Taming the Beast: Pro-Tips for Designing a Safe Homebrew Laser Cutter

Homebrew laser cutters are nifty devices, but scorching your pals, burning the house down, or smelling up the neighborhood isn’t anyone’s idea of a great time. Lets face it. A 60-watt laser that can cut plastics offers far more trouble than even the crankiest 3D-printers (unless, of course, our 3D printed spaghetti comes to life and decides to terrorize the neighborhood). Sure, a laser’s focused beam is usually pointed in the right direction while cutting, but even an unfocused beam that reflects off a shiny material can start fires. What’s more, since most materials burn, rather than simply melt, a host of awful fumes spew from every cut.

Despite the danger, the temptation to build one is irresistible. With tubes, power supplies, and water coolers now in abundance from overseas re-sellers, the parts are just a PayPal-push away from landing on our doorsteps. We’ve also seen a host of exciting builds come together on the dining room table. Our table could be riddled with laser parts too! After combing through countless laser build logs, I’ve yet to encounter the definitive guide that tells us how to take the proper first steps forward in keeping ourselves safe while building our own laser cutter. Perhaps that knowledge is implicit to the community, scattered on forums; or perhaps it’s learned by each brave designer on their own from one-too-many close calls. Neither of these options seems fair to the laser newb, so I decided to lay down the law here.

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Bright Idea for a Name Tag

Looking for a quick DIY project to separate yourself from the crowd at your next business function or maker expo? Take a leaf out of [Pete Prodoehl’s] book and make your own name tag complete with blinking LED!

Minimalist, yet flashy (sorry!), this quick project can be completed inside a few hours with few resources, and is a great way to display your DIY handiwork. Continue reading “Bright Idea for a Name Tag”

Easy Bubble Watch Oozes Retro Charm

[Rafael] made a sweet little retro watch that’s a fantastic introduction to hardware DIY. If you’ve programmed an Arduino before, but you’ve never had a board made, and you are up for some SMD soldering, this might be for you. It’s got some small components, so ease off the coffee before soldering, but it’s nothing that you won’t be able to do. In the end, you’ll have something awesome.

Aesthetically, the centerpiece is the bubble display, which reminds us of the old HP calculator that our parents kept in the junk drawer, long after it had ceased to be relevant. It would return 3.9999999 for the square-root of 16, but we loved to play with it anyway. This watch will let you vicariously reclaim our childhood.

But that’s not all! It’s also an Arduino and RTC clock. Functions that are already implemented include clock, calendar, stopwatch, and “temperature”. (Temperature is from the AVR’s internal thermometer, which isn’t super-accurate and is probably just going to tell you how hot your wrist is anyway…) It’s got buttons, and tons of free flash space left over. It’s begging to be customized. You know what to do.

It’s not a smart watch, but it’s a great project. “The nostalgic retro bubble display is certain to flatter any hacker’s outfit.” Or something. OK, but we want one.

[via OSHpark’s Hackaday.io feed]

A CNC You Could Pop-Rivet Together

You have to be careful with CNC; it’s a slippery slope. You start off one day just trying out a 3D printer, and it’s not six months before you’re elbow deep in a discarded Xerox looking for stepper motors and precision rods. This is evident from [Dan] and his brother’s angle aluminum CNC build.

Five or six years ago they teamed up to build one of those MDF CNC routers. It was okay, but really only cut foam. So they moved on to a Rostock 3D printer. This worked much better, and for a few years it sated them. However, recently, they just weren’t getting what they needed from it. The 3D printer had taught them a lot of new things, 3D modeling, the ins of running a CNC, and a whole slew of making skills. They decided to tackle the CNC again.

The new design is simple and cheap. The frame is angle aluminum held together with screws. The motion components are all 3D printed. The spindle is just an import rotary tool. It’s a simple design, and it should serve them well for light, low precision cuts. We suspect that it’s not the last machine the pair will build. You can see it in action in the video after the break.

