Introduction: Arduino Laser Engraver Wood Design!

Hi everybody, my name is Michiel and I am going to show you how to make an awesome looking laser engraver!

A couple of months ago, there was a CNC challenge here at instructables, while checking out the entries of that contest, I saw some pretty cool engraving machines and I thought: "Why shouldn't I make my own?". And so I did, but I didn't want to make someone else's project, I wanted to make my own. And so my story began... :)

This laser engraver uses a 1.8W 445nm laser module, of course, this is nothing compared to the industrial laser cutters who use lasers of (a lot) more than 50W. But this laser will do well for us. It can cut through paper and cardboard and it can engrave all kinds of wood. I haven't tested other materials yet, but I'm sure it can engrave many other materials. l will let you know! It has a large engraving surface of about 500x380mm.

Who can make this laser engraver? Everybody, if you are an engineer, a lawyer, a teacher or a student like me, you can build this thing! All you have to do is follow this instructable.

It took me about three months to design and build this engraving machine, including waiting for about a month for parts. I said three months, but, I'm only 16 years old, so I could only work in weekends.

++ As you may already know, this 'machine' uses a 1.8W laser with a wavelength of 445nm, the radiation of this laser is very dangerous for your eyes, even a reflection of it! So I strongly advise you to use safety goggles with the wavelength of the laser you use! ++

Step 1: Bill of Materials

You can't make a laser engraver without the parts, so I made a BOM-list with almost everything you need to make it. Almost everything in the BOM is bought from Aliexpress.com because it's cheap and it has free shipping for most items. Other parts like the threated rods and the wooden sheets were purchased at my local DIY company. I ordered the laser and the laser driver on ebay.

UPDATE: I've uploaded the BOM in two formats: one .pdf and one .xlsx since not everybody could open the BOM.

I tried to find the cheapest products for all the parts (shipping not included).

Step 2: Design

Well, It took me a lot of time before I came to this design, first I made a few others, but this one was truly the nicest design i've made (if i may :)). I have drawn all of the parts you need to make on my computer and I uploaded them somewhere in this step (go find them!). If there are missing a few dimensions on some of the drawings, it's because I will tell you later in this instructable or because it really doesn't matter :).
The whole machine is made of MDF sheets with a thickness of 18mm and 12mm.

I made this design also because it would be very easy to attach a Z-axis and a dremel rorary tool so you can convert it to a cnc router.

UPDATE: Do you want to make the parts with a cnc router? No problem! I've uploaded STL files of all the parts so you can easily make them with a laser cutter or cnc router.

**Sorry for the names of al the parts, I thought they would be better.

Of course, I could have made an other simpler design... But hey! Where's the fun of that!

This step in one sentence: Print the drawings! :)

Step 3: Make the Wooden Parts

When you have printed the drawings, draw them on your wooden sheets (the right ones!) and saw them out with a jigsaw. If you don't have a jigsaw, go ask one to your brother, neighbour, cousin, colleague, santa, or go fetch one in your local store. When all the parts are sawed in the right form, it's time to drill the holes.

- The electronics case front and top: These parts don't have a flat side, so I drawed the angle with a pencil on the other sides and used a dremel rotary tool with that sandy bandy thing on it, I don't really know the name of it. If you don't have a dremel yourself, please don't bother your friends again and buy your own dremel! Just kidding, a rotary tool is a very handy tool and you should really buy one.

- The X- and Y-Axis nut supports: These parts have a hexagonal hole in it so they can hold a nut. To make that hexagonal hole, you need to drill a hole with a diameter of 11 mm through the part. Next, put the threated rod in the hole and screw the nuts on both sides, take a pencil and draw the shape of the nut on the part. Remove the nut and the threated rod. Now, take again your dremel and with a little cutter thing on it (see images), cut out that hexagonal hole with a depth of 6 mm and put a nut in it. Have a look at the images, they show wat you need to do.

