New Avid CNC Laser System: Behind the scenes

Hey folks! hopefully, you’ve already seen our new product announcement!

Spoiler alert: It’s a laser!

All of the laser facts are in that link. I figured you all might want to see a little bit of the background of how we got here.

When we first got the idea to do a laser I got one and bolted it up to my machine. After doing a few days of test cuts I was hooked. I was lasering everything I could get my hands on.

Turns out you CAN laser a tortilla. I don’t recommend it though!

Initially, I started with a fixed laser mount. What I didn’t like about the setup that I had was that the laser prevented me from having a bit in the spindle. I set about to come up with a better way:

I grabbed some old linear bearings that I had around, 3D printed a base plate and grabbed some bungee cords to make the first version of a retractable laser. It was pretty low budget but it proved out the idea: Being able to retract the laser was awesome. I loved being able to switch between spindle and laser work. This is the final result of the deployment system:

laser deploying (4)

Then came the challenge of making the electronics a little easier to setup. Don’t laugh but this was my first crack at making a “control box”

This was the beginning of the integrated control box idea. The idea was essentially to combine all of the disparate things you need for a laser into one box to make it easier to set up. As you can see there’s wiring, pneumatics and the laser control box. For the keen-eyed: You may notice some old trailer wiring, two random power supplies and some airline that I’m pretty sure is from a refrigerator ice maker.

From here the real engineers at Avid CNC took this idea and made it a reality. They spent months and months toiling over every detail. They tested tolerances, made a bunch of prototypes, sweated each little detail in the machining of the billet aluminum deployment plates, and tested all kinds of air cylinders. We even threw several control boxes from great heights to test their shipping durability. They also spent a LOT of time thinking through how the software for Mach 4 will handle all of this.

And this is just the “cool” engineering that they got to do. Never mind building BOMs, tracking down suppliers, etc. Here’s the resulting control box:

It’s hard to truly articulate how much work has gone into this. I’m super proud to get to work with these folks and to have had a small role in helping bring this laser system out. This absolutely wouldn’t have been possible without so many of our team working so hard to make this a reality. From the hardware to the software, I believe that what we’ve built is the most well-thought-out laser add-on available.

I figured you all would enjoy a little look behind the scenes here. If anyone has any questions I’d be happy to answer.


Very nice! How much?

Pretty cool. I just talked to someone the other day that was wanting to put a laser on his CNC. He was making complicated wood assemblies and wanted to cut them, and then mark them with a part number and his logo, so he wanted to use the spindle and laser all in one Gcode file automatically. Unfortunately his system is not an AVID, so he may have to upgrade :-).

The complete system with all of the pnuematics and mechanical parts you need, along with the laser head itself is $3795. That includes a new software update to run it as well.

Hi Eric.
For those of us who already have some of the components (eg the laser / some air assist etc), will you be selling individual components like the pneumatic mount etc?
Regards Gerard

On our other systems I believe we do this, on this one I’m not sure if that’s how we’ll sell it. You should contact support and ask them. They’re super nice and can definitely answer for you. (link is right up top here)

Nice Eric, that looks awesome! It’s fun to see how things develop.

Agreed. I’ve been a part of a few projects like this in the past and it always amazes me to see how rough prototypes can be in the beginning.

I can’t wait to show you all the next rough prototype! :slight_smile:

Does your laser setup reduce the laser power during accel/decel to compensate for the slower motion? On my setup (no compensation) I find that the ends of burned lines are darker because the laser isn’t up to speed yet, if you’re using the laser for vector burns (not raster).

Yes, our laser is PWM driven so you set the power level you want, and that power level is varied with actual machine speed.

In addition to that when you are using the laser it switches to a special motor tuning mode so that you get more performance out of it.

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The important question is:

corn or flour tortilla?

Can you adjust the laser power to compensate for either one?

(This is a very impressive new tool for the Avid CNC machines. I’m really impressed with the engineering!)

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Funny. Opt sells lasers (with a galvo head) to bakeries for use in decorating/labeling things like cupcakes.

Eric, is this the same kit that OptLaser are offering on their site (Cut & Engrave Wood, Leather, Textiles & More with Opt Lasers' PLH3D-15W) - I’m asking because a) they have it listed as in stock and ready to ship, b) they are offering free shipping atm (saving US$33 for me), and they take payment in different currencies (our puny aussie dollar sometimes does a bit better against some of the European moneys)

The kit from OptLaser is included in the new Avid CNC Laser System. However the Avid kit also includes a fully integrated electronics and pneumatics package and a rather clever pneumatic mounting system for the Laser head. Also some updated software.
Regards Gerard

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By the way, where in Oz are you located. I am in regional Victoria (Macedon Ranges).
Regards Gerard

@Bernmc @seco summed it up perfectly. Our kit is completely plug and play from hardware all the way to the software. We actually start with Opt’s kit and add on from there. You won’t need to fabricate a mount, hunt down hoses, solenoids, configure software, etc with our kit. That’s why we call it a “system” :slight_smile:

Thanks Seco & Eric. Seco, I’m in Newcastle NSW

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For those of us with custom setups, could you tell us a bit about the mount? I mean, I have air at the spindle already, but it’s one way, and I have an S30C spindle. Is the laser mount air-down/spring-up (I hope :wink: ? WIll it fit around the S30C with the tramming mount?

A few questions:

  1. You’ve mounted the laser on the left side of the spindle. In your prototype picture, the fixed laser does not extend beyond (to the left) of the aluminum mounting plate and so would not interfere with the rubber bumper stop nor the homing limit. The video with the vertically-sliding laser are shot from the right side, so I cannot tell: does the laser extend beyond the aluminum plate or modify the x-axis homing limits?

  2. Can the laser be mounted on the right side of the spindle?

  3. On my PRO60x120 machine, the max x travel is about 61.1". My spoilboard is 60.5" and I use 60" baltic birch quite often, so nearly the full x-travel is used. Does the laser reduce the available x-travel for the spindle?

4a) How far is the laser from the spindle (x-distance) and 4b) would the laser also have full access to the 60.5" spoilboard, or would the usable x-travel for the laser be less, specifically on the right side of the material if the laser is mounted to the left of the spindle?

  1. For flat XY spoilboard cutting, my dust shoe and dust collection work well. However, when using the rotary, the dust shoe is not practical and I remove it. Sawdust is sprayed everywhere as a result. Does the laser have a protective cap/cover, an air blast, etc, to keep the diode clear from stray debris buildup or does it require constant cleaning from sawdust?


If a picture is worth a thousand words… a video is like 10 million words right? :slight_smile:

Anyway, I shot a fast video for you all to check out. Remember, what you’re seeing is VERY early prototype stuff. This is not by any means final hardware. All of that is in production now.

Let me know if you have any follow-up questions!

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