Laser Surgery: Expanding the Bed of a Cheap Chinese Laser Cutter

Don’t you just hate it when you spend less than $400 on a 40-watt laser cutter and it turns out to have a work area the size of a sheet of copy paper? [Kostas Filosofou] sure did, but rather than stick with that limited work envelope, he modified his cheap K40 laser cutter so it has almost five times the original space.

The K40 doesn’t make any pretenses — it’s a cheap laser cutter and engraver from China. But with new units going for $344 on eBay now, it’s almost a no-brainer. Even with its limitations, you’re still getting a 40-watt CO2 laser and decent motion control hardware to play with. [Kostas] began the embiggening by removing the high-voltage power supply from its original space-hogging home to the right of the work area. With that living in a new outboard enclosure, a new X-Y gantry of extruded aluminum rails and 3D-printed parts was built, and a better exhaust fan was installed. Custom mirror assemblies were turned, better fans were added to the radiator, and oh yeah — he added a Z-axis to the bed too.

We’re sure [Kostas] ran the tab up a little on this build, but when you’re spending so little to start with, it’s easy to get carried away. Speaking of which, if you feel the need for an even bigger cutter, an enormous 100-watt unit might be more your style.

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The Othermill Is Something Else

I’ll admit. When I saw the Othermill for the first time I thought it was just another mill with cheap Chinese hardware inside sold as a premium. I’m ashamed to say that I even trash talked it a little bit. It gave me another chance to relearn that I should always do my research before being a jerk, check my assumptions thoroughly, and even then it’s not recommended. Other Machine Company was kind enough to let me swing by the office in Berkeley California. [Danielle], the CEO, led me through the design of the mill as well as the challenges in running the operation.

The Othermill is a serious machine, and with the recent release of the Othermill Pro, it’s only getting better. The components are not bargain basement. This is something that could be more obvious, but it’s almost entirely made from US sourced parts, including the custom stepper motors. There aren’t any ball bearings that will start to make strange noises in a year. It can now cut 6mil traces in a PCB all day long. To put it into perspective. The Othermill Pro costs a third of the price of an equivalent machine from LPKF and has the same capabilities.

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Laser PCB Exposer Built From CD-ROM Drives

[Neumi] has built a CNC Laser using CD-ROM drives as the X and Y motion platforms. The small 405nm laser can engrave light materials like wood and foam. The coolest use demonstrated in the video is exposing pre-coated photo-resist PCBs.

With $61 US Dollars (55 Euro) for the Arduino, stepper drivers, and a laser in the project, [Nuemi] got a pretty capable machine after adding a few parts from the junk bin. He wanted to avoid using existing software in order to learn the concepts behind a laser engraver. In the end, he has a working software package which can send raster scans to an Arduino mega. The mega then controls the sync between the stepper and laser firings. The code is available on GitHub.

The machine can do a 30x30mm PCB in 10 minutes. It’s not about to set a record, but it’s cool and not at all bad for the price. You can see the failed PCBs lined up in the video from the initial tuning, but the final one produced a board very equivalent to the toner transfer method. Video after the break.

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DVD laser diode used to build a laser engraver

[Johannes] has been reading Hackaday for years but this is the first project he’s tipped us off about. It’s a laser engraver built from a DVD burner diode (translated). It turned out so well we wonder what other projects he’s forgotten to tip us off about?

This is the second CNC machine he’s seen through from start to finish. It improves upon the knowledge he acquired when building his CNC mill. The frame is built from pine but also uses bits of plywood and MDF. It can move on the X and Y axes, using drawer sliders as bearings. The pair of blue stepper motors drive the threaded rods which move the platform and the laser mount. Just above the laser he included a small DC fan to keep it from burning up. The control circuitry is made up of an Arduino Nano and a stepper motor driver board. Catch a glimpse of the engraver cutting out some stencil material after the break.

There must be something about Spring that brings out the urge to work with laser diodes. We just saw a similar 1W cutter last week.

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High contrast laser etching

high-contrast-laser-etching

The problem with laser etching dark materials is that the areas burnt away by the intense light don’t really stand out from the rest of the surface. [The 5th Fool] is taking a roundabout way of correcting this by topping his laser engravings with contrasting paint. The technique is still pretty simple and we think it looks great!

Basically he’s etching a layer of painter’s tape which becomes a stencil. But the surface it is masking also gets etched so the paint has an area below to the surface which it can fill in. We figure this will help with durability issues.

After etching the painters tape the design gets a few coatings of a high-contrast paint color and is left to dry. To remove the stencil, duct tape is applied to the entire area. This helps quite a bit in removing the tiny bits of tape from an intricate design.

Blu-ray CNC looks great for branding and engraving

[Nav] got the bug for a tiny little laser cutter. He pulled off the build, and has just finished the second rendition which makes some nice improvements. He’s was hoping for a laser cutter, but we think this really shines when it comes to branding objects like the scrap wood seen above.

This joins a long line of optical drive parts builds. For instance, we saw this plotter that used the lens sleds from some CD-ROM drives. You may think that [Nav] doesn’t need to worry about the Z axis since this is a laser but you’d be wrong. The focal point of the light needs to hit at the right place to cut efficiently, and this is often the trouble with laser cutters. As material is burned away the laser becomes less efficient if you don’t adjust the lens for vertical position. That’s why we think it’s best as an engraver, but the original build writeup for his cutter does show some success cutting letters in dark paper.

Check out a clip of this design being burnt into the wood after the break.

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BAMF2011: Lasersaur is one BIG laser cutter!

Psst…wanna buy a laser cutter, but not ready to sell your internal organs? Nortd Labs’ Lasersaur project aims to create an open source large-format laser cutter/engraver that undercuts (har har!) the cost of commercial models by an order of magnitude.

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