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.

49 thoughts on “DVD Laser Diode Used To Build A Laser Engraver

      1. one that is tuned to BLOCK the laser’s frequency. A very important distinction. Tuned to means it will allow it through unhampered and cause the screaming, “The goggles they do nothing!”

    1. even if the laser is enclosed, when you work on it you need googles. even a 50 mW diode is enough to blind you.

      To work with 200 mw red lasers I have these (ebay item 120921382852 ), they may not protect from a direct shoot in the remaining eye, but are good enough to keep you safe from diffuse reflections.

  1. This is not good. I’ve been getting pre-occupied with thinking about making a hot end that rather than heating up plastic just holds one of these for making stencils. This leads me to thinking co2 is the way to go for 1/4 inch mdf type materials, and that is getting expensive.
    RE glasses I believe plexiglass provides enough protection until you get serious. You want to enclose the entire thing because even reflections can start fires and or hurt you. But Im still getting my feet wet. One of the experts probably has better advice in that regard.

    1. For the record the only reason this isnt good is because I cant afford to -free- liberate the idea from my head. This thing is brilliant and just makes me want to do it even more.

    2. You need a LOT of power to cut MDF effectively. We had a 45watt Epilog Helix and it took many passes to get through 1/4″. Even the 80 watt we had barely got through that stuff.

      Plexi will only provide protection for a CO2 laser. Even the 4kw Bystronic CO2 at work has acrylic for windows.

      For a DVD diode you really need a light tight enclosure.

    1. Although I whole heatedly agree wood is not optimal at all, He did use rails. He also used good stock, and clearly either has access to surfacing tools or they were prime cuts. If ever there was a time to use wood for something like this , its like this. He notably used really high quality wood. I could see him having problems with the left upright , but especially if he seals it it will last a year plus before it should be a problem. For the cost/durability tradeoff and the fact it supports zero force (its a laser after all not a mill) this should work pretty well slow.

        1. Hack man laid back in his aluminum chair after finishing up his comments, resting his hands on his solid steel desk. “Yes, none of that garbage wood will litter my world”. From his state of the art polymer framed house to his plastic mechanical pencils, all natural forms of building structures have been replaced. He perked up as he heard a light knocking on his titanium door. “Hack Man, about the kitchen… are you sure we can’t just go with wooden cabinets for the dishes?” Hack man exploded out of his seat, his face red with rage. “WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU ABOUT THE W WORD IN THIS HOUSE?? Don’t you know that wood ROTS! Where would we keep out dishes in 200 year? A simple fire could DESTROY those cabinets!”

          1. Hilarious.

            Wood is perfectly fine for this. Aluminum wouldn’t have made any difference in the performance and it would have just driven the cost up. Money that could have been spent to improve the performance in meaningful ways. Same for plastic.

            Very few cnc routers have flat beds, regardless of the construction material. You must put a spoil board down and surface it on the machine to get a flat surface.

          2. Made my day Pilotgeek!

            Of cause, wood is not optimal, draw sliders are not, threaded rods are not etc… but hey,
            this thing cost me nearly nothing and cuts stickers for my car and model planes just fine!
            There is no need for 1/100mm precision on this machine, i don’t eben care about half a mm or absolute positions…

        2. ALL wood will continue to absorb moisture and dry out causing movement, wood never dies (until its converted to soot). Soft woods such as pine should never be used in this manner, hard woods such as oak, ash, maple, cherry would be much better off due to their higher resistance to absorbing water and such. As a young woodworker I often scoffed at this notion, however with time I learned to appreciate this wisdom, WOOD NEVER DIES!

    2. There’s a plethora of primers out there. People are using plastic primers on wood to build aquariums and water reservoirs. I use the stuff myself, the first layer soaks the skin of the wood and makes it impregnable. Add 2 more layers for a smooth reflective shine.

  2. Alright, I’m jealous. This looks way better than mine is turning out. I’ve got a couple of drawer slides. I may have to steal his idea for the base. I might go for acrylic and aluminum if it’s possible, but better than standing on four legs as it is.

  3. I couldn’t find the purpose of that red plastic shield in the translated page. Is it to help redirect smoke away from the optics? Is it eye protection, and if so, why isn’t it blue like the laser safety goggles I normally see for this wavelength?

    1. It looks like it is indeed eye protection, this way you can watch it lase and not have to worry about any indirect reflections at least. Secondary reflections could still be possible but would likely be okay-ish.

      Personally I’d wear goggles when it’s going regardless. If you view it from too low an angle you’re not protected.

  4. This is one reason to use a Bluray diode rather than red, as the yellow goggles can be obtained from many DIY shops.

    Haven’t had any problems with mine, even tested them with a laser power meter to ensure that they were reliable.
    Also near UV tends to burn right through black paint which is ideal for doing copper PCB etching.

  5. Never mind that I tipped you guys off about the one I built from scanner parts about a year ago… Still, fun to see more of these builds appearing on the scene now! Uses GRBL, just like the one I built. It’s very easy to set up and use, so I am surprised we don’t see more builds featuring it.

  6. @derFrickler – Is this system powerful enough to etch a picture on the surface of a piece of solid wood? It would not need to actually cut any significant thickness, just etch the surface.

  7. @x3n0x Yeah, scanners are handy for this.

    The big annoyance is that they made the motors on the newer ones with thinner windings so they have to be driven at very low power or they burn out.

    You’re better off using an old Epson all in one for this, as these have robust motors and a 3 output driver chip.

  8. Are those just ordinary hardware store threaded rods? I know they’re not as precise and don’t transfer motion as efficiently as purpose-made rods… but $5 for three feet? Hello…

  9. Hey, awesome machine! I haven’t built one of these yet, but have the parts laying around and have been thinking about it a lot… I was only wondering if a DVD burner laser is powerful enough to burn wood? Not to cut it, just to burn it, like to leave a picture on it…

  10. My question: I have two CD rom drives, one is a burner and the other is not. Looking at them they don’t look like they have the diode laser. Please send me an e-mail for and address and I will send photos of what I have. I want to make sure I have the right items to make the engraver, also if you would send detailed instructions on how to make-hook up everything. Thank You for the help.

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