Step 4: Assemble Your Laser Engraver!

Now, you have all the parts you need to assemble it. The first thing I did here was mounting the door in the electronics case left side with a lock and a hinge (that's the easy part, so I did that first :p ). To assemble the electronics case I used a lot of those L-formed iron pieces with holes in it, I don't know what they're called in English but you'll know what I'm talking about when you see the pictures. If someone knows how to call them, please leave it in a comment, for now, I will just call them 'those things'.

UPDATE: Appearently these L-formed iron pieces with holes in it are called L-brackets. ;)

First, take again the left side of the electronics case and mount the front and the back of the electronics case on it with some of those things I talked about. I didn't use screws or nails to mount the top and the control panel, I just mounted some of those things again and laid the top and the control panel on those things, because when you want to put al the electronics in it, you won't have problems. Don't forget to mount some of those things to the right side of the electronics case, and mount it to the rest of the case.

Put the electronics case away for a second and take the base plate and the X-Axis shaft support pieces and mount them like you see I did in the pictures, make sure the X-Axis shaft + motor support is on the right side of the engraver. Now, you can mount the electronics case the same way you see in the pictures.

Take the two 700mm shafts, slide two linear bearing things on each shaft, put a shaft support on each end of each shaft and mount them to the engraver.

Now you should become something that looks like the 7th picture. If not? Go back a few steps and find out what you did wrong. If yes: keep up the good work!

Put this half laser engraver away for a minute and take the X-Axis moving part and the Y-Axis shaft supports and mount the shaft supports to the X-Axis moving part with some nuts and bolts and attach the two X-Axis nut supports to it. Now, take the two 500mm shafts, slide one linear bearing thing on each shaft, put a shaft support on each end of each shaft and mount them to the engraver.

Mount the Y-Axis nut support to the Y-Axis moving part with nuts and bolts and attach it to the linear bearings with some bolts and attach the threated rods and the stepper motor.

Mount this whole thing to the other half of the engraver and attach the threated rods and the stepper motor.

Now you should become something that looks like the 11th picture.

I've also mounted a wooden piece in the electronics case to mount the stepper drivers.

I've attached the electronics case top, control panel and working sheet after I had put in the electronics, or you can just lay them on your engraver to admire your work and the magnificent design. :)

Step 5: Put in the Electronics

The only thing that's missing now are the electronics, the wires may look like a mess, but if you take your time and lay one wire at a time, it's a quick and easy step.

First, attach all the boards, power supply, relay, laser and control buttons (start, pause and stop) like in the fourth, the fifth and the sixth picture. Also, I used two fans I got from an old computer, these are necessary for the cooling of the laser and the stepper motor drivers.

Secondly, set the stepper drivers like I did in the third picture, these switches let the driver know what the current of your motors is and if you use microsteps. Wtih microsteps, the driver divides every step in multiple steps (the motor needs for example to turn four microsteps to have the effect of one normal step). I decided not to use the microsteps, because one normal step is for my engraver 0.0075mm.

Now, just print the first image and put one wire at a time and note on the printed image which wire you've done and which not. This picture uses other stepper motor drivers because the program I made it with doesn't support the driver I use.

Laser Driver: I didn't really knew what driver I needed to use for the laser, so I looked a little bit around here on instructables and I saw that FamousMods, an other author here on instructables, just used a LED driver from ebay in his instructable.

Stepper motor driver: The stepper motor driver says some weird things like EN-, EN+, CW-, CW+, CLK- and CLK+. You can combine EN-, CW- and CLK- and attach them with a wire to a GND-pin on your arduino. EN+ can go to pin 8. CW+ stans for direction and CLK+ stands for step pulse.

Limit switches: These switches make sure the engraver stops working when one of the axes pushes one of them, this is to prevent damage to the engraver in case something goes wrong. These switches are also used to find the home position of the engraver.

