I drool on my keyboard when I look at those fancy laser cutter/engravers that cost $$thousands, so I figured out how to make one for $60. That's right -- 60 bucks.

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

First, read through this entire instructable before buying or assembling anything.

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!


<p>hello, a good detailed instructable with plenty of description, thanks</p><p>I'm a little disappointed you didn't include any details of anything you've gut though like materials and thickness/penetration etc. I would be interested to see how this little laser performs....</p>
this wouldnt work. Ive made class 3b lasers (a little stronger output than the DVD burner diode). It will SLOWLY cut electrical tape, or light black matches. but as far a burning anything that isnt thin and black, no chance in hell. sorry man, good idea, but the diode just isnt powerful enough.
Using a 1W laser, I have had success cutting throuh plastic (anything besides blue, it is a 405 nm laser), popping balloons, lighting matches, etc. I just used the diode, an Instaspark laser driver, and a 14500 battery.
Using a 1W laser, I have had success cutting throuh plastic (anything besides blue, it is a 405 nm laser), popping balloons, lighting matches, etc. I just used the diode, an Instaspark laser driver, and a 14500 battery.
Using a 1W laser, I have had success cutting throuh plastic (anything besides blue, it is a 405 nm laser), popping balloons, lighting matches, etc. I just used the diode, an Instaspark laser driver, and a 14500 battery.
Using a 1W laser, I have had success cutting throuh plastic (anything besides blue, it is a 405 nm laser), popping balloons, lighting matches, etc. I just used the diode, an Instaspark laser driver, and a 14500 battery.
Using a 1W laser, I have had success cutting throuh plastic (anything besides blue, it is a 405 nm laser), popping balloons, lighting matches, etc. I just used the diode, an Instaspark laser driver, and a 14500 battery.
This will work, but not for a long time. first mistake, laserdiodes don&acute;t last long if they are voltage driven, it&acute;s better to use a constant current source. second, a dvd laserdiode from a 16x dvd writer will not last more than 150mA in that case, if properly cooled by a good heatsink or a TEC you can achieve 250mA. but 500mA or more will cause sudden death of the diode. also laserdiodes don&acute;t like short voltage spikes, they can cause a decrease in output up to the death of the diode and in your supply there is no protection against those spikes. if you really want to burn morethan only black tape, you need more power. I used a cheap 2W IR(808nm) Laserdiode with constant current source. to see the beam for focussing, one can use a digitalcam.
Estimado HuBi no entendi bien lo de la camara pudieras extensor digital Mas El tema
it does work i did it.
ive used dvd lasers to burn everything from balloons to balsa wood
What you really want is an adjustable constant-current driver for any type of laser diode (or even high-powered LED). The circuit provided here which is constant-voltage may seem to work for a little while, but your laser diode will quickly burn out (you may notice it seems like you need to keep increasing the voltage to get the same power which you originally got). There are many constant-current options, from simple linear designs to more complex SMPS designs.
how do u do the dvd burner thing? is there a link?&nbsp; <br /> <br />
first page where it says &quot;Stephanie Maksylewich&quot; 1) click on it 2) hover mouse over &quot;high-tech stuff&quot; 3) then &quot;lasers&quot; 4) then click on &quot;DVD Laser&quot; or similar
My commercial laser came with a honeycomb like grid of metal to set stuff on. The metal is edge on to the laser and lets it mostly pass by as it cuts. You could probably fabricate a grid from thin aluminium. I bet a cardboard grid would even work pretty well. It might get a little cut up as you go, but should be serviceable for a long time.
DVD burner lasers have a max rating of less than 300 milliwatts, how can you claim this will be as strong as industrial lasers?<br><br>Is this going to be able to cut stainless steel? Aluminum? At least acrylic and plastic sheet?
No, you need a 2000 Watt YAG laser to cut metal
Can this cut paper or will it burn?
use a laser cutter for paper? what, scissors not good enough for you?
Try cutting out a complex papercraft model with scissors. <br /> <br />No, scissors are not good enough.
sorry, meant to say touche' (i guess intructables doen't like alt-e
Is there any way to protect your eyes or rest of your body from the laser burning you or blinding you? Would a welding mask work?<br /> <br />
