Laser Cutter/Engraver Questions
Yes, since it is essentially burning through the workpiece, some fumes will be produced. However, the system includes a built in exhaust extraction system with a fine particle filter to reduce the breathable fumes. It is recommended that you connect the output of the exhaust system to the outside of your work environment using flexible hose or PVC pipe (sold separately). This will ensure that the fumes are exhausted outside and not within the room your are working in.
Will the milling and laser tools work on other metals besides aluminum?
Yes, they will also machine brass and copper. STEPCRAFT machines are only designed for machining of non-ferrous metals. So you can not mill steel, stainless steel, etc.
Also note that the laser will NOT cut metals. you can use it to engrave but it will NOT cut!
The STEPCRAFT CNC comes with UCCNC machine control software, which also has a plug in that will transform a bitmap image into G Code for use with the Laser so you can laser engrave a photo or other bitmap image. However, if you wish to use the laser to cut projects out, then you need a CAM program like Vectric Cut 2D or V Carve to make the tool path for the laser to follow and then output the G Code for UCCNC to read.
For photos/bitmap engraving – No, you don’t need additional software
For cutting – Yes, you need a CAM program like Vectric Cut 2D/V Carve
The laser is 2 watts. This is a different type of laser than the more common CO2 laser machines. CO2 Lasers tend to be more powerful, but also larger and consume more power. CO2 lasers need to be fully enclosed because the laser is generated from a large glass laser tube that is fixed on the back of the machine. The beam is then directed via mirrors to the laser head where it is focused and sent to cut/engrave the material. The laser tubes on these machines get very hot and require external water cooling.
The STEPCRAFT laser is a solid state design which uses a laser diode (blue beam) that runs through a focusing lens and sent to the work material. While a 2 Watt laser does not sound as impressive as a 50 or 100 watt CO2, it is still surprisingly functional with the capability to cut through thinner materials (1/8″ or less wood and plastic) as well as a wide variety of engraving tasks. The STEPCRAFT CNC machine can not use a CO2 laser design because it is an open gantry machine and bouncing a laser beam around would be very dangerous. The Laser attachment will give you a lot of flexibility at a small fraction of the cost. The laser diode is contained right in the laser head and there are a lot of safety measures that have been designed into the product to ensure that you can have maximum flexibility on a CNC router.
Does the Laser DL445 use the same port on the STEPCRAFT as the 3D Printer and HF500 spindle?
Yes, they both use the same serial port on the back of the machine. You would need to disconnect the cable and reconnect the attachment that you wish to use. STEPCRAFT also offers a Switchbox which allows you to connect everything and simply turn the dial to select the attachment you wish to use. This is very handy if you are constantly changing attachments.
Can I engrave a photograph into a piece of wood?
Yes, you can use Vectric’s PhotoVCarve program, which allows you to create an engraving tool path for photos.
Additionally, you can use the new Laser Engraving Head DL445 which can laser engrave your photos into a variety of materials.
Are all of the machines capable of using the spindle, laser and 4th axis?
Yes, you can use all of these attachments on each of the machines. However the small size of the STEPCRAFT-1/210 might make it tough to use the 4th axis with longer work pieces. Additionally, the 210 has a limited 3″ Z height, which does not leave a lot of vertical travel and will limit the diameter of material that you can use on the machine. Additionally you really need a T-slot when using the 4th Axis so you can adjust the tail stock for the length of the work material and the 210 is the only machine that does not have a T-Slot option.