Hackit: Laser Cutters – With A Prize!

I’m going to have a special guest in my workshop for a while: an Epilog Mini 24 45 watt laser cutter. This is entirely thanks to Epilog Laser down in Golden Colorado. Here’s today’s hackit: If you had access to your own 45 watt laser cutter – with a 12″ x 24″ work surface, what would you make with it?

Oh, and there’s a prize on this one. Whoever comes up with the best idea will get a free laptop engraving session. (You can always just ship me the display cover.) You can have your own art put on, or we can always tattoo your machine with the Hack-A-Day logo.

(Pictured is Ladyada’s laser cutter. Mine’s coming tomorrow!)

169 thoughts on “Hackit: Laser Cutters – With A Prize!

  1. Probably not the most creative idea but I know my first order of business would be labeling all my tools! Not only with my name, but also sizes on things like hex wrenches and drill bits.

    Hopefully then I could keep everything in order and also prevent disputes when tools walk off.

  2. I’m not very familiar with laser cutters, but…

    I’d probably make either a stack of 1/4″ thick aluminum shuriken, a Klingon d’ktagh, or a mek’leth… I’ve always wanted a set of Klingon bladed weapons.

  3. set it to cut at specific depths into materials, so that it would basically cut inside of things, (i have seen this done at the hospital’s laser in tennessee) and cut internal designs into plexiglass, glass, and other translucent materials, then shine a colored LED into it, making an awesome lighting effect, or just cut cool designs into knives and such..

  4. Rather than just shining lasers in peoples eyes, you can tattoo people from a distance! (with a custom lens)

    Or, make peices of toast with either images of religious objects (to sell on ebay) or RSS feeds ( breakfast+news :D )

  5. I’d hook it up to a web site, and allow people to choose a design/message to put on a hunk of aluminum. Then, set up votes to allow everyone to decide who’s post gets to go on the hunk of aluminum. Then, use the votes to determine the surface area that each design/message gets. (some kind of statistical method that eliminates the designs that don’t get many votes). Then, burn in all the designs according to the results.

    What next? Launch it into space. Or put it in a museum as “Internet Art”. Or chuck it into the ocean. Something dramatic.


  6. You could make some of those business cards with the pop-out lock picking tools, like Kevin Mitnick’s one, or you could make your own aluminium business cards in cool shapes with cut out letters, or engraved, or BOTH!

  7. Well, the first thing id do is pop the cover off my 360 and have some fun, but thats not what i really have in mind.

    I have guitars, lots of them, i could take one of my crappy ones, and try it out first, with some sort of elegant engraving, and if all goes well, id be doing some nicer ones, i bet you could produce some beautiful patterns on these things.

    Then if all goes well, i can charge my friends and kids from school to do theirs.

  8. I’d cut out a hole on the shell of my up dv9000 laptop andwith either the apple logo….the up logo, or the ubuntu logo, fill it with frosted plexi and backlight it with LEDs. Maybe even integrate my pulsing blue griffin powermate into the lid.

  9. If I could get hold of a latemodel Firebird hood, I’d find a way of making the 12″x24″ workspace compatible with it and engrave a 1 meter bird, 70’s style, across. It’d be cool because I’d have to hack the laser’s work surface to do it!

    In any case, that’s really cool of Epilog and I’m going to check out their site a bit.

  10. best idea I’ve got would be to construct an interlocking box from 1/8″ acrylic.
    some of you guys are overestimating the abilities of this machine, it can mark metal (with appropriate chemicals) but no metal cutting of any sort.

  11. I would go nuts with new accent parts for my charger. Companies charge hundreds of dollars for a little laser engraving and I’d love to be able to make my own pieces just to thumb my nose at “the man”.

    I’m thinking door sills, custom petals, custom knobs, faceplates, the whole nine yards. Who wants to see the Hackaday Charger?

  12. 1200dpi is too low to make a reflective diffraction grating. If you could have though, I’d have used a diffraction grating + light source as a nonlinear thermometer. Plant outside next to a light bulb for an easy way to spot your house. Classier than just using cut up CDs.

  13. Well, when i had access to a 10W engraver from Universal Laser Systems, i made the biohazard symbol on a piece of 6″ square plexiglass (it was opaque black).

    However, i ment to engrave my laptop before i left, but i never got around to it. now im attending the Missouri University of Science and Technology (formally Univeristy of Missouri-Rolla), and i know that somewhere on campus we have several cutters (and one 200MW laser)

  14. that was supposed to be a 200megawatt, not milliwatt, as caps are so nicely disabled.
    as far as what to do with one… ive always wanted to make circuit boards…almost effortless, but it would require a laser much more powerful than 45w

  15. I will do a fine leather or wood cuted display cover for my laptop (replacing the aluminum part on the dell M90.

    Or white bussiness card with your name cuted on it.

