Unconventional/Classroom Enclosure & Workbench 2.0

Previously, I shared photos of our Shapeoko XXL set up in my classroom/computer lab back in July. We had already built our workbench and dust-free enclosure, but I wanted to share the updates we’ve made since then.

Due to the excessive noise of operating the router and shop vac with a dust boot attachment in my classroom (making it very difficult to lecture), it became necessary to add a sound proof cubby. We created a storage space out of 3/4” plywood and used 2” foam board as insulation. This has helped reduce the sound quite a bit and also allows us to store our shop vac and hot dog air compressor to keep equipment out of sight.

The other major update was the add-on of a 4” inline duct fan to be able to vent the enclosure outside while using our laser attachment. This required cutting through a brick exterior wall, but the fan makes a huge difference when burning material with the laser- pushing out smoke and fumes.

Unfortunately, I do not have plans drawn up for our enclosure. We’ve had to make adjustments as we’ve learned more about the process, but I hope the photos are helpful to anyone looking to set up a system outside of a normal shop setting. cnc set up


Nice setup, I see handles on the sides of the enclosure. Are you able to open the sides too for maintenance? I made hatches for accessing the controller and for tiling but having the whole side open makes it even easier to access and perform maintenance.

Mine is mounted on a cabinet with drawers where I keep tools, endmills and accessories plus a place for my shopvac dust collector that has not been installed yet. I am a bit concerned with heat buildup inside the cabinet and was looking to see if I needed ventilation. Has this been an issue for you? Thanks for sharing.

Yes, there are 2 handles on the left and right sides of the enclosure for removal. So far, we’ve been able to perform maintenance without having to remove it, but it would take two people to lift it off. We also added hasp locks to the sides to keep it secured to the work bench and to help tighten the seal/minimize dust. Having a hinged side panel would be nice for accessing control boxes. It’s definitely been a learning process, and we would probably make modifications if we did a second build. We added a pull-out laptop station but haven’t built drawers for tools.

As of right now, heat hasn’t been an issue. Since I’m using the equipment in a computer lab/classroom, I wanted the 4" inline fan primarily for venting out the smoke/fumes from using the laser, but I think it’ll also come in handy when we are using the router- especially with aluminum. I also have a cheap, mini fan that connects to the laptop via USB at the front of the machine to help push air back towards the duct fan. We purchased a small air compressor with a drip line attachment from Ebay that we will be experimenting with once we start using any metals.


I hope that you have at least some ventilation in that cubby. The shopvac WILL get hot and it needs ambient air temperature to keep that motor from overheating. As does the air compressor. Otherwise shortened lives and potential fire hazard. I’d cut some slots in the bottom and maybe a a few holes in the back high. Shouldn’t change the noise.

And please make sure you use eye protection with the j tech laser.
I’m cross posting from a laser forum the comments of a career laser expert.
These little diode lasers are truly dangerous to the eyes.

Dangerous eye destroying multimode rubbish should just about cover it.

Seriously? just don’t… 445nm is likely one of the most dangerous wavelengths available in a compact diode of any kind. It’s fluence and photon energy is huge compared to CO2 and even fibres. While there is no direct comparison between wavelengths (other than a loose watt/seconds) the mechanism of damage that 445 causes makes the injury to the eyes permanent.

Lemme give you a bit of a break down and supporting info

A CO2 @ 10,640nm the photon energy is 0.116 eV
A fibre @ 1064nm the photon energy is 1.165eV
A Blu-ray @ 445nm the photon energy is 2.786eV

So as a “direct” comparison you have 24x as much energy in each photon.

The mechanism of damage is also very different, when a Co2 beam /scatter/reflection hits the eye the damage is done at the surface of the lens, in some cases this can be repairs because the lens can be gotten to by the surgeon, as the wavelength drops the focal transition moves further inside the eye until you get down to the “approaching” UV and UV wavelengths (remember as the wavelength reduces the photon energy increases) once you hit the 445nm range the beam will pass through the lens and is focused by it (that’s how our eyes work on a daily basis) so the final focal point of that energy is the Macula Lutea at the back of the eyeball inside the eye (just in front of the optic nerve).(that’s not getting repaired anytime soon)

Given the very high fluence and photon energy of the 445nm wavelength and the absorption factors of human tissue I have maintained for the last 17 years that 445 and below are wavelengths that should NEVER be available to the general public until LSO’s are on site and Laser Safety procedures are undertaken and fully implemented.

Of all the powerful lasers I have worked with I was more concerned and careful about a 5 watt bench source in 445 than I was about a 7,500 watt CO2…

It appears the j tech has some shielding, but low angle use can make eyes ‘see’ the beam. On wood there should be no reflections, but any metal can. And I do see you have somewhat of a shield. Just be careful


Thank you for posting that — could I get permission to add it (somewhat edited) to the Shapeoko wiki? already added a link to your post.

Yes, thank you for the information. We have protective eye wear, the shield on the outside of the Plexiglas, and a shroud shield directly in front of the laser. The way the enclosure sits on the workbench blocks eye-level view of the laser when the lid is down.

We haven’t fully utilized the shop vac and air compressor yet, so we will definitely be adding ventilation to prevent overheating. Thank you for the suggestion. That was something that we discussed but hadn’t yet implemented.

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Let me see if I can get the original poster to give us a clean and maybe even more detailed description of hazards and maybe best practice on reducing them if you must use one. I use glasses with my fiber laser. Just shut the top with my CO2 as the glass windows will block any beams. And I really think that people are equating wattage with danger.

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Will, sent message, I won’t clog up Sarah’s post more.
And I DO like the enclosure

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