Laser Engraving For Front Panels

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sr1200

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I've been toying with picking up a laser machine for marking front panels up and giving my center points for my drillpress. Has anyone tried this or does anyone have something setup that they use that they'd like to share? Im not loooking to cut the metal (through cut) so I've been looking at some lower powered machines (10W optical).

Thoughts?
 

Gold

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If I had the space for a setup I would do the same thing. I have no experience with any of it. If you decide to get an engraver please post about your progress.
 

grid_stopper

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ive looked at a few, but always end up deciding against it when i remember that the price jumps up dramatically when you start looking at models with a work surface big enough for a front panel($300 vs about $1700-$2000, last i checked.) i would love it if i was wrong, though!
 

Gold

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ive looked at a few, but always end up deciding against it when i remember that the price jumps up dramatically when you start looking at models with a work surface big enough for a front panel($300 vs about $1700-$2000, last i checked.) i would love it if i was wrong, though!
That's what I see too. Still much less expensive than a mechanical engraving setup and probably easier to get good results faster. I just don't have the space.
 

grid_stopper

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That's what I see too. Still much less expensive than a mechanical engraving setup and probably easier to get good results faster. I just don't have the space.
yeah, thats the other problem. if i had an abundance of space the machine would pay for itself pretty quickly, but alas....
 

ruffrecords

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Lasers do not work terribly well on aluminium unless they are considerably powerful - more powerful the the ones you get on low cost wood and plastic engravers. It can be done but you are talking CO2 lasers and the like.

Cheers

Ian
 

Gold

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Lasers do not work terribly well on aluminium unless they are considerably powerful - more powerful the the ones you get on low cost wood and plastic engravers. It can be done but you are talking CO2 lasers and the like.

Cheers

Ian
The laser engravers that are 20” x18” or so are usually 40W-60W CO2 lasers. Is that good enough for aluminum?
 

ruffrecords

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The laser engravers that are 20” x18” or so are usually 40W-60W CO2 lasers. Is that good enough for aluminum?
A lot depends on the absorption of the material. As [silent:art] points out, 50W is good enough for black anodised aluminium but plain anodised would need more. It is a long time since I last looked at doing this but if you find a cost effective solution that works on plain aluminium let me know.

Cheers

Ian
 

abbey road d enfer

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I've been toying with picking up a laser machine for marking front panels up and giving my center points for my drillpress.
If you want to do 19" front panels, you need at least a 6040 bed. You can find a mechanical router/engraver of this size for about $2100. Yet it's a rather big machine. It would certainly do what you want, and some more. Drilling aluminium is not too difficult, as long a you have the proper bits and coolant. Routing is another story. It took me many hours, many slaughtered panels and umpteen broken bits to be confident enough. Actually I favour drilling pilot holes with the CNC machine and enlarging with the drill press.
Looking at the price of laser heads (and paraphernelia attached to it), I don't think a laser cutter can compete in terms of price.

Still, for many quick n' dirty one-offs, I print a template on paper that I tack with a glue stick.
 

gyraf

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I am slowly working this route, but haven't found the right solution yet. As Kubi mentions, 30W CO2 is plenty for blasting away color from anodized alu.

But I don't like CO2, feels dangerous and invisibilish.

So I try getting a 15W diode laser system working. base machine being the 128.88US $ 28% OFF|Laser Engraving Machine TT 2.5/5.5 Blu Ray 7.5W 20W Fast Speed Cutting Machine Tool Carving Wood/Leather/Metal/Acrylic| | - AliExpress - extended with a 15W laser.

This will mark my black-anodized frontpanels fine - but only at full-focus, and it unfortunately only makes a line ca. 0.05mm wide. So I need to run six of these just besides each other to get to my wanted 0.3mm

But this on the other hand requires really good repeatability - better than what I can get with standard steppers on this system

So I upgrade the steppers to step/servo type - in my case the extremely nice MKS SERVO42A - 25.99US $ |Makerbase Mks Servo42a Nema17 Closed Loop Stepper Motor Driver Cnc 3d Printer Parts Prevents Losing Steps For Gen_l Sgen_l - 3d Printer Parts & Accessories - AliExpress and the controller to GRBL/CNC 19.84US $ 36% OFF|Grbl Cnc Control Board 3 Axis Laser Driver Panel Cnc Shield V3 Expansion Board Arduino Uno R3 Parts Cnc Usb Port Controller Card - 3d Printer Parts & Accessories - AliExpress

Now i have adequate precision and repeatability, but I'm currently stuck on the problem of having two x-axis motors needing to be homed at the same time but on separate homing switches (and one going in opposite direction because mirror'ed), can't find a way to persuade GRBL to do this...

So that's state of things here - I'm still running mechanical engraving on all my commercial units.