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Build a Shapeoko The Hard Way

[Caleb Peters] looked at the Shapeoko 3 CNC kit, a kit designed to make building an entry level CNC router a possibility for anyone, a kit to take the guesswork out of the equation, a kit that removes all those difficult technical barriers. He looked at all of that ease and thought, “nah.” He wanted to learn! So he decided to build one the hard way. Like the early American Pioneers, he’d build his Shapeoko from scratch, suffering piously all the while.

His goal was to build an improved iteration of the Shapeoko 3, for less than the price of the kit. The first problem was the rails the gantry would run on. Inventables wasn’t going to sell him the rails, and he wasn’t sure if the delrin wheels used would be able to hold the weight of his heavier design. After some strife he determined that aluminum hard coat rails and steel wheels should last long enough, and if the aluminum wore away, the more expensive steel rails were a drop-in replacement.

Similar problems were overcome at each step. He couldn’t exactly copy the Shapeoko design. The Shapeoko’s steel pieces can only be made on a larger machine like a waterjet or industrial laser. He did have a knee mill and managed to cleverly avoid the need with some slight redesign. He kept at it, doing cool things like drilling a hole through the housing of a wood router, used as the spindle, and putting a hall-effect sensor just behind the commutator and brush assembly to get a spindle rpm reading.

Fortunately for us, he documented it all very well and filmed a nine part video series; the last of which you can see after the break.

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How to Make a Custom LCD from Scratch

If you have ever wondered what it took to make your own custom graphic LCD from scratch, this video from [Applied Science] is worth a watch. It’s concise and to the point, while still telling you what you need to know should you be interested in rolling your own. There is also a related video which goes into much more detail about experimenting with LCD technology.

[Applied Science] used microscope slides and parts purchased online to make an LCD that displays a custom graphic when activated. The only step that home experimenters might have trouble following is coating the glass slides with a clear conductive layer, which in the video is done via a process called sputtering to deposit a thin film. You don’t need to do this yourself, though. Pre-coated glass is readily available online. (Search for Indium-Tin Oxide or ‘ITO’ coated glass.)

The LCD consists of a layer of liquid crystal suspended between two layers of conductive glass. An electrical field is used to change the orientation of crystals in the suspension, which modulate the light passing through them. Polarizing filters result in a sharp contrast and therefore a visible image. To show a particular shape, some of the conductive coating is removed from one of the layers in the shape of the desired image. The process [Applied Science] uses to do this is nearly identical to etching a custom PCB. Continue reading “How to Make a Custom LCD from Scratch”

[HomoFaciens] Shows Off With DIY Paper Printer

[HomoFaciens] is always making us feel silly about our purchases. Did we really need to buy a nice set of stepper motors for that automation project? Couldn’t we have just used some epoxy and a threaded rod to make an encoder? Did we need to spend hours reading through the documentation for an industrial inkjet head? Couldn’t we just have asked ourselves, “What would [HomoFaciens] do?” and then made a jailhouse tattoo gun attached to a broken printer carriage and some other household tech trash?

In his continuing work for his Hackaday prize entry, which we have covered before, his latest is a ink (…drop? ) printer. We think the goal is a Gingery book for CNC.  He begins to combine all his previous work into a complete assembly. The video, viewable after the break, starts by explaining the function of a salvaged printer carriage. A motor attached to a belt moves the carriage back and forth; the original linear encoder from the printer is used for positional feedback.

The base of the printer is a homemade y-carriage with another salvaged printer motor and encoder driving a threaded rod. The positional feedback for this axis is provided by a optical mouse gliding on a sheet of graph paper.  The printer nozzle is a cup of ink with a solenoid actuated needle in it. When the needle moves in a hole at the bottom, it dispenses ink.

As always, [HomoFaciens] makes something that is the very definition of a hack. Commenters will have to go elsewhere to leave their favorite debasement.

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