My design is not EXACTLY like the multi-$1,000 models, but it will let you do a lot of the same work. Figure on 'manual' rather than 'computer-operated'. This means you don't have to learn CAD, or even have a computer. It can also be used as a portable (bonus!). Did I mention it only costs $60?
When I saw the cutting laser that Stephanie Maksylewich made, I knew all that was missing was some way to control where it points and burns, and a variable AC power supply to control the intensity. See the video here.
I decided to mount a cutting laser on a pantograph, (and see below) used for centuries to copy, enlarge, and shrink an existing drawing. But instead of a pencil lead making the duplicate, we'll use the laser to cut or engrave.
I built a variable power supply out of 10 simple electrical pieces, and a pantograph out of four yardsticks and some nuts and bolts.
Remember to always treat this device with respect -- it's an industrial-strength handheld power tool, even if it looks homebrewed.
Step 1: First things first
I'm using mine to prototype a new product, and I couldn't justify putting $$thousands$$ on my credit card to test my idea. Maybe you'll come up with a way to make some cash. If you can afford 60 bucks and some time, you might be in the laser engraving and cutting business next week (it takes a few days for parts to arrive in the mail).
Important!! You must be over 18. This is NOT a toy. It'sa powerful industrial-strength tool. Adults only. Period. It burns holes through plastic fast. You should probably have a fire extinguisher nearby, which you probably already own if you're up for this kind of mischief.
You can easily dial the power down and just etch the surface of your stuff. Get plenty of practice on materials you don't need <<before>> you etch your buddy's laptop.
There's a big learning curve on the $10,000 models, but at least they come with lots of instructions. These are my instructions . . .
I am not responsible for anything you (or your assigns) damage, burn or toast for any reason. Not responsible. Et cetera. Not responsible.
Maybe some kind readers will enlighten all of us with their experience and knowledge in Forum or Comments sections describing some tricks of the trade for using laser cutter / engravers. (Other than, "Get a real one," please.) This does not include drawing toast pictures on bread.
There's nothing difficult, no special tools, and not a whole lot of skill involved. It's actually fiendishly simple. I've put in a lot of details, so this instructable looks longer than it really is.
Use common sense, and safety first.
Let's engrave some stuff!