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. I would use it to make toys. Something like the old slide-together wooden dinosaur kits, but with moving joints, so they’re posable. I’d probably like to make them out of wood, or perhaps 2.5mm acrylic (tinted and transparent would look awesome!).

  2. well, i’d make a bunch of custom buttons and such for projects i’ve been thinking of. etch control panels, PCBs, etc… hell, you could make your own monome pretty easily with an arduino and a laser cutter. that’s what i’d do.

  3. I would take one part away from the engraver at a time, and engrave onto it, replace it and pull another part, Count the number of engraved parts and put it over the total part count. Kind of shows off how reliable thier laser cutters would be if a part fails. Sort of an Advertisement gimmick.

  4. I would cut vector images out of paper and use them to make spraypaint stencils for posters to hang in my dorm, as well as the cover on my laptop, custom painted PC cases, custom t-shirts or hoodies, etc.

  5. Well, I would decorate my garage/workshop/hackshop with pictures engraved on steel of XKCD comics. Just line the workshop with comics that are relative to my everyday life. Also I would engrave my iPhone. Probably with a sigature of some sort to personalize it.

    Will, would you be willing to engrave my iPhone if, on the off chance, I won?

  6. I would etch notebooks (not laptops) and speaker cones! It would also be cool to etch a glass table or a circuit board… oh the possibilities… Is it possible to use a laser etcher in place of chemicals to etch a PCB?

  7. Hello,
    I would use it for many things but at the moment I would cut out the case and maybe keyboard for the C64 Laptop I am making.

    Carbon fiber would be nice but will probably use plastic.

  8. i’d make a sweet Beer Pong table (multiple boards). Or at least an insert for the middle of it. It would have my school’s logo in the middle for sure, and the cup outlines as well. Then I’d polyurethane it.

    for anyone who doesn’t know what beer pong is:

    Or make inserts for a bar top with with all the bars at college, or better yet all the logos of different beers.

    but definitely something with wood, then add a few coats of polyurethane on top to seal the deal.

  9. I’d make something to sell that all the profits would go to charity, probably for AIDS or cancer research. I know someone in my life that currently is going for cancer treatment – my old elementary school art teacher.

    Maybe some ribbons with the donator’s name on them, custom made on the spot.

  10. I’d cut out plastic part to make a scale Stargate replica, such that the inner ring turns and th chevrons light up and such. ive had the basic plans in my head for ages!

  11. i would probably make…… gee…. i’d make a laptop stand for starters. I need a good one, and a solid metal one would lok slick. but for a project and unlimited metal, I’d make some kind of wicked sick coffee table with all kinds of site logos and code inscribed into it. yeah.

  12. i think i’d engrave my favourite quotes along with some self designed b/w art on all the small things lying around my desk, usb sticks, watch, wallet, mobile, keys, biros, earphones and so on…

  13. Wow. Lots of ridiculous things. I’m content. =]
    I would use it to engrave motorcycle parts that I powdercoat with custom artwork. (Also my Cruzer Titaniums, so people would stop stealing the damned things. It’s like they think they could break through the truecrypt on the drives to get my data.)

  14. I would donate it to my high school tech department. They are sort of lacking in the hardware department. No one here wants to take classes like drafting or tech ed so funding isn’t the greatest. It would really be great to give back to the staff the held together our little TSA (they would have to let me engrave some of my art on stuff occasionally though).

  15. I would use it to create mandelbrot patterns on different materials. I would engrave / cut anything I could get my hands onto into the shape of some mandelbrot pattern (I’m addicted to those patterns! :p ) I would most likely engrave my math text book’s cover with it. The hardest part about doing this would be to get a good solid mandelbrot generator. I probably could even make one myself if I had enough time to code it.

