£2k to replace my white ribbon cable to laser head. Help!

Hi everyone, my Glowforge stopped working a week ago showing an ‘orange light’ fault. I inspected the white ribbon cable that connects to the laser head and found that the cable was worn away and the wires broken where it had been rubbing/moving (see picture).
Glowforge support advised that they can’t send me a replacement part as it’s not ‘qualified’ and they don’t know if/when it will be.

The solution they’ve offered is for me to ship the entire machine back to them from the UK to the US for repairs, at an estimated cost of c.$2,500 (including shipping, repairs, customs charges). Not possible.

I’m wondering whether anyone has had problems with that same white ribbon cable and whether you’ve been able to source a generic replacement part locally? I’m trying to find a serial number or spec for the part so I can ask an electronics shop to source or make one for me.

Please, any advice or help you can offer would go a long way as I’m desperate to solve this. I use the Glowforge for my business and without it I can’t work.

Thanks so much for your time

Jake

The Glowforge assembly is a 51" (1295mm) 20 Conductor 0.050" (1.27mm) Flat Flex Cable with TE Connectivity AMPMODU System 50 connectors.

The cable connectors are p/n 1-487545-7 (DigiKey UK), and PCB receptacles are p/n 5-104074-4 (DigiKey UK).

I was unable to locate a source that sells the cable in any reasonable length that would fit this application. DigiKey sells a 500’ roll of it, but that seems a little silly - not to mention that fishing that thing through the cable track will not be easy.

A better solution might be to get a shorter ready-made cable assembly and connect it the to the head. Then cut off the bad part of the existing cable, put a new connector on it, and use a header to plug the two together.

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Hi Scott, thanks so much for the considered response. If we’re unable to get Glowforge to give up a cable then we will need to get one made or, like you say, perhaps patch into the existing cable.

I am stunned that they cannot sell a simple replacement cable.

@jake if you have not posted on the official forums I am sure people there would like to know this story too.

Thanks @GrooveStranger - believe me, we’re struggling to understand why as well. We did post (using my wife Silvina’s account) at this thread: https://community.glowforge.com/t/white-ribbon-cable-replacement/61417/3 - we’ve had a few helpful replies (actually one directing us to this forum) but none of the outrage we’re feeling!

Another friendly local laser cutting company has been helping us by speaking to 4 laser repair companies in the UK to see if anyone can help. One, based locally, is more than happy to swap out the cable for us if we’re able to source the part, so that’s definitely plan A. We have a sneaking suspicion that Glowforge count on charging for their maintenance and repair activities to help fund the business which, if true, is absolutely ridiculous. We’re going to keep on at Glowforge and escalate as far as we can - I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has any advice on how best to do this or has been down similar routes.

If we’d known how Glowforge operated prior to buying we’d definitely have shopped elsewhere. We ‘bought’ the machine some about 5 years ago, but didn’t receive the machine until about 2 years ago. We’re still waiting on the air filter we bought. In the meantime, despite running the extractor tube out the window the studio is filling with dust and other materials, affecting my wife’s allergies. All in all, not a great show from Glowforge, particularly in terms of support for non-US customers.

Anyway, rant over (for now!) - thanks for your support!

@jake I will check out your thread on the official forum, and keep my fingers crossed for you.

With regards to the filter, they are SO expensive to operate, if you have a window, I would stick with that. Build a window insert of some kind with a tight seal for the hose, and around the edges, as opposed to just flopping the hose out the window, and you will be amazed at how much better the exhaust works. Many people on the official forum are also adding an inline booster fan, which isn’t that expensive. You should be able to avoid all kinds of smells and particulates getting into the workspace – until you open the lid and remove the smelly cut pieces. There’s no getting around that.

Thanks @GrooveStranger - funnily enough (or not) they just got in touch saying that, even though they can’t send us a cable to fix our machine, they can now ship us the air filter. I don’t understand what they expect us to use the air filter for considering the machine isn’t working! Anyway, we’ll try and cancel that before they send it and get the money back. I’ll look to improve the positioning of the hose and seal it in a bit better.

