Bittboy or PocketSprite? Which is best? Which should you buy?[Read more…]
3D Printer Reviews, Arduino Reviews, Raspberry Pi Reviews, and product information. What should you buy? How do you decide? Where should you look? All this and more in this section ...
Glowforge review (laser engraver,not laser printer). This review is about the Glowforge Basic — the Glowforge is the best laser cutter I have ever reviewed, or used for that matter. Heck, the Glowforge is the funnest machine I have ever owned.
I say that as an owner of several CNC, laser, and 3D printing machines!
- Updated January 11, 2019
I am on a mission to make my Chinese K40 Laser Engraver work like a much more expensive USA name-brand machine.
Update to Part 2 – Brain Boosting
Previously, I bought and installed a new mainboard of electronics, and a filter for the pungent smoke.
I am happy to say, while the filter still feels a let-down, the Smoothie board has been a fantastic success when combined with the LightBurn software. Read about the purchase in the previous article.
While the laser was meant to have been unused, I did notice some wear, either from actual use, or just as likely, testing. Also, from what I could tell, the optics were not the best.
I bought a lot of moist cleaning wipes, but really I needed new mirrors and
I went ahead and bought some not-top-of-the-line-but-good ones.
Right away I seemed to get more power and cleaner lines out of the machine.
The K40 comes with a metal bed that seems like a good idea, but in fact it makes focusing the laser more difficult, because your z height is not adjustable, and obviously focus is vital if you are going to get clean, strong cuts.
Once I had removed the bed, I could cut a focus-tool and stack material under the
To mitigate the charring and smoke, which is not just an issue on the workpiece, but also damages the lens, I bought an air-assist nozzle. Now, some experts say you don’t want to do it this way – the air should blow horizontally – but for now it will be an improvement on no air.
Another speed bump here. My airbrush compressor would not switch on, regardless of how I set the pressure dial, plus the connections were of the wrong type.
Fortunately, I have an air pump that runs off D batteries for inflating, well, inflatables. Things like camp beds and floaties.
As mentioned, the air filter didn’t really filter anything. For now I am using an inline pump (12v) and piping the smoke out of the garage using an extension tube. It’s better, but I am hoping new pumps/fans I have ordered to test will do a better job.
Clean power with UPS
I was getting some strange chatter in comms between the Dell laptop and the laser. The USB cable I bought along with the Smoothie board was supposedly good quality, so assuming it was power fluctuations, I bought a new UPS for the office and placed my old one out in the garage.
Seemed to help a lot – especially when I blew power using the shop vac AND 3d printing AND running the CNC AND the laser.
Right now, in total, I have probably spent around $1,300 CAD, including the laser itself. That’s still giving me a lot of room to upgrade, considering even the most basic Glowforge is, what, $2,500 USD before shipping? And a Full Spectrum or Trotech would be much more than that.
The smoke extraction and ventilation
Next, cooling. These laser tubes operate best below 18c and even before firing the laser the ambient temperature out in the garage has been hitting 35c.
The bucket of distilled water approach to cooling was not going to work for me.
Yeah, lots of people swear by it, and it is the cheap solution, but I could already tell for my situation it wasn’t ideal.
I ordered a CW-5200 industrial chiller. It’s an actual chiller, as it refrigerates rather than just circulates water. So far after the laser, it is my biggest purchase for this setup. The more reasonably priced 3000 is just a commercial version of the bucket approach.
It’s sat in the house waiting for me to feel fit and strong right now, I will report back with another update.
My K40 laser is the most humble of its kind, having analog dial and controls, and basic optics. Even so, the results are fine.
Now my mission is to take this little Chinese laser and bring it up to the 21st Century.
The default mirrors and lenses are built to a price point, not for quality. As is the rest of the machine, really.
My laser was a private sale, and supposedly had never been used. Unfortunately there was signs of dirt or wear on my mirrors, and cleaning only helped so much.
I was blaming my own lack of ability in calibrating until my friend Ben discovered the truth.
To prevent that happening again, I also ordered an Air Assist nozzle. This will allow me to use my airbrush compressor to gently blow sticky and smoky substances that offgas during the lasering, away from the lens and the cutting focus.
Taking of focus, I am removing the stock bed to allow me to adjust z-height.
As I mentioned above, my machine uses an analog dial and has an analog readout. This is fine, but it also does not allow fine control or per-layer control in software. It’s a dumb controller essentially.
To upgrade my electronics and allow the use of more sophisticated software, I ordered a Smoothie-based board.
Smoothie has many advantages over 8-bit controller computation abilities, allowing for smoother and more controlled geometry in cuts and engraves – at least that is the theory!
Not really an upgrade to quality, but there will be a benefit to abilities.
It’s an activated carbon filter, which will allow me to cut and engrave more stinky materials with less worry about the stench getting into the house, lungs, or neighbors.
