The use of a modern laser cutter requires not only craftsmanship but responsibility and a will to put in the extra work to ensure that things go smoothly. Like many complex machines, a laser cutter requires a fair bit of maintenance from time to time.
If you operate a laser cutter that uses a honeycomb table, you will find cleaning the table a bit problematic with regard to the supplies you need, the preparation, and of course, the cleaning effort. In that regard, it pays to be well-prepared before you actually need to do it.
Over the next few minutes, we’ll talk you through how to clean a laser cutter with a honeycomb bed including the preparation process, the supplies you need, and what exactly you should expect when cleaning a laser cutter with a honeycomb bed. Believe it or not but the process is actually a lot easier than people imagine.
First and foremost, you’re going to need to prepare a few things to make sure everything goes smoothly. A honeycomb table can get quite messy over time if it’s used often, so having the right supplies on hand is paramount.
In short, you want to get your hands on some of the following:
- Zep Industrial Purple Degreaser
- Nylon Pipe cleaners
- Bristle brushes
- Soft brushes
- A paint scraper
While you’re at it, make sure to get the Zep Industrial Purple Degreaser which does a great job in removing that dirt and grime from your honeycomb table. In principle, you want a powerful degreaser for the job because the whole process can be quite demanding. It also couldn’t hurt to have a brush and a dustpan within reach.
The next thing you want to do is to inspect the honeycomb bed and figure out exactly how much cleaning it requires. Needless to say, the cutting process can get quite messy, and so does the cleaning effort afterward.
Even if you use the laser cutter sparingly, the machine will still accumulate a lot of soot, smoke, grime, and everything else that might gradually build up over time. As such, you want to closely inspect the laser cutter bed to figure out how to proceed.
Disassemble the Bed
Once you have assessed the damage and you have your supplies on hand, you should proceed with removing the laser cutter bed as carefully as you possibly can. Although these things are quite sturdy, there is always the risk that you might damage a pin, a screw, or the tray itself.
- Remove the pins. This should be pretty straightforward. The easy-to-remove bed is usually held by a few push pins that you should be able to remove without using any additional tools.
- Check for screws. Although not that common, some honeycomb beds may be held in place by additional screws. See if this is the case before forcing the bed off.
- Watch out for bends. If you’re dealing with an aluminum laser bed, you should make sure that you don’t accidentally bend the bed when you take it off. Provided that you took all the pins and screws off, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
- Remember what goes where. It’s easy to get confused when you have to put the whole thing back together again so make some mental notes about the exact position of the bed and make sure not to lose any of the screws.
The Cleaning Process
In order to clean a laser cutter bed thoroughly, you will have to follow the shape and pattern of the bed itself with your brushes as you scrape. It is advised that you begin with the soft brushes and work your way up to the hard ones.
Using the Pipe Cleaners
Before all of that, however, use the pipe cleaners by bending them so as to give yourself some reach. We say this because some areas of the bed may be difficult to reach with the brushes or even with the intact cleaners, so you might have to improvise a little to get the job done.
Applying the Solvent
After using the pipe cleaners to remove as much grime as you possibly can, you should proceed with applying the solvent of your choosing. We would recommend the ZEP Industrial Degreaser just because it does such a good job at removing dirt and grime.
A Bristle Brush Goes a Long Way
If you have one on hand, this would be a good time to use a bristle brush to clean the grates at the back. As you scrub the grates, the soapy layer will remove any surface grime. Bear in mind not to scrub too hard because persistent scrubbing may end up damaging the laser.
Napkins for Soft Scrubbing
It is recommended that you use napkins for any persistent grime. Avoid using brushes or anything else that might damage the laser bed and negatively impact the laser cutting process afterward. Once the napkins begin to break, you can proceed by using a paint scraper for whatever is left.
Variety is Key
When scrubbing and scraping the laser bed, do your best to oscillate between brushes and brushing techniques. As we pointed out, using a single brush in a single repetitive motion may end up damaging the bed and that’s definitely something you want to avoid.
Rinse and Let Dry
Provided that everything went smoothly so far, you should proceed by rinsing the bed with clean water along with occasional soft brushing. This will ensure that any residual grime from the scraping process is properly removed without the need for any additional supplies.
It is advised at this point that you hold the bed in a vertical position as you run water over it and that you refrain from using any hard brushes at this stage of the process.
Afterward, you should use paper towels to clean the honeycomb patterns inside-out and let them dry before applying any other solution.
Speaking of which, you can also apply some ZEP Industrial Purple Degreaser at this point, but make sure to wash it off after letting it sit there for a few minutes.
After about 10 minutes or so, you can remove the degreaser and rinse the bed with clean water. With that out of the way, the cleaning process is more or less finished and you can proceed with putting the machine back together.
