Picture of Arduino Laser Engraver
I started this project because I wanted to make something that had mechanical, electrical and software components. After looking around on Instructables, I figured that an Arduino based laser engraver would be an interesting machine to make, and that the machine itself could make interesting things. Laser diodes have also advanced quite a lot in the last few years, allowing reasonably powerful DIY laser engravers to be made without the hassles of laser tubes.

This machine can engrave wood and cut paper. I haven't tried other materials yet because there is no fume extraction capability - plastics generally create toxic gases when burnt.

SAFETY WARNING - Please be safe when using lasers. The laser used in this machine can cause permanent eyesight damage, and probably even blindness. When working with powerful lasers (>5mW), always wear a pair of laser safety glasses designed to block your laser's wavelength.

For a quick overview of the guts of the machine, have a look at the video below
(Note: The machine runs slightly faster now, and also has a different laser heatsink to the one in the video)

For pictures of engravings, skip to the end, or visit my website's gallery:

A spreadsheet containing the parts list is below.

Also, for any Aussies unsure about the laser import laws, I've attached the current rules (at Dec 2013) below. Laser diodes and laser modules (such as the one in this machine) are legal, however laser pointers are prohibited.
This is a pdf version of the following webpage:
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Step 1: Frame Design

Picture of Frame Design
Before starting construction, I made a CAD model of the machine to make sure that everything would fit, and to figure out the dimensions of the parts. Some screenshots of the machine's CAD model are above.

The y-axis is on the bottom of the machine, and provides a moving base for the engraved piece. The x-axis is on the top, and moves the laser assembly (the laser isn't shown in the model).
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Can I engraver about a .3mm height of characters that small?

getburnt (author)  sam.nguyen.16915 days ago

0.3mm is very small! Do you mean 0.3cm / 3mm? The smallest I've tried is 2mm character height, and that is still very sharp and readable.

MircoS1 month ago

Hello, sorry for my english ..

I can with Arduino + grbl change the laser power such as using the gcode G97 spindle RPM?

or do you have other ideas?

thanks for the reply

getburnt (author)  MircoS1 month ago

I haven't tried it, but it looks like Grbl 0.9 has PWM output for spindle RPM. So, you should be able to control laser power if you use that output pin (D11). You might need to edit your gcode files manually, to set the correct values.

(My machine doesn't have software control for laser power - I just use a potentiometer)

MircoS getburnt1 month ago

thank you very much.

I installed grbl 0.9 and I was able to use the 11-pin PWM.


TimSwift1 month ago

What was the total cost of the project?


getburnt (author)  TimSwift1 month ago

About $1200 - $1300 Australian Dollars. The ballscrews and their mounting parts and were the most expensive items (about $400 total), and the steppers/drivers were also a big cost ($200 total). There are some approximate part costs in the spreadsheet on the first page

johnnyBOY3142 months ago

Belt speed should be faster.

pierreh12 months ago

hi my gcode sender does not work why would that be and how do i know if the engraver is on how does the on/off work on the arduino plz reply ASAP plz thax

getburnt (author)  pierreh12 months ago

The Gcode sender is only needed for vector mode (Step 9) - is that the mode you want to use? For vector mode, you'll need to install GRBL on the Arduino. You might need to check your serial port settings if the Gcode sender doesn't communicate with GRBL

pierreh1 getburnt2 months ago
Hi. Not one of the sketches work on the arduino
getburnt (author)  pierreh12 months ago

Are there any error messages? Are you able to upload the arduino sketch to your arduino? If you're not using an arduino Mega, you'll have to change the "LASER" pin to a different pin number. Also, what motor hardware are you using? The sketch assumes that the stepper drivers accept step/direction pulses.

pierreh1 getburnt2 months ago
Hi. How do i install GRBL on the arduino?? And. On the arduino. How do i wire pin 1 and pin 0. For on/off. That part im struggling with. Thax for your reply. And thax for a
great project
getburnt (author)  pierreh12 months ago

If you're just trying to get your machine working, I'd suggest using raster mode (Step 8) instead. It is easier to troubleshoot with my Arduino sketch (you might need to modify the pin assignments because I used an Arduino Mega). Once you have uploaded the sketch, you can use the Arduino IDE Serial monitor to manually drive the machine. You can send it instruction characters such as 1, 3, 5 or 7 (move right, left, down or up), and check if your motors move correctly. The laser is turned on/off by the instruction characters 9 and 0. If you need further guidance, send me an email - my address is

TrueHybridX3 months ago

How were you swapping between the vector and raster modes?

