The Laser Cutter Attachment For A 3D Printer

cheapo If you already have a 3D printer, you already have a machine that will trace out gears, cogs, and enclosures over an XY plane. How about strapping a laser to your extruder and turning your printer into a laser cutter? That’s what [Spiritplumber] did, and he’s actually cutting 3/16″ wood and 1/4″ acrylic with his 3D printer.

[Spiritplumber] is using a 445nm laser diode attached directly to his extruder mount to turn his 3D printer into a laser cutter. The great thing about putting a laser diode on an extruder is that no additional power supplies are needed; after installing a few connectors near the hot end, [Spiritplumber] is able to switch from extruding to lasing by just swapping a few wires. The software isn’t a problem either: it’s all just Gcode and DXFs, anyway.

There’s an Indiegogo for this, with the laser available for $200. Compare that to the Chinese laser cutters on eBay, and you can see why this is called the L-CHEAPO laser cutter.

76 thoughts on “The Laser Cutter Attachment For A 3D Printer

  1. I hate to be that guy but this is the diod and i can tell from the visible circuit that it is the exact same design as the laser tuts on you tube and no doubt that IC sharing the heat sink with the laser is the exact same LM317 IC suggested in the Q&A of the purchase page for this diod.(that i linked to)

    1.$67.00 + (laser diod)
    2.$05.00 + (components)
    3.$03.00 = (laser mount)
    4.$75.00 (TOTAL)
    6.$125.00 (PROFIT)

    i digress

    1. That is indeed the diode. I wanted to use infrared at first, but feel visible light is less dangerous. The guy selling those diodes has already been told he’s welcome to sell the laser kit, after the indiegogo succeeds. He’s great to work with, and will next-day you stuff for free if he forgot part of the agreed-upon shipment.

      1. If you’re in the US I strongly recommend DTR-LPF to buy the diodes from. Like I said above, he’s a great guy, he got one shipment wrong one time, and more than made up for it without even being asked.

        1. Not really — at least you can tell by incident/reflected light that the laser is on and doing stuff when you pass by the printer box, so you know to be careful.

          That’s actually why you have to plug and unplug the laser every time in my design, rather than flip a switch; I found that I’d sometimes leave the switch in the laser position, start a normal print job, and have the laser come on when the extruder heater gcode was executed. With a plug, I can immediately tell what’s powered.

          1. Why not add a bright 2 color LED to indicate which one is switched to. Seems like this fiddling with the plug is annoying and a plug like that s not designed to be plugged hundreds of times.

      1. I don’t think that the problem is that a profit is made.

        the issue is that it’s pretty trivially easy to go buy a laser diode, pre-push into the case, with glass optics already installed for about £50, then you’re looking at a few pence in components to make a current limited power supply. -of which you don’t even need to design yourself since there are dozens of free designs already out there.

        in fact you can buy the buck converter power supply from ebay for about £5.

        then you need to have a pen adapter, much like the makerbot unicorn attachment.
        (which you can 3d print -you DO have a 3d printer, else you wouldn’t be buying a laser adapter for a 3d printer!)
        a heatsink will likely also be necessary. (again a couple of quid, if that)

        then you need some free open source software to run it…

        so all this what about design time, wages etc? what design time.??
        the idea’s not new, the ideas it not unique…

        If you want to spend $250 buying one then that’s fine.
        but what he’s trying to say is that for less than half of that you can make one yourself.

        There is absolutely nothing wrong with profit.
        I’ll even go as far as to say that there is even nothing wrong with making a 200% profit of the back of other peoples work. (which is already open source)

        but likewise, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with pointing out to people that they can do it themselves at less than half the price… (if you accept that it’s ethically sound to charge a lot for something very cheap with very little input, then surely you accept that it’s ethically sound for someone to point out how you can do it yourself for much much cheaper. -especially since the guy said it’s not his day job, it’s hardly taking food off of his table.)

        that $200 donation level literally just gets you the laser module! which you can buy for not far off a quarter of that….

          1. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s easy to make one yourself for near to 1/4 the price!

            I’ve no problem with what you’re charging. You should clearly charge what the market can bear, that’s just good business!

            Though I fail to see how 50 lasers sold if your break even point (said earlier in this thread) that represents $7,500 profit on basic numbers (for the generic module).

          1. ok then let me make it simple in 3 lines.

