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I manage a lab for a largish art university. We got a new relatively cheap (although in arts and crafts context this is not cheap) Chinese laser and we are having problems with autofocus crashes that take the laser out of commission for the largest part of the day and require a lot of maintenance. OK, the question I would like to ask - and I think it stretches the boundaries a bit: is this on topic, and how can I make this more on topic?

I am having a bit of a problem with a new laser cutter crashes a lot using autofocus.

So, all the public lasers at campus and all the ones I have seen in libraries rely on manual focus. Users need to be ready to go with a really short 15-25 minute intro, manual focus errs on the side of caution. This works really well for our other laser, I haven't seen a single crash or problem in 3 years (about a 1000 users during that time).

But my knowledge is a bit anecdotal,as I have only used 7 different machines. Is it typical that publicly accessible machines that use lasers do not use autofocus? Or maybe having the public operate lasers is really uncommon to begin with.

Are there any guidelines for this?

OK, after some valuable feedback here's a second attempt:

We have a few laser cutters set up so that users can make whatever they want with them. From earrings to mechanisms. I am having a bit of a problem with a new laser cutter using autofocus. However I instruct the users, somebody will eventually crash it. All test users have crashed the machine by mistake. After all, crashing the machine only requires one single miss click in the GUI.

Note that it's a hard requirement that users need to use it unattended - we can't afford to spare instructors. This works very well for the other laser, as about 1000 different users have managed to use it with no problem.

I have also noticed that all other laser cutters in similar contexts around me either do either not have autofocus or have it disabled. My data is too anecdotal, though, as there are only 7 such other machines I know.

So my question is:

Is it typical that public laser cutters do not use auto focus? Or are public laser cutters so rare that there is really no info? Any best practices?

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I think the problem with this question as it stands is that there is no immediate relationship with arts or crafts: based on your question alone I wouldn't know what this laser is used for, and how it relates to arts or crafts.
Furthermore, the problem seems to be a mechanical one, possibly even solvable only by the manufacturer.

Apart from that, there are few questions regarding troubleshooting machinery here, and usually they concern smaller, domestic machines, like sewing machines or power tools.

That all being said, I don't think it would be explicitly off-topic here, if you are to tell more about the machine's purpose at the art university (as we're still in Beta, we're also still determining the exact confines of our scope). And I imagine there are users here who know a thing or two about this kind of machinery.

Nevertheless, based on your profile, it seems you are a frequent user of Engineering.SE: have you considered asking it there? Based on their Help pages, this would be on-topic there, and likely more appropriate.

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  • The purpose of the machine is for users to use is as they want. Like I said i have hundreds of users. Some study engineering, they make mostly bar mechanisms and quick prototype gears, the fashion students use it to cut complex shapes into fabrics as well as weld two layers of fabric together, architecture users use it to make scale models, furniture makers use it to make routing templates, interior designers use it to make lampshades, new media and electronics engineer students make boxes, all of them use it to engrave posters and info on sheets, make ear rings, signage etc.
    – joojaa
    Sep 18 at 10:09
  • I use it to make snap fit gingerbread houses.
    – joojaa
    Sep 18 at 10:13
  • @joojaa, the information in your comments is important to making the question relevant to the site. It's still at the edge. Computer-driven equipment generally pushes the bounds of "hand-made" art and crafts. That said, even if it's on-topic here, this probably isn't a good venue for getting an answer. Setup, adjustment, maintenance, and operation of lab and industrial equipment is generally outside the knowledge of most visitors here, so it would be sheer coincidence that someone knowledgeable would come across your question on this site. The manufacturer might be a good starting point.
    – fixer1234
    Sep 18 at 16:33
  • @fixer1234 yes but i don't want to fix the device, i know how to do that. I dont want to setup the device i also do that. What i need information of how others have seen this issue handled from a crafts persons perspective. I dont think the manufacturer cares one way or another.
    – joojaa
    Sep 18 at 16:43
  • @joojaa, it may come down to someone (like you), creating simple user instructions (which might include getting assistance from a trained person, or not messing with certain settings). :-)
    – fixer1234
    Sep 18 at 16:47
  • . @fixer1234 well assistance by expert is out of the question, instructions yes. But there is only so far i can instruct users not to press auto destruct button even by mistake. We are in the enviable position of being able to throw money at a problems but the user has to be able to manage on their own if we need a expert in the room then that's it, no more laser. But rather i am considering removing the autofocus entirely as that seems to be what everybody around me is doing. But surely there are other open access lasers out there what do they do. but this helps me imrove my question
    – joojaa
    Sep 18 at 16:58
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    @joojaa, good job clarifying what you need to know. TBH, it's a good question but it really doesn't fit within this site's scope. What is typical practice and how to instruct or limit users are off-topic. The site focuses on making art & crafts by hand, yourself. Administering equipment in a public setting is outside the scope. Maybe a long shot, but I'm wondering if your question might actually fit on The Workplace site (not what is typical practice for a laser cutter, but how to educate/control users). BTW, it's surprising that autofocus would be such an issue; seems like a natural solution.
    – fixer1234
    Sep 18 at 18:22
  • @fixer1234 It is exactly your natural tendency to think that auto focus is always is safe that causes the problem. autofocus on cheap machines in not automatic in any sense of the word. Yes it automatically focuses to any underlying surface, if and only if. A) the material is under the probe and B) the material is thick and rigid enough to probe. C) you intended to probe now. Its very easy to misjudge this, or press autofocus button when you didnt intend. Any autofocus when your not in right measurement position basically lifts the laser bed through the machine and all hell breaks loose.
    – joojaa
    Sep 18 at 18:30
  • Also the probe in this case makes for a really low clearance. If your object has even a slight warp its going to grab your material and again all hell breaks loose. 2 mm isnt all that much of a bulge in a 1300mm sheet that hasn't been stored super professionally for its entire lifespan.
    – joojaa
    Sep 18 at 18:33
  • @joojaa, kinda sounds like disabling autofocus is the logical step. :-)
    – fixer1234
    Sep 18 at 18:35
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – joojaa
    Sep 18 at 18:36

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