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.
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.
Here is Thunder China's article on compressors:
And here is China's video on how to operate external air, with the regulator/dryer simply mounted on the back of the machine and inline with the air inlet (you do not have to mount the regulator on the front of the machine like we did in our lab):
Here is a post in the Global Thunder Laser Users Group by a Thunder Nova 24 60w owner (and, coincidently, the developer of LightBurn Software) cutting 1/2" ply. The machine is all stock with the exception of the external compressor:
Most either use one they already own or purchase an ultra quiet model. We will get into the air sources a bit later.
Let's look at some important things to keep in mind when supplying air from the external source.
1. The maximum rated system pressure is usually 100psi according to the label on but there is really no need to go above 80psi. Many find they use a range from 20 to 60psi. You can always bump it up if you need to.
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 and it's an el cheapo model. You can get far better ones if you wish. Here's the link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07Z5P82WC/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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's fittings and accessories Check out this kit:
Here is how I connected mine (you do not have to mount it on the front.I just chose to have it up there. Many simply mount it in the back inline with the air inlet as shown above):
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.