Using a laser like a saw to cut thicker material.
Peter from the RepRap Builders blog has come up with a clever way to cut thicker material with a weaker laser. His experimental laser cutter moves the focus of the laser up and down in a saw-like motion.
In a typical laser cutter the laser moves on a flat plane. It can move side to side in any direction, but it does not move up and down. But why would it need to since laser cutters cut flat sheets of material? What you may not know is that the laser is cone-shaped, not straight and cylindrical. This means that there is a particular point, the focal distance, where the laser is the most powerful. Read the How does laser-cutting work? FAQ for more details.
Typical laser cutters use a 20-100 Watt laser, which is powerful enough to cut even when material is not exactly at the focal point. Peter’s laser uses a 1 Watt laser that can cut 1mm thick plastic, albeit slowly, by moving the most powerful part of the laser up and down through the thickness of the material.
This idea could help make cheap, widely available laser cutters a reality in the same way as projects like RepRap and Makerbot have dramatically reduced the cost of basic 3D printers. Read our pricing guide of inexpensive 3D printers for more information. Remember that three of them are available through Ponoko.