Printing images with a wood burning CNC machine


Just to clear up any confusion from the title, this wood burning CNC machine runs on electricity. The wood burner acts as the print head. It’s the thing in the upper right of the field that looks a bit like a soldering iron. In this case it’s being used like a dot matrix printer.

We suppose this is a form of halftone printing, although it doesn’t produce the uniformity we’ve seen with mill-based halftone techniques. [Random Sample] built the machine from wood, drawer sliders, and stepper motors with toothed belts. His Python script takes an image and transforms it into a file which can be used to guide each of the three axes of the machine. An Arduino receives these commands via the USB connection. Each image prints in a grid, with darker pixels created by leaving the hot tip in contact with the wood for a longer period of time.

Don’t miss the sample video embedded after the jump.

[Thanks Ian via Reddit]


  1. Eirinn says:

    Good job, but… isn’t this an obvious use for a laser cutter? :)

    • Ren says:

      Maybe it’s a prototype for a laser cutter. I bought my wood burning iron at a second hand store for a dollar. I might not have as much luck finding a powerful enough laser.

  2. t-bone says:

    The enormous z-stage made me wonder: could you pull off the same thing by running upside-down over a candle? (Fire extinguisher: mandatory)

    • shawn says:

      I would imagine (horrendeous fire danger aside) that the biggest issue would be the affected area for each movement. Your candle would heat a much larger spot than the soldering iron making it hard to do fine grained detail. However you could potentially use this for gradient effects that the iron couldn’t do.

  3. AC says:

    Are those server rails for rack mounting?

  4. Maverick says:

    Nice tutorial i must say!

  5. Ren says:

    My wood burning “pencil” takes a long time to warm up, and it takes a long time to recover, A picture like the one shown could take a day to make using it.

  6. n0lkk says:

    Certainly something I would not have thought of, but I rarely ponder CNC options. Mike sez “runs on electricity”, as opposed to what? Even that solar power unit requires electrical power. :)

  7. Mike Hogan says:

    That is ingenious. A solar wood burner using a Fresnel might be another option that could possibly print faster, but you’d need steady sunlight.

  8. Al says:

    Now I gonna have to chop wood for my future cnc projects?

  9. Kenneth Scharf says:

    Replace the wood burning pencil with a dremel and you have a wood carving machine

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