Cutting Balsa Wood with Air (Oh, and a Laser)

Source: Hack a Day

Article note: Yeah! We hacked a couple cruddy air assist mechanisms for a diode laser engraver in the research lab I work in a couple summers ago, it's absolutely necessary for them to work well - heavy cuts just carbonize instead of cutting otherwise. The primary reason I haven't built myself a blower-based one is lack of time and energy. I prefer designs that shroud the lens of the laser to keep crud building up on it, like the CO2 lasers work, rather than side-mounts like the example.

[DIY3DTech] likes using his Ortur laser cutter for balsa wood and decided to add an air assist system to it. Some people told him it wasn’t worth the trouble, so in the video below, he compares the results of cutting both with and without the air assist.

The air assist helped clear the cut parts and reduced charring in the wood. The air system clears residue and fumes that can reduce the effectiveness of the laser. It can also reduce the risk of the workpiece catching on fire.

In addition, the video shows the results of cutting wood using different speeds and number of passes. So the holes marked 5/10, for example, are cut at 5mm/second and ten passes.

Although air assist might help if you are engraving, the real benefit, according to the video, is when you are trying to do cuts. However, removing the fumes is probably a good idea even when engraving.

The video doesn’t go into much detail about the air system, but there are links in the video description to pages that have more information about how to add something like this to your laser cutting setup. There’s also a more recent video specifically about how the air assist system works.

If you need more on laser cutter basics, we read a great post about it last year. Like 3D printers, it used to be fashionable to build your own cutter, but now it is cheap enough to buy one if you’d rather not mess with it.

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