One of the most useful tools in our shop is our laser cutter— or more formally, our low power carbon dioxide laser cutting and engraving machine. We use it for all kinds of mechanical prototyping, cutting parts out of wood and acrylic, and even some production parts, like the cases for our clock kits, the custom cloth numbers on our d12 and d20 bag kits, and the pen arm on the Eggbot kit.
And while this has been a fantastic and reliable machine for the last several years, eventually the moment that we had dreaded arrived. Our laser power began to droop, and it started getting harder and harder to cut through the materials that we regularly work with. A visit from a technician confirmed that the power had fallen significantly, and that we needed a new tube. The replacement process is actually managed as a swap: The factory sends us a new laser cartridge, and we send them back our old one.