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What wattage laser would I need for engraving ABS plastic? Answered

I want to build a laser engraver that can engrave ABS to a high enough depth that the grooves can be filled with resin. How powerful a laser should I get?

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steveastrouk (author)2015-09-13

Also, it decomposes to CO and HCN, Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen Cyanide

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iceng (author)2015-09-14

Do you know about eye safety ??

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steveastrouk (author)2015-09-13

ABS doesn't cut nicely with a laser. Will it engrave ?

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user

It works quite nice with a pulsed laser of high power.
At work we used a 150W system with 1µs pulses for all plastic engraving and sometimes cutting jobs.
Even fiberglass reinforced ABS was no problem.
But on a home level the price tag of pulsed laser systems might be a smidge over the budget....

Trick with softer or easy melt plastics is speed and power.
You have to evaporate the material before it even begins to melt.
Standard engraving systems on a home or semi pro level can't offer this with the standard CO2 system used.
Years ago I did some experimenting using high speed galvo's as a shutter system for the beam control.
So instead of cutting with power levels that just do the job without too much melting the surroundings I went with the highest power possible and the highest shutter speed the galvo would take.
Had the galvo system independent from the actual engraving system though as neither the machine, nor the crappy software allowed for manual control of such things.
One day the tube failed to provide the full power and before it completely died I sold the system to get room in the garage - was barely in use anyway.
Should have kept the stuff, collected from leftovers on jobs and with help of the tools at work it was easy to get, these days it would cost me a fortune to build a similar system :(

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Downunder35m (author)2015-09-13

Start with a 30W CO2 laser, if you already know you going big, use a 50W tube.

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