The Flux beamo is a $1,500 laser cutter with simple but powerful software – TechSwitch

    Laser cutters are in a enjoyable place proper now. Gone are the times when the most cost effective machines had been tens of 1000’s of {dollars}, and when the “compact” fashions had been roughly the dimensions of a freezer. They’ve gotten reasonably priced sufficient, and sufficiently small, {that a} DIY house hobbyist can add it to their toolset with out taking out a second mortgage or needing far more than some desk area… however they’re nonetheless a uncommon sufficient machine that saying “I’ve got a laser cutter!” makes folks have a look at you such as you’re a friggin’ wizard.
    One of the newest entries into this area is beamo, a compact, 30W laser cutter and engraver constructed by Flux — a Taiwan-based crew you would possibly bear in mind for elevating $1.6 million on Kickstarter with its Flux Delta 3D printer/scanner/engraver again in 2014.
    As with Delta, Flux is popping to Kickstarter for the launch of beamo. They sprinted previous their purpose of $25,000 fairly shortly, at the moment sitting at roughly $350,000 raised with slightly over every week to go. The early-bird fashions are going for $849, with the corporate pinning the ultimate MSRP at $1,500. Shipping/taxes aren’t included in these costs, and may value a pair hundred bucks, so issue that in to any buying selections.
    While I are usually a bit hesitant relating to crowdfunded {hardware} (having been burned too many occasions by merchandise that both by no means arrived or did arrive solely to be complete rubbish), Flux has been down this street earlier than; along with Delta, it additionally crowdfunded and shipped Beambox (a barely larger, pricier, however extra highly effective laser cutter) just some months again. In the case of beamo, it looks as if the Kickstarter is primarily meant to assist get the phrase out, reasonably than actually “kickstarting” the method. Production is already underway, and items are already rolling off the road.
    Flux despatched me a kind of early items to take a look at for a couple of weeks. I haven’t had it lengthy sufficient to do what I’d name a “review”; with issues like laser cutters with their myriad transferring elements and… you already know, lasers, new points can pop up months after you open the field, as parts put on and upkeep is required. So take into account this extra of a “first impressions” form of factor.
    My first impressions, although, are good.
    For reference, I’d classify myself laser expertise as… average. More than most individuals you’d randomly ask, I’d wager, however lower than if it had been my job. I’ve put 100 hours or so into coaching/creating with these aforementioned freezer-sized professional lasers, making every little thing from customized etched pint glasses, to bespoke Christmas ornaments, to customized rubber stamps over time. I are likely to search for excuses to shoot lasers at issues.
    Getting it working
    My beamo unit got here able to go proper out of the field, mirrors aligned, transferring elements all lubed up. I plugged it in, arrange some fundamental air flow, ran by means of about 10 minutes of software program set up and configuration and began firing away. It all simply labored on the primary shot.
    Speaking of air flow: you’ll want it. Laser slicing is principally a tiny, tremendous managed hearth… and which means smoke. Depending on what you’re slicing, that smoke might be tremendous noxious. Cutting wooden? It received’t scent too unhealthy, but it surely’s nonetheless not one thing you need in your lungs on the common. Etching a brand into felt? It’ll scent such as you’re burning a trash can filled with hair. Beamo makes use of a 200CFM exhaust fan to drag smoky air out of the machine, dumping it out by means of a 4″ exhaust hose that you just’ll must run by means of a window (or, if you happen to’re feeling further fancy, a dryer exhaust-style vent by means of a wall.) Expect to wish about 8″ of clearance between the machine and any wall behind it for the exhaust hose and its bends, except the trail to the window is a straight shot.
    The exhaust system is first rate, however you’ll in all probability must fiddle with how the hose runs to get it good. If you’re venting by means of a window, you’ll need to work out a approach of sealing up the open gaps across the hose to restrict any fumes which may float again into the room. Put time into getting it proper. If the room nonetheless smells smokey hours after you’ve reduce, you’ll need to preserve working in your air flow. You don’t need to breath that stuff in, particularly if you happen to’re working the laser greater than often.
    Beamo’s built-in touchscreen. You’ll principally management it over Wi-Fi, however you’ll be able to entry some fundamental performance and monitor job progress right here.
    If you’re new to laser slicing, you also needs to put the time into studying what you shouldn’t put in these machines. Some supplies are protected to laser reduce, however are likely to catch on hearth simply. Some supplies will simply soften and screw up your machine. Other issues (PVC!) will straight up emit chlorine gasoline if you hit them with a laser. If you’re transferring past the fundamentals of slicing skinny wooden/acrylic/cardboard or engraving glass, analysis it.
    So what SHOULD you narrow? Woods are go-to (although you’ll need to restrict it to much less oily stuff — as a result of, once more, hearth). Cardboard is enjoyable to chop for issues like spray paint stencils. Leather is nice, with observe, and you are able to do all types of actually neat stuff with acrylic. You can’t reduce glass, however you’ll be able to engrave it; identical goes for rubber, although that’s one you’ll need to supply from a spot that sells supplies recognized to be laser protected.
    The thickness of the fabric you’ll be able to reduce tends to be restricted by a laser’s wattage, whereas top/width is mostly restricted by the dimensions of the work space. At 30W, beamo’s laser can slice its approach by means of wooden about 1/8″ thick; its work space, in the meantime, is available in at 11.81″ x 8.27″. You could make loads of cool stuff inside these bounds, however pay attention to them — shopping for a bunch of fabric solely to get it house and notice you’re a couple of watts in need of a whole reduce is a bummer. If you foresee needing deeper cuts or larger items, beefier lasers exist with out too large a leap in value. As examples: Flux’s different laser cutter, the $2,500 Beambox, bumps the laser as much as 40W and the work space as much as 15.7″ x 14.7″; the $2,500 base mannequin from competitor Glowforge is available in at 40W with a piece space of roughly 11″ x 19.5″.
    (One potential benefit of beamo over the corporate’s beforehand launched Beambox: whereas Beambox requires you to usually refill a water cooling reservoir to maintain it working, beamo’s water cooling is closed-loop, so the identical water simply retains circulating. I’m to see how this holds up over time.)
    Fire the lasers!