    Oh, and if you don’t know what mandelbrot patterns are, look here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandelbrot_set

  16. I would just start engraving and cutting stuff I had lying around..

    but eventually when I had branded all my tools,
    precious stuff and belongings

    i would make new precision cut and engraved front
    plates and backs, plastic or aluminium depending on the machines ability

    for all my existing (and future) lab equipment,
    Signal generator, LCR meter, power supplys, frequency counter, IC
    programmer, IC Tester, and other projects..


  17. I’d use it to cut a whackload of gears – of all shapes and sizes, world gears, oddly shaped gears, etc etc. You can always use gears! (I guess they’ll be plastic, but you can still use them!)
    Plus, discovering how they work together would be really cool.

  18. I would play around with food – probably more on the pastry side than the savory side. For example, you could fill a plate with sauce (say, something clear and sugary) and then scorch a fun design into it (by turning selected parts of the sugar into caramel). You could also create a wicked-looking creme brulee. YUM! Oh, and let’s not forget etching designs into steaks, toast, nacho chips… In the end, I think the most practical applications in the kitchen would be etching perfect divisions onto a pie crust or cake for equal portioning.

  19. I’d make a custom grille for my car. However, there are some doubts about cutting vs. etching capabilities, in which case I’d just make some really cool abstract (or not:) art on the backs of old CDs. Maybe even do a mural of combined CDs.


  20. we have one of these at my school, and ive taken advantage of it, if made a case out of wood for a set of portable speakers ive made, along with a mini subwoofer box, and ive engraved my zune, and i already engraved my laptop, its amazing :)

  21. I would put a stack of freezer paper and cut out alot of stencils for shirts, then some metal stencils for the walls :P.

    Either that or..

    Engrave a peice of metal, with my gf’s name and throw it in her window…

  22. If I had my own laser cutter, Wow. Where do I begin. I would use it for experments. I would use it on woodworking projects I make. I would use it for light shows in my back yard. I would use it at our local high schools to demostrate to the students. I would try to ignite materials with it. I would make a custom computer case. I would use it to see fingerprints etc on materials. I would try to make money with the laser. I would try to cut out materials to make prototype working models for inventers.

  23. How about etching a simple circuit into a piece of plexiglass, sandwiching it between some more plexi, and filling the resulting channels with a conductive fluid. Bit of a challenge but it’d be neat.

  24. I’d definitely use the cutter to make an army of 12×24″ cut-out aluminum Barrel-O’-Monkeys monkeys, and try and find a sky-scraper owner who’d be willing to help set a world record hight of barrel-o-monkey monkey chain. Have a million more productive uses for it, but need something to test it out…

  25. i’d use it to create a custom case siding out of 1/4″ plexiglass.
    i was thinking maybe a generated fractal pattern with varying led backlights or maybe a natural crystal pattern with the same backlights

  26. if i wanted to start small, and make (exo)skeletons/”bodies” *out of ABS* for my beam bots so they look cooler, but on a big scale i’d want to make myself the iron man suit. i’d cut out flat versions of the pieces in plastic, then using a heat gun *or some sort of heat* i’d form it into the suit. i after seeing the first trailer for the movie i’ve been drooling over the suit.

  27. I would use the Epilog Laser as the first essential piece of the FabLab I am attempting to get built in Australia. It would be the first on this continent. I am aiming to set it up in my local town, Gloucester NSW – about 3.5hrs drive north of Sydney.

    The Epilog is the FabLab machine of choice, so I know it would be compatible. With this first item I would leverage off it to drum up funds for the rest of the equipment (“the lab already has an epilog laser cutter, now all we need is…..”)and work up incrementally from this first tool.