Welding mask is no good.<br /> <br /> You need to buy the correct laser googles i.e. the googles match the wavelength of the laser you are using.<br />
OK. Cool. My dad just told me he has some laser goggles. Thanks!<br />
&nbsp;They won't work if they're not made for the same wavelength as the laser they're supposed to protect you from.
Maybe, maybe not. If the laser can cut it, then the glasses would be safe as a rule of thumb. If it cuts it, then its absorbing the energy, not transmitting it through. The 1500W - 6000W CO2 lasers I service use standard plexiglass windows. Saves ya no prob, but granted that 10,600 nM<br><br>But yes i agree, do some research and make sure they 'fit' your laser.
you mean 1064nm
&nbsp;lol &quot;googles&quot;
A word of safety advice: AC-DC wall jacks usually contain a capacitor, so they can still deliver electricity for a second after being unplugged. This isn't a problem if you unplug them and then turn your device off, because the capacitor will simply discharge through your circuit. However, if you turn the laser off, then unplug the jack from the wall, the capacitor holds its charge. This means that if you hit the on switch again, even if your circuit is not plugged into the wall, the capacitor can turn on the laser for a second. Just be mindful that unplugged doesn't always mean unpowered.
maby the sicssors are enough bout maby he just wants to know
hello sir,its wonderful bt i m from india n v have 230volts 50hz power supply.........can u plz mail me a circuit accordingly on my email id nikhil.patankar390@gmail.com<br>with all specification of laser diode........<br><br>thanks alot
how do I know which leg is VIn, VOut or VAdj? I think I know but I'd rather not take chances.
would it be able to cut cardboard?
What are the things that can be burned with the laser cutter as this?
Could I use a 6V battery to power this laser? He stated that the laser only uses 3.2V max. So would a 6V battery dropped to 3.2V work okay? Thanks.
&nbsp;I want to say to i m legend that YOUR Comment on this man's hard work is very rude and I think is not positive or constructive. Lets See your small converging lens on your laser cutter. anyone else want to see it? I know I do.....
An incredibly good idea and Instructable.<br /> However I don't trust myself working on anything like that.<br />
What's been said about the laser and its output so far is quite right. The Laser will not be able to &quot;cut&quot; anything thicker then 0.25mm.<br/><br/>Here you can see mine:<br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXfRSjHgtxs">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXfRSjHgtxs</a><br/><br/>But it shoud be nice or engraving stuff, if you move and hold it precise of course.<br/>
Would a DVD laser cut foam? (Like pink or blue extruded polystyrene insulation foam?) That could actually be very useful; if you can cut a shape in foam, you can easily mold and cast it, or put a hard surface on it and vacuum form over it. Foam is a bunch of thin-walled bubbles, so cutting through it is like cutting through a bunch of very thin layers of plastic separated by air. I don't know whether to expect that to work, though. I don't know if the frequencies put out by DVD lasers are absorbed well by the plastics that foams are made out of. (And maybe not---I guess they're designed to pass through the polycarbonate plastic that DVD's are made out of. Unless polystyrene has an absorption peak there, where polycarbonate apparently doesn't, the laser beam may just go through a bunch of layers without cutting any of them.) I notice that on your YouTube video, you're engraving a dark-colored plastic. Does it work with light-colored plastic, or does to much of the beam pass through or reflect off?
With a foam, the integrity of the beam is compromised from the shape of the mildly refracting surface of the bubbles in it, causing near instant heat in an area where random gases are expanded with the beam, causing little mini explosions that subtract from the accuracy of the cut before the beam actually gets there. Nothing wrong with your idea except choice of medium for your mold.<br />
The Laser will cut foam, but it will also take a lot of time. Doing it with a knive is faster und more precise. The laser melts and then burns ist away. Real laser engravers use lasers, so powerfull they actually vaporise material away, yielding a nice and clean cut. Indeed those laser only work on dark plastics and dark woods.
so what would it take for me to make a hand-held laser cutter that can penetrate say... 1/8" corrugated steel? just curious...

About This Instructable




More by cgosh:
Add instructable to: