Air-Assist

UPDATE: April 24, 2021: There have been reports that OMTech recently replaced the blue and white air pumps with a better quality metal aquarium pump. At this time, we are waiting for feedback from the field to find out whether these pumps need to be replaced (at a minimum, they should move moved outside the machine). Reports so far have been that the new pumps are still underpowered.

Contrary to sellers making an internal air pump sound like an upgrade, it is not. Most Chinese lasers use an internal air pump which tend not to push enough air, pulse, and clog easily. In some cases, you may have an external air pump, but they usually lack the pressure and flow you receive from an air compressor. Air assist helps prevent your lens from getting damaged and dirty, and it keeps your material cleaner and reduces charring. For this reason it is suggested to replace the manufacturer supplied air pumps with an air compressor. This is something you'll want to purchase at the same time you purchase the laser. Scroll down to read more about air compressor and air-assist kit selection and installation.

Click on an Image Below to Order an Air Compressor

When selecting a compressor, you'll need to consider how many days per week, and how many hours per day it will be used. This will help determine the tank size. You should also think about were it will be placed, since they are typically loud and bulky.

Compressors are available in different tank sizes. The 8-gallon model is commonly used and are a nice happy medium between space, noise, and cost. For high-volume production use, consider 26-gallons or larger. If you're running the compressor indoors and have limited space, you can go with a 2-gallon model. However, the downside is that the compressor will run constantly, and will likely have a shorter service life compared to 8-gallon or larger compressors. An extended warranty is highly recommended when running a small compressor. (Fortress has a 90-day warranty, California Air Tools has a 1-year warranty, and Kobalt has a 3-year warranty.)

In general, compressors are extremely loud! Loud enough that hearing protection should be used if you are going to be around them for any length of time. Fortunately, there are companies that make "quiet" models (70db or less) which include: Harbor Freight Fortress, California Air Tools Ultra Quiet, and Lowes Kobalt. For the money, performance, and sound pressure levels, I prefer the California Air Tools 8-gallon model with aluminum tank.

Hear the difference between a 90dB compressor and 70db Compressor (forward to 2:10): Video





Note: Every 10db increase is perceived as a doubling in sound volume. So 10db is twice as loud, 20db is 4 times as loud.

Air-Assist Upgrade Installation:
Connecting an air compressor to the laser is fairly easy and straight-forward. Three popular methods for adding an air-assist are listed below. Each has its own unique advantage.

  1. Plug-and-Play Ruida Air-Assist Upgrade Kit (by Matthew Ross):
    Like the popular CloudRay kit, this kit provides more air control options. It is the most expensive of the three methods, but it is the easiest to install because it is mostly assembled. Simply buy one of the compressors below, buy this kit, and set it up. Matt also provides US-based support if you have any issues. You can buy the kit in
    his Facebook Group, Chinese Laser - Air Assist Upgrades and Support.

Note: Matt's kits are in heavy demand and often have a backlog. If you are in immediate need of a plug-and-play kit for Ruida, there is a new and similar kit that is stocked and shipped from Texas. You can order directly using this link: CO2 Laser Air Assist Kit.

  1. CloudRay Ultimate Air-Assist Set:
    T
    he CloudRay Ultimate Air Assist Set provides more air control options like Matt's kit, but it is NOT plug-and-play. The CloudRay kit is also more complex to install then the DIY install below, but it includes most of the parts you will need (it does not include air tubing, wire, or a fitting to connect the tubing to the air compressor). You will also need an air compressor, which you can buy below. Here is a video on how to install it, CloudRay Ultimate Air Assist Set Video, and you can read more about the kit and buy it here: CloudRay Ultimate Air Assist Set.

  2. DIY Air-Assist Install:
    The DIY is intended for those looking for a basic air-assist that goes on and off with the laser. The steps and components required for the DIY install are listed below. This video does a nice job going over most of the air assist installation process:
    DIY Air-Assist Video.

Installation Steps (see diagrams and photos below for reference):

  1. Identify installation locations for the air compressor and air filter so you can cut the blue air hose into sections as needed below.

  2. Remove the black air hose off the internal air pump. The hose can be difficult to pull off. The easiest way is to cut it off as near to the pump as possible. With the power off, you will want to cut or de-solder the two power wires on the pump and attach wire nuts to the wires to prevent shorts. Each wire will have its own wire nut, do NOT connect together. (I believe the wire is 22-gauge, so if you use a 22-gauge wire nut, you'll need to fold the wire over so it is thick enough to hold the wire nut on.)

  3. If possible, pull the black air hose through an open hole in the back on the laser. If this is not possible, pull the blue tubing into the laser and use one of the straight push-to-connect fittings (c) in the kit to connect the black hose and blue hoses together.

  4. Take the 24V solenoid (h) and the two included threaded push-to-connect fittings (i) and wrap the threads roughly two or three times with white teflon tape and screw them tightly into the IN and OUT ports on the solenoid (h). Note: be sure to get all of your fittings snug, otherwise you'll have air leaks and the compressor will run more often than necessary.

  5. Connect the air hose (b) from the laser into the OUT port on the solenoid (h).

  6. Connect a piece of air hose (b) to the IN port on the solenoid (h).

  7. Take the air filter (g) and the two threaded push-to-connect elbows (f) and wrap the threads roughly two or three times with white teflon tape and screw them into the IN and OUT ports on the filter (g).

NOTE: Depending on where you place your filter, you may want to use straight fittings instead of elbows. You can order the item (e) 6mm OD, 1/4" NPT Push-to-Connect Fittings instead of itme (f) 1/4" OD, 1/4" NPT Male Elbow Push-to-Connect Fitting if you do not want to use an elbow.

