A Poor-Man’s Laser CNC Engraver

What do you get when you mix the disappointment that sometimes accompanies cheap Chinese electronics with the childhood fascination of torturing insects with a magnifying glass on a sunny day? You get a solar-powered CNC etcher, that’s what.

We all remember the days of focussing the sun on a hapless insect, or perhaps less sadistically on a green plastic army man or just a hunk of dry wood. The wonder that accompanied that intense white spot instantly charring the wood and releasing wisps of smoke stayed with you forever, as seemingly did the green spots in your vision. [drum303] remembered those days and used them to assuage his buyer’s remorse when the laser module on his brand new CNC engraver crapped out after the first 10 minutes. A cheap magnifying glass mounted to the laser holder and a sunny day, and he don’t need no stinkin’ lasers! The speed needs to be set to a super slow — 100mm per minute — and there’s the problem of tracking the sun, but the results are far finer than any of our childhood solar-artistic attempts ever were.

Do we have the makings of a possible performance art piece here? A large outdoor gantry with a big Fresnel lens that could etch a design onto a¬†large piece of plywood would be a pretty boss beachside attraction. Of course, you’d need a simple solar tracker to keep things in focus.

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Image projector can be built in minutes

There’s a pretty good chance that you already have everything needed to make this image projector. We thought that yesterday’s video projector was simple, but this one makes it look like a super-computer in comparison. [Esrun] grabbed a flood light, some transparency film, and a common magnifying glass for use in his still-image project. This is more-or-less an overhead projector without the mirror, but we though it was worth sharing in hopes that it would spark your imagination and produce some other projector-oriented hacks.

The real tricks in this build are alignment and focal length. A single piece of lumber was used to help keep everything in a straight line, leaving just the vertical¬†alignment to account for. In order to get the image in focus, [Esrun] had to do some testing for positioning the transparency film and the lens. In the end he added strips of velcro to the base to make the components easy to move. He plans to add an enclosure and change from an incandescent bulb over to a set of LEDs. We’d like to see the addition of a carousel that can house multiple transparency sheets. That or a side-scrolling roll to give it more of a film-strip feel.