Introduction: 2W Arduino Laser Engraver/Cutter

Picture of 2W Arduino Laser Engraver/Cutter

EDIT 5/10/16: I've added a PDF made by Ed Powell which gives instructions on how to use Inkscape and Universal Gcode Sender to create and send images and text to the laser engraver. Check it out!

In my 4th level high school engineering class, we were given the opportunity to do an independent master project. Having used the class laser engraver extensively, I thought it would be a cool project to make my own, as it would combine several different disciplines including electrical and mechanical engineering. Of course, I was also motivated by the desire to have my own laser cutter.

After about four months of work, I'm very happy with the results! At only 2 watts, it's not terribly powerful, but it can engrave most wood and plastic and can cut balsa wood. It has already come in handy for cutting out templates to use in other projects. Finally, I've gotten around to making an instructable on it. Hopefully it will help and/or inspire some of you!

Here's a link to a mostly comprehensive bill of materials, as well as all the STL files used, annotated images showing parts, and circuit diagrams.

Step 1: Layout of Design in Inventor

Picture of Layout of Design in Inventor

I began by laying out the basic frame in Autodesk Inventor. The design was modified and added on to throughout the build process, but the frame remained largely the same.

Step 2: 3D Printing and Assembling the Y-Axis

Picture of 3D Printing and Assembling the Y-Axis

The first part to be printed serves three purposes:

  1. Hold the y-axis stepper motor
  2. Support the steel rods of the y-axis
  3. Slide along one of the x-axis rods

After printing, two small bronze bearings are inserted. These bearings are impregnated with oil to reduce friction. I found them to be a cheap and effective alternative to more expensive linear motion bearings meant for 3D printers and the like.

The steel bars are simple 5/16" stainless steel drill rods, which work just fine. I cut one 36" rod in half with a hacksaw to make two 18" pieces.

Step 3: Finishing the Y-Axis

Picture of Finishing the Y-Axis

The laser I used was a 2W M140 diode. It comes with a metal casing and leads, but needs a heat sink to run safely without overheating. I made a simple heat sink out of a block of aluminum and some cooling fins from an old robot controller. I drilled a 31/64" hole in the 1" x 1" block for the laser, and also added a tightening screw to the side. I then bolted this to another 3d-printed part that would slide along the y-axis and clip onto the timing belt.

The completed heat sink assembly was slid onto the y-axis rods from Step 2. Then, the other end was fitted with a 3d-printed part to hold the idler pulley and slide along the other x-axis rod. The y-axis stepper motor was screwed into place, and the pulleys and timing belts were attached.

Step 4: Constructing the Frame and X-Axis

Picture of Constructing the Frame and X-Axis

I constructed the frame out of wood (details in bill of materials). The most difficult part was making sure the two x-axis rods were aligned and perfectly parallel. Instead of using two motors to drive the x-axis, or using a complicated pulley and belt system to drive both sides simultaneously, I chose to have the x-axis motor and drive belt in the center of the y-axis gantry. It looks a bit ugly, but it's simple and it works.

At first, the cross beam connecting the belt to either end of the y-axis gantry was lazily glued on with superglue. However, this proved to be problematic, so as you'll see in later steps, this was eventually replaced with a more permanent 3d-printed L-bracket.

Step 5: Testing and Installing Electronics

Picture of Testing and Installing Electronics

The first picture shows the laser diode I used, the M140, available from DTR's Laser Shop, although he has even more powerful modules now. It requires a lens for focusing and a regulated power source, so I bought a driver and a G-2 lens as well. This was mounted in the heat sink with some thermal paste. Note that it's extremely important to use red laser safety glasses whenever operating these lasers!

I hooked up all the electronics temporarily outside of the frame for testing (circuit diagram attached). I also used a computer fan for ventilation. The machine is controlled by an Arduino Uno running grbl, and I'm using Universal Gcode Sender to stream gcode commands. To actually turn vector images into gcode, I'm using Inkscape with the gcodetools plugin. I used the spindle direction pin to turn the laser on and off, since that was easy to do with gcodetools.

The third image shows the successful first engraving. At this point, the laser engraver is technically done, but to make it look a little better and be much safer, next we'll build an enclosure around the entire thing.

Step 6: Building the Enclosure

Picture of Building the Enclosure

I built the sides out of a whiteboard material, and screwed them on. for the back, I had to cut a rectangular hole since the stepper motor stuck out a little too far. I also cut holes for ventilation, for the power cord and USB port, and for the computer fan. The front and top was covered with white board material on the edges, while the center was left open for a transparent acrylic lid. Finally, a flat 1/8" wood platform was added over the top of the electronics to serve as the base on which engraved material would be placed.

