Craigslist can be a good source for finding someone else’s abandoned projects. Besides being extremely jealous, you’ll agree that [Mike's] find is atypical of the normal Craigslist listings. He scored a 75% complete group of laser cutter parts for $500. That included the XY frame, stepper motors, Gecko motor drivers, optics, and 40 watt CO2 laser tube. He paired the laser parts with another Craigslist find, a $15 desk. A few more parts and 3 weeks of tinkering later, [Mike] had a working DIY mutant Ikea Desk Laser Cutter.
The laser cutter has a 23 x 14 inch work envelope and is controlled via Mach3. The X Axis of the frame had a little bit of wobble in it so [Mike] added a THK linear rail and bearing to stiffen it up. To add a little bit of mistake proofing to the laser, [Mike] put a water flow sensor in the laser tube cooling system. The laser will not turn on unless water is pumping to cool the laser tube. Wrecking your laser tube by accident would be a total bummer!
There was no Z-Axis assembly included with the online score. [Mike] made his own with a few lead screws, acme nuts, sprockets and chain. A manual crank resides below the desk, turning it raises and lowers the honeycomb bed. It is necessary to adjust the height of the work piece to ensure that it is the correct distance away from the laser. The optics should focus the laser beam at a point inside of the material being cut or at the surface of the material being engraved.
[Mike] tallies up all of his expenses for the project to be about $900. You can’t deny that having your own laser cutter is pretty cool and saving these abandoned parts to make said laser cutter is pretty cool too.