I’ve Got Two Turntables And A Laser Engraver

Digital media provides us with a lot of advantages. For something like recording and playing back music, digital copies don’t degrade, they can have arbitrarily high quality, and they can be played in a number of different ways including through digital streaming services. That being said, a number of people don’t feel like the digital experience is as faithful to the original sound as it could be and opt for analog methods instead. Creating analog copies of music is a much tougher matter though, as [Marco] demonstrates by using a laser engraver to produce vinyl records.

[Marco] started this month-long project by assembling and calibrating the laser engraver. It has fine enough resolution to encode analog data onto a piece of vinyl, but he had to create the software. The first step was to generate the audio sample, then process it through a filter to remove some of the unwanted frequencies. From there, the waveform gets made into a spiral, accounting for the changing speed of the needle on the record as it moves to the center. Then the data is finally ready to be sent to the laser engraver.

[Marco] did practice a few times using wood with excellent success before moving on to vinyl, and after some calibration of the laser engraver he has a nearly flawless 45 rpm record ready to hit the turntable. It’s an excellent watch if not for anything than seeing a working wood record. We’ve actually seen a similar project before (without the wood prototyping), and one to play records from an image, but it’s been quite a while.

Thanks to [ZioTibia81] for the tip!

Continue reading “I’ve Got Two Turntables And A Laser Engraver”

Interesting Optics Make This Laser Engraver Fit In A Pocket

We’re going to start this post with a stern warning: building a laser engraver that can fit in your pocket is probably not a wise idea. Without any safety interlocks and made from lightweight components as it is, this thing could easily tip over and sear a retina before you’d even have time to react. You definitely should not build this, or even be in the same room with it. Got it?

Safety concerns aside, [DAZ] has taken a pretty neat approach to making this engraver, eschewing the traditional X-Y gantry design in favor of something more like the galvanometers used for laser projectors, albeit completely homebrew and much, much slower than commercial galvos. Built mostly of 3D-printed parts, the scanning head of this engraver uses a single mirror riding on an angled block attached to gimbals with two degrees of freedom. The laser module and mirror gimbals are mounted on a stand made of light aluminum so that the whole thing is suspended directly over a workpiece; the steppers slew the mirror to raster the beam across the workpiece and burn a design.

The video below shows it at work, and again, we have to stress that this is about as close to this build as you should get. It shouldn’t be too hard to add some safety features, though — at a minimum, we’d like to see a tilt-switch that kills power if it’s knocked over, and maybe some kind of enclosure. Sure, that would probably spoil the pocketability of the engraver, but is that really a feature valuable enough to risk your eyesight for?

If there’s a laser build in your future, please read our handy guide to homebrew laser cutter safety — before you can’t.

Continue reading “Interesting Optics Make This Laser Engraver Fit In A Pocket”

Collaborative Effort Gets Laser Galvos Talking G-Code

Everyone should know by now that we love to follow up on projects when they make progress. It’s great to be able to celebrate accomplishments and see how a project has changed over time. But it’s especially great to highlight a project that not only progresses, but also gives back a little to the community.

That’s what we’re seeing with [Les Wright]’s continuing work with a second-hand laser engraver. It was only a few weeks ago that we featured his initial experiments with the eBay find, a powerful CO2 laser originally used for industrial marking applications. It originally looked like [Les] was going to have to settle for a nice teardown and harvesting a few parts, but the eleven-year-old tube and the marking head’s galvanometers actually turned out to be working just fine.

The current work, which is also featured in the video below, mainly concerns those galvos, specifically getting them working with G-code to turn the unit into a bit of an ad hoc laser engraver. Luckily, he stumbled upon the OPAL Open Galvo project on GitHub, which can turn G-code into the XY2-100 protocol used by his laser. While [Les] has nothing but praise for the software side of OPAL, he saw a hardware hole he could fill, and contributed his design for a PCB that hosts the Teensy the code runs on as well as the buffer and line driver needed to run the galvos and laser. The video shows the whole thing in use with simple designs on wood and acrylic, as well as interesting results on glass.

Of course, these were only tests — we’re sure [Les] would address the obvious safety concerns in a more complete engraver. But for now, we’ll just applaud the collaboration shown here and wait for more updates.

Continue reading “Collaborative Effort Gets Laser Galvos Talking G-Code”

No-Laser CNC Engraver Is Something New Under The Sun

Hooking up a laser to a CNC gantry isn’t exactly an Earth-shattering innovation, but it does make for a useful tool. Even a cheap diode laser mounted to an old 3D printer can do engraving, marking, or even light-duty cutting. But what about a laser engraver without the laser? Can that be of any use?

Apparently, the answer is yes, if you can harness the power of the sun. That’s what [Lucas] did with his solar-tracking CNC engraver, the build of which is shown in the video below. The idea is pretty simple — mount a decent-sized magnifying lens where the laser optics would normally go on a laser engraver, and point the thing at the sun. But as usual, the devil is in the details. The sun has a nasty habit of moving across the sky during the day, or at least appearing to, so [Lucas] has to add a couple of extra degrees of freedom to a regular X-Y CNC rig to track the sun. His tracking sensor is simplicity itself — four CdS photocells arranged with a pair of perpendicular shades, and an Arduino to drive the gimbals in the correct direction to keep all four sensors equally illuminated. He had some initial problems getting the jerkiness out of the control loop, but the tracker eventually kept the whole thing pointing right at the Sun.