I’m currently desperately emailing UK cable manufacturers trying to persuade one to produce a one-off customer cable for us based on the spec kindly provided by @ScottW514 above. Will keep you posted.

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jake, just to be clear, is the break near the head, rather than tucked under left hand end of the top of the GF ?
I’m amazed at the amount of wear your cable has suffered. Do you put it down to the fact that you use the mc for business, so your getting a lot more use than I am ?
Looks like a potential market for a short replacement section as Scott suggested, ready made, and with additional connector.
John :upside_down_face:

https://www.mpja.com/Flat-Ribbon-Cable/products/305/
Priced reasonably. Might be worth it, they don’t come with the connector ends but I’m guessing it’s possible to carefully take the ends off the old cable and install on the replacement. I did that successfully back in the day when a computer hard drive used this kind of cable.

I pioneered using ribbon cables on 3D printers and I always back them with a polypropylene strip to ensure they don’t bend sharply in one place. I don’t own a Glowforge, so can’t say if it work there, but 3D printers move around a lot more than door hinges and they have worked for more than 9 years.

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@geofffer - The type of cable used on the GF is FPC, which is basically a printed circuit on a flexible backing. Standard ribbon cables with solid or twisted conductor (like you linked to) could work, but one would need an adapter to get the new style cable to connect to the factory style cable.

Plus, I don’t think that type of ribbon cable is a flexible as the FPC style.

Hi John, that’s right - the break in the cable is to the right of the head, not under the covering on the left hand side of the machine. The machine has been used fairly consistently over the last two years, but probably on average not for more than an hour or two a day. One of the last jobs we ran before it broke was cutting/engraving 50x cards for a business. The design was very intricate so the head was making thousands of small movements, which may have focused the wear on one particular section of the cable. We didn’t realise until afterwards unfortunately, but I’d have assumed that the machine would be designed so that the cable wouldn’t be rubbing on anything.

I was wondering, if we were just to replace the broken bit of the cable and patch into the remaining (left hand side) bit, wouldn’t this just leave us with a weak cable again that would break more easily?

Thanks @geofffer @palmercr and @ScottW514- I guess the main problem is that we’re not technical people - we don’t know how to cut and make cables, or particularly how to install them. I’m trying to learn online but wouldn’t feel comfortable messing around with leads that connect to laser heads - could end up causing a bigger problem.

We’ve found a laser cutter repair service in Kent that say they can do the repair, but that we need to source the part. With Glowforge being particularly, and inexplicably, unhelpful in this regard I’m trying to find someone (or a company) that can make up a replacement cable for us. I’ve emailed about 20 companies I found on Google but no luck yet.

If anyone knows anyone who can help, I’d really appreciate an introduction.
Thanks
jake

What I have in mind is that the first few inches are going to be the section that takes most stress when the head is at the right hand side of the machine, so, yes, that may well need to be replaced again if the type of work you are describing is continual. The plus side of it is that you will become adept at doing it, and you will have the parts ! For a start, can you move your working area more to the left, so the worn are never gets exposed ?
However, to address Scott’s point, is it possible that you could post a close up photo of the ‘plug in’ end of the cable ? This is the part that will need to be reproduced, twice, once for the new section going into the head, and once when you make the connection to the original long section, via a connector.
Having said that, I can see on my machine that the cable will rub against the lower edge of that black aluminium(?) strip, that is presumably just a guide for the unrolling cable(not good).
John

The datasheet for the connector has a detailed drawing.

Installation of the connectors is pretty straight forward. You just cut the ribbon so the end is square, and push the end into the connector until it stops. The only tricky part is making sure the cable is aligned strait the to connector. If you mess up, cut it off and try again (with a new connector - they are single use).

That black aluminum guide is coated with a slightly rough surface. It would probably be a good idea to put some duct tape along that bottom surface to reduce the cable wear.

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