So, this is the latest addition to my workshop, a _really_ cheap 40W CO2 laser cutter / engraver I got new from eBay for 315EUR – including shipping! For that price you can not expect miracles. Why I did it anyway, being perfectly aware of the possible issues, was that I wanted to play around with laser cutting and especially engraving. The information found on the internet around this type of machine and what you can and can not do with them is pretty diverse, so I figured I need to try it myself and on material that I possibly want to work with. The general principle is the same for all CO2 lasers, regardless of a 300EUR or 2000EUR machine, the latter is just bigger, potentially has more W and is more precise – but still it is just a CO2 laser and if my 300EUR 40W laser can not penetrate certain material then a 40W much more expensive one can not either. So there I went…
Shipping was fast from a German warehouse, but of course no invoice with it, nothing. Well, I was kind of aware of this, but allow me a word about this. It aggravates me immensely that these Chinese merchants get along with this clearly tax avoiding schemes, they sell without VAT and probably without anything else devices that for sure do not comply to local regulations (CE, WEEE) and get away with it – having my own business in Germany and always feeling this pressure of regulations and compliance on my shoulders, this annoys me immensely that others simply ignore it and get away with it – WTH!?
Anyway, the machine comes with all necessary parts, i.e. the machine itself, a suction vent with hose and a water pump for the cooling water. My machine arrived in pretty good shape, nothing broken, especially the expensive CO2 laser tube was intact.
I chose this “second generation improved” design which is in general pretty much the same as the formerly well known “K40” laser cutters. The difference according to the merchand is improved mechanical details (OMG, this one is already super flimsy, how bad must the K40 have been!?) and what I liked especially was: big emergency shutdown button, digital laser power control, digital thermometer for the coolant liquid. What has been removed in this version is the mA meter to monitor the current going through the laser tube, I will get one myself and add it to the machine since it is vital to monitor the current and not to exceed certain levels.
Bringing the machine to life takes some time. If you are also looking into getting one be prepared to spend at least a full day to set it up properly.
One of the reasons I got this type of machine was that I know almost for certain that I would be able to control it with free software. The controller board indeed turned out to be one of the very common “M2 Nano” boards, in fact a version from February 2019, so pretty recent. The software that works awesome well right out of the box with it is K40 Whisperer from Scorch Works: http://www.scorchworks.com/K40whisperer/k40whisperer.html It is pretty easy to set up on Linux and works just right out of the gate! And I have to say, it just does exactly everything such a software should do, nothing more and nothing less, just right. Looking at the reports from Windows users trying to get the manufacturer’s software to work I feel really blessed with my free software only setup 🙂
An essential tool to complete the tool set is Inkscape to create drawings etc. in SVG format which can then be directly imported into K40 Whisperer.