We've hatched a plan to buy a laser cutter to enhance the Hacklab's prototyping capabilities, and because lasers are cool. One of Hacklab's members is willing to put in a large proportion of the cost of the cutter in order to have access to it for business stuff (this member would like to pool with the rest of Hacklab to increase the amount of laserz we can collectively buy).
After research, we've selected the LS3060 Plus from HPC Laser. This machine has been chosen as we have personal recommendations for both the LS3060 and HPC Laser. Handily, London Hackspace has the very same machine and has documented much of their experience. This gives us some starting data and brains to pick.
The LS3060 retails for £2,750 + delivery + VAT, total approx £3,300. We expect some sundries will be required, possibly including cooling equipment and fire extinguishers. We guesstimate that £3,600 or so would be a good target to raise to.
Once trained, members of the Hacklab will be able to use the laser cutter for £3 per hour. The training of members is important to avoid damage to the cutter (or member) and get the best results from the machine. Untrained members (and non-Hacklab members) are prohibited from operating the machine.
Members may cut any safe material (some materials are bad for laser cutters) however a stock of sheet materials - including acrylic/ply/MDF - will be kept at the lab for sale. This will be bulk purchased, pre-cut to the size of the laser's bed, and sold with a small markup.
The cutter will be bought by a subset of Hacklab members called LASER CLUB and donated to the Hacklab. LASER CLUB will be formed only of the initial investors. In return for their investment LASER CLUB members will get an allocation of free machine hours to the value of their investment, and 1 (one) limited edition laser-cut unicorn.
The hourly charge and profits from sale of materials will go towards the maintenance of, and spare parts for, the cutter. Laser tubes and mirrors have limited lifespans. Using this income to fund spares means the cutter will be self-sufficient and not impact on general Hacklab funds. LASER CLUB will keep the funds raised from the hourly charge separately from the Hacklab general funds. If LASER CLUB ends up making an ongoing profit the excess will be donated to Hacklab.
The cutter will be owned by the Hacklab. The Hacklab will endeavour to keep the cutter operational and available to members; any decision to dispose of the cutter will require a consensus decision at an EGM, unless an equivalent or upgraded cutter is to be made available.
Should Hacklab cease to exist, move to a space that makes storing the machine impossible or otherwise wishes the cutter removed from the Hacklab premises, then LASER CLUB members will be permitted to attempt to find an alternative home for the machine. If one can be found that suits the members of LASER CLUB, cutting will continue at the new location with similar arrangements to those described here. If the proposed new location is unsuitable for a LASER CLUB member they may be bought out by the remaining member(s). The buyout value will be calculated from the remaining cutting hours of the member and depreciation over 5 years (i.e., £200 worth of remaining cutting hours after 2.5 years is worth £100). If a buyout is not successful (i.e., no one wants to buy the machine, or the remainder of the group cannot afford the buyout) then the machine shall be sold and the resultant money split between LASER CLUB members according to their remaining cutting hours.
The situation described above is the only time a LASER CLUB member may recoup any cash from LASER CLUB.
The proposed type of laser cutter is actually very safe. Goggles are not required as the laser is only engaged when the lid of the box is closed. The lid has a filtered window allowing us to see in but not allowing any stray laserz out.
Of moderate risk is fire, particularly when experimenting with new materials and speed/power settings. For this reason, the cutter should not be left unattended. Typically these “fires” are really just a couple of flames and are easily extingushed. For this, at least one CO2 fire extinguisher will be purchased and kept within arm's reach of the cutter.
The laser cutter is water cooled. A chiller may be required for long periods of usage. I (AlBennett) have been assured by HPC that a chiller wouldn't be required unless the machine was run continuously for long periods (hours), however it seems that London Hackspace has found a chiller necessary so it may be worth checking this out further.
The cutter comes with (shitty) Windows only software. A standard Windows XP PC will be required.
Some kind of furniture type arrangement to put it on.