August 11th, 2021—
Laser cutters require quite a lot of power and laser tubes need active water cooling, which means you need a coolant reservoir and a water pump. You also need an exhaust fan to remove smoke, which will reduce the laser’s efficacy. Add in a computer, positioning laser, etc., and you’ve got quite a lot to control. That’s why Kaleb Clark used an Arduino to create a control panel for his laser cutter.
This control panel provides several toggles switches, which Clark can flip to turn on the water pump, the air assist, and so on. Each switch has a corresponding WS2812B individually-addressable RGB LED indicator light. There are also status lights that tell him if the air pressure and water flow are in the correct range. Instead of messing around with extension cords and outlets, he can flip all the switches in sequence and then start cutting. When the job finishes, he can flip them all back off.
Those switches mount onto a custom acrylic panel attached to the laser cutter and there is a separate sheet metal enclosure that contains all the relays. In addition to the switches and status lights, the control panel houses the laser cutter’s current meter. An Arduino Mega monitors the toggle switches and activates the relays according their positions. The board also monitors an air pressure sensor and water flow sensor to ensure that they are active, since improper cooling can destroy the expensive laser tube and a lack of air assist can damage parts.