Full Spectrum Laser Engraver and Laser Cutter with Walker McKeag

February 14, 2020
We chat Walker McKeag the marketing manager at Full Spectrum Laser. We get into how he got into the world of laser cutters and laser engravers, some of his favorite projects as well as making a laser bandsaw with Jimmy Diresta!
We chat Walker McKeag the marketing manager at Full Spectrum Laser. We get into how he got into the world of laser cutters and laser engravers, some of his favorite projects as well as making a laser bandsaw with Jimmy Diresta!

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  • 00:03:20 - Gold Mining
  • 00:07:00 - Starting to work at Full Spectrum Laser
  • 00:08:38 - First Laser Projects
  • 00:10:39 - Why laser cutters?
  • 00:14:12 - Design work process
  • 00:15:14 - Muse Desktop Laser
  • 00:18:42 - Laser Bandsaw with Jimmy Diresta
  • 00:24:55 - Marketing at Full Spectrum Laser
  • 00:25:52 - How to build a business with a laser cutter
  • 00:31:34 - Range of Laser Cutters and Laser Engravers
  • 00:37:36 - Best places to find Walker and Full Spectrum Laser

Watch the Podcast

Selected Transcripts

What does a Laser Cutter Do?

Brandon: How do you describe what a laser cutter/engraver can do to folks? If they just have no point of reference to it.

Walker: I still think about that question to this day. It's kind of hard. It’s kind of turning those graphics into realities. Extremely powerful. If you have something that already exists and you want to add to it. I think that’s sort of the easiest way to put it. You can personalize something and then it goes even deeper as you can make anything you want. I really think the lasers are only limited by your imagination, and that's what I think is really cool about them.

If you can think it and design it, it's reality. You can see it's hard for me to put it into words how awesome they are, and somebody who has no idea what they do. ? It's overwhelming. You want to engrave on a rock, you can do that if you want to cut wood, a giant sign or whatever, put your name on something, you can do it.

It just has so many facets that are really interesting.

Brandon: Are your customers… do they range from hobbyists to all the way up to industrial?

Walker: . We have customers that range from they just

think it's cool and they buy. They have all these dreams and expectations and they buy it there Susie homemakers, I guess. That type of maybe hobbyists. And then all the way up, we have giant flatbeds that are eight foot by four foot.

We have giant compact lasers that cut metal. We've sold to Google and Oculus. So, that's a huge range. Corporate all the way to your average Joe.

Brandon: What's the craziest thing you've seen made with lasers?

Walker: I knew you were going to ask

Brandon: Or it doesn't have to be crazy. It's maybe one of the crazy situations.

Walker: The only thing that really comes to mind is the automata. The more gears and motion something's going on, you crank it, it starts moving, coming alive. I think that's crazy. One of my personal favorite projects that we made here was the Kraken.

We made a giant squid that lights up. That was my favorite project cause I thought about it for a long time. I wanted to make it and I had to design it, make it take all the photos, all this and that, in one and a half days. So it was nuts. Then it's a cool project, but to me, it's even cooler because it was so rushed and it came out pretty awesome.

Brandon: When you're doing a project, what are you using to do the design work?

Walker: Mostly my brain. Ha, no, I personally use Inkscape. It's free. It's awesome. It works, export wise with our software. Very good. I know a lot of people, and I've used it before, is the Autodesk Slicers and all that.

I find that that has a lot of clean up afterward. And I might as well just design it myself. I think Tim, who's on the show with me, he uses illustrator mostly.

Brandon: Okay, cool. And so are you just basically just getting a DXF file or an SVG or something and then pulling it into your guys' interface?

Walker: So anything I design we just save as PDF and drag and drop in. But you can drag and drop any file format into our software or print from any software as well.

Brandon: That's crazy. So, the muse, right, is for the hobbyist, more the kind of the weekend workshop, those type folks?

Walker: Yes. The musers… they're more hobby kind of a beginner maybe Maker Fair types, STEM programs, all that type of stuff. I mean, you can still do awesome things with it. It's just, it's a 45-watt laser. But, we'll have a new Muse coming soon.

Brandon: What, when's the new one coming out or are you able to talk about it?

Walker: No, can't talk.

Brandon: Okay. so the cool thing about the Muse, I always see people use them. I always feel the interface of it is super slick and really friendly for people that maybe don't have much experience with it.

Do you guys get really deep just into the usability?

