Ian came around today and we played a kind of “dangerous purchase chicken”, each trying to persuade the other that what we really need in our lives is a laser cutting machine. Turns out you can get these from ebay for a few hundred pounds, which for a device with a 40 watt C02 laser is actually amazing value we reckon.
The one we looked at can cut paper, card, leather and most other non-metallic materials. Including fingers and thumbs I suppose. The vendor page shows a video of the machine happily burning through card, with the lid wide open and presumably all the safety interlocks (which I hope it has) turned off.
It would be nice to be able to precisely cut plastic parts and the device might be a nice complement to Una the 3D printer. But bearing in mind that the thing is water cooled and needs a hole cutting in the wall to install the vent that gets rid of all the nasty smoke, I think I’ll pass for now.