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Subject: Is this $120 laser engraver strong enough to engrave dice? rss

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Jennifer Gwinn

Oklahoma
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I'd love to be able to engrave custom blank dice. And I don't mean wood dice (I know it can do those at least). But I'd like to also engrave typical dice (whatever they are made of).

https://www.amazon.com/Engraver-Printer-COLEMETER-Industry-E...
 
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Peter Gray
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The simple answer is it's unlikely. It claims to be a 1000mw laser, which is just 1w power but presented in a way that's seems attractive. On the ribbon at the bottom of the page showing also bought items is a fairly common desktop machine which boasts 40w power so at least 40 times more powerful. Sadly also more expensive. To engrave into plastic requires a fair amount of power as the laser essentially vaporises or explodes the molecules of the material being engraved. The other thing you need to consider when looking at this kind of process is the fumes that are generated - burning plastics release all kinds of nasties so you need to ventilate the area well and have some kind of extraction to get rid of the fumes.

the cost of laser cutters and engravers is dropping, but still carries a fair price tag. I suspect the machine you are looking at would be OK for scrapbooking, card making etc. You may be able to make fibre gaskets with it if the cutter goes over the material several times.

I may be wrong, I'd like to be wrong but I'd hate someone to spend money to prove it one way or another $120 is a fair few games.

As an alternative the are some online print/cut on demand companies that specialise in custome dice production, Q workshop springs to mind. Whilst still a moderately expensive option, using them has taken the risk and the main cost out of the job.
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Keith "Boaty McBoatface" C
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Like he said, probably not, but you might be able to check YouTube to see if anyone had posted reviews or something. On a related note, i sell custom etched dice for $2 apiece, and i use a 40w laser.
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Jeff Saxton
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I suspect not. The lasers I used to run would hardly scratch paper at low settings like that. Also note the text states it will not work on acrylic, which many plastic dice actually are made from.
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Jake Staines
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boardgamegeekess wrote:
I'd love to be able to engrave custom blank dice. And I don't mean wood dice (I know it can do those at least). But I'd like to also engrave typical dice (whatever they are made of).


I have exactly that model, and despite the nay-saying above, the answer is yes. To be fair, the one I bought was advertised as a 1 gigawatt laser, but I'm pretty sure that's just 'cause they put the title in all-caps and didn't fix the units. I doubt very much it gets that much power over two USB cables!

It doesn't do a deep etch, you won't be able to get a millimetre-deep recess which holds a lot of paint or whatever, but it most certainly leaves a visible indentation on the surface of the die.

This is what I determined to be a pretty good cut for dice (60ms burn time with an immediate recarve of the same image without changing anything; the border is just pencil marks so I remembered which experiment was which):



This is a single 70ms cut after sanding with some 240-grit paper to see how easy it was to remove the image:



I'd yet to try it, but a promising-looking technique for filling in the cut with paint is to put a bit of masking tape down first, cut the image through the masking tape (probably with a longer burn time/second pass) and then paint over the top of it, then remove the masking tape right at the end.


I had tried for a while to work a pantograph with a Dremel attached to engrave die faces. It... kind of worked, but it was a huge hassle and involved suspending the follower in the air and listening to the cutter to try and work out whether you were making a light cut in the surface or plunging the bit deep into the surface of the die. I'm sure the concept could have been improved, but one of these lasers does the job easier and with less fuss... and significantly cheaper than the aluminium section I was looking at to improve the rigidity of my prototype pantograph.

Which brings me to my second point: that laser cost me about £50 quite recently, I'd expect you could probably get it for less than $120 if you shop around.

(The third point is that there was a virus on the MicroSD card that the supplied software came on, so be careful if you do pick one up; scan the media first. My AV deleted it, it wasn't anything vital to running the laser.)
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Jennifer Gwinn

Oklahoma
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That's pretty sweet. If I got it I'd probably make a jig for it for four dice--modeling it in CAD software and printing out my 3-D printer. Looks like the bed is large enough to do four at a time.

Can I just do multiple passes to make it deeper? I wouldn't mind it doing 20 passes. Then it would be deep enough to fill with paint and wipe off excess after.

Regarding fumes, I was thinking I would use a laptop and do the eTching outside.
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Jake Staines
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boardgamegeekess wrote:

Looks like the bed is large enough to do four at a time.


The bed is larger than the etchable area, which IIRC is quoted as 38x38mm. Somewhat annoyingly, it lets you start a cut if you get up to the edge of the cutting area, and your cuts get kind of truncated at that point - all the cuts that should have happened outside of the cutting area all get performed right at the border, and sometimes it catches itself and re-aligns partway through the cut, leading to an offset half-image.

Still, these large indented dice are 19mm cubes, so there's still room for 4 of them if you gang them up right next to each other and position them carefully on the bed.

boardgamegeekess wrote:

Can I just do multiple passes to make it deeper?


I've done two cuts over the same area before, but not more than that; I only got the tool recently myself. It certainly made it deeper, but it also lost a tiny amount of definition - the two-pass cut is ever so slightly less clean around the edges than the other tests I've done. Possibly due to focus - the laser is manually-focused, so obviously after you've cut a certain amount of plastic away your focal length should ideally be changed!

boardgamegeekess wrote:

Regarding fumes, I was thinking I would use a laptop and do the eTching outside.


This is exactly what I did. You can see the plume coming off of it as it cuts, I doubt vaporised plastic is particularly good for the lungs!
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Peter Gray
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That is well cool, Jake. Thanks for the info, I'm happy to be wrong in this case. Guess I'll be on the lookout for a laser cutter in the next week or so - a Christmas present to myself. Should be able to do wooden counter marking for game bits.