Remember not to use the machine for at least 24 hours after you’ve cleaned it to prevent residual cleaning agents from catching fire.
Below you will find an excellent YouTube Video demonstrating the process:
Why Having a Clean Laser Cutter Bed is Important
For a laser cutter to operate at optimal parameters, the machine needs proper cleaning and maintenance on a regular basis. Anything short of that would render the processing of the flat material largely ineffective by most standards.
Those of you who have used laser cutting machines in the past would know that these devices are very accurate and that the carving/cutting process causes the build-up of a lot of grime and soot.
Failure to properly care for the machine will render the cutting process ineffective and even hazardous, especially if you’re cutting wood. Affected by the heat, any soot present on the bed will cause you to get an unclear engraving or damage the whole piece altogether.
Not just that but proper maintenance also reduces the risk of damage to the machine and/or health hazards to the operator. If you find that even after a thorough cleaning the honeycomb still contains ingrained grime then it may be time to consider purchasing a new honeycomb table.
If you need a new honeycomb table then check out this article I wrote: Best honeycomb laser engraver bed.
Let’s be honest, the whole cleaning process can be quite tiresome if it’s done too often. To prevent that, you should look into proper maintenance for your own peace of mind and save yourself a lot of effort in the long run.
To ensure that your honeycomb bed is in proper working condition at all times, make sure that you:
- Inspect the machine regularly. Inspecting the machine is a good way to prevent any harm from coming to the laser cutting bed, so make sure to inspect the machine after each cutting session. While you’re at it, you might also try to clean it on a superficial level using a napkin or a towel.
- Keep your eyes on the machine while it’s working. A laser cutting machine may very well run independently of any user input for long periods of time, but this doesn’t mean that you should leave it unattended while it performs its tasks. Doing so might cause unnecessary burns or even accidents.
- Clean the vents regularly. In order to prevent hazardous buildups, make sure to clean the ducts and air vents of the air extraction module. This will not only minimize the risk of accidents but will also impact the effectiveness of the machine itself.
What to Avoid When Cleaning a Laser Cutter with a Honeycomb Bed
It is important to see the laser cutting machine as a manufacturing tool first and foremost. In that regard, you shouldn’t employ any tools or supplies that might interfere with the machine’s capacity to perform its task in the long run.
We mainly advise you here to avoid scrubbing any of the components that interact with the material and the laser beam, but you should keep this in mind when dealing with the bed as well. Know that simple scratches to the honeycomb bed will negatively affect the machine’s overall effectiveness.
At the same time, some cleaning agents may also damage the bed of the machine, especially those that are too oily or greasy. Instead, you should look into using degreasing and caustic solutions along with water and nothing else.
Also, try to remember that the material construction of the bed itself determines which type of cleaning supplies you may or may not use. While hard beds may allow for harsher scrubbing, a soft aluminum bed will definitely get damaged by hard brushes and persistent scraping.
How Often Should I Clean My Laser Cutting Machine?
Although there isn’t a specific guideline as to how often you should clean a laser cutting machine, the general consensus is that it should be done every 3 to 6 months or so. This applies to most laser cutting machines regardless of size or design.
Depending on the machine, you can also employ different types of solvents when cleaning different parts. Throughout the process, some areas may require a more thorough cleaning, spraying, or scrubbing, which also depends on how long it’s been since the parts were last cleaned.
When cleaning a laser cutting machine or its operational bed, remember to wait at least 24 hours before using the laser machine to cut anything. If the laser machine bed still contains residual cleaning agents when the laser is turned on, the entire machine may very well catch fire.
Is There a Low-Budget Alternative to Cleaning the Bed?
To put it bluntly, no. Given the complexity of most laser cutting machines, you definitely don’t want to improvise with regard to cleaning agents and supplies.
You also don’t want to do a superficial job when cleaning it. For an effective cutting job, the laser cutter bed needs to be well-balanced and clean. Should you miss some areas of the bed when cleaning it, the heat and the soot may cause the material to catch fire.
The only low-budget alternative to cleaning solutions that you should consider would be Q-tips. For a low-intensity surface cleaning of the cutting bed, you can damp some Q-tips in water and clean individual pieces without taking the machine or the bed apart.
With our guide, you should have a decent understanding on how to clean a laser cutter with a honeycomb bed.
Because of how intricate a laser cutting machine is, the cleaning process should be performed regularly and thoroughly. When doing so, you are advised to only employ the proper equipment, take safety precautions, and refrain from improvising in any way.
Overall, a responsible owner should have no problem taking the machine apart every few months for proper cleaning.
It may be challenging at first given the complex nature of such a machine, but rest assured that these machines are designed to be taken apart for maintenance every once in a while.