Walker: We do. And we try to make it streamlined as possible. We've all used lasers for so long that we kind of take for granted and not think, that's intuitive because to us, we're so biased, I feel I could run any laser, and just figure it out.

And that's not fair to our customers because not all of them have that background. So, to me it's just one of those things I've known it for so long that I want to say we're extremely, catering towards that. I do know we can do better and we always update the software and all sorts of things for that.

So we're always improving. The software team keeps busy for sure.

Brandon: So I've got one of the cheap 50-watt lasers that come from China, that you're always afraid you're gonna electrocute yourself.

And yesterday I had a switch pop off and don't even know how to replace a switch on my crazy laser… it takes a lot of tinkering around to get the thing to work. And then when I see the Muse, I'm like, “Oh man, this is way, way easier to use.”

Walker: I think that's the point. It’s how we started, these lasers were so hard to use and over the years we made them better and better and better.

But that's how our company started, taking these cheap lasers and changing out the control card and software and making them work. I just kept thinking about those Chinese lasers. Nobody ever says that they have a brand.

Everybody just says I’ve got the blue Chinese laser. What about you? I don't know how to work on this thing.

And that's always the case.

Brandon: Cause there's a lot of tinkering. People will say K40 if they talking about the smaller ones, but that's not even a brand. That's just a type, the 40-watt lasers.

Walker: K40.

Building a Laser Bandsaw with Jimmy Diresta

Brandon: So, one thing I definitely want to ask you about. So I edit the Making It podcast that has Jimmy Diresta on it.

And it was a year ago or that he had William Osman on. They were talking about bandsaws and lasers and Jimmy’s like, will you help me build a laser bandsaw? And then I see you show up in his stories building a laser bandsaw, and I'm this is crazy.

So how did your relationship with Jimmy start?

Walker: Jimmy actually had an old laser from, I believe the Drunken Woodworker. And at the time I remember Jimmy saying something, I don't know how to new use these new-fangled tools and stuff cause he's a man with his hands.

So he went to get a new laser after he was done with that one, and he actually went to purchase it from us, and the marketing manager at the time said, “Hey, I know that name.”

And we ended up hooking up with him, getting him a Muse. And it's just taken off from there.

We met him up at Maker Fair, and he was just hanging out at our booth for a long time. We were just talking back and forth and the laser band saw came up and Nick at the time was the marketing manager. He said, “If anyone can create a laser band bandsaw…It's this guy.

And my nerd juice has got tingling.

And I was absolute, I want to do this. How many times I think anybody with a laser wished this could just be a laser pencil or something.

I mean, my brother, he's a total nerd, and we've talked about that same thing. So as soon as that got brought up, my eyes lit up and I was yes, let's do it.

Jimmy was all about it. But it was on my side convincing the higher-ups that it was something worth doing. And I mean, it was extremely awesome. I loved every part of it and we tried to ham it up and make it seem like it’s all jerry-rigged and stuff, but there's not really much to it.

There's the laser power supply lens and water. Not really much going on there, but it was extremely fun. I loved every part of it. I loved hanging out with Jimmy and I thought he'd be more part of it, but he's making.

We got him a brand new laser as well. So he's working with his big 48x36 laser.

And we're building this band saw and I was like, “Hey, you want to be a part of this video at all?” And he's just making away. That guy's a mad man. I don't know anybody who has the energy. Cause I love making, I've always loved making things. And it's the fact this guy wakes up, way before everybody else, and he's already in his workshop just making away.

Brandon: So it was attached to one of the older, big, bandsaws. Right?

Walker: He had it an old turn of the century bandsaw, I believe. And we took the blade off and essentially just the laser, cut some brackets for it and zip tied the thing to it.

If you see the video, I tried to make it look even jankier by just leaving the electrical tape on the top. I wanted it to seem halfway done. He actually is going to redo it with a different bandsaw and build the brackets and all that, but he's a busy man.

I can't wait to see that one. There'll be a permanent fixture. Right now it's temporary. He still needs to use that bandsaw.

Brandon: When I was watching the video. So you definitely made it look jankier. But then when I started digging into it, I'm like, “Oh wait, he works for Full Spectrum! So they're not just throwing something together.”

Walker: I know the whole experience was probably one of my favorite things I've done in a long time. Jimmy's awesome.

If anybody ever gets a chance to go to one of his maker camps, I'd suggest it. There are just good people and it's just an all-around awesome thing.

Brandon: Then on the practicality side of things is that even something that you would actually use versus just a traditional bandsaw or just a traditional laser cutter?