            1, Laser £50 (or less)
            2, Laser power supply £5 (or less)
            3, Holder/mount – print on the 3d printer that you already have. probably £1 material cost (or less)

            Still think it’s worth $250? (~£150)

            The power supply will have 4 connections, power in +/-, and regulated power out +/-
            you connect the + from the power supply to the + on the laser diode.
            The only time this makes sense is if you can’t design the mount yourself…

            But then that rather begs the question why do you have a 3d printer if you can’t use it?

  2. I’ve never used or read-up on laser cutters, while i do own a Replicator 2.
    Aside from the eye protection, is this safe ? won’t the beam reflect and scatter on other parts of the machine, damaging the machine or surroundings, etc .. ?
    What do you put under the material ? Do you need to coat other parts in some none-reflecting heat-absorbing material or something ? How about dust build up from the vaporized material, won’t it clog the exposed mechanics in the long term ?
    And how does this $200 laser diode compare to professional laser-cutter systems ?

        1. Answers:

          1) I use a sacrificial piece of canvas-covered cardboard or hardboard under what I’m cutting.

          2) The focal length is very narrow; if you don’t put the Z axis in the right spot, which is why the tool change video shows a “kickstand” for that purpose, all you get is a bright purple circle illuminating the work piece. This is very much intentional… the laser is weak, it can barely cut what it’s supposed to (in terms of focal length), and won’t do anything other than heat up what it’s not supposed to. Please assume, however, that it will cheerfully destroy a webcam (or an eye! use the included goggles!) if it’s aimed at it, though; reflected beams cause a big halo on a webcam, but don’t permanently hurt it.

          3) Dust hasn’t been a problem, and that’s what the fan is partly there for.

          1. 4) It cuts about as well, except on transparent acrylic (transparent colors is fine, just not transparent). It is much slower than a “proper” laser cutter, but the idea is to let people who have a 3D printer work with a wider variety of materials, rather than to replace a purpose-built machine. I think I’m going to take a cue from the article below this one and try to do sintering.

    1. Yes the beam will scatter(you can see it in the video) yes it can damage the machine
      and it appears as though he doesn’t put anything under the material. which WILL result in damage.

      standard laser cutters use an aluminium expanded sheeting underneath(cheap if you buy it unexpanded)

      1. I use a sacrificial piece of cardboard, hardboard or canvas, and replace it every once in a while (it’s been the last stop of Digikey cardboard box bottoms before the recycling been lately). I’m experimenting with a blank copper-clad board, but am worried about the reflection, so I recommend to not try that for now.

        I have skeinforge settings pre-done for various materials, and they should be easy to port over to other software.

    2. The wavelength this laser runs at sucks for most laser cutting. Most people want to cut stuff like acrylic and this will do a horrible job if it does anything at at and at a speed that is pathetic. CO2 lasers excel at acrylic because the acrylic absorbs 100% of the light and when it cuts it forms a waveguide for the light which allows it to cut incredibly thick material for the given power. With a 25 watt laser you can easily cut 1/4″ acrylic at a reasonable cut speed.

      445 is a terrible wavelength for cutting. And 2 watts is not much. Spend a little more and get a cheap chinese co2 laser tube and power supply and a couple bend mirrors.

      And safety is a huge concern with something like this. Safety glasses do not cut it here. This needs to be in a room with an interlocked door. All it takes is someone to walk in and get a stray reflection in the eye and its all over with.

      1. That’s why it’s in a closet with a webcam keeping an eye on it; at worst I lose a webcam. In fact, the patent I have taken on this (which I have no plan to enforce) specifies the necessity of an enclosure. I suppose to not infringe some other patent (which may or may not be enforced) one would have to remove the enclosure when switching from laser to printer mode.

      2. Beta tester here. I’ve never really had any difficulty cutting through acrylic and wood up to 1/4″ with this cutter, though it is slow at doing so.

        Given that one of my colleagues had a lab intern killed by one of those Chinese CO2s blowing up during servicing, no thanks.

        1. Sorry, calling BS on that one. A CO2 laser tube is under about 40-70 torr pressure, that is less than 1/10th atmospheric pressure, it is impossible for it to explode. And with the small volume of one there is not even much of an implosion hazard. I know, I broke one, one of the big 100w RECI one.

          1. “Explode” is probably being used loosely here. I agree that it’s unlikely that the CO2 tube somehow blew up. Likely, the unlucky intern (if this actually happened) was electrocuted and the arc was the “explosion.”

