Technical, Techniques, Hints, and Tips > Laser & Water-Jet Cutting

Laser cutters and similar

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canalpilot:
I have read a couple of articles about laser cutters and then found an ad about a Stepcraft 420 which I think may be a similar machine but using router cutters in a drill.  It is around 700 against 3000 for a laser cutter.  Does anyone have any practical experience of this tool and how good it is.  One would have to be good on computers also, I guess, to get the plan down on a laptop. {:-{

TailUK:
The Stepcraft does look like a reasonable bit of kit and from the look of their blurb it can also be used as a hot wire cutter and to cut vinyl.  It has the added advantage of having a small z axis component (80mm)  which you wont get on a laser.  I've never used one but it look pretty good.  This said I've used a laser quite a lot and they're great, for the right job!
Of the 2 I'd say go with the Stepcraft, it would seem to offer the most versatility for the hobby user.
The computer skill required would be about the same for both.  The software is much more simple than it used to be and with the Stepcraft you only have the additional worry about dealing with "offsets".  I should imagine that the software bundled with the machine is fairly user friendly. HTH

canalpilot:
Many thanks Tailuk, it is always nice to hear other peoples views, now I have to convince the club it would be a worthwhile investment. O0

CyberBOB:
When I used a CNC router/cutter at work (20 years ago) offsets were calculated automaticallly.  In essence, you drew your cutline, and told the machine which side of the line was the finished side, and it calculated the toolpath from that.


The two problems with a router type cutter are:


Inside corners will be rounded, the radius equalling the tool diameter.  Not a big deal, a little filing to square the corners back up, and much easier than cutting and filing with knives and saws.
 
Keeping the sheet firmly attached to bed.  Our Roland X-Y-Z used a vacuum table to hold the sheet down, but cutting out small pieces caused a small shift when finishing the cut.   This was overcome by gluing the sheet down to some MDF.  If you cut through your sheet, but not all of the way through the MDF, you should be fine.  We used to spray our Acrylic\Lexan or whatever with contact adhesive.  The Contact adhesive was fine,  It was sprayed on the protective cling, leaving our plastic untouched.  Double sided tape would probably work great.  If your lucky, in the last 20 years maybe they've solved the problem of keeping things anchored.


It should be noted these are both minor issues, I am not trying to scare you off, just letting you know my experiences from 20 years ago.

canalpilot:
Thank you CyberBob for your comments.  Hopefully in the last 20 years things have improved. You can see what this machine does on www.stepcraft-systems.com .  Their website using Youtube to show a video of the machine. :-))

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