1 Watt laser engraver

This laser engraver was built using printer parts, a CD-ROM carriage, and some homebrew electronic boards. The laser diode is a 1-Watt model similar to what we saw used as a weak laser cutter back in August. When the width of the material changes the focus of the laser is affected so the diode was mounted on a CD-ROM carriage (in the Z axis) for easy adjustment. The X and Y axes are made using parts from Epson Stylus 800 and Epson Stylus Color II printers. After the break we’ve embedded a video of the machine engraving some wood using EMC2 software on an Ubuntu box. It also boasts the ability to cut paper and some plastic but it can’t compare in power to a CO2-based unit.

[Thanks Panikos]


  1. tim says:

    nice, but where can we find the 1W laser ?

  2. David S says:

    and are there board schematics for similar projects (sorry if I missed them)?

  3. c says:
  4. tim says:

    with the same 1W power,
    what is best for engraving,
    RED or Infrared ?

  5. Nathan Zadoks says:

    @c: Wicked lasers seems to have a bad reputation and is overpriced, especially blue ones.
    Blue ones are only more expensive, and an IR laser would work much better.
    If anyone finds a place to get 1W+ lasers cheaply (under $130), I’d love to hear =)


  6. nanobit says:

    Too bad there are no images of an actual pcb that has been engraved with the lazer. I might make one if it can make me a pcb.

  7. tim says:

    i have found 2W here, but not really under 130$.


  8. Matt says:

    @Nathan Zadoks casio released a series of projectors relatively recently containing 24 445nm laser diodes capable of being driven at 1.5 watts. It would be fairly simple to pick one of those diodes up on ebay for ~$50 plus a few bucks for a module and an old cpu heatsink to dissipate the heat. build a basic lm317 driver to power it, and you’ve got a decent low power laser for a laser engraver like this. It is actually exactly the same diode as used in the 1w wickedlaser arctic. if anyone is interested check out laserpointerforums for more info.

  9. Nathan Zadoks says:

    @tim: ooh, fancy, nice if you have the money to *puts sunglasses on* BURN

  10. Faelenor says:

    Wow, still no one complaining that you can blind your whole neighborhood with this?

    I’m just kidding. That’s a nice project!

  11. MrX says:

    That seems to be a very old CDROM laser focus assembly. Most modern ones use neodymium magnets and a magnetic field to fine tune the lens position in the XYZ axes.

    I’m actually using this kind of assembly to focus a <500mW red laser, I had to replace the lens with one with longer focal length. Control of the lens is fairly easy and can be accomplished by varying the voltage of two coils between ~ -1V and +1V.

    I don't know the upper current limit of the laser though :( The laser was stolen from a DVD writer. I measured the forward voltage of the diode which is around 1.72V. Do you guys know a good way to get the upper current bound without damaging the laser? No, the laser doesn't have any reference.

    The maximum I tried was 1.72V @ 250mA which should give me a output under 430mW.

  12. medix says:

    @MrX: Measure the I-V curve and go from there. I’m guessing that you’re pretty spot-on with the specs though, especially if the diode is that small.

  13. svofski says:

    To engrave stuff on non-white stuff like wood or cardboard, even 300mW is enough if you’re not hurrying anywhere. And 300mW lasers are very cheap.

  14. Nemo says:


  15. Whamodyne says:

    @MrX – any sites you would suggest for info on that kind of fine position control via magnetics? I’m curious to see how it’s done.

  16. bobdole says:

    @#3: You can buy a 20W infrared laser diode off ebay for that price, not to mention that’s hacking an already-hacked commercial product… The diodes they use in those are taken out of video projectors, which use them solely as a blue light source, where they’re run at a much lower power.

    Wickedlasers commissions dirt cheap chinese factories to take apart Sanyo projectors, hack the diode into a poorly manufactured, improperly heatsinked flashlight body, attach a badly engineered current regulator set to run the diode much higher than it was intended, then package it with the cheapest explosive* lithium ion batteries possible and a pair of uncertified pieces of yellow plastic posing as safety goggles.

    It would make a lot more sense to buy something that’s actually designed for this purpose, for a much lower price, instead of hacking apart an expensive and unreliable commercial product that’s made for a niche market.

    * – actually the explosive bit is a bit of a stretch, I only know of two confirmed cases of wickedlasers arctic batteries exploding, and I’m sure they’ve sold hundreds of thousands. still, the people nearly lost their homes, so I figured I’d throw that in there to make a point.

  17. vonskippy says:


    You never need an excuse here on HAD to go snarky.

  18. MrX says:

    @Whamodyne I got there by trial error..

    I’ve seen several different coil mounts for lens control, the most common one is something like this

    it only allows lens control on the X and Z axis. The control logic is something like this:

    I hope my drawing helps :)

  19. zeropointmodule says:

    @MrX, the formula to calculate this is on Sam’s Laser FAQ, essentially you determine the “threshold” current (the current at which lasing begins, shown by the optical output suddenly increasing) and then this allows you to calculate the safe operating current.
    blue diodes are particularly fragile but from what I have been able to find out by experimentation burner diodes are slightly less so due to the larger die area.

    obviously you need goggles and with this Class IV level of output power a keyswitch and enclosure with clearly visible through goggles white LED “LASER ON” indicator is essential.

    i’ve also looked at modifying aixiz modules by adding an internal magnet assembly and external rotation coils, as this allows control of focussing “on the fly”.

    the small stepper and lens inside ps3 laser blocks can be repurposed but the drive requirements are a bit delicate.

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