Ultimate Guide on Maintaining Your Laser Machine In The Winter
As a proud owner of a new desktop laser machine you have probably set up your operation in the garage, or the shed, or even outside to mitigate the smells, and the smoke and fumes, and dusts that laser engraving produces.
You were really digging in and learning new things and beginning to produce great products to sell. And then something happened that you weren’t expecting. Winter.
This guide will discuss factors that affect your laser engraver/cutter during cold weather operations and suggest some things that might keep you operational during the coldest times of the year.
In This Article
- Does Temperature Affect Laser Operations ?
- Best Guide to Running Your Laser Engraver in Cold Weather
- Operating Specs of xTool Laser Machines
Does Temperature Affect Laser Operations ?
Absolutely. As temperature increases, a shift in wavelength occurs causing a reduction in output power.
A diode laser works best when maintained between certain temperature ranges. To reduce heat the laser diode is usually attached to a heat sink in order to dissipate heat and keep it cooler.
So this is good news for us in the winter time, right? Not necessarily. Before operating your laser it is important to review the manufacturer recommended operating temperatures for your machine.
Many of us live in areas that can frequently realize temperature drops below the freezing point, and for those of us who don’t you may easily achieve temperatures in your laser operating area above the maximum recommended range.
For the xTool D1 series the specifications are listed in the Safety Guide and state that the laser operating temperature range is 0° - 35° C (32° - 95° F). Storage temperatures are 0° - 45°C (32° - 113° F).
For those of us who experience the seasonal effects of Winter, condensation, fogging or even failure or cracking can occur to the optical glass when operating or storing your laser below freezing temperatures.
The simple answer in regards to winter operations is that you must maintain your laser at all times above freezing temperatures.
Best Guide to Running Your Laser Engraver in Cold Weather
In this section, we’ll discuss some ways to safely maintain and operate your laser during cold weather.
1) Leverage a Smoke Purifier
The best way to deal with the elements is to move your operation indoors to prevent freezing temperatures from damaging your laser. Your laser can be placed in the xTool Enclosure which is a foldable, and smoke-proof cover.
The enclosure can be vented outdoors through an existing vent such as a dryer vent, or through a window to safely move dust and smoke outside the home.
So as you can see there are viable options for moving and using your laser indoors during the harsh Winter months.
2) Bring the Entire Laser Indoors When Not in Use
While I perform most of my laser operations indoors, I do maintain a laser in my backyard shed, which is my woodworking shop. My shed does have a heater (window air conditioner / heat pump) however, it is only turned on when I am in the shed.
It can easily reach temperatures below zero in the dead of winter. My method of protecting my machine is to remove the laser head when it is not in operation and bring it inside. In addition to the laser head I also remove the air assist pump and also bring it indoors.
Cold air pumps that suddenly get heated up can cause condensation which your lens and optical glass can be exposed to. After removing those items I cover the frame with a thick blanket.
The best maintenance practice, in the event you cannot operate your laser indoors as mentioned above, would simply be to bring the entire laser assembly indoors when not in use. It can easily be stored under a bed or in a large closet.
3) Ensure the Laser Temperature is Near the Room Temperature
When temperatures increase above freezing and you are heating your space it is important to allow the temperature in the room to stabilize before bringing your warm laser into a cold space.
Prior to operations the lens assembly on the laser head should be inspected for evidence of condensation or fogging. Remove the lens protector and inspect the actual lens surface also.
Once you are convinced the lens and protective cover are free from condensation, reassemble the laser head and ensure the ambient air and the laser temperatures have stabilized and the laser head is near room temperature.
Freezing temperatures can also affect belt tension and degrade lubricative films on the laser rails. Prior to operating in cooler temperatures the operator should ensure the integrity of the belts and ensure the machine rails have adequate lubrication.
4) Use a Dedicated Outlet for Your Laser
When using a space heater in your laser work space be aware that most electric heaters are rated at 1500 watts. At 120 volt outlet power, that is a current draw of 12.5 amps. Throw in some overhead lights and whatever else electrical may be in the space and you will be nearing the maximum amperage rating of your circuit breaker (if you are on a 15 amp circuit).
If at all possible it is recommended to have a dedicated outlet for your laser and air assist. If not, be sure to run your heater at medium or low to prevent inadvertent tripping of the circuit breaker and subsequently halting your laser job due to a loss of power.
When the spot of the laser is minimal, the wastage is also minimal. Secondly, the kerf width is minimal, which ensures easy measurements.
Operating Specs of xTool Laser Machines
Again, be sure to check the operating temperature range for your specific xTool Laser Machine. Each machine may have separate specifications.
For example an xTool Laserbox Rotary is a CO2 laser which has a glass tube that is water cooled. Exposing the water filled tube to freezing temperatures is guaranteed to crack the tube.
CO2 laser users who use their machines in unheated spaces such as a garage or yard shed will add a mixture of anti-freeze to the water cooling system. This will prevent the tube from freezing and cracking.
Be sure to check the specifications for your laser and contact xTool Support if unsure of the temperature range and requirements of your machine.
It is possible to perform laser operations during the Winter months however at no time should you allow your machine to be exposed to freezing temperatures.
If you do operate in a colder environment then more frequent inspections and maintenance should be performed to ensure your laser performs up to specification.
Finally, xTool has provided additional hardware that allows a user to bring their entire operation indoors to defeat the stinging cold of Winter.