Introduction: Laser Buddy, Laser Alignment Made Easy
This is a simple device that will make your laser to work alignment easier and more precise then you would have ever thought possible. Red dot pointers are nice, and they are certainly a great thing to have. But, they are generally not very precise, and on clear material they can be hard to use. Much of this comes from the way they are mounted. With the red laser beam being off-axis, any error in focus position shows up as a linear displacement. At The MakerBarn we have two Chinese lasers. The big 80W unit was born without a red dot pointer, and the smaller 60W machine has a red dot that has suffered broken wires so often, we don't bother to try to fix it. So Laser Buddy to the rescue.
The Laser Buddy is a clear acrylic plate that is indexed to the laser's nozzle/lens assembly. When the Laser Buddy is built, it is set in place and the laser is fired to burn a tiny hole in the base. From then on, unless the mirrors and realigned, the laser will always go where the tiny hole is located. So when the Laser Buddy is set on the work-piece, and indexed to the nozzle, you will see exactly where the laser will cut.
Let's take a few minutes and make one..........
Step 1: Load the DXF, and Cut Out the Pieces
There just three small pieces to the Laser Buddy. The DXF file is designed around 3mm (in the US we say 1/8") acrylic. Clear is best.
Step 2: Bond the Pieces Together
Using some acrylic solvent, glue the three pieces together. Allow the solvent or glue to cure.
Step 3: Shoot the Index Mark
Place the Laser Buddy on the laser bed and focus the laser. Make sure the Laser Buddy is sitting flat on the bed and that the vertical index plates are just touching the nozzle. For ease of viewing, it is best to put the index plates to the rear as in the photo.
When ready, manually fire the laser a few times to "drill" a hole through the base. Now the Laser Buddy is ready to use. I found the laser hole was so small it was hard to see, so I enlarged it slightly with an X-Acto knife and put a bit of black paint in the hole. Black ink may work better.
When using the Laser Buddy, always align it as you did during this step.
Step 4: Run a Test
I drew a rough cross on a piece of plywood. Then put the plywood in the laser and set the focus and a rough position. Then I placed the Laser Buddy on the plywood and adjusting the head until the tiny hole in the Laser Buddy's base lined up with the cross. Move either the head or plywood, whichever works best. Make sure to keep the Laser Buddy indexed on the nozzle.
Remove the Laser Buddy, and be sure to set the origin. I had made a cross-hair target with a circle. The pattern was downloaded into the laser and ready to go.
Burn the image and check the results.
Step 5: Checking the Test Results
Wow! Dead on. The target cut on perfect center. The fact is was not rotated was pure dumb luck on my part.
It only take a few minutes to make a Laser Buddy, give one a try. You won't be throwing away you red dot right away, but you'll be reaching for the Laser Buddy whenever a challenging alignment issue comes up.