Step 6: Configure Grbl

The software is the only thing left now, so let's begin!

Go to this website and download the latest version of grbl (grbl-master), this is the software we use for our laser engraver.
You also need to download the latest version of arduino IDE.

When you've downloaded grbl, search for the config.h file in the folder named 'grbl' and replace that file with the file I uploaded here somewhere in this step.

When you've done this, open the arduino IDE and go to 'sketch' -> 'import library' -> 'add library' and select the folder named grbl. Select again 'import library' and click on 'grbl'. Now you should become something like the first picture.

Now press, while in the arduino IDE, ctrl+shift+M. This is the serial-monitor, set the baud rate (right bottom of the window) to 115200. You should see something like the second image now.

Press '$$', hit enter and you will see some settings, change them to this:

$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=0.010 (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=3 (homing dir invert mask:00000011)
$24=50.000 (homing feed, mm/min)
$25=500.000 (homing seek, mm/min)
$26=244 (homing debounce, msec)
$27=3.000 (homing pull-off, mm)
$100=133.333 (x, step/mm)
$101=133.333 (y, step/mm)
$102=250.000 (z, step/mm)
$110=500.000 (x max rate, mm/min)
$111=500.000 (y max rate, mm/min)
$112=500.000 (z max rate, mm/min)
$120=10.000 (x accel, mm/sec^2)
$121=10.000 (y accel, mm/sec^2)
$122=10.000 (z accel, mm/sec^2)
$130=500.000 (x max travel, mm)
$131=400.000 (y max travel, mm)
$132=200.000 (z max travel, mm)

And upload it to your arduino.

Step 7: Create and Send Gcodes

To let our laser engraver engrave something, we need to send it some codes, these codes are called gcodes. To create these codes, we will use a program called Inkscape and an extension for it.

To download inkscape, just go to this page and download the stable version 0.48.5 (!), this is very important, because the extension doesn't work in later versions.

Now, download the files I uploaded in this step and place them in the folder C:\Program Files (x86)\Inkscape\share\extensions. Now you can make some gcodes.

*NOTE: Before you make a file or start to engrave, note that the engraver will not colour the picture, you will only see the lines.

1. To create a gcode, first find a line drawing in google images and copy it in inkscape.

2. Select the image and go to Path -> Trace Bitmap and click on OK. Now the image looks a lot sharper (see picture 3). Delete the old image.

3. Choose how large it needs to be.

4. Go to the tab Extensions -> Laser engraver -> Laser. Set the speed, the name and the location of your file and click on OK.

Now all you need to do is send the file to your engraver. To do that , you need to download GRBL controller 3.0

UPDATE: I've seen that GRBL controller 3.0 gives an error when you try to download it, so I have found a good alternative for it named gcodesender.

Before you can send the file to your engraver, you need to let the engraver find his zero position. Click on unlock grbl and send $h to the engraver, after that, click on zero position.

Before you can engrave now, you need to focus the laser, to do that, just click on 'spindle on' and take a little screwdriver and turn the left POT so the laser only has 0.1 amps. Now you can turn the lens until the laser is focussed in one little point. Turn the POT back to 1 - 1.6 amps. Don't give it more than two amps or you will damage the laser!! *experience :)

Now, you can select the file and start to engrave.

If you notice the engraved picture is upside down, just switch the wires of one coil of of the stepper motors.

Step 8: Go Print Some Things!!

Congratulations! You've now made your own laser engraver! The only thing left is to engrave some things, here you have got some examples I've made with my engraver.

If you made this project, don't forget to send me a picture of it, I'd love to see yours
and if you have any questions, you can always send me a mail or leave a comment.

Thanks for reading my instructable!! ;)

Comments

author
ibdropinclips made it!(author)2017-07-05

I have everything wired up, but when I try to home the machine, the stepper motors just stop. When I try to turn them by hand, I can feel resistance, but they don't seem to turn whatever I do. Anybody have any sort of solution for this?