  1. Take the IN blue air hose (b) you connected in Step 6 and push it into the elbow (f) in the OUT port on the air filter (g).

  2. Push a piece of blue air hose (b) into the elbow (f) in the IN port on the air filter (g).

  3. Take one of the 1/4" NPT female air compressor plugs (a) and a threaded push-to-connect fitting (d), and wrap the fitting two or three times with white teflon tape and screw the two parts together.

  4. Push the air compressor plug you built in Step 10 into the fitting on the air compressor. The air hoses are now complete.

  5. Take the solenoid and a red and a black (I used blue in my photo for clarity) 18-gauge stranded wire, and push them into the wire terminals on the solenoid (do not tighten yet). It does not matter which color wire goes into which terminal, but it will on all the steps after this.

  6. To diode or not to diode, that is the question. This next step has mixed opinions about whether a diode is needed or not. A diode is used to prevent electricity from flowing back to the controller when the solenoid de-energizes. None of the Ruida wiring diagrams show or recommend a diode, but then the question is what will happen to the controller if it does see a spike. Considering a pack of diodes costs under $5, and it's extremely easy to install, I think it's a pretty cheap insurance policy to add one, and I have included it here. If you're feeling lucky, feel free to skip it. It's possible you'll never have an issue. With that said, take the diode and look for the side that has a white/silver stripe on it. Insert the striped side into the terminal that has the RED wire (+ 24V) and the other into the terminal with the black wire (Wind/Aux Air) and tighten the screws. It is VERY important you install the diode correctly.

TIP: It may be easier to bend and trim the diode prior to installation.

UPDATE: Good news, on Sept 3, the manufacturer of this solenoid said they have plans to install the diode in their solenoids. On the down side, it is going to be a revision, and not a part number change, so it is not possible to tell when the new version will begin shipping. Look very closely to see if yours includes a diode, and be sure you find the positive (+) and negative (-) markings if you receive the new solenoid. Please be aware that there is an LED power indicator light soldered to a brown resistor with stripes, this is not the same as a diode. A diode will generally be a solid color with a stripe on one end.

  1. Run the wires over to the controller, and for a Ruida Controller, screw the RED wire into connector CN1: Pin 6 (+24V) and take the black wire and screw it into connector CN1: Pin 5 (Wind). For a Ryxon KT332N Controller, screw the RED wire into connector OUTPUT: Pin 1 (+24V), and screw the black wire into connector OUTPUT: Pin 2 (Aux Air). Note: It has come to my attention that some controllers are missing the 6-pin screw terminal blocks needed to make this connection. I have listed one below that I believe will work, but I have not personally tested. It is a set of ten, and it includes the mating piece which you will not use. This was the least expensive option I could find on Amazon.

  2. Take roughly 2" of the mounting tape and attach it to the side of the aluminum solenoid body (not the coil), and attach the other side to your laser.

  3. The air-assist hardware installation is now complete.

  4. After you have your LightBurn and/or RDWorks software installed, you will need to come back and update a couple settings. The steps are listed below for both LightBurn and RDWorks, but you only need to make the changes in one application. RDWorks is currently the best place to make these changes. Change the software settings as follows:

a. In RDWorks:

1. Turn on your laser and wait for it to finish initializing.

2. Go to File -> Vendor Settings. If prompted for a password, enter your password (your manual should list this, but some common ones are RD8888, CC8888, and HF8888), and Click Read, then click on the Vender Param tab and then Other in the left menu. On the bottom right, under Enable Param, Check the Enable Blower setting. Click Write to save. Click Exit.

3. You can skip this step if you have a Ruida 6442 controller. Otherwise, go into the User Tab on the right side, click the Other Radio Button, click the Read Button, and change the Blow Type setting from "Laser on blow" to "Processing blow." Then click the Write Button to save it to your Ruida controller. This will prevent the solenoid from clicking on and off when the laser turns on and off during a job.

Note: De
pending on the model of your Ruida Controller and the firmware version, you may or may not see this option.

b. In LightBurn:

1. Turn on your laser and wait for it to finish initializing.

2. Go Edit -> Machine Settings and click Read.

3. Go to Vendor Settings and change Enable Air-Assist Output from False to True.

4. Click Write to save the change and then OK to exit.

5. Exit LightBurn.

6. You can skip this step if you have a Ruida 6442 controller. Otherwise, since LightBurn does not currently allow you to change the Blow Type, you will need to perform the below step in RDWorks. Start RDWorks, and go into the User Tab on the right side, click the Other Radio Button, click the Read Button, and change the Blow Type setting from "Laser on blow" to "Processing blow." Then click the Write Button to save it to your Ruida controller. This will prevent the solenoid from clicking on and off when the laser turns on and off during a job.

Note: De
pending on the model of your Ruida Controller and the firmware version, you may or may not see this option.

  1. Installation is complete!

Tips:
If you find you are getting lots of water in your dryer, you may want to consider a dryer with silica beads.

A good starting point for most vector cutting is 20 PSI, but you can set the regulator up to 40 PSI. You will need to adjust the PSI based on the type of material you are cutting or engraving.

Required Components and Tools for the DIY Air-Assist:

Optional Components for the DIY Air-Assist:

DIY Air-Assist Hose and Fitting Routing Diagram:

Hose and Fitting Routing Diagram

Old Air Pump

Old Air Pump

Installed Diode

Installed Diode

Mounted Solenoid

Mounted Solenoid
Diode Installation

NOTE: It is important to observe the polarity of the diode. It can only be installed one way.