Extruded rail and 3D printed connectors form a proper laser engraver


Fast and accurate is a good description of this laser engraver built by [Ragnar] and [Gunnar]. The’re planning to show it off at the Trondheim Maker Faire after the new year but they took it out in the wild for the PSTEREO Mini Maker Faire (also in Trondheim) this past August. The video below gives an overview of the build process and the engraver at work. But we also enjoyed reading the post about a few missteps in the early prototyping process. We call this one a proper laser engraver because it was purpose built from the ground-up. We still like seeing the engravers hacked from optical drives, but this really is a horse of a different color in comparison.

From the start they’re using familiar parts when it comes to CNC builds. The outer frame is made of extruded aluminum rail, with precision rod for the gantry to slide upon. Movement is facilitated with stepper motors and toothed belts, with all of the connecting and mounting parts fabricated on a 3D printer. The mistake made with an early (and unfortunately mostly assembled) prototype was that the Y axis was only driven on one side when it really needed to be driven on both. But filament is relatively cheap so a few tweaks to the design were able to fix this and get the production back on track.


  1. Tony says:

    There’s really no point making something that size when you can buy one cheaper off eBay – and as a bonus it’ll have a real laser tube in it (40W), a far cry from the like toy 2W they have. (Although if the 2W scares them they maybe they’ve better stock up on underwear first).

    While making a small one is good practice for making something bigger, had they looked at existing equipment they’d have avoided most of the mistakes they made – driving both sides being the most obvious.

    The might also have move the limit switches off the head and onto the frame as well (seriously – why?), that’s a fail in the making. And cable ties?

    Also the laser world considers engravers machines that can output a bitmap image, not just vectors like they’re doing. Vector is easy, bitmaps surprising hard.

  2. barry99705 says:

    Why is the internet full of dicks? They seem to troll sites just to shit on others stuff.

    • yetihehe says:

      Because world is full of dicks. They behave normally in real world because they would just get hit by someone if they were such dicks (or at least were publicly shamed). But in internet there is no effective limiters for such behaviours.

    • yetihehe says:

      Also bear in mind, that in internet it isn’t that easy to ask more politely. You have to REALLY try to be polite, whereas in real life you can just do it with tone of voice and body language. On internet you have to craft your text very thoughtfully, with which most people will not bother for some comment on some very short article.

    • matt says:

      If you want a circlejerk hugfest go back to reddit

  3. Protoneer says:

    Nice Work!!!

    Its not all about the end point. Not a lot of people have made their own Laser engravers and I for one would like to make one in the future.

    Currently I am busy developing a Arduino CNC Shield blog.protoneer.co.nz/arduino-cnc-shield/ and the next version of the board would work really nice for this project. It will have the option to clone axis’s and would make it easy to run double axis’s like your y-Axis. It also uses the Pololu drivers that are cheap and reliable.

    Keep up the good work. ;)

  4. Slurm McKenzie says:

    No comment about laser safety and goggles?
    That’s a first on hackaday, i guess. ;)

  5. the oddity says:

    Ok, so with the current laser, how many passes would it take to etch the traces in a 1 oz PCB?

    If laser power were doubled, would it cut the number of passes in half?

    • Tony says:

      1) Infinite.
      2) No.

      Wrong wavelength & nowhere near enough power.

      You can get PCB laser engravers, and they’re very very expensive (mainly due to the type of laser). CO2 lasers are cheap, but they’re the wrong wavelength for cutting metals (unless you’ve one in the hundreds of watts range).

    • RunnerPack says:

      This might work for cutting an etch-resist mask out of a layer of black spray-paint, though.

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