          2. Hmmm, still sounds fishy. As soon as the tube would start to lose vacuum the plasma would cease. Then he would have to physically touch the HV terminal. Even at that the current is still pretty low and the chances of that killing him are still slim. Maybe mix in the water getting into the mains power. I dont know. Sounds like real bad luck and someone who should have not been messing around with it when it was still plugged in.

          3. Those eBay 40W lasers get exciting if you manage to crack the tube (overheating etc).

            The lasing stops, but the really big sparks coming out the high voltage end don’t. Them there suckers would have enough energy to kill you, or at least require you to have a change of underpants.

            That dab of silicone they put over the wire with a bit of tubing over the top really isn’t sufficient. I’ve noticed with the new ones the give you a tube of silicone, took me ages to figure out what it was for. Earthing them would be a good idea too.

            Electrocution is certainly possibly, although I think the story is BS.

    3. The laser has a very short focal length, and diffuses quickly; I use a piece of canvas as a sacrificial material, as shown in the tool change video. It will not damage any other components, my extruder holder is itself made of ABS and hasn’t melted or sagged any. If you are wearing safety glasses, you can look at where the laser hits with no issues — if you aren’t, you also can (I have, for about fifteen minutes) and it’s no worse than looking up at the sun. THIS IS NOT TO MEAN SAFETY GLASSES ARE OPTIONAL, and I am shipping a pair to people with the laser kit, and you should use them.

      Generally, treat the laser like a handgun — if you can see the muzzle, it can hurt you.

      The laser diode is the same that Wicked Laser uses for their Arctic, by the way.

      1. Oh god, you should not even be selling these things if you are saying people can safely look at the spot where it is burning. NO, NO, NO!

        Even diffuse reflections are harmful to eyes, especially blue. Blue light is terribly hard on eyes.

        You are a great example of someone messing with lasers when they have zero idea what they are doing and how the laser can effect you.

          1. Really??? You have just shown without a doubt you know nothing about lasers and laser safety. Looking at a diffuse reflection of a 2 watt laser is NOT safe for even a short period. It may not cause blindness but it can and will cause permanent retinal damage. The sun is not the same as a laser.

            And then there are the effects of blue light, even Wicked Lasers has a warning page.

            Speaking of safety, you do know your device must receive FDA approval before you sell it?


        1. People aren’t very carious until something bad happens… Being stuck with 20/60 vision forever makes somebody careful and skeptical :) I’d love a unit for one of ym CNC machines, but a full safety interlock system sounds wise.

      2. Safety is like this – Bad accidents happen when a number of things go wrong not just one thing. If you only have one barrier between you and an accident then the accident is inevitable.

        The best way to be safe is to have a large number of barriers of protection. That way when a smaller number of things go wrong (as happens at times) then you are still protected.

        I started designing a LASER cutter based on a 2000mW diode in the UV part of the spectrum. I ditched the project when I realised I would need a full LASER proof enclosure with series interlock switches to cut power to the LASER and a webcam in the ‘box’ so that I could see on a screen (outside the box) what was going on.

        Really people, what happens when you get the GCODE wrong and the diode hits something and flicks off it mount, shining into you eye?

        Well then you would have no depth of vision! You can say good bye to and hobby or career in technology. Can you imagine trying to drive a car with no depth of vision?

        A lack of safety with things like LASERs, Hi Voltage, Power tools can have dire consequences.

        I am old enough now that I have had friends that have been permanently incapacitated through ‘accidents’, no income, all their dream lost, family breakdown it goes on and on. I have also lost friends through death. That make safety worth making ‘extra’ steps for.

        1. I’m also very wary of high power lasers like this. You might think ‘oh well, two watts is much less than a 40W CO2 laser. It must also be much safer’. You would be very very wrong.

          Visible lasers are extremely dangers for the simple fact that they are VISIBLE. That means your eyes are very sensitive to wavelengths emitted by the laser. Even worse, the lenses of your eyes have the purpose of focusing visible light onto your retinas in order to form an image. This concentrates the laser light onto the retinal cells… ouch! Even diffuse reflections at 2W visible can be enough power to damage your eyes.

          I can’t stress enough how dangerous a 2W laser can be. If you value your eyes, read until you’re scared. Then build a double interlocked fully opaque light-tight enclosure that leaves no opportunity for you to end up blind.