The 5th picture shows me bending the orange acrylic that would become the lid. It is orange to block the blue light of the laser; even reflected rays can seriously damage your eyesight! I attached this with a hinge after cutting it to length, and voila! One finished laser engraver. It almost looks like something you could buy in a store.

Step 7: Testing

Picture of Testing

Here are just a few examples of things I've engraved with this laser engraver. The Mona Lisa didn't turn out very well, but for simpler, black-and-white patterns like the dragon, it looks quite pretty. It can also cut thin balsa wood, as you can see in the third picture. Thanks for reading my first inscrutable, and I hope you enjoyed!

Comments

djs262a (author)2016-11-11

I want to make some rubber stamps for my wife (card making) and I want to know if I can make them with a 2W laser? Can they only be make with a 35W laser and up?

RobotEyes (author)2016-09-03

Some time ago I built a Laser Engraver with this GearBest Kit.

Unfortunately I have not found a software acceptable and easy to use, so I wrote my own.

My software allows to load a picture and send it to the laser engraver quickly and easily.

My software is written in a generic way for almost all machines with standard GCode firmawre.

At the moment the software is WORK IN PROGRESS currently, in ALPHA testing.

As I needed to modulate the laser power (I have a 5500 mW one) I used GRBL firmware version 0.9 (other versions are ON / OFF, 0.9 is PWM)

Here the Robot Laser Project page : http://www.robot-eyes.com/en/RobotLaser/

I will update soon the page (for now very rough).

Please send an email at robotlaser@robot-eyes.com with your opinion, thanks.

mohsin401 (author)2016-09-01

can i cut cloth with this 2W laser ? I want to make if it can.

suturb (author)2016-03-03

Hi Alex; absolutely love your project!!! I have a question though, I just bought my own desktop laser engraver (cheap Chinese one - 2,8 W, 450 nm), but it came with safety goggles only;

as my eyes are precious to me; I want to cover the laser engraver itself with a safety screen. which material should I use for such a screen? how can I make sure that it's effective?

thank you so much for your advice.

kind regards,

joris

samern (author)suturb2016-07-03

Generally speaking I would build a case out of polycarbonate. 3mm thick material should be good enough.

AlexP66 (author)suturb2016-05-10

I used https://www.inventables.com/technologies/transparent-orange-acrylic-sheet, which is supposed to block UV light, but I've found it works well for 450 nm light as well. It's not exactly designed for laser safety though, so if you're really paranoid, I'd stick to wearing the goggles.

RocioR7 (author)2016-05-11

Hi!! I want to buy my own laser cutter machine... but I have no knowledge about it.. I want it to make jewellery.

Can you give me some advices? plz!!!

ashokpkumar (author)2016-05-10

Hello,

can we have the code on the arduino please. i cannot find them.

AlexP66 (author)ashokpkumar2016-05-10

There's no actual arduino code, per se. You have to install grbl, which can be found here: https://github.com/grbl/grbl/wiki. You'll also need to install Universal G-code Sender to communicate with the arduino, which can be found here: https://github.com/winder/Universal-G-Code-Sender

That first page also has instructions for configuring grbl. You might have to change it depending on the dimensions of your machine, but the settings I used were as follows:

$0=10 (step pulse, usec)

$1=25 (step idle delay, msec)

$2=0 (step port invert mask:00000000)

$3=0 (dir port invert mask:00000000)

$4=0 (step enable invert, bool)

$5=0 (limit pins invert, bool)

$6=0 (probe pin invert, bool)

$10=3 (status report mask:00000011)

$11=0.020 (junction deviation, mm)

$12=0.002 (arc tolerance, mm)

$13=0 (report inches, bool)

$20=1 (soft limits, bool)

$21=0 (hard limits, bool)

$22=1 (homing cycle, bool)

$23=1 (homing dir invert mask:00000001)

$24=25.000 (homing feed, mm/min)

$25=1000.000 (homing seek, mm/min)

$26=250 (homing debounce, msec)

$27=1.000 (homing pull-off, mm)

$100=20.000 (x, step/mm)

$101=20.000 (y, step/mm)

$102=250.000 (z, step/mm)

$110=5000.000 (x max rate, mm/min)

$111=5000.000 (y max rate, mm/min)

$112=500.000 (z max rate, mm/min)

$120=500.000 (x accel, mm/sec^2)

$121=500.000 (y accel, mm/sec^2)

$122=10.000 (z accel, mm/sec^2)

$130=280.000 (x max travel, mm)

$131=280.000 (y max travel, mm)

$132=200.000 (z max travel, mm)

You can view the settings by typing the command "$$" in G-Code Sender. To change a setting, just type "$<number> = <value>". For example, to change the x-axis step/mm setting, type "$100 = 20.000". Hope that helps!