    Initially I would use it to help fit out the Lab, then I would develop cutting patterns for the student classes. The students would have their own projects using the laser cutter, but I intend sending each home with their own “prototyper/hacker kit”. Since meccano/eretor went out of patent I would base the kit around a killer set of meccano cut from a single sheet of steel. I would also experiment cutting Lego compatible bricks (the thin ones that the laser could cut)that would allow meccano to interface to lego (something with both meccano holes and Lego bumps). The whole set, along with some basic tools and components could all go into a small metal toolbox (built like a briefcase, camera gear style) that folds out to make a small mobile workbench. I also plan for each student to use the laser cutter to fab the toolkit cases. The tool list I will use is loosely based on the previous $600 workbench competition on this site eg multimeter, soldering iron, pliers etc.

    Anyone interested in the Australian FabLab initiative is invited to email me or visit the google group (url should be attached to this posting). I plan to set up a website soon and will forward this link when available.

    My email address is ozfablab@gmail.com

  28. Extremely detailed information on the side of cylindrical glasses. Volume by depth, estimated calories for various drinks, estimated weights for common dry measure, etc. Dense information presented with clear marks and easy-to-understand notation. These could be quite personalized if you’re picky and exact – for example, choosing Yuengling and Sunkist instead of generic beer and soda.

    In a classic nerd move, you could turn anything into a highly accurate ruler.

  29. I’m an artist of sorts… I love drawing, I’ve done a couple tattoos for a couple people, and I’ve recently begun filling my sketchbook with Eschers impossible triangles… I would LOVE to decorate my laptop or my dads or even a couple of my friends… Actually, anything I could get my hands on…

    Hey, on second thought, wanna just toss it over to Ohio for me? I’ll incorporate some Hackaday logos for sure!
    That would be pretty cool too, have all my favorite web icons etched in a line across the palm rest on my laptop; Hackaday, Woot, Whiskeymilitia, Southpark, Piratebay… I have a ton of fun little icons that would look GREAT in shaded etch.
    I want one now.

  30. see my previous entry (#86)

    Having discovered I can’t cut steel sheet with the laser cutter (no matter how deep I set it) I would curse and do the pieces out of a suitable plastic sheet (and probably decide to use the cnc router for thin metal sheets). Then I would concentrate on cutting cheap plastic for cases the students could use for the Fab@home printers.

  31. if you define “access” to mean “owning”, I would modify the device to add a another axis or two of mobility to the cutting head so I could etch on more interesting surfaces. Etching complex patterns onto seashells… cutting sections out of acrylic cylinders for homemade variable focus lenses for my cameras… cutting a cylinder to hold a few hundred LEDs for a continuous-flow algae bioreactor to feed my saltwater aquarium… Lots of stuff, basically.

  32. i would stary by using it to prototype my mech (you know mech warrior, battle tech the like) i’ve been working on the design for over 4 years now. come to think of it i would use it for everything mech related probably. get real nitty gritty and make the corn alchohol engine and everything for it. then i might cut out some new rank for my uniform (U.S. Army and all that). finally i would use it to cut out some of that sweet tron/zelda twilight princess design for a new case for my computer. i guess the better question is what wouldn’t i use it for. heck i might even use it to tatoo my arm with a VERY low power setting.

  33. i would be so overwelmed by this i would engrave evey thing that will fit in the cutter with my name and my leg with the hackaday logo and if 4 some odd reasion i win this i will get a tatto of the hack a day logo that covers up my hole back

  34. 1) Engrave text and logo’s on stainless steel Cocaine Cutter Business Cards.

    2) Engrave text and logo’s on the enclosures of my niche market custom electronics and CNC milled pinhole cameras.

  35. A repgraver (engraver-rap?)… use it to cut out the parts for a tiiiny 2″x3″ laser cutter/engraver that uses a DVD burner laser, which would then cut out the parts for an even tinier laser engraver which you’d have to put together with tweezers and a microscope, until you had an engraver that could cut away individual molecules. Then I’d make one of those tiny statues of a bull the size of a red blood cell and mount it on my mantelpiece so people would ask what the empty stand was for.

    This is to cover for the fact that I can’t think of anything practical to do with a laser engraver and just went on a wild flight of fancy along the lines of “mmm lasers”

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