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"Laser cutters" Topic

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Matt Whitehead08 Jan 2022 3:38 p.m. PST

Hi all, long-time reader, first-time poster, hope you're all well and enjoying the new year.

I've been 3D printing for a good few years now with my AnyCubic Photon S, and whilst it's great for models, it ain't so much for terrain. Although I'm half tempted to get an FDM printer, I'm more interested in laser cut MDF terrain. However, I haven't got a scoobies as to where to look for one.

I was hoping someone here might have a few good links or suggestions that might help?


Matt W (UK based)

Heisler08 Jan 2022 4:50 p.m. PST

Like a lot of tools, the "it depends" phrase comes int9 play. I would look at the Ortur Laser Master 2. There are 2 or 3 other companies with similar lasers but you need something beyond an engraving laser.

Nick Bowler08 Jan 2022 5:30 p.m. PST

I have an FDM printer and also access to a laser cutter through my wife. I found it really hard to find models to use on the laser cutter. In the end, the FDM printer gets used a lot, as its great for terrain (buildings etc.). The laser cutter was just used for bases.

stephen m08 Jan 2022 6:17 p.m. PST

Laser cutters have become popular with model aircraft builders. Most guys just buy premade foam planes nowadays but some of us hard core guys still build our own. I suggest a site called RCGroups. I am sure they will have an entire forum just for laser cutters. It is the kind of thing they do.

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP08 Jan 2022 8:27 p.m. PST

I worked with a friend to cut MDF sheets into buildings for 54mm Army Men gaming. He created patterns of windows and doors which he then cut out using his 50W Chinese laser.

I plan to cut 1"-long tubes using plastic drinking straws. Glue them, staggered, onto the edges of the walls, on alternating walls. Put the wall sections edge to edge, lining up the straw tubes so that I can then vertically slide a wooden dowel through the alternating straw tubes, and that will hold the walls together, to form cubes. When done, pull the dowels out, and the walls will come apart again.

Note that MDF must be sealed, before painting! Otherwise, the paint will mostly soak into the MDF, leaving a mottled, rough, unfinished job. This will require 4+ coats to cover, and it will still look bad…

Get some sanding sealer (clear liquid) to close up the pores in the surface of the MDF. After that dries, paint whatever paint you want onto them, and it will not soak into the MDF.

I don't know of any patterns available for making buildings, but the learning curve on the cutting software is not too steep. There are free apps for the inexpensive Chinese laser cutters. There are many forums dedicated to them, as well. Search engines are your friend.

To cut MDF sheets into buildings, you only need a 40W laser, but 50W+ will do it faster. Lasers less than 40W will require multiple passes to cut through even 1/4" MDF. You need to cut through it, not engrave the surface of the MDF sheets.

The 40W lasers come bare bones. If you add options (like air assist, a red laser pointer, a better control board, better lenses, etc.), the price will go up, and that bargain will cost as much as a higher quality model would have, which came with all of those options.

Do some research on YouTube, watching videos. Learn as much as you can, before you buy. Make an informed decision. Lots of options, some better than others. Educate yourself and make a confident purchase which you will not regret. Cheers!

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Jan 2022 4:11 a.m. PST

I've been using MDF for many years and if you need 4 coats to cover it over sealer then you should find some better paint. If you are getting a mottled finish then the quality of the MDF is very poor or not proper MDF.

A single coat of a good quality acrylic gesso or craft paint will seal the surface well enough for future coats but you do need to watch out for warping if the paint has too much water in it or is applied too thickly. Large pieces could be sealed with a spray primer or one of many non-aqueous sealers available.

Black Hat Miniatures09 Jan 2022 7:04 a.m. PST

It really depends on how much you want to pay and how much you want to spend repairing and getting the laser working.

I would advise against buying a very cheap laser from China as they can have seriously dangerous problems with power supply, shielding , etc

There are various UK suppliers of lasers such a HPC but they are not cheap.

I would ask on some Railway modelling forums, etc about the models people are using. I know people who are successfully using a fairly cheap 40W chinese model.

I bought a chinese laser supplied and refitted by a UK company (Just add Sharks not trading any more) which is an A3 cutting area has a large tube (60W equivalent what sellers on ebay would call 100w) and very safe design. But, it was a business/hobby purchase and cost me £3.00 GBPk including installation and training…

Oh, and as Tony says, if you are having to coat MDF 4 times your paint is crap or the MDF is crap…

Matt Whitehead09 Jan 2022 2:31 p.m. PST

That's great advice everyone, thank you. I'm not too fussed about creating terrain designs for myself, I think I'd enjoy the learning challenge it certainly seems easier than the challenge of resin printing!

But it's even things such as the power of lasers, 40W being a minimum, the "optional" extras, and so on, that I'm struggling to learn.

I'll definitely check out the suggestions. Whilst a part of me wants to steer clear of Chinese products, I can't fault the AnyCubic printer I have, however, Western optics do tend to be superior.

Black Hat Miniatures09 Jan 2022 2:53 p.m. PST

It is the build quality of some of the chinese lasers in terms of non-earthed power supplies, inadequately shielded lasers, etc that you need to worry about.

My chinese laser is good and has worked well for 3.5 years.

I design all my buldings, etc in Sketchup – it is fairly easy – just drawing shapes and then setting up what to cut and what to engrave in the laser software.

There is a good book on 3d printing and laser cutting for railway modelling which is a good introduction:


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