Considering laser cutter . . .

Considering laser cutter . . .

Postby ConnRiver » Sun Jun 16, 2013 3:58 pm

That is, I'm toying with the idea of buying (used?) / leasing a laser cutter. I won't make a rash decision, so I could use some input /advice from TT'ers here.

Today I've joined the yahoo group LaserEngraving and posted a first round of questions. I have not yet given any consideration to the sort of output / sales I would need to have to make this a reasonable venture. That will come later. Now, I'm after information.

Off the top of my head, the items I'm thinking most about are TT scale tie strips (in various styles, mainline, yard, sidings, and so on; I think, rather than ship them in sheets, it would be best to separate the strips from the carrier sheet and ship in round tubes), and delrin mini involute gears for power units (I have seen photos of such gears and they look outstanding).

Of course, structures: wood, brick, concrete block and concrete (the latter three cut from acrylic).

My CNC mill and lathe will remain useful, but they are so much more time consuming when compared to the cutting speed of a laser.

If you have suggestions for other projects suitable for laser cutting, please send 'em along. And advice, if my thinking involves erroneous assumptions and faulty process, please let me know!

Thank you much,

Brian Chapman
Evansdale, Iowa
Brian Chapman
Cedar Rapids, Iowa / USA
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Re: Considering laser cutter . . .

Postby AstroGoat760 » Sun Jun 16, 2013 4:29 pm

At the last command I was assigned to when I was in the Navy, I worked in an engraving shop, and frequently used a laser engraver.

The only things I can think of that would be good projects for a laser engraver for a layout that you did not mention would be for signage, such as for controls and for public displays, such as at train shows / exhibitions.

The only real major bits of advice I have for you right now are that you need to check for parts availability and prices, especially for mirrors and lenses. You will crack them eventually, especially the final lens. The other bit of advice is to make sure you have adequate ventilation for the engraver, as some of those materials (especially polymer based ones) can create some harmful and/or irritating fumes. Depending on your locale, you may have to get a discharge filter added to the machine to absorb the soot and such.
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Re: Considering laser cutter . . .

Postby areibel » Sun Jun 16, 2013 4:48 pm

Hi Brian,
Sounds cool! The obvious things to me would be any wooden car sides or caboose bodies. They could be used for almost any RR from the 70's on back, I used to see a wood caboose and an old wooden boxcar used by the work train crews well into the late 70's on the EL.
Or maybe somethiing like Union Station products does with HO and N scale, styrene car sides for different passenger cars. He mills his, I don't know how the laser would do on .020 styrene but it might be worth experimenting?
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Re: Considering laser cutter . . .

Postby ConnRiver » Sun Jun 16, 2013 4:59 pm

Angry, Al, things I'll put on my list to discover and list to make. The manufacturer's site I'm looking at today lists replacement 40W tubes at $300, that seems pretty good. . . .

I'll have to check resolution on such a laser (the above firm recommends a 1.5" lens focus for detail work smaller than 8 pt. type). I would want the smallest possible beam diameter, wouldn't I, to create visible seams between a cars wood sheathing? I wonder if a cut .001"-.002" would be suitable to mark such a seam on TT scale wood car sheathing.

-Brian C.
Evansdale, Iowa
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Re: Considering laser cutter . . .

Postby areibel » Sun Jun 16, 2013 5:23 pm

Hi Brian,
I think .001-.002 would be near perfect. I have a chunk of wood siding from an original Erie wood cab. It's about 3 1/4" wide, IIRC and the last 1/4 inch is beveled where it meets the next piece (tounge and groove boards). When they're assembled it looks a lot like scribed siding. I think a .002 wide (about a quarter of a TT inch) with a coat of paint on it would be right on!
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