Hey everyone! As promised, today we're going to talk about lasers. When doing fabrication we do two things with lasers- cutting, and engraving. Well actually they're useful as guide lines
and levels also, but we'll get into that another time when I hang some shelves. For the most part, we take a flat piece of
material, usually wood, plastic, or leather, and either burn just the surface to engrave
it, or all the way through to cut it. Lasercutting and 3D printing do different
things well- but laser cutting tends to be several times faster. It's also much easier to build a small business around laser cutting and engraving- Limor Fried started Adafruit around a lasercutter in her
New York apartment. Chinese 40 to 100-watt laser cutters are relatively inexpensive on eBay, but quality control is hit and miss, they are not at all user-friendly and I've found the learning curve pretty steep.
Not as hard as CNC, but more difficult than
3D printing. Even with great software like Lightburn, traditional laser cutters are less suited to prototyping and more for small scale production- setting up a job once and then making dozens of something. I love my JingKe 80 watt laser, the price
and quality are excellent, but doing one of something is a bit troublesome and I often
find I just 3D print it instead, even if the print time is much longer. That's just me though, I'm sure lots of people find it very easy. But I have to do a lot of different things
in this job so I prefer each be as automated and user-friendly as possible- and laser cutters so far really aren't. But that all changed a few years ago when
a company called Glowforge made a more DIY friendly laser cutter, now the folks at Glowforge are great people with an excellent product but in my opinion, it has one fatal flaw;
it cannot be used without an internet connection.
All of the laser cutter's functions are controlled from the cloud. And as you all know I am NOT a fan of tools in the cloud. You lose internet access, they go out of business- you don't have the tool you paid for. This is not a hypothetical, this happens a
few times a year in the IoT world. That's just not acceptable to me. Well, today I have a new laser cutter to review- this is the LaserBox- an intelligent laser cutter like the Glowforge but it requires no internet connection at all, not to use, not to setup.
If you want to download templates to use from their website you can, but you don't have to you can make your own designs locally
with CAD or drawing software. The LaserBox is made by MakeBlock, a local Shenzhen company known for it's STEM educational products. Everything I've seen from them has been very high quality, just a bit pricey. But you get what you pay for, you want to
pay crap prices- as you all know we Chinese will happily sell you crap. You want iPhone quality- we can do that also, but it comes with that price tag. As for where LaserBox fits- it is, in my opinion, one of the best designed and best-made products I 've ever reviewed on my channel. It's powerful, incredibly well made, and super easy to use. Here let's take a look. It comes in very nice crates- not the usually
broken and splintered wood so many Chinese tools are packed in. It weighs 45kg and is a very awkward shape- so counts on needing at least two henchmen to set it on a table.
You connect power, the exhaust hose and filter, and power on. The first time you use it you need to use
the included USB cable to tell it the wifi network name and password. After that, the software will always automatically find it on the network, it works great. The software is much better than any Chinese software I've ever used- you know how awful a lot of our software is compared to our hardware but they really got it right. It works on Mac and Windows, but not Linux.
Now when I unpacked it and plugged it in,
I was cutting within 5 minutes- I'm serious. There is literally no learning curve on this. Watch. Now the Laserbox can absolutely engrave my logo just like this as a raster image. But it's simply not going to look as nice
as a proper vector file and since I'd like to put my logo on lots of things it's worth
doing right. Many thanks to Abdulla on Fiver for the excellent work, he specializes in laser engraving so while day to day stuff I can do myself I wanted this one to be done perfectly.
There's a link to his Fiver profile in the
description box. Oh, and for the record, I never offer "exposure" to Fiver contractors or other freelancers until the job is done and I've paid full price,
exposure is never payment. Exposure is just being honest, giving attribution and helping out other hardworking professionals. This my logo and I'm going to import the files into LaserBox. First I have to resize it, it's too large. Then if I want to rotate it I go into Design
mode and chose to rotate it 90 degrees. Ok I'm going to go back to Working (mode)
and we'll see. Because the cutting board is not one of their materials, I have to manually add new materials. It's 15mm thick, I'm not going to cut it so
I will ignore that. Go to engrave. Power 50% and Speed 80%, two passes.