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KevinC423 made it!(author)2017-01-28

Does anyone have a better wiring diagram? This is hard to follow.

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TrevorF25 made it!(author)2017-06-22

Did you ever find a better diagram or resource for this?

Thank you!

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JaydenLawson made it!(author)2017-01-21

Video.MOV doesn't seem to be working

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webweave made it!(author)2017-06-12

Still not working. Anyone have an alt?

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ValnTino made it!(author)2017-05-31

Hi peeps, so I've built this but still waiting for my laser to finally get here. But I need a bit of help.moving the axis up and down finding home etc produces some acceptable noise levels, but when I give it a job it sounds it's grinding gears. The job gets done eventually but the noise is quite much. Any ideas on this or anyone have this issue too with this project? Thanks a mil

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jdampier made it!(author)2017-05-15

This may seem like a dumb question but I am not a programmer, I am interested in this project as an architecture student. Is there any way to cut using PDF files rather than going through Inkscape? Also, how do you control things like scale and positioning the laser? Impressive project, I'm looking forward to giving it a shot

author
JeffreyD26 made it!(author)2017-03-29

I'm ready to wire but have a few questions. what guage wire should I buy and any chance someone has a wiring scematic for this? It's hard to see.

author
woerldedit made it!(author)2017-04-20

I bought 22 for the laser and 26 for the motors. I think 22 is enough, the 26 might be on the small side. There are a lot of charts out there bot they all differ because it depends on how hot you want your wires to be.

Another thing is you need flexible wired for the moving parts. What you want is silikone insulated copper wires with small strands. In the electronics compartment I use stiffer and cheaper wire.

Down in the base (my x-axis) i use a cable chain to keep everything tidy and on the top (y-axis) I use plastic cable wrap so the bending radius is bigger.

IMG_20170420_202332.jpg
author
woerldedit made it!(author)2017-04-17

I hooked up one motor for testing and followed your software steps. I included grbl and uploaded it sucessfully. But in the serial monitor I only got the following message no matter what I type in:

Grbl 0.9j ['$' for help]
error: Expected command letter

I am using an Arduino Uno. This is my second Arduino project. The first one failed and it seems like this one is going to fail as well. Very frustrating!

author
woerldedit made it!(author)2017-03-07

I have a question about the shaft couplers. You are using flexibel ones
but unfortunately my axes dont run very smooth. I am worried that the
couplers will introduce a lot of slack when the screws have to apply a
decent amount of force. My motor controllers have not arrived yet, so I
cant test it.

author
bobobano made it!(author)2017-03-21

I use Flex couplers in all my motors because they allow for slack. The rotational tortion remains the same since they use a high grade medal but the tortion on the side of the motor wont cause it to stall like the solid ones do.

author
rfmdelgado made it!(author)2017-01-31

Anyone used TB6600 instead??? Need help wiring

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fbujold made it!(author)2017-03-06

Not in this project but the problem i had was all negatives (enable, step, dir) have all to be connected to the controller negative

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diverdale made it!(author)2017-01-01

Just saw this as part of the best of 2016. I have most of the parts to make this already...leftovers from an abandoned CNC project. This is very intriguing to me. Thanks for all the detail and the drawings. Anyone know if a 10w laser would cut through acrylic? Or what size would cut through 1/4" acrylic or there about.

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Art-n-Tinker made it!(author)2017-02-13

Try Multiple passes

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askjerry made it!(author)2017-01-01

diverdale: I'm actually thinking of getting this one... 12 watts.

12 W LASER

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diverdale made it!(author)2017-01-02

Yikes! That's a little pricey for now. Think I'll get the little diode for starters and move up to that one later. Thanks for the link. I'll add it to my list of a million things I want ;)

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KevinC423 made it!(author)2017-01-28

In case anyone is looking for a version of Grbl Controller 3.6.1, I found a link here:

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/6233134/GrblCo...