    But you can also do your custom heatsink / radiator for any kind of electronic component/cpu cooling.

    custom cuted biscuit, cut the dough before baking it (What about a nice hack a day cookie?)


  16. I’d burn a few pics into on some 1/2″ hardwood plates, I’m not sure how you’d do it, but if you do it correctly, you can actually blast away some of the wood and get a contoured image.

    Or, like most people would do, you could just use it to etch the hackaday logo into anything you can find that will fit in the tray, laptops, ipods, mice, body parts, ect.

  17. Assuming it can cut carbon fiber sheets you could cut some outstanding wet lay up patterns for carbon fiber rotor blades. Left and and right hand propeller patterns. Then if you could cut carbon fiber flat stock, you could cut some servo shaft gears or sprockets at any pitch. The best use would be to cut encoder wheels out of the center spool of a retractable reel id badge holders. Then you could use them as cheap linear encoders.

  18. Computer Engraving
    A laser cutter would be nicer to work with than my dremmel. Design patterns in 3DS max / Autocad, and cut out the panels on my computer case. Then I’d do my friends cases. After that, sky’s the limit, go into custom casing, wiring’s the easy part, the design needs to look clean and this’d allow for much finer work than a dremmel does.

  19. If it could be done, and that’s a big if, etched DVD would look pretty cool. I have to imagine that done wrong they could be thrown out of balance or the substrate could be damaged. But they would look mighty fine.

  20. I would use it to etch PCB boards. of course i would not buy a laser cutter just to do that, but if i had access to one. or, i am not sure about the accuracy of the laser, make little watch parts and build a pocket watch.

  21. Start out with some custom aluminum badges for my truck. Not quite sure what the images would be. But getting the stock ford logos off would be a nice change. Then go for a set of transformers emblems on the sides of my desktop’s case seeing how I don’t own a laptop that I can modify.

  22. I would engrave the top of my laptop with a whole vinyl album and put it on a turntable and play it.
    It would also be cool to put a lathe in the laser cutter to tattoo aluminum baseball bats.

  23. I’d decorate my Thinkpad with a trace of the keyboard, so it looked open when it was closed. The colors count for a lot in making the iconic laptop design recognizable, but the three-button arrangement below the spacebar and off-color function & Enter keys should be enough.

    I’m a little disappointed you can’t cut serious metal with it. My original thoughts were along the lines of rapid-prototyping: cut out slices of a solid object-to-be, align them, and braise them together.

    You could turn a decent profit laser-etching cheap swords. Anime fan favorite katanas are out thanks to the 26″ diagonal, but knives and tantos are game.

    1200 DPI’s pretty sharp… maybe take a page from NASA’s book (no pun intended) and sneak some softcore porn-laden glass slides into the nearest convenient laboratory? Most Chem-E’s I know are female, so be sure to choose your images with the right target audience in mind. At this resolution, you could engrave “HACKADAY.COM” on your staples, maybe even paperclips.

    Oh, here’s a good one – coins. Technically illegal, but let’s say you’re using Euros or pounds sterling. What can you fit into the flat spaces on either side of a portrait? A QR code for Hackaday, maybe? A skull-and-crosswrenches tattoo for the Queen? Perhaps hand out flat-edged coins with your name & phone number on the rim in place of business cards.

  24. Man, you are so lucky. My school’s graphics lab has a full size one 32×20! We have cut so much crap in that thing! The most interesting thing would have to be a banana. You can raster the leather on your shoes, jeans, toast.

    Ok for the ideas:

    1) Use multiple sheets of stacked acrylic to make a 3d landscape.

    2)An easy way to steampunk anything. Buy (or make) sheets of 1/4 inch pine and cut out a case for a laptop, mac mini, phone, whatever. It is great because you can even cut out the letters for the keyboard (just make sure they don’t fall through the grate).

    A word of advice to everyone who ever uses one of these: Do a test run on cardboard before you start and check it to make sure it is square. The laser we had would cut things a little longer in the x direction than the y.

  25. use the laser cutter to etch custom logos/designs into the packaging (plastic case) of an integrated circuit (i.e. hack a day logo) to give a finished PCB circuit board a customized look, if the laser cutter is capable of doing so without going through the packaging and damaging the die.

  26. Hmm maybe a model I have been working on for a long time. Or some wannabe like gift for my girlfriend… ofc you could test what the lazor cutter is made of, by putting on some difficult test.

  27. so many ideas, so little time…

    first thing *I* would do if I had a laser cutter on loan is to cut all the parts to build my own.

    after that of course, is a 3D sculpture of that ferrofluid scuplture doing the rounds at youtube…

  28. remember guys, this doesn’t cut metal, just plastic, wood, paper, etc. More powerful lasers are needed for cutting metal (and even then, something like a waterjet is better because metal will always reflect most of the laser’s energy).

    I had access to one of these (at techshop in palo alto) and i never did much with it. I have a nice HAAS CNC mill and lathe at work now, so i play with those when i wanna make stuff. :)

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