/Jakob E.
 

sr1200

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Ive been looking at these machines:
Atomstack A10 which has an extension kit for another $110 which can more than do a 19" panel (honestly the base unit can do 16" which if youre not plannign on engraving the extreme outsides of the panel can handle most things) at 4:15 is an example of working with black anodized aluminum HERE

The other machine i was looking at is:
Sculpfun S10 which has a better rail the engraver rides on and seems to give a smoother cut overall.

Both machines are sub $1K base. After addons maybe not. Either way, both machines I would be looking into getting the air assist with
and im still debating if i need the honeycomb or not since i dont immediately plan on working with lighter materials such as wood. The A10 has zeroing (homing) switches which are key to repeatability and I kind of like. Admittedly, the guy reviewing the product mentioned that he may have not tightened the truss as much as he should have and the unit may actually cut better than what was seen.

This guy does a pretty good and thorough job of putting these machines to the test
Hobby Laser Cutters and Engravers - The Best Hands-On Reviews
 

sr1200

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If I had the space for a setup I would do the same thing. I have no experience with any of it. If you decide to get an engraver please post about your progress.
I just ordered the machine and addons. They should be here this week, and I'll do a quick video once i get it up and running.
 

sr1200

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That could work. I think there is no some special aluminum with a treated surface so it better absorbs the laser.

Cheers

Ian
If its anodized doesnt seem to need a powder coat. Ive seen videos of guys using a black sharpy on shiny surfaces have usable results. Even better is to cover it in painters (blue) tape, then you can use some paint to fill in the engraving.
 

vinyvamos

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For about seven years I have been engraving panels successfully on a 50W Co2 using various materials. I started out using plexiglass (acrylic/perspex) but with that I had to fill with paint and then wash off the excess. Then I moved onto using plywood which works very well when varnished. I currently use that for my tube preamp product, fitted into a 3U eurorack frame as that is ideal for supporting the panel, with it's own rack wings. I have also "engraved" painted aluminium panels. After sanding down the panel surface I spray-paint upto five coats on the alu, of a dark colour. Then I burn the paint away with the laser, revealing the bare alu. It probably wouldn't last in a humid environment but hey, this is studio gear after all. I have also used old vinyl records to create faceplates for guitar pedals. Engraving and cutting PVC is apparently toxic, so don't breath while it's running. PVC engraves to a brown colour, which is quite cool in some ways. I have also created nice meter scales using thin phenolic(?) / SRBP board. That can be seen in my green mule compressor and also the black faced Special OP6. It allows light through and looks quite vintage which is nice...

You can see many photos of these panels on my facebook and instagram accounts;

facebook.com/atomicanalog

@atomicanalog
 

leftblock

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I have a old manual vertical milling machine that I've converted to CNC, I have just recently engraved the front panel of a kit built guitar amp that I pulled from a dumpster, the original front panel had been silk screened and then coated with a thin film a plastic for protection - it was in poor condition and I wasn't keen on putting it back on the amp.
My mill is an old Arboga - after conversion the table travel is 325mm x 130mm - not huge but front panels can be still be done with a bit of planning, I used the hobby version (free) of Fusion360 to draw the artwork, I broke the engraving up into a number of different processes - control holes, text, logo and control indices, I then defined the tool paths to the left and also to the right of the origin, the idea being that I could setup a straight edge on the spoil board that was parallel to the X axis, clamp/glue/tape the panel down aligned with the straight edge do all of the engraving operations to the left of the origin hole then remove the panel and slide it along the straight edge, clamp it back down reset the origin and then do all of the engraving operations to the right of the origin.

In my case the straight edge was a row of brad nails hammered into the spoil board - I made 2 marks at each end of the X travel on the spoil board with a pointed 6mm rod held in the chuck, hammer 2 nails into the marks - place a straight edge against the nails and put in a row of nails aginst the straight edge. I drilled a small hole 2-3mm where the volume control would be and used this as origin point, the hole was aligned directly under 6mm rod and all of the engraving/drilling operations to the left of the origin were done, remove the panel slide it along the straight edge (nails) and align origin with the 6mm rod before clamping it down again and do all of the engraving to the right, lastly bore the holes. It does take a bit of extra time and you would probably think twice before trying to make a living out of doing it this way - but it is a very good way of making do with a smaller machine for your own use.
I only have 4500 rpm top speed on the spindle and those dedicated single flute D bit cutters throw up quite a burr probably because of the lower speed so for the engraving I get good results using a small centre drill (sometimes call slocum drill) as the engraving bit along with a small squirt of CRC or WD40 as lubricant there is no burr, and leaves smooth engraving.

After engraving I plain anodised the panel - around 4.5 amps for 120min and then filled the engraving with black paint.20220715_141848.jpg 20220715_141848.jpg
 
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