Did I buy the wrong tool

So after I guess about 3 weeks I feel like I have purchased the wrong tool. This laser scene seems to be too inconsistent for me. One day it cuts through the wood cleanly at a certain setting. The next day I throw away 30 dollars worth of the same wood because it won’t cut through at any setting.

I feel like a cnc router might have been a better fit for me.
What does a laser do that a router can’t do anyway?

If this is indeed what is happening then either your machine is faulty or there is a variable you are not accounting for.

Results with a laser should be fairly predictable and consistent given working hardware and like-for-like conditions.

I’d suggest taking a hard look at your workflow and making sure you’re reducing any chance of variables. Run proper material tests on every unique material that you work with. Make sure your focus is as tight as you can get it and that your material is properly secured and flat. Even a few millimeters of distance variation can make a substantial impact on the result.

This will really depend on what you do. Both have their role and can complement each other.

CNC routers aren’t going to do well for burning wood. In terms of engraving intricate details a laser will beat out a router bit every time. In terms of cutting speed a laser will generally be significantly faster than a router assuming it’s an appropriate material for the laser. Kerf is generally smaller than a router. A laser will be useless if you want to cut a V groove or any cut not perpendicular to the work surface.

I’d encourage you to work through the growing pains to really understand the capabilities of the laser and then make an informed decision about what would work better for your needs.

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Thank you for the fast reply.

My apologies to the laser community. It seems maybe I didn’t buy the wrong tool, but the wrong wood. It seems that 1/4"pllywood purchased at home depot has a thickness of 5mm, the same wood purchased at a lumber yard is closer to 7mm. Now I just hope my Omtech Polar can manage to cut this thickness

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I am guessing you are trying to cut Ply or MDF, something not natural. If that is the case your problem is not the laser it is more likely the inconsistancy between one piece of wood and the next. Ply is probably the worst due to voids and uneven glue patches, which is why you need to run a material test on each batch you get. With ply you may be able to cut perfectly in one corner of the sheet and need multi-passes in another corner. I set my ply up with shims so there is a gap between material and honeycomb so I can easily see it drop when cutting.


Yes that is another problem to take in to account, always check material thickness.

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great idea thanks

I built a router and laser machine. I was more interested in building the machine than actually using it. But being able to do both I have most of the bases covered. Should I ever decide what to really do with it LOL.

So, this is really all I can find in a thickness that fits under my nozzle. If you have a place that has thin sheets of actual wood I would be interested.

I was thinking of trying to build a router, but all the videos I see of people doing that always need to 3d print some parts.

No cheap plastic in mine. I like to work with metal.

Unless you are in Australia I won’t be much help for materials, Tried Amazon for local (your country) suppliers. Usually there is about 15-50mm movement in laser module height adjustment depending on which machine you are using.

do you have a set of plans with a material list you can share?

Sorry no plans just winged it. Of course, I overbuilt it. I would do things different if I decide to make another one.

I bought a laser machine because my CNC/Laser was not performing. I now have a Laser and a CNC machine. If you don’t count the rotary, no more switching stuff around to make something. :nerd_face:

If you are in the US, try Occoch Hardwood in Wisconsin. They sell solid hardwoods and plywood that are intended for use in lasers and have a variety of thicknesses.

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I have thought about an add on that sits on cnc just for laser. Lighter weight and faster. But then I would probably do away with Z axis. But it’s so nice to be able to defocus and I have it set up to probe Z.

That is a negative for a CNC, which are built to be sturdy and rigid, and not very fast. Going 5000mm/min is slow for a laser, but would snap off a router bit in the blink of an eye.

Which is why I am considering building a dedicated machine for laser. My cnc is all steel and quite robust. I pull the router off to reduce mass for lasering.

Go for it! There are plenty of physical designs to adopt.

So some people get away with home depot ply, but I suspect it’s because they’re not cutting lots of codependent cuts over a large area. Normal plywood glue often has agents to make it waterproof that don’t cut well, voids are filled with putty hat chars instead of cutting through, and there is a metallic dust in the glue for reasons (I don’t know why they do this). I was going mad trying to get my laser to work consistently until I settled the following.

1-consistent ply, it’s not any more expensive, I just had to find the right vendor
2- good smoke evacuation. Doing segments that generate a lot of smoke will reduce power over a large file
3- cleaning my mirrors from when I didn’t have enough venting because the laser had pushed particles in the smoke exactly where the laser hits.