With reading the instructable I logically think during raster mode it seems the machine would be jumpy as it goes from pixel to pixel, is that not the case?

getburnt (author)  TrueHybridX3 months ago

Hi, I used different software on the Arduino. For raster mode, I used my Arduino sketch. For vector mode, I installed an unmodified version of GRBL on an Arduino Uno.

(Note: GRBL 0.8c didn't work on an Arduino Mega. I'm not sure if the current version of GRBL supports the Mega).

Would it be possible to get a copy of the code for your desktop app? Or maybe post it on github? I want to give a go at getting it working on my Linux box
getburnt (author)  TrueHybridX3 months ago

Yes, I've sent you a private message

01010010004 months ago

meantime thanks for sharing this project !!!
and could you help me with the part about the laser?
you have a scheme for newbie for the PCB that you did? and all the necessary materials including laser, lens ecc ecc?
many many thanks

getburnt (author)  01010010003 months ago

I've sent you a private message

Thanks for the reply, but I can not find the PM :-(
getburnt (author)  01010010003 months ago

Sometimes the messages take a few hours to appear haha. I've sent you an email :)

Thanks for the reply, but I can not find the PM :-(
Thanks for the reply, but I can not find the PM :-(
Thanks for the reply, but I can not find the PM :-(
ElmerC5 months ago

algun diodo laser que me recomienden y donde puedo adquirirlo o comprarlo

atradeceria mucho su respuesta Gracias.

I recommend a laser diode and where I can buy or purchase
Thank you very much for your response atradeceria .

getburnt (author)  ElmerC5 months ago

Hi, (the US site) is probably the best place to buy a diode. I bought mine from the seller "dtr-lpf"

I'd recommend a 2W 445nm blue diode, in a copper Aixiz module, with three-element-glass lens.

Terr0rb0t6 months ago


I implemented your software into our existing Laser engraver/cnc machine. Everything went fine at first, I installed the required .NET -frameworks etc. I made a test run with the Arduino logo picture that you supplied. The image was a bit off, which i wrote down to differences between our setups/high speed/insufficient torque. So i went and editet a stock B&W photograph into what i thought would be more suitable for checking how the system handled halftones and such. and now..

What ever I do, the Processing sketch starts uploading the same (badly photoshopped/prepped) photograph and burning it onto the surface. What I mean, is even if I remove all the processing files and all other files related to this project, after downloading and processing the stock arduino logo-photo through your Image converter and re-configuring both the arduino and processing sketches (only minor changes such as COM- port value) I still get only this one crappy image to run. Nothing seems to change this,

I really like your software/project and would like to keep using it. I just can't figure out how sketch can run a file that doesn't even exist anymore.

I checked also the Imagearray-file and found that it was generated anew each time I process a different picture, so i guess the problem is not there.

I'm sorry for any typos and misspelling/usage of words/terms. I'm not a native speaker.

Long story short: The processing sketch prints the same image over and over no matter what I do/what parameters i change.

Thansk beforehand, as this is probably a problem originating from my mediocre computer skill, any help is appreciated.

getburnt (author)  Terr0rb0t6 months ago


There could be a few reasons for this problem. The first thing to check is the generation of the "cncinstructions.txt" file using the C# program. You need to make sure that you delete any existing "cncinstructions.txt" file in the folder. If there is an old file in there, the C# program will just append to the file. This could explain why you're seeing the Arduino image whenever you engrave, because it is always at the start of the file.

The second thing to check is that the "cncinstructions.txt" file is copied to the correct directory for the Processing sketch.

Also, regarding halftones, the software (in it's current state) won't handle them at all. The C# program is written to check the value of the red subpixel in each pixel of the image. If it is zero (i.e. black), it is considered to be a pixel that should be engraved. If it is any other value (1 to 255), it is considered to be a blank pixel - dithering is used to show shades of grey (when viewed from a distance).

If you'd like to have a closer look at the C# program, I can email the source code to you (my email is I have tried grayscale (using a PWM signal for laser intensity) and it does work, but the results are heavily dependent on the material being burnt - I've found dithering to be a good compromise.

jgzifly7 months ago

This is an impressive project. I intend to make one. I have the stepper motors and some of the hardware that I used on another project that didn't give me the repeatability I wanted. It used MECH3 and GCODE created from Sketchup vector files for cutting using a dremal tool to cut 6mm foam board. I want to switch to laser cutting, but I will start with your laser engraving first. The foam board cutting may take a stronger laser or multiple passes ad different levels. It will require cutting to 3 different depths. (score the top layer, cut half way thru and cut all the way thru). That will require a third axis or maybe controlling the speed of the cut, or controlling the strength of the laser.