Then save the settings. Now I'm going to adjust the position of my
logo. Now I'm going to send the files to the machine before I can engrave it. It says estimated time is 44 minutes 29 seconds. Now all I need to do is press the button on
the LaserBox. So it's really nice- the engraving. I think I might have done it upside down because usually, in China, we don't really use this kind of cutting board. Ok, next one. I've got 3mm thick Basswood and I'm going to place it in here. It's going to recognize the material. I'm just going to import the model.
Let me delete my logo. Lets go back to files. So these are all the templates that come with the LaserBox software. I'm going to try and cut the ruler. Here's the ruler, I'm going to adjust it,
I'm going to select it. I don't want to waste a lot of material so
I don't want to put it in the center. So I'm going to move it. I'm just going to use my mouse to move it. Let's hit start in this triangle icon. And send. Alright, press the button. It only takes a minute and 44 seconds. Ok finished. Let's see what we've got. I'm going to remove the big basswood, and
here's our ruler. Nice and simple. Ok lets head to the next project. Mahogany. Also 3mm thick. I'm going to place it in the center and let
the machine recognizes it's QR code.
Identify its material. Let's go back to the program. Looks about right let's print it. Estimated time 31 minutes and 24 seconds. Just press the button and then it starts to
work. It's finished let's take a look. Ok, let's take off the frame, all these pieces I have to assemble them. But it's super easy, look at this, check this out. Right now I have A4 paper and I'm going to draw my names on it. Put the A4 paper in. Alright. Yeah, select. So I can take out the paper because I cropped the part I need. Now I'm going to grab another material. I've got tons of cardboard so I'm going to
use that. Better than using the wood because it's a
waste of material, but with cardboards you can practice and practice all day long.
I put it in. Identification succeed. It's 3.5mm cardboard. If I place the character and the letter in
the center they have engrave mode, what does it mean? Engrave mode SD, HD, 3D. SD takes the shortest time, HD takes a longer time, 3D takes the longest time. So I always use SD since I want it to be fast. 10 minutes 18 seconds by SD, ok HD? HD is… 24 minutes, 6 seconds. And 3D…it's 24 minutes 13 seconds. Ok, I'm going to use SD. 10 minutes. So here you can see, this is what I got. I didn't draw it on the computer, I drew it by hand. It's crazy. That's it. You can do that all day. Draw your own designs, download from their site, or download from online repositories. As far as materials, it will recognize it's
own Makeblock branded materials, but you can also use any standard laser cutting material and do the settings manually. You can make custom profiles for your own
materials but what I would really like is the ability to print matching QR codes so
the machine could recognize my material also and automatically choose the appropriate custom profile.
I think being able to buy from them is great,
but if you're in a classroom or Makerspace going through a ton of stock it just makes more sense to buy your own. With custom QR codes you retain the functionality to just put whatever on the cutting bed and have the machine recognize it- which is important because a lot of people aren't going to recognize the difference between materials and thicknesses and know what setting to use. I suppose you could duplicate and print their labels, but that does limit you to using the same materials they supply.
As a lasercutter burns through a material,
all that smoke has to be vented outside. Normally that's just a hose and a fan. Makeblock mostly caters to educational customers so I really think they had schools in mind with their design. It has this box separate from the lasercutter itself, in that box, there is fan and a large filter to remove any particulates. That means you don't have clouds of smoke billowing out the window and into neighboring classrooms.
I have the exhaust jerry-rigged with PVC pipe for this review, I'll neaten it up when I set it up for daily use. But here's the outlet with the laser cutter
running, nothing but warm air. You can still smell the material a bit- but
much, much less than without a filter the way my 80w lasercutter works. Even if you were in an apartment, I don't
think your neighbors would smell anything. It's not silent when it's cutting, but about
the same as a vacuum cleaner. I'm getting 75-80 decibels. Now stuff I don't like. The first one is unrelated to the product
Before I said this is one of the best products I've ever reviewed. To be clear- I'm not sponsored by them, this isn't a paid review, I got it free but I already have a larger lasercutter so I'm hardly going to lie for them. But there is an incentive for reviewers to
do this. In order to receive a review unit, the Makeblock Marketing department asks that channels owners sign an incredibly restrictive agreement which in my opinion really asks them to cross some ethical lines.