Lardo (author)2016-02-22

I can't seem to get the links to the .stl files to work. When I click on them all I get a text file. I tried 'right-clicking', but that doesn't get me anything either.

ActionTekJackson (author)2016-01-17

Could you elaborate on how the laser is powered? What psu did you use? Did you use a relay? Can your setup control varying laser intensities? I have this same diode from dtr and the driver and such. Still learning and trying to understand pwm and controlling laser intensity

AYDIND (author)2016-01-15

Awesome.great

printrbot932 (author)2015-11-18

what would be a estimated over all price? i have a printer

sorry for not looking at the doc befor i asked in case anyone is wondering i calculated $272 for electronics (i already have a uno)

mickeypop (author)printrbot9322016-01-12

printrbot932, your looking in the wrong places.

the pricey parts are the laser and the steppers.

folgertech.com has NEMA 17 steppers for only $8

all the rest of the electronics minus the laser i found for only $21 (including the arduino) on aliexpress.com

the laser i found on eBay for only $56

only folgertech charged shipping, $7

thats $100 for all the electronics

for $7 more aliexpress has the G2 belts and pullies too

hpb (author)2015-11-24

This is brilliant! what would be the smallest size it can engrave? I was looking to make something similar for smd board stencils that use components with as little as 0.4 mm pitch. would this be able to cut that small precisely? also, do you have a picture of the laser diode with the heatsink and the lens assembly?

AlexP66 made it! (author)hpb2015-11-29

0.4mm might be pushing it. The main source of inaccuracy is the fact that the x-axis is driven by a single belt, which can cause it to become uneven on each side. Driving it on both sides or making the whole thing smaller would likely fix this problem and make it much more accurate. In theory, the resolution of the stepper motors is less than 0.05mm.

Here's a picture of the laser diode module. The lens is the black threaded part. I used thread sealer tape to make sure the lens did not come unfocused during use. The heat sink can be mostly seen in step 3. I just drilled a hole in a 1-inch cube of aluminum and attached some cooling fins. Many people make these out of CPU coolers.

WouterP (author)AlexP662015-12-23

What do you mean by driving it from both sides?

do you mean that you use two stepper motors on the x axis with one belt or with two belts, one per motor?

I am thinking of making one myself because of this instructable, and if one motor makes it more precise i would gladly spend the extra money on it

Thank you for the great instructabe!

CSwick2 (author)WouterP2015-12-24

Much like a dual-drive CNC machine (which this is a cnc machine, with a laser instead of a router) you would need 2 motors, with a belt on each. One would be the main motor and the other would be "slaved" to it so they move at the same time - keeping the axis straight

mickeypop (author)CSwick22016-01-12

There's a simple solution. I have been designing robotic systems nearly 40 years and the same parrallax used in drafting tables to keep the bar parallel works great to take the jitter out. On proto types i have used 4 v wheels used on sliding shower doors and a braided steel wire like they use to hang heavy paintings (can't strech). -- just run the cable like the picture and tension it and the bar will stay parallel all the time. -- you will also note the drag is radically reduced because the angle is no longer switching back and forth making the bearings slide better.

AlexP66 (author)WouterP2015-12-23

Two stepper motors with two belts. Good luck!

hpb (author)AlexP662015-11-29

Thanks Alex. I'm using a similar diode assembly container. I have a couple of options for heatsinks and I'll start documenting them soon.

Adrian_West (author)2015-11-24

Great Job, I have been wanting to do something like this. Best of luck to you in the contest!!!

AlexP66 (author)Adrian_West2015-11-24

Thanks!

CalebP13 (author)2015-10-20

I noticed the place you got your laser now has 6w diodes. What would you change in your setup to accommodate a higher wattage laser like this? What materials and thicknesses would this open up?