Walker: I think it actually does have some practicality because you have to go into a piece of wood with a saw.

If it's something that you want to get in the center, I think it does actually have a real use.

But I think I would probably just use the laser.

Brandon: So that's going to be the Muse v2, that you can't talk about is really a laser bandsaw

Walker: Yes. A Muse laser bandsaw

Brandon: I cannot wait for that.

Making money with a Laser Cutter

Brandon: So you did mention the business a little bit. What are things that people will do small batches of that aren't big businesses? Are folks laser engraving wallets or is there something kind of common you see a lot of people do?

Walker: There are so many things, it's crazy. There are people who just make their state coasters, engraving stone and tiles. Some guy, he takes his Muse, removes the floor, and then he just engraves already laid down tiles. So the applications are crazy.

And we said before, it's hard to kind of convey that to the general public that there are so many things we can do with this thing. But sadly, we do see a lot of coaster making,

Brandon: but if it sells…

Walker: They can make the money from it exactly. And that's fine. But, I do see a lot of earrings.

Brandon: Right, right. . It's still that on Etsy. And hopefully, make

Brandon: Now you guys also sell 3D printers right?

Types of Laser Cutters

Brandon: So what's the range of power that you guys have on the laser side?

Walker: So we have a 40 watt, and then we'd go to 45 and then it goes up to 90 and 150. That's for the CO2 lasers. And then we have the fiber lasers. We have a 20 watt and a 50 watt. And then we have the compact fibers.

Brandon: That's crazy. So for people that haven't been around a fiber laser versus a CO2 to how does work.

Walker: So the frequency is different and it only effects really dense materials metals, dark, dark, as well.

Typically, when you think fiber laser, you're thinking metal engraving, metal cutting.

Brandon: How does it compare to a plasma cutter? Is it the same idea or is it totally different?

Walker: It's different.

Brandon: Cool.

Walker: . . . And it's interesting you bring that up cause in the future we're coming out with something awesome.

I can't talk about it. But, the actual metal fiber cutters, the metal cutters the lasers, they are extremely precise. And the cleanup is so small. Plasma has a ton of slag. I mean, the kerf is huge.

You're going to have to clean this thing, and then the lasers, they have very beautiful high-end details. Stuff you couldn't cut with plasma.

I mean, it's just a refined plasma cutter.

Can a laser-cut metal?

Brandon: On the fiber laser side, what's the thickest metal that you can realistically cut?

Walker: So really it depends on your wattage, but the compact one that we sell, you can cut up to quarter-inch steel..no problem.

Brandon: That's crazy.

We've done three fourths but does get a little bit of slag at that point.

It's not as clean, but still much cleaner than plasma. It’s just amazing.

And we do actually have a Muse fiber. It's exactly the Muse, but it's a fiber laser. And that's typically for engraving metals and whatnot. Cause a lot of people don't understand…they go, “Oh, the muse fiber, this thing's a crazy powerful Muse right?”

And it's just a totally different beast. It engraves metal and some other things. But typically it's for depth and engraving. A lot of the gun guys love it because they can put the second amendment on their rifle.

Brandon: Cause you said it's more of the frequency thing it wouldn't work as well for what a CO2 can typically do?

Walker: Right, the actual source gets absorbed in it. When you actually do a white piece of something, it doesn't really affect it.

There's, there's an awesome video on YouTube describing how a fiber laser works and it will blow your mind. It sounds they're speaking gibberish. It's just the science behind it is crazy and the words they use are so ridiculous. What is this gangster God machine?

Fun projects Walker recommends

Brandon: So speaking of YouTube, if people want to check out some of the projects you guys have done are there any good ones?

Walker: Tim just did one from The Mandalorian. The blaster. He broke that into slices and just made it work. And put it all together and put on some PVC, and it's awesome.

Brandon: You said that was Batman the one?

Walker: We just, we just came out with that, it's supposed to be fun. Some people thought it was is this a serious video? No, we're just being goofballs.

Brandon: So do you guys still do the weekly show?

Walker: We do the weekly show. It's Wednesdays, 4:00 PM Pacific time. Every week. Except for this week.

Dive deep into the world of laser cutters and laser engravers with Walker at Full Spectrum Laser. Learn how to engrave on leather, glass, wood and more!Dive deep into the world of laser cutters and laser engravers with Walker at Full Spectrum Laser. Learn how to engrave on leather, glass, wood and more!