A 3-Axis Paper Cutting Mini Laser


Laser are awesome, and so are projects that use lasers. A recent Instructable by [kokpat] gives an overview of how to create a fully functional laser paper cutter using CDROM stepper motors and an Arduino.

What is special about this build, is that it showcases how easy it can be to build a 3-axis mechanical system used for laser cutters, CNC machines, and 3D printers. Using a stepper stage that consist of a motor screw with a nut slider based carriage, the mechanical system can be put together quite easily and cost effectively. Luckily, from an electronics and software perspective, everything is quite standardized with the proliferation of the RepRap and similar machines. Simply pick any three stepper drivers, find the most pertinent firmware, and voilà! You’re done! Well, almost. Don’t forget a 100mW violet laser!

We have seen a ton of really cool laser cutters before, but this has to be one of the cheapest. See the laser cutter in action after the break.

29 thoughts on “A 3-Axis Paper Cutting Mini Laser

  1. Yeah, I just finished to build a laser attachment for my Solidoodle. It does paper, balsa wood, and 1/16″ plastic sheeting as long as it’s a dark color. If anyone wants the schematics and the alteration files for skeinforge email me, I’ve been demoralized from submitting my stuff on hackaday.

    The z axis can be used to some advantage by moving the focus and cutting through thicker things, to a point.

  2. Guys, what are the part numbers for lasers used in larger cutters that can cut through plexiglass etc? what are the safety requirements for a homebrew cutter sporting these powerful modules? tinted enclosures, fume extraction etc.

    I want to build one of these but want to do more than cut paper.

    1. Unfortunately the cost goes up exponentially past 2W or so — this is mostly because these builds use laser diodes from bluray drives, which are now cheap due to economies of scale. Go farther up than 2.5W or so and you’re unlikely to find anything for less than $thousands.

      1. Most commercial laser cutters use CO2 laser tubes running 25-60 watts or more, forced-air or water cooled. I don’t think I have seen any that use laser diodes. The laser is typically mounted horizontally and special mirrors are used to direct the beam to the focus and cutting head (which also has special lenses – when I use “special”, I mean the mirrors are of a material that can reflect the wavelength of the IR being generated, and the lenses can refract this same wavelength – IOW, these aren’t normal glass mirrors/lenses).

        There are a few low-cost DIY laser cutter kits out there, and a few other places selling parts (tubes, lenses, mirrors – most of this stuff is replacement components for the low-cost Chinese desktop laser cutters, btw) – even so, such kits and such will still end up beyond the $1k USD mark.

        In theory, you could homebrew the laser and the mirrors (not so much the focusing lenses, though) – but I’ve been told by many people (including Thundersqueak) that I would be wasting my time to try to do so – that a homebrew CO2 laser is something you build to build only it – and not for inclusion into a larger machine, as the time and effort ultimately isn’t worth it (and likely, you’ll still be on the wrong side of the equation, ultimately).

        1. Another issue is that a laser diode + lens assembly you can move around on your gantry, a CO2 laser you can’t, so you have to use mirrors — meaning alignment is a lot harder to do.

          I’m looking into combining multiple diodes for cutting plywood.

        1. Feeble compared to what?

          TFA is only 0.1W, that’s feeble.

          They use the same type tube as in your link, just 40W rather than 60W. It’s still cut most sheet material that a hobbyist would use, size is roughly A4.

          Ok for a ‘starter’ machine, I’ve got two of them (software is a bit rubbish).

          There are plenty of commercial units in that wattage range, usually with a bigger bed (and way more $$$).

          I’m building a 1200×900 bed version with a 150W tube – that’ll make the others look a bit feeble. (Would like a 250W, but can’t justify the $$$$$.)

          1. 40W is a decent amount power, provided it can be reasonably controlled. I cut a lot on a 30W machine, but it helps that my table is about 3x the area.

            That small one (200mm x 300mm) should cut a majority of the parts that I make on a laser. An advantage of having a larger size is in part to reduce the amount of cut-downs needed to fit the table, and allow better material utilization.

            I wonder if some of the low price is because it only runs on Windows XP, or at least so the seller says on the listing I found here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/221321196703

          2. Prices jump dramatically once the bed size goes up (regardless of power), so building a small machine is pointless but bigger is worthwhile.

            Those eBay machines will run on Win7 (probably Win8 too). The software & controller is rubbish (Google MoshiDRaw, NewlyDraw etc) but there’s little in the CNC world for controlling lasers, particularly for engraving.

            You can drop in a $500 DSP, but yeah…

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