Will it work?
I will let you know when it is all fitted, but even with all this expense, the final thing will still only be a small percentage of buying a name brand laser!
While Arduino and Raspberry Pi dominate, there are other boards out there for robot builders.
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The T8 CNC is a desktop CNC kit built with aluminum extrusions, open source Arduino hardware, and GRBL software. If you were looking to learn CNC, perhaps this little $200 CNC mill could be a good start?
T8 CNC specs
Firstly, we need to address the obvious. This CNC mill is tiny. The cutting area is roughly the size of an A6 piece of paper. 130mm x 10mm x 4mm.
It does, however, come with a decent 24v motor as the router, getting up 7000rpm (not necessarily PWM, as we will discuss later).
This is why a lot of stores and reviews described it as for PCB milling. It is small but beefy.
There are a lot of these machines out there and they all seem to have variations. Mine came with no instructions or software but did come with 4 v-cut end mill bits.
The T8 runs using an Arduino Uno clone and a CNC shield. Pretty standard stuff.
What can the T8 CNC do? What is it good for?
If it is so small and has a motor rather than a commercial router, what is it useful for?
First I would say due to it being a kit, the fact it is based on open hardware and software, and because it is so small, it would be good for learning, especially in a small classroom or makerspace. Everything learned on this machine is applicable to larger CNC operations.
We already mentioned that people see this as a PCB mill, but it can also handily cut and engrave plastics and wood, maybe even soft metals, though I did not try.
Building the T8 CNC Kit
As mentioned earlier, as for instructions you are pretty much on your own.
I did the crazy thing of just working off product images, and it worked out mostly. On the Gearbest product page, there are some videos and links, plus there is an Instructable here that seems to be a slightly different machine to mine.
There is some soldering, the steppers arrive with snipped wires rather than connectors. My crimping tool came in handy.
You can get it working relatively well enough after building but set a good weekend aside, don’t expect to build and run this guy over a lunch break.
Other than documentation – Any problems?
Unfortunately, the CNC shield is not set up for the pins of the latest GRBL firmware. After a little hacking and snooping I found I could connect the motor signal pin to the Uno and get it working.
While in theory, the machine is capable of speed control, the kit as arrived uses a relay to turn the motor off and on, so that’s all you get as far as control is concerned without mods.
Modifications and Upgrades
Gearbest sent me this machine knowing I was into CNC (see future articles about my Sienci and X-Carve). While I was tempted to try some PCB milling, and still might, what I am more intruiged about is the upgradability of this guy.
It is built with standard extrusions, lead screws and smooth rods … so I bought some new larger replacements. When the weather is better I will be taking all this to the Fuse33 maker space and upgrading. Look out for an update.
If you are prepared to do a bit of research and effort, this is a fine little machine, and not only that, a good foundation for a much better machine. Think of it as buying a bill of materials for a CNC, rather than something that will give you support and hand holding.
Creality and the CR-10 reviews were everywhere in 2017. Only Prusa got better press from what I could see. Justifiably, I might add.
Half a printer?
Weird thing? It works, and it works well!
Creality Ender 2 Specs
Let’s start with the price because outside of everything else, this is the reason why this kit gets attention.
+ GET $30 OFF WITH THE CODE GBTE AT CHECKOUT
What do you get for that?
- 150 x 150mm heated build plate with 200mm Z-height
- Open 1.75mm filament, mk10 bowden hotend and extruder combo (0.4mm nozzle supplied)
- Print USB or SD card
- 12V PSU
- LCD screen and control box
- Metal construction
See? Exactly as you would expect from a cut-down CR-10.
It is a little more involved to put together than a CR-10, but it is not as involved as, say, the Anet A8 or similar, and the major parts are metal so it is a bit more forgiving for clumsy folks like me.
How does it print?
It prints very well, like it’s bigger brothers and sisters basically.
- You will want to get the community supplied slicer profiles (Chris Bennet has a good one but I can no longer find it).
- Creality are not honoring the spirit or the law with the open source Marlin firmware that they supply with the printer, they should make their customizations open.
- The belts have some severe rubbing so I need to go back and do some tweaking.
This is an excellent printer at a great price.
+ GET $30 OFF WITH THE CODE GBTE AT CHECKOUT
Buy it as a first printer, a portable/travel printer, use it for smaller prints such as action figures, robot parts, props, or this would be an excellent printer to teach.
Would I buy this over the Anet A8 at a similar price? Yes, if you don’t need the extra capacity that the 200mm bed of the A8 provides. I would say the A8 has more community modifications and upgrades available for now also.
If a 150mm bed is fine then I would go for it. My first printers were 150mm (Makibox, Printrbot, Cube3) and they served me pretty well until I wanted to build an Astromech (which I still haven’t done, by the way).