Thunder Laser External Air Compressor Guidelines

Thunder Laser External Air Compressor Guidelines

This article describes adding 3rd party bolt-on performance peripherials. Your stock Thunder Laser will run to our specifications right out of the box with the included high quality accessories. 

The maximum recommended operating system pressure, according to Thunder China Engineering, is now 55 psi to help prevent premature air solenoid failures. This supersedes any other documented system pressure recommendations.

It is important to initially set up your machine with only the factory supplied peripherials and ensure proper operation. then you can evaluate what (if anything) you may want to do to your machine to enhance its performance. 

Complicating the initial setup also increases the operational difficulty, and creates rabbit holes when troubleshooting, should that become necessary.

Many have found a significant improvement in cutting when supplying the air assist system with higher pressure air from an external air source, usually a standard air compressor. 



This one image literally tells you everything you need to know to connect external air.

Links to parts and more info can be found below:

1. The maximum recommended operating system pressure, according to Thunder China Engineering, is now 55 psi to help prevent premature air solenoid failures. This supersedes any other documented system pressure recommendations.

2. There needs to be a regulator and good water separator immediately before the main air inlet on the laser. The quick-release fittings and tubing are 6mm but 1/4" works just fine. 

This is the one we use sometimes but they may vary. Here's the link: 

Don't fuss with desiccant dryers, they are quickly overwhelmed. It would be better to just get a 2 stage separator.

The kit linked below is also very handy. It's often all you need. Most common shop pneumatic fittings are 1/4 NPT so this should work with your compressor fittings and accessories

Check out this kit:

NOTE: ONLY 2 of the 1/4"NPT to 1/4" quick release fittings come in that kit. You actually need one more.

We have not found them for sale individually but they are here:

Here is the connector for the compressor side:

3. The system pressure needs to be relieved after you are done with your laser for the day. Leaving the system pressurized will exert pressure on the valves in the solenoids and cause the seat to be indented and weaken prematurely. 

I simply turn off the air supply at the inlet and press one of the air assist test buttons to bleed it off before I power down my machine.

There are some differences in the air assist systems themselves the we need to identify early on so you can plan for them.

If you have dual-stage air assist it works like this:

There is a single 6mm quick-release airline fitting at the rear of the machine. This is the main air inlet. That splits into 2 air solenoids. One for High Stage and one for Low Stage. Then there are 2 lines from there to the needle valves in the left control panel under the green test buttons. after the needle valves they combine into 1 airline again and it goes to the nozzle.

To add external air to the dual-stage just plug your compressor in on a different branch than the laser and chiller, plumb it into the laser with the valve, regulator, and water separator(s), and hook up the airline. 

To add an external air supply to most single-stage air assist systems you will need a solenoid to control it. You can get a 110VAC solenoid and plug it into the air compressor outlet on the back of the laser or you can get a 24VDC one and go to the trigger of the contactor for the air pump outlet. The first way is the best way. 

As far as buying compressors goes, many choose the California Air Ultra Quiet 8000 series compressors. There are other ultra-quiets out there. I would make the minimum specs 1HP and 6gal. The duty cycle even at minimum specs will be fairly high so the bigger the better.

What PSI should you use for High Air Pressure:

The limit is 55psi, but can your compressor keep up? Most compressors are rated for a 70% duty cycle (Higher priced ones will run 100%) and can produce a CFM (cubic Feet Per Minute) rating of air at 90\40psi on their spec sheet. If your compressor produces a low CFM then it will not be able to keep up with your Laser Machine High Air pressure consumption rate. To test this, fill up your compressor and set your PSI at the laser machine regulator to 55psi (compressor regulator at 90psi) and then use the TL timer board to trigger your Air Assist control( Testing/Adjusting Peripheral Systems using The TL Timer) and open up your high air assist all the way. Start a time and watch the tank on the compressor lower PSI until the compressor kicks on and then time how long it takes for the compressor to fill the tank back up.

-If the tank never fills back up and depletes completely, reduce your laser machine PSI by half (so say 55 down to 28) and retest
-If the compressor is rated at 70% duty cycle (check with your specific model) compare the time it took the compressor to fill the tank divided by the cycle time (time to fill + time to deplete). If the duty cycle exceeds your compressor rating, then reduce your Laser Machine Regulator by a few PSI and retest
-If the compressor is able to operate at under its rated duty cycle, then you can raise the Laser Machine Regulator PSI up a few PSI and retest but do not exceed 55psi.
-Once you are close to the rated duty cycle of your compressor, that will be the max PSI of your Laser Machine Regulator and you will have max flow with the High Air Assist nozzle all the way open. this will make sure you do not lose High Air pressure during a long cut job which will make your cutlines dirty and reduce the performance

Things to consider when selecting a compressor:
-CFM at 40psi rating (can also use the 90psi as a comparison but the 40psi is ideal)
-Tank volume (only useful for short runs, if your compressor cannot keep up you will run it empty)
-Duty Cycle (most are 70% duty cycle, 100% duty cycle is the best)
-Noise Level (lower the dB the better, sub 40db is quiet enough to talk next to, not all Quiet ratings are the same)
-Power Requirements (120v, 220v, amperage etc...make sure you can power it from a different outlet\circuit in your space, not from the machine)
-Budget - You once cry once.

Example Setup of External Air:

When running your compressor in another climate compared to your machine, you will want to be diligent about moisture.

Testing Max Air Pressure, at some point more air is pointless:

(Note that this testing was done without using the stock Air solenoids and was for testing purposes only).

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