Psst…wanna buy a laser cutter, but not ready to sell your internal organs? Nortd Labs’ Lasersaur project aims to create an open source large-format laser cutter/engraver that undercuts (har har!) the cost of commercial models by an order of magnitude.
A Lasersaur built strictly using componentry from the globally-available bill of materials will set you back about $5,000. But if you can source some of the parts locally…or better yet, if you have a knack for scrounging (the stepper motors, for example, are common in junked inkjet printers)…it may be possible to knock that down by a grand or more. That’s still a big chunk of change for the lone garage tinkerer…but for schools or hackerspaces, or anyone who can pool some labor and funding, this could make laser work a lot more practical. Entry-level commercial models can be had for similar cost, but these are tiny in comparison — Lasersaur’s cutting bed is an enormous 140 by 72 centimeters!
Aside from bringing down the cost, another goal of the project is to break from the Windows/Corel hegemony that’s been the rule with most commercial laser platforms. Lasersaur’s “brain” is Arduino-based and cross-platform by nature. The hardware is interfaced through a custom motor control shield, easily assembled with all through-hole components.
The Lasersaur project is currently in a closed alpha stage, with the aim of a fully documented 1.0 open source release this summer. Project contributors have early access to the design documents and software, if you’re eager to get crackin’.