I refused to sign the agreement- got a LaserBox anyway, my buddy Angus over at Makersmuse also refused to sign the agreement and as I film this, did not get a review unit. I have a problem with this. My channel exists as part of an ecosystem. People who have never heard of a lot of this kind of tech often see my thumbnail and come to my channel for well…other things, but tend to stay for the tech. I show them how it works, and show them that if I can do it- they can do it. My job is not to educate people who already know all about this stuff, but to bring new people in and get them interested.
There's always someone shrieking in the comments something like "Wake up sheeple! She's using tiddies to trick you into maybe learning something!". Yah got me, darn. I run a bait and switch operation, plain and
simple, I'm good at it and I take pride in it. Other STEM channels use explosions, or pranks, or humor to keep people engaged, I use a bit of fan service by pretty much just being myself.
As the song says "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down"- and the medicine is cutting-edge science, engineering, and technology content from the most cyberpunk city in the world. But once I rope them in, Angus, Joel the 3D
Printing Nerd and countless others- they go into more detail. Whatever interest I spark in viewers, they
need channels to go and learn more from. Those channels, like mine need to be free from bias- they can't do that under a restrictive contract.
It breaks my heart that Makeblock went this route because it's such a fantastic product it does not need anything like that. All it
does is put reviewers on the defensive. The other issue is pricing. I asked MakeBlock to put a buy link for the
LaserBox on their site. Every time I review a product without clear pricing, or that require viewers email for a quote, sales are a tiny fraction of what they are with a clear, honest listed price and a link to buy it. I don't buy products that want me to email
for a quote. Maybe you do, but against my advice, that's what MakeBlock has asked. So if you are interested, the link is in the description box, you can email them for a quote. Even I don't have a fixed number and I don't know if it will change or why, so you'll have to ask them. Again this isn't taking anything away from the LaserBox, I absolutely love it as a product, I've been using it constantly since I got it.
I've spoken to their engineers and they are absolutely top-notch and very responsive. But as a reviewer, looking at kind of iffy practices on the sales and marketing side that aren't really consumer-friendly, I have to look out for my viewers also. Now I've given you a general overview of the LaserBox, this isn't like other products I review because as soon as I started using it I knew it was going to be a regular part of my channel.
So I'm not trying to include every feature
all in one video. You'll be seeing more tutorials and more demonstrations of exactly what it can do in upcoming videos. My final recommendations- If you do crafting and DIY and your time is valuable, and you don't want to spend it learning a complex new toolchain, in my opinion, this is the absolute best option. If you run a small shop and want an easy way to add engraving services but aren't in the laser cutting business and don't want to spend time on that, it's perfect and I think it will quickly pay for itself. For schools- it's safe, it's clean, it has
an interlock on the lid, kids can just come in and start using it within minutes. Makerspace- it depends, it's a wonderful option for the same reason as it's great for schools, anyone can just come in and use it with almost no training.
But mastering complex toolchains is one of
the reasons some people go to Makerspaces so there's that to think about. You can get a more powerful Chinese laser
like my JingKe for the money, but that power won't necessarily enable you to do more unless you really need to cut very thick material in which case a CNC router is often more suitable. The Ender-3, 3D printer is the sort of product I can tell people- save up some money, even if you're on a tight budget, it's worth it. This isn't that- for Pete's sake if you are on a very tight budget don't even look at the Laserbox, get a cheap K40 from eBay, download Lightburn to run it and spend a couple of months learning its quirks and fixing its issues.
This is a high-end tool that is incredibly good at getting people laser cutting quickly, and giving you the same results that usually take a few weeks of training to learn how to get out of other machines. Anyway, I have to get this moved out of the
review area and into the tool area so I can use it more easily. I already use it at least once a day for things around the house so you'll be seeing more of the Laserbox soon. What do you think of it? What would you like to see me do with it? Leave your comments in the comments section. Please post my videos to any forums or social media platforms you think might be suitable it really helps. All my videos are Creative Commons licensed so you can absolutely include them in your own videos, all I need is a good link to my channel. Until next time remember, if I can do it,
anyone can do it! Work on the Lair's moat filled with sharks with lasers on their heads continues…
And remember if I can do it, anyone can do it! Ok, that's a wrap. Let's go check out what's going on outside. WHAT? My moat is only halfway done? Where's the henchmen? The sharks with the lasers on their head are coming tomorrow and my moat is halfway done, what the hell? So hard to find help these days..