So how does it work? Not bad, actually — [Lucas] managed to burn some pretty detailed designs into a piece of wood using just the sun. He mentions adding a shutter to douse the cutting beam to allow raster patterns, but even better might be a servo-controlled iris diaphragm to modulate beam intensity and control for varying sun conditions. He might also check out this solar engraver we covered previously for some more ideas, too.

Continue reading “No-Laser CNC Engraver Is Something New Under The Sun”

Laser Z-Axis Table Comes Into Focus

Laser cutters and 3D printers are game-changing tools to have in the workshop. They make rapid prototyping or repairs to existing projects a breeze as they can churn out new parts with high precision in a very short amount of time. The flip side of that, though, is that they can require quite a bit of maintenance. [Timo] has learned this lesson over his years-long saga owning a laser cutter, although he has attempted to remedy most of the problems on his own, this time by building a Z-axis table on his own rather than buying an expensive commercial offering.

The Z-axis table is especially important for lasers because a precise distance from the lens to the workpiece is needed to ensure the beams’s focal point is correctly positioned. Ensuring this distance is uniform over the entire bed can be a project all on its own. For this build, [Timo] started by building a simple table that allowed all four corners to be adjusted, but quickly moved on to a belt-driven solution that uses a stepper motor in order to adjust the entire workspace. The key to the build was learning about his specific laser’s focal distance which he found experimentally by cutting a slot in an angled piece of wood and measuring the height where the cut was the cleanest.

After everything was built, [Timo] ended up with a Z-axis table that is easily adjustable to the specific height required by his laser. Having a laser cutter on hand to bootstrap this project definitely helped, and it also seems to be an improvement on any of the commercial offerings as well. This also illustrates a specific example of how a laser cutter may be among the best tools for prototyping parts and building one-off or custom tools of any sort.

Master craftsperson turns a huge bolt into a pneumatic engraving tool.

Impressive Hack Turns Bolt Into Pneumatic Engraver

Did you ever see one of those videos that causes you to look at an everyday object in a new light? This is one of those videos (embedded below). And fortunately for us, there’s a write-up to go along with it in case you don’t always understand what’s going on.

In this case, what’s going on is that [AMbros Custom] is masterfully turning a stainless steel M20 bolt into a pneumatic engraving tool. Yeah, you read that correctly. But the most amazing thing about this hack is the minimum of tools used to do it. For one thing, there’s not a lathe in sight — [AMbros Custom] just chucked it into the drill or added a few nuts and clamped it in a vise.

So, how does it work? [AMbros Custom] hooks it up to a compressor, which causes the piston inside to go up and down, agitating the engraving bit. If you don’t want to watch the video, there are a ton of build pictures in the write-up.

What else can you do with a bolt? If you have the tools, you can do plenty. You could even turn one into a secret cash stash for buying more large bolts.

Continue reading “Impressive Hack Turns Bolt Into Pneumatic Engraver”

Unique 3D Printer Turned CNC Engraver

As we’ve said in the past, one of the most exciting things about the proliferation of low-cost desktop 3D printers (beyond all the little boats we get to see on Reddit), is the fact that their motion control systems are ripe for repurposing. Outfitting a cheap 3D printer with a drag knife, pen holder, or even a solid-state laser module, are all very common ways of squeezing even more functionality out of these machines.

But thanks to the somewhat unusual nature of his printer, [Hammad Nasir] was able to take this concept a bit farther. Being considerably more rigid than the $99 acrylic-framed box of bolts we’ve become accustomed to, he was able to fit it with a basic spindle and use it for CNC engraving. He won’t be milling any steel on this rig, but judging by the pictures on the Hackaday.io page for the project, it does a respectable job cutting designs into plastic at least.

The IdeaWerk 3D printer that [Hammad] used for this project is phenomenally overbuilt. We don’t know whether the designers simply wanted to make it look futuristic and high-tech (admittedly, it does look like it could double as a movie prop) or they thought there was a chance it might get thrown down the stairs occasionally. In either event, it’s built like an absolute tank.

While the frame on lesser printers would likely flex as soon as the bit started moving across the workpiece, this thing isn’t going anywhere. Of course this machine is presumably still running on the standard GT2 belt and NEMA 17 arrangement that has been used in desktop 3D printers since the first wooden machines clattered to life. So while the frame might be ready to take some punishment, the drive system could respectfully disagree once the pressure is on.

Modification was simplified by the fact that the hotend and extruder assembly on the IdeaWerk is mounted to the X axis with just a single bolt. This makes it exceptionally easy to design alternate tool mounts, though arguably the 3D printed motor holder [Hammad] is using here is the weak link in the entire system; if it’s going to flex anywhere, it’s going to be there.

If you’re more photonically inclined, you might be interested in this similarly straightforward project that sees a 2.5 W laser module get bolted onto an entry level 3D printer.