    Got every little thing plugged in, air flow arrange and your supplies bought? Time to chop! Well, nearly.
    You’ll principally be controlling beamo by means of Beam Studio, a free piece of software program supplied by Flux for Windows, macOS and Ubuntu. As far as laser slicing software program goes, I’m actually fairly happy with it to date.
    Beam Studio is tremendous easy, however darn highly effective for a free companion app. If you’re trying to reduce out fundamental shapes, etch textual content or lay down some bezier curves, it could possibly do it. Want to etch an image of your canine into some wooden to make a keychain? Just drop a picture onto the work space, scale as desired, then transfer a slider to tweak the black/white threshold till it appears proper. You can work in layers, establishing a raster layer to be etched after which a vector layer to chop it out instantly after.
    Beamo has a built-in digital camera system, permitting you to shortly scan the work mattress earlier than dragging and dropping your designs wherever you need them. The first time you hook up with beamo, you’ll be requested to calibrate the digital camera — a course of that was significantly less complicated than I anticipated. Put a chunk of paper on the work mattress, and beamo will hearth a fast check sample into it. Beam Studio will then snap an image of what it simply etched, projecting an overlay of the place it thinks the check sample is versus its scan. Nudge the overlay round till every little thing is completely stacked, and also you’re set. You’ll need to re-run this alignment course of each infrequently (it’s fast) if you happen to want exact placement.

    The digital camera system right here actually is extremely helpful. After about 30 minutes with beamo, I used to be doing issues which can be at finest annoying on camera-less cutters — issues like etching a design, slicing it out, then instantly flipping the reduce piece and etching on the opposite facet with out worrying about precarious placement. I simply rescanned the work mattress, dragged the picture the place I wished it on the freshly reduce facet B, and fired away.
    The digital camera is fast, however not on the spot. Scanning all the work space takes about 60 seconds. If you solely want a sure space scanned (like, say, the highest half of the work space, or the tough space round one thing you’ve already reduce), luckily, that’s an choice. Just drag the scanning boundary field accordingly.
    If it is advisable to do one thing past what the free software program can deal with (or if you happen to simply desire working in apps like CorelDraw or Illustrator), Beam Studio can import JPGs, PNGs and SVGs.

