Ancillary Laser Control

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Hive13 Project
Ancillary Laser Control
Status: Inactive
Start Date: 4/19/2012



With the addition of the high powered Laser Exhaust System we have been inspired to further improve the ancillary systems that allow the laser cutter to function. These systems are:

  • The blower fan
  • Air compressor
  • Water Pump

Problems we are looking to solve:

  • Blower fan overloading circuit when started at the same time as everything else.
  • Mini air compressor is noisy and we have an operable full size Air Compressor in the space.
  • Maybe cooling the water before returning it to the tank (Bucket).

Project Manager


  • Ed Estes

What needs to be done

This is an overview list of high level steps that need to be done in order to complete this project.

  • Design a circuit to allow a time-delayed start of the blower fan
  • Design a circuit to trigger a solenoid to open the air compressor valve.
  • Fix air leak on large Air Compressor so it can be left "On"
  • Run air line from 3D to 1A

What has been done

  • Air Compressor
    • Repair parts have been ordered
    • I think Ed brought in a solenoid valve

Currently on the ToDo List

This is a list of individual steps that need to be performed in the near future.

  • Repair the leak in the Air Compressor
  • Determine requirements for the design.

Design & Planning


There are two primary aspects of this project that require design:

  • Time delay start of blower
  • Air compressor hookup and possible fail-over.

A big question is when should we turn on the ancillary laser devices? I think the easiest thing would be to tie into the "On // Off" key switch, when the laser is turned "On" it also turns on the rest of the accessories.

Time Delay Blower Startup

  • Either controlled by a microcontroller with a relay or a time delay relay (I think we have at least one)

Air Compressor Hookup

Several points to consider in the air compressor hookup:

  • Moisture trap at the laser cutter to catch line condensation
  • Air regulator to reduce the air flow at the nozzle
  • Electric solenoid to open // close air valve as needed.
  • Air pressure sensor to turn on backup mini-compressor if insufficient air pressure from primary air compressor.
    • If using the failover, also will need to ensure we do not allow back-flow of air into either air compressor line.

One important factor to consider is that we do not want to be cutting materials without air blowing from the nozzle. If something goes wrong with the primary air compressor, it would be nice to still be able to rely on the small blower as a backup.

Hookup for the primary air compressor would be something like:

  1. Air Compressor Line
  2. Moisture Trap
  3. Regulator
  4. Open // Close solenoid
  5. Pressure Sensor
  6. One-way air valve (Check Valve)
  7. T-Joint w/ backup air compressor

Hookup for backup air compressor could be:

  1. Air compressor Line
  2. One-way air valve (Check Valve)
  3. T-Joint w/ primary air compressor

T-Joint then leads to the output to the laser cutter. If the pressure sensor at #5 detects insufficient pressure it can turn on the backup air compressor.


Control Hardware // Electronics

We have a two primary choices for the control electronics.

  1. Programmed Microcontroller
  2. Hardwired logic chips and circuitry

There are pros // cons for each.

Programmed Micro

  • Pros:
    • Easily extendable. If we want to add in more features, like tracking when the entire laser cutter is turned on and when the laser tube is actually in use, we can easily add these features.
    • I (Paul) can already start planning out how the circuit would look and I can probably easily figure out what needs to be done to complete the wiring.
    • Easily adjustable. If we upgrade the wiring and no longer need as long of a time delay, or don't need a time delay on the blower, we can just tweak a variable.
  • Cons:
    • We need a reliable, rock solid system. We don't want to get into a situation where there is no air compressor blowing while the laser is running. If we look at a history of uC devices around the hackerspace, our track record for rock solid reliable devices is not strong.
    • If it is easily extendable, people will be tempted to tweak it.

Hardwired Logic

  • Pros:
    • Once it is setup and working it should be reliable.
    • The circuit we need should not be too complicated, with some help from the more electrically inclined members we should be able to mock something up.
    • Since it will be hardwired, people will not be able to "tweak" it as easily. This will discourage people from messing with something that is working.
    • A uC really seems overly complicated for what we need to do...
  • Cons:
    • Changes to the setup, adding functionality will take more work.
    • Does not open avenues for tracking laser usage.
    • Paul does not know as much about setting up a hardwired digital logic circuit in the real world.


Parts List

  • Air Control
    • 1x Air Moisture Trap
    • 1x Air Regulator
    • 1x Air control solenoid
    • 1x Air pressure sensor
    • 1x 1/4 NPT Air check valve
    • Misc. tubing & connectors
  • Power control & Wiring
    • 3x 120v 15amp relays
      • 1 for a time delay on the blower
      • 1 for backup air compressor
      • 1 for water pump // misc devices
      • 3x Electrical outlet plugs
      • Misc. wiring (wire, connectors, crimps, etc)
  • Controller
    • Options: Microcontroller, straight digital logic.


Reference Links