AlexP66 (author)CalebP132015-10-30

Don't expect any drastic improvements, but you'll probably be able to cut some slightly thicker balsa wood and engrave on lighter (more white) surfaces. You still won't able to make a mark on metal or anytthing like that. However, this is just conjecture; if you try it, be sure to post your findings!

palsclass (author)2015-10-29

Excellent job! Can I get some information about how you used Inkscape and grbl to send it to the engraver? I hadn't heard of those until I read about your build.

nickw89509 (author)2015-10-14

Oh one other thing, using the G2 lens is not recommended, It is true that this lens will allow for higher power output but the focal properties are poor. With a 3 element lens you will have less power but a smaller dot this will allow for finer lines and better quality.

AlexP66 (author)nickw895092015-10-20

I did not know that, thanks!

BoKKeR (author)2015-10-20

so the 2w laser is enough to cut how thick wood? I am planning to build the same and the strongest laser I found was 2w

BoKKeR (author)BoKKeR2015-10-20

does the glass really help? I dont think its good against IR lights you need probably special glasses depending on what kind of wave lenght ur laser uses

AlexP66 (author)BoKKeR2015-10-20

You probably won't have much luck cutting anything over 1/16 inch (maybe 1/8 if you're patient) balsa wood. I think this is due in part to the high reflectivity of balsa wood though. As for the glass, it does help because the laser is not infrared; it's 445 nm, which is blue-violet. Good luck!

nickw89509 (author)2015-10-14

Nice project, I am the inventor of the Laser Ink Kickstarter. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1923304356/la...

If you are interested in upgrading to do full image rastering you may want to add the Flex Mod P3 driver this allows you to send a 0-5 volt signal to the diode to control the power of the laser.

https://innolasers.com/shop/index.php?id_product=1...

Additionally I have modified grbl to take advantage of this the code is open source and can be found on Git Hub

https://github.com/nickw89509/LaserInk

If you go through the updates on the KS you will see information on the theory of operation. In general we are using the grbl spindle command to control the laser intensity.

G1 X0Y0 S255, Would move the laser to 0,0 with power sett to full

G1 X1Y1 S128, Would move the laser to 0,0 with power sett to half

Nice Job:-)

garrettg7 (author)2015-10-13

very very cool! For cutting other materials could I just use a 6W or more laser and cut other (denser) materials? or is there anything else i'd need to adjust other than laser wattage?

reddevved (author)2015-10-07

Is there a reason you have the laser housing move instead of mounting it on the frame and using mirrors to reflect the beam to where it's supposed to go?

AlexP66 (author)reddevved2015-10-07

It just seemed simpler (and safer) to have the laser itself move, given how small it is. Having mirrors could also introduce more sources of inaccuracy, and it's difficult to get the laser to focus at long distances.

reddevved (author)AlexP662015-10-07

I looked it up, and apparently you need special mirrors (normal would probably be fine for this strength though) which are expensive and would make that type of cutter cost prohibitive for home cutters

jackinthebox7743 (author)2015-10-06

Do you have a full list of supplies?

AlexP66 (author)jackinthebox77432015-10-07

The BOM should be in the introduction.

rgorman4 (author)2015-10-05

Very cool! I might try this someday. Does it work on rubber for stamp making?

ampeyro (author)rgorman42015-10-07

Most kinds of rubber have a tendendy to turn into a smelly goo when you burn them, so it will probably make a mess (But i've read somewhere about freezing rubber and then machining it like it was wood or hard plastic)

rgorman4 (author)ampeyro2015-10-07

There is an entire industry built around laser engraved stamps that are cut just like everything else. My question was pertaining to whether or not the 2w bulb was strong enough to do it well. lol

AlexP66 (author)rgorman42015-10-06

I'm not sure if it works for stamp making. I'll have to add that to the list of things to test!

robboz4 (author)2015-10-06

Hi Alex,

Excellent project! I put in a vote for it.

Thanks for the BOM, it will make it easier to source the parts to build one.

One question for you: On the Fritzing breadboard diagram should the yellow wire go to both ENA pins on the motor driver boards? I attached a screenshot.

AlexP66 (author)robboz42015-10-06

Good catch, that is a mistake. It should go to both ENA pins. Thanks :)

MechEngineerMike (author)2015-10-04

That's a fine looking machine you build there! If you're able to do this in high school then you've got a bright future in engineering ahead of you. Voted!

mogy336 (author)2015-10-02

Good work
Can i increase the laser power?

AlexP66 (author)mogy3362015-10-03

If you get a more powerful laser module, then sure (I think you can get ones over 6W now). However, I wouldn't try to push a 2W laser further than it's rated for; laser diodes can burn out easily.

jeanniel1 (author)2015-10-02

So, how much did this entire thing come out to costing?

AlexP66 (author)jeanniel12015-10-03

In total, around 250-300 dollars.

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