As a generalist engineer by passion, I had to find ways to learn. While doing so, I came to build myself around core beliefs. And one of them is “Errors make you great”. I often tell the persons I train / help that if they want to make me happy, they have to make mistakes. It is incredible how you can bounce and learn on them.
So for me, the most important thing is not avoiding mistakes, is to do my best in general, and to have a strategy to learn from errors.
Well, at this point you should understand that things went wrong with this project… I will be as factual as possible so you can learn with me.
- Mirror alignment is a pain in the a** because all mirrors are tuned with 2 screws (instead of the 3 required to make the process smooth)
- There are no focal adjustment helper, so focal adjustment is currently a magical process
- Mirrors / laser / nozzle are not held in place with sturdy parts (even with 100% infill, PLA is not as sturdy as steel or aluminium) so when the machine is operating, those parts vibrates and move (1/10 of a millimeter is a problem for the laser path and the focal)
- The X and Y axis cannot stay perpendicular to each other due to the geometry, the choice of parts and the assembly. So each time the machine is operating, it moves a little, and the cut lines are not straight
- There is not enough room for the belts to operate properly, especially at the ends of the axis. If you add the fact that the alignment of the different pulleys is not good, the cut lines are not lines but very small zigzags
WHY THOSE PROBLEMS OCCURRED IN THIS PROJECT:
- Not enough study beforehand
- I relied too much on an Instructables based on flawed information. Indeed, my work on this Instructables revealed that the author won because he was very smart to hide problems and to generate some sexiness out of his article. However, the aim of Instructables is mostly to generate views / buzz and the aim of the author was to complete his school project and win the contest. All of this is totally unlinked to the fact that the machine should work and be reliable. Yes, it very looks like a scam project to me (YES, when you wire a $300 dollar CO2 laser tube the wrong way on the pictures and then claim that it works perfectly, it is a scam). Parts are popping out in the middle of the article without any explanation and with the instructions to use different ones just before (check the spring gas actuators mounting plate for instance).
- It was not possible to correct all the things due to structural flaws
- I did not have the technical support necessary (from friends, or others)
WHAT I SHOULD HAVE DONE TO AVOID THESE PROBLEMS:
- Use the Instructable as an inspiration rather than a step by step guide
- Do more work and research
- Take the time to re-design this on a CAD software
- Talk about my design with a pro or a skilled technician
- Focus on small aspects of the project (X/Y, cooling, fumes, laser and so on)
WHAT IS NEXT?
I totally dismantled the machine. The work is too big to make it functional. But as I built it, I designed my own version based on all the errors I corrected and all the researches I have done. This version corrects all the flaws and is also inspired by some existing CO2 laser cutter. While staying cheap and in a DIY kit format. I will take the time (6 to 10 months) to finish the CAD design and to assemble it. Then I will put the kit on my shop (osmoz3d) for sale. The features will be (roughly):
- 1200 x 600mm cutting area
- 40 to 100W laser tube
- DIY kit
- XY and Z axis
- Fume extraction
- Industrial chiller
- 5 000€ MAX
I would like to thank all of you for your support and your interest in this project. I will stay available by comments, mails if you have any question and/or remarks.