The links posted to Grbl Controller 3.0 found here seem to be broken. Note, this is for Mac. I found the link on this page, so you may be able to find a .exe file there too.

https://github.com/zapmaker/GrblHoming/issues/86

author
DerekJ25 made it!(author)2017-01-02

Just a quick question about the lead screws as I am confused, what are the lengths and sizes of the 2 lead screws.

Confusion partially arises as you use 5mm to 10mm couplings but seem to use 12mm screw. OR am I just being silly?
Thanks ever so much.

author
DerekJ25 made it!(author)2017-01-04

I have found my own answer, you are using 10mm screws.

Thanks anyway.

New question: I can see you say buy the linear support rods from a local store, I cannot find any DIY store that carries them in my country (England, UK), has anyone any experience of buying them from China (ebay) and will they arrived bent?

Thanks ever so much.

author
Kingwell made it!(author)2017-01-19

Theres loads of ebay sellers that sell the linear support rods in the uk(and actually ship from the uk), just search for linear shaft.

Alternatively you could probably go to a local engineering workshop, they're dotted all over the place and are usually pretty oldschool so the yellow pages will probably work better than google.

author
DerekJ25 made it!(author)2017-01-19

Thanks, I have now ordered from banggood.

I am concerned that they will arrive bent and unusable which is one of the reasons I wanted to buy from a local store. As for a local workshop, I tried and they were far too expensive.

Again, thanks.

author
TimothyJ999 made it!(author)2017-01-17

A good source for these kinds of linear motion parts and pieces is banggood.com. They're known for low prices and international shipping to anywhere. They have straight rods from 4mm to 16mm diameter and 100mm to 1000mm lengths. Also acme lead screws in the same range of lengths, bearings, and brass nuts of various sorts.

author
tamtheram made it!(author)2017-01-18

Great job, nice to see youngsters getting into engineering you will go far. You remind me of me at 16. LOL Your idea of cheap is a bit different from mine though, some of the stuff in your BOM like UNO for $20 is high a clone can be bought for < $5 including P&P (I'm real cheap) anyway Great Job

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SJP+Woodcuts made it!(author)2017-01-17

minus the wood how much did this cost you?

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samass_1 made it!(author)2017-01-18

From the BOM on the first page, he totalled it up to 207.80 Euros ($222.11 US)

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samayaraj made it!(author)2017-01-10

Hi,

Nicely done! Looking like a commercial product.

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lluisdoval made it!(author)2017-01-04

Great machine!!!

But I can't understand the laser stage wiring, there's a relay that doesn't appear in the bom list.

Someone linked this relay https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TGTX23I/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_S_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=23DVFGO61YUCZ&coliid=I2KO6CXG6UXMU3&psc=1


Anyone can post the pinout of this stage???

How to connect the driver, the relay to the Arduino?

Thank you very much!

author
DougW30 made it!(author)2016-05-05

So far this is what has been built. Notice the Translucent Orange PETG printer contraption attached to my Laser. It's designed to allow me to monitor the Engraving without glasses as long as I do not look directly into the laser focal point. It has vents built in to allow fumes and smoke to escape without venting directly around laser module and fan. Slide on and off easily.

20160407_080502.jpg20160408_193725.jpg20160503_114040.jpg
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diverdale made it!(author)2017-01-02

Doug, what kind of stuff can you cut with that 10w laser? I'd eventually like to cut reasonably thick acrylic. Not sure if that needs something like the 50w ones commercial cutters use.

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MichielD99 made it!(author)2016-05-09

Hi Doug! Awesome build! It loors really nice with that 10W laser on it. It is really awesome to see that someone has built my engraver, thank you. I will soon post an update on how to upgrade the engraver to engrave with better quality and how to convert it to a cnc router.

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PeterK242 made it!(author)2016-09-05

Please do! I am extremely interested in seeing this project through. There are soooo many things I would do with this....