With regard to fumes, I've been talking to a friend who had a laser cutter in their CDT department before they retired, and h said you need to avoid engraving or cutting anything with vinyl in it as the fume damage the laser lense, and PVC is a define no no as it releases chlorine gas when engraved.
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Jake Staines
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Techstar wrote:

With regard to fumes, I've been talking to a friend who had a laser cutter in their CDT department before they retired, and h said you need to avoid engraving or cutting anything with vinyl in it as the fume damage the laser lense, and PVC is a define no no as it releases chlorine gas when engraved.


Thanks for the advice! Do you know if vinyl-based stuff is OK if you have a vacuum extracting the fumes, or is it just not worth it? I ask 'cause from what I recall, craft foam is made of Ethylene-vinyl acetate, and it'd be handy to be able to cut that.
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Peter Gray
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I'm not sure there are some references to cutting Eva foam with a laser so it may be ok, bough you may loose definition because of melting from the cutting heat. The problem with the chlorine is that when it comes into contact with atmospheric moisture it becomes hydrochloric acid which is what does the damage to the lense and your lungs if you breathe it in.

I guess it could etch your vacuum or even cause additional damage to its components as it passes through.
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Jennifer Gwinn

Oklahoma
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I saw a project using 2 DVD drive mechanisms and 3D printable chasis, on thingiverse.com. That's what these are based off I it looks like. Looking at them they definitely have DVD drive internals for x and y axis. Anyways, that is why these are so small.

CHeapest I've seen is around $80 including shipping for these.

Anyways, I think it'd be pretty neat to be able to engrave dice, at least in some fashion. Especially good for wooden dice and chips.

Anyone know of a good source for affordable wooden dice? Amazon.com wasn't very fruitful in my last search.
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Jake Staines
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boardgamegeekess wrote:
Looking at them they definitely have DVD drive internals for x and y axis. Anyways, that is why these are so small.


Indeed they do. DVD drive internals have to be pretty accurate, so it's probably a pretty good choice. It also explains the rather curious cutting area: the data band on an optical disc is the same width.

boardgamegeekess wrote:

Anyone know of a good source for affordable wooden dice? Amazon.com wasn't very fruitful in my last search.


I see these people recommended a lot for wooden parts in the US:

http://caseyswood.com/shoppingcart/zen-cart/index.php?main_p...

Generally, I've got wooden cubes/dice/discs/cylinders from a variety of "craft wood" places before - that's where I'd start looking.
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Jennifer Gwinn

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How about one of these babies?

http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?type=4&cam...
 
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Jennifer Gwinn

Oklahoma
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Bichatse wrote:
boardgamegeekess wrote:
Looking at them they definitely have DVD drive internals for x and y axis. Anyways, that is why these are so small.


Indeed they do. DVD drive internals have to be pretty accurate, so it's probably a pretty good choice. It also explains the rather curious cutting area: the data band on an optical disc is the same width.

boardgamegeekess wrote:

Anyone know of a good source for affordable wooden dice? Amazon.com wasn't very fruitful in my last search.


I see these people recommended a lot for wooden parts in the US:

http://caseyswood.com/shoppingcart/zen-cart/index.php?main_p...

Generally, I've got wooden cubes/dice/discs/cylinders from a variety of "craft wood" places before - that's where I'd start looking.


Those are good prices on 1/2 wooden dice at 10 cents a piece!
 
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Jennifer Gwinn

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Here is a video review of the $369 (free shipping) one I just linked:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhhOHUe_b6o
 
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Jennifer Gwinn

Oklahoma
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Just purchased this one:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01DG5JWAE?tag=article-boa...
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Keith "Boaty McBoatface" C
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Looks like a good deal, please give us an update after you've used it for a bit.
 
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Peter Gray
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boardgamegeekess wrote:


I've just ordered something similar
 
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Jennifer Gwinn

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Which one did you get?
 
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Peter Gray
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this one
http://m.ebay.co.uk/itm/1000mW-HTPOW-USB-Carver-Laser-Engrav...

same principle, different case.
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Jennifer Gwinn

Oklahoma
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boardgamegeekess wrote:


It came in the mail today.

Going to return it for a couple reasons. One there is a big circluar bump in the middle of the bed (nothing can sit level on that bed).

Also, the bed is hot glued to the dvd drive mechanism and it isn't level.
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Peter Gray
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mine came this morning and seems ok. i've plugged it in and installed the driver but will wait until tomorrow and test it at work as weather is not great in robin hood country at the moment and work has good extraction in the heat treatment room.
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Peter Gray
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Had a good play with mine during breaks yesterday. To say I am impressed is an understatement, I'm completely converted.

It's incredibly easy to use and the results are very impressive. I'm waiting for some dice samples to try the different types, but the wood and card samples came out perfectly. I now plan on making a load of custom counters for several of my games.

My only concern is the intensity of light at the point of burn as it operates. The machine comes with protective green spectacles but I'm not completely sold on how much they reduce the light level, it still seems to resemble a welding arc. Also there is a risk to anyone else in the room,if you are wearing the safety glasses. Therefore I have made a couple, of removable panels from green lighting gel and self adhesive magnetic strip. These fit over the apertures in the frame on 3 sides once the workpiece is in place, before etching starts. The remaining side with the fan is turned towards the wall. If I can find some dark, smoked Perspex I might do something with that as well.
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Jake Staines
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Techstar wrote:

My only concern is the intensity of light at the point of burn as it operates.


I solved this problem by just not looking at it. ;-)

Seriously: I set it up in the garage, position the subject, run the 'preview' thing to make sure that the cut is going to be in the right place... then click the 'Start' button on the laptop and face away from the laser, walk out of the room, and wait for it to stop making noise.
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Keith "Boaty McBoatface" C
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I can send you some after pictures of a burned up laser if you'd like to be convince to not leave it unattended.
 
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