          1. Agreed there. The problem is that it’s not really feasible for me to build an enclosure like that for every type of printer… However, such an enclosure can easily be made with acrylic sheets, and also has the advantage of keeping some heat in the printer. To respect a certain patent that was taken out recently, you’d have to remove the enclosure from your printer when you use it as a printer, of course.

      1. I’m a bit scared about the eye safety aspect… But the concept sounds good, but it would be nice to have some assurances from specialists. In the end I bet the setup would engrave wood very nicely without leveling issues.

  3. I’m glad to see that safety glasses are included. A nice touch.

    However, I personally think it’s worth going the extra for a eBay special 40W CO2 laser. Yes – they certainly have issues around the quality of the wiring. The controller board / software is junk. For the average HaD reader (who can think of it as a badly pre-assembled kit of parts) it’s great. It’s a working laser out of the box but is just begging for immediate hacking and improvement.

    1. They have technical professinal support, too! :) I’ve messed with these, it’s a nice machine once you spend a couple weeks putzing with it. The main problem for me is the fact that it needs water to work and actual laser output depends a lot on room temperature, humidity, phase of the moon, and so on (Kidding on the phase of the moon, but not the other two). I’d rather use a solid state laser because they’re tougher.

      1. Output is based solely on temperature, it’s not hard to keep it at around 20C (a bit below ‘room temperature’. Cooler is better than hotter.

        Oh, and how dirty your lens & mirrors are, of course.

  4. Please put the heatsink vertically, and make a better bracket for the laser module too.

    Can the driver board be modulate? Laser diodes live longer, in pulsed mode, if they are continuously driven with a small threshold current between the on/off while cutting.
    (there is a small circuit board for 18 bucks, which can do that)

    Damn, have to finish my Arduino project: coordinate display + freq to V converter for VFD + PWM for mentioned laser driver board + serial link to another Arduino (for 3D print heating stuff or the paste deposition with laser heating thing I’ve in mind) for my micro CNC.

    1. My circuit is linear, modulation is done in “slow” pulses (1/5th of a second). The older version had a heatsink shaped like you said — it ended up being too powerful and set the build plate on fire!

    1. Yes I’ll ship to Europe, except Italy — if you are ordering for Italy, let me know because I can set something up with a local courier (I am Italian and do not trust my post service).

  5. Just to clarify i really like and support this project just making sure this info is public. It is a select few who know much all about lasers and i recognized it when i saw it, initial assumption was fraud but after thought not everyone knows how to put this together and as a ready made system it is nice.(was in a bad mood for my first post sorry)
    Keep up the good work



    or suffer the lawsuits.

    1. Yeah, everyone snickers at those disclaimers but they actually are really, really important. Lots of folks *say* they aren’t the litigious sort and will live with their mistakes, but then when they lose their job as a crane operator because they’ve become a cyclops and are looking at a pile of bills trying to figure out how to feed their family…

  6. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t 445nm UV or damn-near UV?
    Then if the 3d printer’s X and Y axises are precise enough and the laser beab is thin enough at the point it touches the surface of the object being worked on, then it could theoretically be used for ‘printing’ on UV sensitive PCB’s

    1. 445nm is pretty square in the blue area, you are thingking of the 405nm diodes which is deep violet, I think the usual cutoff for UV is 400nm, blacklights being around 390nm.

  7. I don’t understand why people are concerned about safety. Just put a box over the 3d printer while working. fixed.
    you can also put a protected window to see what is going on. that’s how commercial laser cutters work… it’s not rocket science.
    this is hackaday and people talk about this like being a serious issue and not seeking easy solutions “hacks” to make it work safe. all they do is complain.

      1. You are right, safety is very important, especially with lasers. I’ve build my 3d Printer 2 years ago and always wanted to build a (cheap) “simple” laser cutter module since then. But i am, and was, always really concerned about saftey, as one mistake can change everything. At the end there will always be people who don’t really care to operate a possible dangerous machine with proper safety.

        That said, i think i will simply build an enclosure and install a camera in there. Would also add a switch that cuts power when the door gets opened.
        Will be a nice Project when the other xx Projects finally get finished :)

        Looking forward to your open source plans. Keep going, i think you do a great job!

  8. Note that this laser diode is supposed to be driven at 1amp for 1 watt of power to last anywhere near the specification for lifetime. At ~2W output (which is what is claimed) the diode is near it’s peak output on a current vs. power curve. In this region it is called “over-driving” the laser and will cause it to prematurely fail. We have been shipping these for upgrade kits to 3D printers for three years now at and know this happens… Just and FYI.

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