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aco%C5%9Fgun made it!(author)2016-07-21

Wow, nice idea man congratulations :) I am definetely going to make that orange thing :D

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tury70 made it!(author)2016-05-12

Really cool that you built it. Do you have pics of stuff you did with it? Also did you use it also as a router?

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DougW30 made it!(author)2016-05-24

No plans to use it as a CNC machine, strictly for engraving projects.

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DougW30 made it!(author)2016-05-12

Tury70,
All materials were primarily cut with a table saw. A couple smaller pieces was done on bandsaw. I have many photos taken throughout the build, but I'm not satisfied with the end result of my X axis portion. So I plan to present more on it when I receive the X axis V channel unit which will be flushed into the framework when it arrives.

The issue is the 10mm rod flexes and it's causing an irrating screech and a slight jerkiness motion which is messing up the printing process.

The track drive system will eliminate that problem but bumped up my build cost a bit.

Lessons learned.

More to follow soon.

author
tury70 made it!(author)2016-05-12

So the x portion was bad on where you got it or bad from the material list that was given to make the engraver? I'm planing to get the parts little by little and want to be sure it's the rights parts..... and thanks for the fast reply.

author
DougW30 made it!(author)2016-05-24

So to clarify some details on my last post.

The 100mm shafts I purchased works, but are not designed for this purpose therefore I ran into issues with the nut squealing on the shaft. So I have ordered a 1000mm V-slot setup from Openbuilds.com and will have to cut it down to size to fit existing dimensions. More to follow on that when parts arrive. I also would strongly recommend prior to assembly using something like lithium grease in the journals of the slides to keep the cylindrical bearing from whining when they roll back and forth on the shafts.

author
tury70 made it!(author)2016-05-20

What changes did you do from MichielD99 work? I really want to start building it but but want a 10watt and have big work space say around 500mm of room to engrave. what are your thoughts? I appreciate it.

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BIVS2000 made it!(author)2017-01-01

How much would it cost to make one for me?

I am a woodworker and need one of these but I couldn't tell an amp from a volt.

I am quite serious.

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andysuth made it!(author)2017-01-02

Ive not looked at the BOM on great deyail but you can get arduino uno clones for £4, stepper drivers £2 each, motors £8 each, laser diode £15 MATCHED laser driver £10, linear bearings and slides £10, limit switches £2 each, PSU £15.

Honestly not looked at the BOMor buying these recently, but the main cost will be the Laser diode and driver, go for as powerful as you can get, and get googles to protect from that frequency / wavelength.

author
JianhuiH made it!(author)2016-09-25

Michiel,

Could you please update the links to AliExpress? At least 6 BOM items cannot be found at Ali. Thanks a lot.

J Hong

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redsunmtm made it!(author)2017-01-01

just copy and paste the names of the parts fro amazon to ebay, and done !

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WannaDuino made it!(author)2017-01-01

exactly.

WannaDuino!!!

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WannaDuino made it!(author)2017-01-01

just type it in the search bar, its logic that sellers are sold out, there.

links are always the same problem. i personal would use the search string as links.

WannaDuino!!!

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JimH29 made it!(author)2017-01-01

It doesn't matter how old you are. This is a real achievement. Congratulations. I have a question. I noticed that you had engraved a design on a couple of wooden keychains. Have you experimented with how deep you can engrave into the wood (for example, 1/16 inch) ? Thanks.

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pestulance made it!(author)2017-01-01

does this laser cut or just engrave

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Cross_ made it!(author)2017-01-01

Beautiful design! Looking at the early Dremel work I am amazed by how flawless the final assembly is. My experience from assembling a small CNC mill was lots of issues with the bearings binding / getting stuck on the rods. I am surprised that was not a problem here.

author
Shafwan++Anwer made it!(author)2016-12-25

Hey bro, which one to upload in to the arduino. The first image or third image