One of the things that I preach to those that run laser machines is that dirt is your enemy. A dirty machine is susceptible to many issues. These can include a clogged drive which can create slippage in the pulley and cause jagged letters, reduced power due to dirty mirrors or lens, or a dirty rail which can impede bearing life. Laser machines use very high end parts. For example the lens and mirror systems are of very good quality – quality of high end camera optics. Dirt on these parts can greatly reduce the quality and speed of your output on your laser. And because these parts are high quality they are expensive to replace.
In this article I will show you some examples of laser parts that have been allowed to deteriorate because of no service issues. It does not take a lot to keep you machine clean but it can be the difference in making your machine last a lot longer.
Here is a Bad Lens
Here is a bad lens. You can see that the lens has a large area in the middle of the lens where the coating is coming off the lens
Discoloration in a Lens
Here is a lens that has a discoloration in the coating of the lens. This will cause issues in how the laser beam is focused to the material.
Here is a Good Lens
Here is a lens that is new and is in perfect condition.
As with lenses your mirror have to be clean and the coating has to be intact. Here are some really bad mirrors that over time and lack of maintenance are in very bad shape. As with Lenses when your mirror coating breaks down the mirrors start absorbing the energy from the laser and you thus lose power at your engraving area. When mirrors work properly they reflect all the laser light with very minimal absorption rate of usually < 1% per mirror.
Here is a Good Mirror
This is a good mirror. There are no scratches, no dirt and the coating is perfect.
When it comes to cleaning your optics you need these 3 items. We have our lens cleaning solution. (1) This solution is a high quality camera lens cleaning solution so it you need more you can go to a camera store and purchase more. We have lens cleaning paper (2). We have good quality Q Tips. Remember if the Q Tips are cheap than they are abrasive and can scratch your lens over time. Best to get your Q Tips again from the local camera store.
A Dirty Machine
Typically when we talk about maintenance on a machine most people think of cleaning the lenses and the mirrors. However it is also important to clean the actual machine when it starts to get dirty. As I tell all my customers dirt is your enemy.
These Rails are Very Rusty
Here is a Y rail that should be silver but is now brown with rust.
Can You Find the 1 Inch Mark
This customer did not clean the machine. You can see that the steel screws are starting to rust. We had to scrape off the residue on the ruler.
More Ruler Issues
Here is another look at the ruler. It is coated with residue
The Encoder Reader is Very Dirty
The encoder reader is very dirty here. Dust in the reader can cause the text to become very jagged.
There is a Lot of Build Up on the Rail
You can see the build up on the rail is very bad and can cause issues in the movement of the machine
Check Your Exhaust
It is always good to to at least once a year to pull off your exhaust pipe and make sure that you clean it
The Internal Exhaust Ports Get Dirty
The internal exhaust ports get dirty and need to be cleaned. This one is almost plugged.