Simplifying laser alignment for your laser machine
We know that every single laser machine owner has, at one time or another, had an issue with their laser machine’s alignment. We are here to help you to get that laser beam aligned again, so just follow this step-by-step guide and you will be back to cutting and engraving with your MaxLaser machine in record time.
Aligning your laser
Before you even start to think of laser alignment, please read and adhere to the following precautions!
- Wear the appropriate PPE, such as laser safety glasses or goggles
- Avoid direct eye exposure
- Never open access panels without disconnecting the power
- Do not circumvent the safety cut-out switch or operate the machine with access doors open
- Never run the laser cutter unattended
- Always vent material smoke or vapour to a suitable external outlet or filter system
- Only use laser-safe materials which do not contain chlorides and formaldehyde
- Follow the manufacturers’ guidelines
Now that you are aware of all the don’ts, let’s get to the do’s of easy laser alignment.
Check the Alignment
If your laser is losing power or the engraving seems off then it’s a good idea to check the laser beam alignment.
Create a type of plaster with masking tape by folding a piece of tape into a type of cushion that you then stick in the middle of another strip of masking tape. This gives you a piece of padding that you can shoot the laser through without making the mirror sticky. Now stick it over the hole in front of mirror three, close the lid, manoeuvre the laser head to the top right-hand corner, and do a brief test fire. It should leave a dot on the tape. Continue test firing by manoeuvring the laser head to the other corners and firing test shots.
If the four dots fit perfectly into one another at the centre of the tape then your laser beam is good to go for now and you can continue reading for interest’s sake. If you can see more than one dot then you are going to need our laser alignment techniques and should definitely read further. If you have a perfect dot, but it is off-centre then your mirrors are fine, but your laser tube needs alignment.
So, you have now checked the alignment, and it is off. Your next step is to align your laser cutter mirrors. If your mirrors are fine, read on till you get to the tube alignment section.
Adjusting your mirrors.
Each of the three mirrors is held in the middle of a mount with a small retaining ring.
The three adjustment bolts in the different corners of the mirror mount have locking knots which should be tight against the frame, this prevents the bolts from automatically adjusting as the laser cutter moves around.
Adjusting the angle of the mirror affects where the laser beam will hit the next mirror in the sequence. The piece of target tape attached in front of the next mirror will show the test dot in a new position after adjustment. Adjustments should be made to the mirror when the target is as far away as possible because small changes in the mirror are magnified over distance and the alignment will be more accurate.
To shift the test dot position a few millimetres lower you need to turn the top knob half a turn to the right (clockwise). If you turn the knob half a turn back to the left (anticlockwise) it will go back to its original position. Use the left-hand adjustment bolt to move the laser left and right. It’s important to loosen the retaining nut before adjustment and tighten it again once you are done.
Keep on adjusting until you get all the dots to align. You can test this by sticking target tape over each of the mirrors in turn. The dots need to be centrally placed and have a nice oval shape. Just remember that adjusting mirror one, affect mirrors two and three.
Now if your laser cutter mirrors are aligned, but your dots are not central then you need to look at tube alignment.
Aligning the tube
The laser tube is supported by two fully adjustable mounting brackets that can be used to adjust it.
Loosen the two screws on the side of each tube bracket allowing you to slide the tube up and down as well as left and right. By lifting the bracket at the rear of the tube you can make the laser beam drop down and by moving the rear bracket left it will move the test dot to the right.
To align the laser with the centre of mirror three, put a piece of target tape in front of mirror three and manoeuvre the laser head to the front right-hand corner. Adjust the angle of the tube until the test dot is right in the middle of the hole. If the dot needs to be lower on the target tape raise the back of the tube into mirror one.
Last but not least, check the Vertical Alignment
Now we need to make sure that the beam is perpendicular to the material, this will give you a vertical cut. The process is very similar but here you use some scrap material to fire your test dots at.
Use the height tool to set the laser cutter to the correct height above the scrap material. Fire the laser to create your dot on the material, this is the test dot that the machine will align the laser towards. Now check the red dot alignment. The red dot should be pointing at this single test dot. If not, manually adjust the red dot until it is pointing at the test dot.
Now you must drop the Z axis by 100mm and fire another test dot. If your second dot is centred around the first dot then the laser beam is vertical. Adjust the screws on mirror three if you need to move the laser beam to the right position. The two dots should match up when the Z-axis is up or down.
Now if you have all your dots aligned, your laser beam is back in alignment and you can go ahead and laser cut and engrave to your heart’s content.
In conclusion, remember to take every possible precaution as mentioned at the start of this guide and wear those safety goggles before attempting any of the above.
If you don’t have your own laser engraver or laser cutter yet, or you want to upgrade your current model, look at the wide range of laser cutting and laser engraving machines we have available at MaxLaser. We have something for everyone, and our team is available to assist you find the perfect machine for you, just contact us.