I noticed that used speed to control weather to burn a pixel or not. Would using half speed give you somewhat of a gray scale.

I am a retired programmer. I like to make flowcharts of processes. See my attached flowcharts, pages 1-2.

Flowchart Page 1.bmpFlowchart Page 2.bmp
getburnt (author)  jgzifly7 months ago

Those are some great charts, and they summarise the process well.

Currently, in both raster and vector (GRBL) modes, the laser is just switched on and off when needed. In raster mode, the speed change is only there because the laser needs some more time to burn a mark (when the laser is passing over blank pixels, it is off).

To control the depth of the cut, it is probably best to digitally control the laser intensity. I'd suggest trying to configure PWM control of the laser. I'm not sure how to get this working in GRBL (I'm just using spindle on/off to control the laser), but it is relatively simple to add this capability to my original C# program (I've emailed it to you). I can confirm that the laser driver circuit described in this instructable can work with a PWM signal, and the laser intensity does vary with PWM duty cycle.

zero2one138 months ago

sir can i have your cad file? tp get the detailed measurements for the frame, if its alright. thanks.... :)

imont8 months ago

can you explain the steeps to print raster image, how do set the place where to print? how do you send the firle to print_? what do you charge in your arduino?

getburnt (author)  imont8 months ago

Here are some detailed steps. Let me know if there is a section that you'd like more details about.


Upload "cncmotors_driver3.ino" to the Arduino
through the Arduino IDE (sketch editor).

You can edit parameters such as time
delays and the "scalefactor" variable to match your machine, then upload to the Arduino


The Processing sketch streams the text file to the Arduino. Try
the steps below to get it working:

Copy the "textfilestreamer2.pde" file to a
location on your computer. As an example, I'm going to use "C:\"

Open the "textfilestreamer2.pde" file. If
Processing has been installed correctly, a popup message will appear, and tell
you that the file needs to be inside a sketch folder. Click ok, to create the

You will now have the folder "C:\textfilestreamer2\"

Create the folder "C:\textfilestreamer2\data\"

Copy the text file you generated and paste it into

In Processing, click "Run"

It should start sending data to your Arduino - the Rx/Tx
status LEDs on your Arduino should start flashing.

Note: The Processing sketch has been configured to use
"COM3" to talk to the Arduino. If your Arduino is on a different COM
port, you can either change it to COM3 in Windows Device Manager, or edit the
sketch to match your configuration.

Setting Start Position:

You can use the serial monitor in the Arduino
IDE (sketch editor), to send manual user inputs and set the start position.

Click "Tools" -> "Serial Monitor". Then, you can enter
the numbers 1,3,5 or 7 to move the X/Y position. For example, sending the text
"1111111111" will send instructions to make the laser move 10 steps (1mm) to the right.

imont getburnt8 months ago
thanks a lot, now is very clear. One more question, in order to set the speed of the motors, i must to use the same size of stepper motor in both axis (x,y) Is this correct?
getburnt (author)  imont8 months ago

Yes, I recommend using the same motors for both axes, so that properties such as the number of steps per revolution are the same.

The motor speed is set by the variables "shortdelay" and "longdelay" in the Arduino sketch. A smaller delay will result in the motor rotating faster, but if it is too small, the motor will stall.

Also, if you are using different motors, with different steps/rev, you can still use them, but you may need to modify the Arduino/Processing sketches, to correct image distortions.

imont8 months ago

can you explain the steps for raster engraving please, i only know ho to get the instruction from the image, then i lost, i have the processing.exe but i dont know how to send the image to my cnc laser

andrew_h1 year ago
How did you go getting the laser 1.5W modules into Australia or did you buy them locally somehow? I've got a chinese CNC machine that i've been thinking about adding a laser engraver to for ages - This would be an easy mod...
jonrb andrew_h9 months ago

I know I'm very late to this one, but for the benefit of anybody else wondering about this, I thought I'd answer.

Depending on your state, laser diodes themselves aren't actually outlawed. Victoria, for example, bans only the importing of laser pointers, which it defines as being handheld battery powered devices. Importing the diode itself is fine, and if they confiscate it, you have the right to whine.

getburnt (author)  andrew_h1 year ago
Yeah, I had the same concerns before I bough the lasers from the US. When I checked the Customs restrictions, my understanding was that only fully assembled portable lasers (eg those flashlight / torch types) are illegal. It should be legal to import the laser modules that I've used because they can't actually work until you add extra electronics.
If you're unsure, you could also check with the seller to see if they've encountered any problems delivering to Australia.
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