Laser-Based PCB Printer


Being able to create PCB’s at home is a milestone in the DIYer’s arsenal. Whether you physically mill or chemically etch boards, it’s a tricky task to perfect. [Charlie & Victor] are working towards a solution to this complicated chore. They call their machine the DiyouPCB. DiyouPCB is an open source PCB etching project consisting of both hardware and software components.

The project is based on using a Blue Ray optical pickup. The pickup was used in its entirety, without any modification, to simplify the build process. In order to use the stock pickup, [Charlie & Victor] had to reverse engineer the communication protocol which also allowed them to take advantage of the auto-focus feature used while reading Blue Ray discs. The frame of the machine is reminiscent of a RepRap, which they used to do preliminary testing and laser tuning. The X and Y axes run on brass bushings and are belt driven by stepper motors which are controlled by an Arduino through a specially designed DiyouPCB Controller Shield.

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2D Room Mapping With a Laser and a Webcam


[Shane Ormonde] recently learned how to measure distance using just a webcam, a laser, and everyone’s favorite math — trigonometry. Since then he’s thrown the device onto a stepper motor, and now has a clever 2D room mapping machine.

He learned how to create the webcam laser range finder from [Todd Danko], a project we featured 7 years ago! It’s a pretty simple concept. The camera and laser are placed parallel to each other at a known distance, axis-to-axis. On the computer, a python script (using the OpenCV library) searches the image for the brightest point (the laser). The closer the brightest point is to the center of the image, the farther the object. Counting pixels from the center of the image to the laser point allows you to calculate an angle, which can then be used to calculate the distance to the object — of course, this needs to be calibrated to be at all accurate. [Shane] does a great job explaining all of this in one of his past posts, building the webcam laser rangefinder.

From there it was just a matter of slapping the rangefinder onto a stepper motor, driving it with a small PIC, and running the calculations on the fly! His results are fairly impressive.

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axCut: An Open Source Laser Cutter


If you’ve always wanted a laser cutter and you have £1500 lying around (approx. $2500 as of today) — and you have access to a 3D printer — then you’ll want to take a look at [Damian's] open source laser cutter: axCut. The project has evolved over the last few months from some mockups in OpenSCAD to a working prototype.

You’ll want to dig through his blog posts as well as his YouTube channel for all the juicy details, but from what we can gather, [Damian] is on the home stretch. The current implementation includes a 40W CO2 laser with functioning laser control and an impressively quiet watercooling system. Although the build’s wiring remains a bit of a tangle, the prototype cuts (almost) as expected. His next hurdle is ironing out the air assist, which should prevent some fire hazard issues and keep the lens free of debris.

Check out a couple of videos after the break, and if you’re interested in getting into laser cutting but want to start smaller, have a look at the MicroSlice from a few months ago.

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Cheap (Free?) Mirror Replacement for your CO2 Laser

hdd mirrors

You know what’s expensive? Those little tiny little mirrors used in laser cutters — and they don’t last forever either! What if we told you it’s possible to make your own for free, using a broken hard drive?

[Tim Wehr] read about using HDD platters as mirrors on, and decided to try it out for himself to see how well they work. He quickly salvaged an old hard drive and removed the ever so shiny platters. Using a few pieces of wood he clamped the platter and then cut circles out of it using a metal hole saw — the edges are a bit rough, so we’d recommend you invest in a diamond hole saw if you’re planning on trying this.

Some denatured alcohol polishing later and a bit of filing on the edges, and he had a replacement mirror. He then performed two tests using both the original and the HDD mirror on his CO2 laser. Almost identical cutting power. In fact, [Tim] muses that the HDD mirror looks like it cut slightly better even! Not bad!

[Thanks Riva!]

Lazing With A Ruby


[Ben Krasnow], builder of amazingly complex and technical devices, is finally starting work on his ruby laser. He’s been collecting parts for this project for the past few years, but only recently has he started recreating the first visible light laser.

While the design and manufacture of the first ruby laser was astonishingly complex, the basic idea behind it is pretty simple. [Ben]‘s laser uses a synthetic ruby rhod with the ends ground optically flat. This rod is placed inside a flash tube. When the flash tube lights up, the rod absorbs the light and re-emits it as a coherent beam for several milliseconds. This beam bounces between two mirrors – one fully reflective and another partially reflective – and emits a constant stream of coherent photons. It’s tremendously more complex than simply connecting a laser diode to a power source, but replicating a build that graced the covers of Time and Newsweek only fifty years ago is pretty impressive

Right now, [Ben] has most of the mechanical and optical parts of his ruby laser on his workbench. The next step is constructing a huge capacitor bank to charge the flash tube every millisecond or so. What [Ben] will end up using his laser for remains up in the air, but if we come across some erbium or neodymium rods we’ll be sure to send them his way.

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Delta Laser Engraver Uses Inkscape for G-Code


[Z LeHericy] has a SeeMe CNC Rostock Max 3D printer, and a 2W WickedLasers Spyder Artic blue laser. Naturally, he had to try strapping them together.

Most of our homemade laser engravers featured here use recycled DVD burner diodes, and while they certainly work, they leave a bit to be desired… Well, if you want more power, let us introduce the Class 4 Artic Spyder 2W blue laser from WickedLasers — a company that sells super high-powered lasers to anyone who can afford them — because that’s a great idea!

Safety concerns aside — wear your darn laser goggles! This pair can etch wood and leather quite well. He’s been using it to etch celtic knots onto pieces of leather. To do this he’s used Inkscape to convert a .BMP of the knot into a vector image, and then using the G-Code tools included with Inkscape he can create a tool path for the printer.

The finished leather looks awesome – Stick around after the break to see the laser in action!

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DIY Laser Cutter


[Jens] decided he wanted to try building his own laser cutter to see just how much you can actually cut with a fairly low power 300mW laser diode.

He was inspired by a similar project from earlier this year, and chose to use the same LPC-826 laser diode, which you can find online for about $10-30. The cutter itself is has a wooden frame and uses drawer slides on both axes. Threaded M6 rods and NEMA17 stepper motors provide the actuation, and the whole thing is controlled by an Arduino Nano with Easy Driver stepper motor drivers.

So what can it cut? In his experiments he was able to cut through adhesive plastics (sticker paper), EVA foam, and black paper. He was also able to engrave wood and ABS plastic, although the plastic didn’t play too nicely with the laser. He also found it useful for laser cutting stencils, which he then used to create rusty art using hydrochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide.

Considering how cheap you could make one of these, it’s not a bad tool to have. Stick around after the break to see it laser cut a shark!

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