DIY Laser Cutter

lasercutter

[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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Making a UNIX Clock While Making a Few Mistakes Along the Way

unixclock

Sometimes the projects we think are easy to design are the ones on which we end up making the most mistakes. The UNIX clock that you see in the picture above is one of these projects. For our readers that don’t know it, UNIX time is the number of seconds since 00:00 on January 1st 1970. The clock that [James] designed is based on an Arduino Pro Mini board, an RTC chip to store the time, a custom made display board and two buttons to set the date/time.

One of the mistakes that [James] made was designing the boards on which will be soldered the seven-segment displays before actually choosing the ones he’ll use, as he was thinking they’d be all the same. The displays he ended up with had a different pitch and needed a different anode voltage, so he had to cut several traces on the PCBs and add another power supply. It also took [James] quite a while to remove the bits that his hackerspace’s laser didn’t cut through. We strongly advise a good look at his very detailed write-up if you are starting in the electronics world.

If you find this Unix time display too easy to read here’s one that’s a bit more of a challenge.

Constructable: Interactive Laser Cutting

constructable-interactive-lasercutting

Do you miss the old days of making things by hand, without the aid of a computer? Do you remember actually drafting drawings by hand? Well, the folks over at the Human-Computer Interaction group from the Hasso Plattner Institute have come up with a rather novel idea, combining manual input via laser pointers, to cut designs with a laser cutter. Sound familiar? A few days ago we shared another cool project on Laser Origami from the same people.

So what exactly is it? It’s an interactive drafting table which can produce very precise physical outputs from a rather imprecise input method. By using specific laser pointers, the user can instruct the laser cutter to cut, trace, or etch designs into the workpiece. A camera picks up the laser pointer and then the software cleans it up, by straightening lines, connecting the dots, etc. While only so much can be determined by the included video, it’s pretty impressive to see what the software comes up with while cutting the design… We can’t really imagine the programming behind it!

Between this and PACCAM: Interactive 2D Part Packing, it looks like laser cutting is going to get a whole lot more user friendly! Stick around after the break to see it in action, the results are quite impressive!

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Laser Origami!

laserOrigami2

One of our tipsters just sent us a link to some fascinating videos on a new style of rapid prototyping — Laser Origami!

The concept is fairly simple, but beautifully executed in the included videos. A regular laser cutter is used to cut outlines of objects in clear lexan, then, by unfocusing the laser it slowly melts the bend lines, causing the lexan to fold and then solidify into a solid joint. It becomes even more interesting when they add in a servo motor to rotate the workpiece, allowing for bends of angles other than 90 degrees!

Depending on the part you are designing, this method of rapid prototyping far exceeds the speeds of a traditional 3D printer. The part shown in the included image could be printed in about 4 hours, or using the laser, cut and folded in 4 minutes flat!

Stick around after the break to see this awesome demonstration of the technology!

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PACCAM: Interactive 2D Part Packing

capture

Do you have a laser cutter or CNC router? How much material do you waste from project to project due to inefficient part packing? Enter PACCAM, a software interface designed by [Daniel Saakes] to aid in efficient 2D part packing.

Using a cheap webcam, it is possible to capture the outline of used material, exactly where it is located in the CNC machine. The software then can limit your workspace to the material available in the machine. New parts can then be dragged into place, automatically avoiding interferences — certain algorithms also exist to utilize the remaining material most efficiently.

Looking to engrave custom items? The software can do that too by showing you the material (or in this case, object), you can simply drag your design onto the material available, without having to worry about aligning your object inside the CNC machine!

In the video after the break, [Daniel] shows just how powerful and useful the software is by putting a crooked, cookie-cutter riddled piece of material in the machine, and then using the software to cut new parts out of what would be scrap material in any other shop.

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