work better to engrave this in raster mode (where the beam does horizontal scan lines). This seems counterintuitive to me, so I’ll be eager to see how it comes out when I try it that way.

My hotel is very nice. This is what I had for breakfast.