Bench-top laser engraver does some cutting too

Grab that stack of old optical drives you have in the corner and get to work building this laser engraver. [Groover] is taking a no-nonsense approach to the build and we think it is just simple enough to be accessible to a very wide audience.

The physical assembly uses sleds from two optical drives. These are mounted some angle bracket. Since lasers cut at one specific focal length, there is not need for a Z axis (simplifying the build greatly). In fact, we think the hardest part of the assembly is retrieving the laser diode from a DVD-R drive and packaging it for use with this setup.

The electronics are a combination of a couple of consumer products. Two pre-fab motor drivers are used to command the stepper motors on the optical sleds. These receive their commands from an Arduino. A package called GRBL reads in G-code ([Groover] shows how to generate this from Inkscape) and in turn sends commands to the Arduino.

The results are quite remarkable. It can engrave wood with great resolution and contrast. The video after the break even shows it cutting out shapes from construction paper. Now we still want our own full-size laser cutter, but this project is much more fiscally possible for us.

Comments

  1. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    “Since lasers cut at one specific focal length, there is not need for a Z axis (simplifying the build greatly).”

    So you have to cut the exact same thickness then with this machine? Or put in shims? How hard would a Z axis be to add – probably not too bad.

  2. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    What is the power of this device? Could it be used to strip off colored anodizing or is it limited to burning wood and plastic?

  3. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    If this can eventually cut through what looks to be construction paper, the wattage has got to be in the 1 – 3 watt range, tops. It cuts but *awfully* slowly.

  4. Ol Crustacean says:

    I’m searching for an affordable option for branding/making small logos for bottlecaps for my homebrewing set up. Anyone have any idea how feasible something like this would be?

  5. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    Have you looked into silicone pad style silkscreening? That might be an inexpensive method and is readily DIY friendly.

  6. Totally awesome! But, didn’t I see this somewhere else before? Like, a year ago?
    Oh, yes.
    http://builders.reprap.org/2010/08/selective-laser-sintering-part-8.html
    The reciprocating laser cutter made of optical drive parts.
    Which even has a Z axis and keeps the cut at the focal length of the laser, needing much less laser power for cutting.
    But, whatever, have fun =)

    –Nathan

  7. Hacksaw says:

    For the bottlecaps look at an etch-o-matic it is infinitely easier and faster.Using a Z axis would be somewhat useful for going from a cut to etch operation but that could be achieved electrically much more reliably.

  8. macona says:

    This thing really needs to be in an opaque enclosure to be safe. Even specular reflections at this power can damage your eyes.

    For the bottle caps you will really need a CO2 laser. This will not do the job.

    Cutting and etching are dont at the same focal length, right at the top of the material. So for different thicknesses of materials you will need to be able to adjust something in Z so the beam waist is the smallest at the top of the material. For a laser cutter there is no real point in making the z controller. You can use something as simple as threaded rod and a gear motor to move a work table up and down.

    The one I am building:

    http://www.buildlog.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=264

  9. Jake says:

    Will it cut mylar? SMT stencil…

  10. pRoFlT says:

    will it burn copper? make PCB boards?

    I saw this and thought damn someone already made a tiny pcb board machine. I guess i can still make one.

  11. macona says:

    Jake, No. You will need CO2. Virtually no absorption at the 650nm wavelength.

    pRoFlT, No. Almost everything reflects off of copper. Combined with the high thermal conductivity its not going to do anything. Heck, high power CO2 lasers use mirrors made from polished copper. Best you could do is use it to etch away resist and use a regular chemical etch.

  12. Whatnot says:

    Pretty nice, keeps it basic enough to be approachable instead of the many projects that require access to stuff only a few lucky ones do have access too, or that are so expensive that you might as well buy a brand new CNC machine.

  13. h3po says:

    does anyone know where to get suitable collimator lenses from junk parts? i don’t want to buy an aixiz module and throw away the included laser and driver just to get a tube and a plastic lens…

    btw, i just ripped apart an lg drive and it seems to me that the stepper driver controller can be reused. there are 4 control lines and 1 line for the endstop switch. all active high, 3,3v.
    i captured the drive initialisation (drive to endstop, then home) with buspirate in LA mode, but i can’t make sense of the protocol just yet.
    to get a relationship between control and movement, i recorded the drive init:

    will post in the forum if i get the controller working. preassembled driver boards are way to expensive for my taste…

  14. Drake says:

    @h3po

    pull the driver from a printer. Or worst case get a bunch of NPN and PNP transistors and make your own driver. 4 lines per motor that way

  15. therian says:

    i recognize the plant ;)

  16. compukidmike says:

    @h3po

    Harbor Freight sells a laser line for mounting on power tools. It’s only $5 and gets you not only the collimating lens, but also a line generating lens! I used the line lens for my llp multitouch table.

  17. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    pRoFlT, No. Almost everything reflects off of copper.

    Not entirely true. You *CAN* cut copper with 1000+ watt laser cutters but will need 2000+ to go through thicker stuff. Cutting copper or aluminum with a laser cutter is not likely to work very well. But you could paint the surface of copper with a resist and then selectively laser it off to get an etch.

    Waterjets or CNC mills are suggested to cut thicker than 1/8″ copper sheets. Thinner stuff you can get away with using industrial lasers but we aren’t talking Epilog 60 watters here.

  18. freak says:

    @therian

    yeah… i can confirm the nice plant as well

  19. h3po says:

    compukidmike: thanks, but i asked for a salvage solution since i’m in europe and the market is pretty small here for such things, therefore the prices are not in my budget.

    to address the reuse-controller idea:
    it seems all three controllers on my lg board here are from renesas, and they provide no datasheets at all. comparing to a similar renesas ic for optical drives, i found out that the control signal is not digital but an analog waveform controlling only the current going through the motor, so reusing that driver ic is not really an easy thing to do without also hacking and reusing the controller.
    to throw in some part numbers:
    board: “jr6-mp k”, motor driver “r2s30202fp”, controller “r8j32007fpv”

  20. Jeditalian says:

    lol @therian&freak, as do i.

  21. Jeditalian says:

    luv me sum ‘maters

  22. t&p says:

    is that a pot plant?

  23. Shadow says:

    Why not whack a RepRap head on it and make a little extruder :)

    Probably more viable for the pen version of a while back

  24. Spork says:

    @therian,freak,and jeditalian
    It’s too tall, looks light deprived…

  25. Akshay says:

    A very nice tutorial :)
    Could you please give me the List of Components used in the laser driver Circuit.
    I couldnt exactly figure out the components from the schematic.
    Please just gv the list, it would be a great help.

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