I have a new project or two coming up that will require some finer cutting than I can get from my CNC router, so I decided to start researching lasers. The first thing I discovered is that there is a lot of options out there and you can spend months looking at every article, YouTube video, and review. I just decided to focus on my minimum needs and buy one within my price range that came from a company that I recognized. Over the July 4th holiday weekend, Rockler had a sale on the Laguna PL 1220 Laser. It was 10% off and it had a 12″x20″x2″ cut area with the ability to remove the bottom and pass longer stock through if needed. I decided to take the plunge and made the purchase. It was supposed to be delivered within a week or two, but after 3 weeks, I called Rockler and they got in touch with the Laguna to get things moving. My laser arrived the next week.
Don’t assume that these things are small. These machines can be anywhere from 100 pounds to over 1,000 pounds. I was very busy trying to make space in my shop for it, but when it arrived, I got a big surprise. The shipping weight of my laser was supposed to be 220 pounds and it was supposed to arrive in two crates. This beast came in a single crate that was over 400 pounds.
When I opened it, there was an extra section below the laser that I couldn’t find anywhere on the manufacturer’s website. When I inspected further, I found that the extra lower section was a Z-stage, which is an adjustable table that raises and lowers your material to auto-focus the laser. It also increases the vertical capacity of the laser from 2″ maximum to about 12″. This is a seriously useful upgrade that I was not expecting. I contacted Laguna and was referred to a technician who was surprised that they had sent me the new version of the laser. He thought it had not been released yet. Apparently there was some confusion going on when they moved their facility from California to Texas and I got shipped the latest upgrade at the old model price. I am not complaining. I did however have to wait 2 weeks before the first version of the manual was written… They have also commissioned a series of videos to be made on how to set it up. It is definitely not plug-n-play. The technician was extremely helpful and responsive though. Apparently there is only one other person that has one of these at this time. The laser itself looks like the older version, but it is completely different inside so setup was an adventure…
It was also a problem because I did not have the physical space for it in my shop. So it got an upgraded location, and moved into my basement.
It came with lots of parts that needed to be nearby.
A chiller to cool the laser tube, an air compressor to blow waste out of the way of the laser, and an exhaust fan to suck the smoke out of the laser and exhaust it outside.
Since this is not going to be in my shop, I had to change my exhaust exit plan from on old dryer vent to a window.
I designed a panel to insert into the window that had a low profile dryer vent with louvers so I didn’t have to remove my window screen.
I also used a bolt-on 4″ dust collection connector to attach the duct.
I wrapped it all with weather-stripping and placed a piece of foam at the top of the window sash to prevent smoke from coming back in. It actually works really well.
To get things set up, I had to cut away a bunch of zip ties.
I found the location for the laser tube and the power wires to connect it.
Since this is a newer version, they did not match the old manual of course.
I was further confused by additional connectors that were shipped with it.
Along with a bunch of other items that came in a toolbox.
According to the technician, Laguna ships these components with all of their lasers and he has no idea why…
I found the laser tube in a box, stuffed safely inside the lower section. It took a little effort and a conversation with the technician to get the laser installed and all the mirrors aligned without any instructions or videos, but I found a few videos of similar setups that helped and after an hour or so of playing with it, I think it is set up right.
I threw in a piece of scrap plywood and started playing with the onboard software until I found a demo to run.
After my initial success without any mishaps or fires, I figured out how to auto-focus the laser to get a finer cut and tried cutting out my logo in cherry and walnut.
Here is a video of the logo being cut out if you are interested.
I also went online to Thingiverse.com to find a couple of quick projects like this cell phone stand with a live hinge.
I cut it from some 1/8″ plywood and it works well.
Since everyone uses different materials, there are no real useful charts out there for setting speed and power so I will have a lot of trial and error getting started initially.
I did about ten different test cuts on this church image to get the correct settings, for example.
But once I found the right settings, I carved a highly detailed version into hard maple. This image is only about 2″ tall. I think it is really good. I cannot get that kind of resolution from my CNC router.
I also read that you can laser engrave onto food. My son was deep frying potato slices, so I grabbed a couple to experiment on. One raw and one cooked. It turned out really cool, though there was a slight burnt flavor to the chip. It does open up possibilities though…
I will definitely keep you updated on my progress with this beast. I am very happy with the upgrades this machine has and I look forward to testing its limits.
I did notice, when writing this blog, that Rockler pulled this laser from their web page. Hopefully they will be selling it again when they fully release the new version.
I found your website when I was researching lasers and was wondering how your Laguna PL1220 is working out for you? A lot of people are recommending the Thunder brand lasers though I know Laguna is a great name in the CNC world so was curious how their lasers are working.
Hi Brandon, The Laguna is not a bad laser for the price range. I can engrave wood, acrylic, and glass well. I have also done tile. Just cut through the glazing but it did work. Laguna has finally put up some useful videos but instructions are limited. Nothing useful for the rotary jig. Tech staff is responsive but it is a new version of this machine and their experience with it is very limited. With most lasers, you will have to do a lot of trial and error to find the settings you will need for each material. There is no standard available unless you buy the materials very specifically from the person setting the standard, I can get expensive. I prefer to experiment and use the materials I have at hand. I can do minimal cutting with the 40 watt laser but it does really well with thin wood and acrylic. Also you might want to note the physical dimensions and weight of the unit before you buy one. Mine weighs 400 lb and takes up an area that is approximately 4 ft wide by 3 ft deep. It also has a chiller which you will want to keep in a conditioned space so the water doesn’t freeze. There is some noise involved with the air compressor chiller and laser running all at the same time.
What is the deepest you can cut with the pl1220 40 watt? I cannot fit the mx 100 watt through the door of my office and it does not come apart. I am thinking about the smaller one to start out with a laser.
I have cut 1\4″ deep. Sorry, I can’t say if it can do more. I haven’t had need to try.
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Hi, I am gearing up to do a project that is larger than the bed itself. Have you used it’s portability features to burn larger images and if so, is there any direction out there?
Portability? No. The darn thing is heavy. It does sit about 1″ up above the z stage so you can slide things back and forth underneath of the laser to increase footprint you can engrave.
Right.!? I like how it was marketed on multiple fronts. SMH.
Anyways, if I were trying to do an image larger than the bed, how do I burn a portion of it and connect it for the next portion?
Instead of the metal grate they give you I put a piece of quarter inch plywood down on the z stage and then laser the outer perimeter so I have straight lines to line my boards up against on the side or the top and bottom. I plan where the center points are going to be on the board I’m engraving and place them under the red dot in the center
Also, I have put little 1″ blocks under each leg before and raised it up one corner at a time to get a little extra height. Basically whatever you’re cutting needs to fit flush up to the bottom of the frame to be within the proper focal distance.
Iv’e got it propped up as well as I often times need to engrave on 8/4 material. So I just slide it in from the front. My question/problem about linking the image, ie burning half of it, adjusting the material, and burning the second half may just be based on lack of knowledge with lightburn and getting my machined dialed in a little better.
Sent you an email with more information