    While extra succesful than I anticipated, the software program isn’t with out its quirks. Beam Studio will attempt to preserve you up to date with a progress ticker, however don’t depend on it an excessive amount of for predicting timing. I’ve had tasks shoot as much as 40% within the first 30 seconds, solely to take 5 minutes for the remaining to finish. There was an event or two the place the software program threw out an error in Mandarin that I didn’t need to dismiss with out a fast move by means of Google Translate… however for essentially the most half, it was strong, steady and enjoyable to make use of.
    In its base configuration, beamo’s laser is manually targeted, that means you’ll must focus issues by hand every time you place new materials contained in the machine. Fortunately, focusing it’s tremendous easy: put materials in, rotate a chunk of acrylic connected to the laser head, decrease the laser head till the acrylic is simply barely touching the fabric, then lock the laser head again in place and raise the acrylic out of the best way.
    Flux says that it’ll ship a $250 add-on module that introduces autofocus to the combination, however I didn’t get to check that. They’re additionally engaged on a $499 rotary add-on that can allow you to etch designs onto cylindrical objects (assume shot/pint glasses), however out of the field, it’s flat stuff solely.

    As with each single laser I’ve ever labored with, working with a brand new materials — and even, typically, the identical materials from a special supply — requires some fiddling. You’ll be tweaking the pace at which the laser strikes, the facility of the laser and what number of passes it makes over the identical path; you need to preserve the facility low sufficient to reduce scorching and maximize the lifetime of the laser, whereas ensuring you’ve carried out sufficient repeat passes to chop utterly by means of. Beam Studio comes with a bunch of presets for various supplies that may get you fairly shut (and it can save you your personal favorites, when you’ve discovered them), however count on to experiment slightly if you’re working with a brand new materials for the primary time. Buy further materials.
    As for noise: working with followers working full drive, it’s not what I’d name “quiet,” but it surely’s not so loud that it’s uncomfortable to sit down subsequent to. The firm’s specs pin it at round 65 db — louder than your common dialog, however a bit quieter than, say, a vacuum. The followers do whir endlessly when the machine is idling, so that you’ll in all probability need to reduce the facility between slicing classes.
    If for some purpose it is advisable to open the lid whereas the laser is working, beamo’s built-in automated kill change will reduce energy to the laser to guard your eyes. Close the lid once more and the job might be resumed proper from the place you left off. While the corporate says that the acrylic lid offers adequate eye safety for beamo’s 30W Class 1 laser (although they observe that you just shouldn’t stare proper on the laser beam, lid or not), I completely suggest choosing up and sporting a pair of CO2 laser security goggles, particularly when it comes time to pop the machine open and do any upkeep. Speaking of…
    Foreseeable upkeep
    Maintenance is an inevitable a part of proudly owning a laser cutter. As famous, I’ve solely had the laser arrange for a couple of weeks and every little thing got here properly configured, so I haven’t needed to go digging underneath the hood but. If one thing abruptly breaks on me throughout my time with the cutter, I’ll replace this put up accordingly. But both approach, upkeep will likely be a part of the method for house owners.
    Even if nothing breaks unexpectedly, among the elements concerned are “consumable” and thus anticipated to put on down with use. The lens, mirror and laser tube, for instance, are anticipated to final a couple of 12 months with common use, based on the corporate’s estimates. The crew says these elements ought to value about $19, $9 and $139 to exchange, respectively, and also you’ll have the ability to purchase them by means of their on-line retailer. Plan forward for these recurring prices, and ensure you’re snug with the concept of finally tearing the machine aside earlier than you dive in.
    You’ll additionally must preserve issues clear to maintain them working properly. Burning stuff dirties the optics, and soiled optics result in weaker cuts and sooner put on. You’ll need to pop the work mattress out usually to do away with any particles, and preserve all of the transferring bits lubed. There’s extra to maintaining a laser cutter working properly than say, an inkjet printer.
    Overall, although, to date so good. The machine appears fairly nice on a desk; it’s not fairly as shiny and Apple-y as a Glowforge, but it surely ought to mix into a house workplace or studio fairly simply. It’s gentle sufficient to be simply moved by two folks, and took me all of some minutes to rise up and working. If you don’t thoughts the occasional software program hiccup, can work out adequate air flow, are principally engaged on tasks that match inside beamo’s wattage/work space capabilities and are all the way down to get underneath the hood for upkeep, beamo looks as if a strong machine to date.

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