If you own or plan to build a Shapeoko 2 CNC Milling Machine, this Instructable will walk you through the steps necessary to be able to add a 2 watt laser capable of printing grey-scale images on many surfaces. You will also find details on how to engrave at full power.
I will take you through all of the steps necessary to build your laser, to control it from the Shapeoko 2's GRBL CNC controller, including modifications needed to the controller's software to enable gray-scale output by varying the laser intensity. I will walk you through the software for photo engraving as well as engraving of more traditional Shapeoko / MakerCAM / Inkscape images.
Though I would personally love to own an Epilog Laser, this Instructable will guide you through building a tool that can do many of the same things albeit at a slower speed. It is a great tool for any Maker and you will find hundreds of uses!
If you follow the instructions in this Instructable, it is absolutely necessary to obtain AND use proper eye protection. A 2 watt laser can blind you instantly! It can also start a fire and quickly ruin anything it is focused on! DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS PROJECT WITHOUT TAKING ALL NECESSARY SAFETY PRECAUTIONS AND WITHOUT FULLY UNDERSTANDING THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH USING A HIGH POWER LASER AND CNC MACHINERY. YOU ONLY HAVE ONE SET OF EYES, DON'T RUIN THEM!
The Shapeoko 2 is an Open Hardware desktop CNC mill. Complete kits may be purchased online or you can acquire the parts and build a customized version of the Shapeoko 2 to fit your needs. Details of the Shapeoko 2 can be found at http://www.shapeoko.com/.
When I built my Shapeoko 2 from the full kit offered by Inventables.com, I ordered several of the upgrades. For this project you will not need most of them. In particular, if you plan to follow the instructions in this project that allow for gray-scale image printing by varying laser intensity, don't install the limit switches. Limit switches may be added but it will require additional changes to the GRBL controller so that they can be sensed on a different Arduino pin. (More to follow in additional steps.)
The upgraded wasteboard is helpful. I purchased the Drag Chain upgrade but found no use for it. You will notice in my photos that I've run most of the cables through a small piece of PVC pipe attached with cable ties. This has worked very well.
In my opinion, the GShield Enclosure and fan are very useful upgrades.
If you don't already have an operational Shapeoko 2, this is your first step. Assemble it according to the directions on the Shapeoko website. Run the "marker" test. You don't need the spindle for this project, but having it will make your Shapeoko 2 more valuable. After following the instructions in this Instructable, the laser can be easily removed when you want to do CNC milling with the spindle.
One final note on the Shapeoko 2: The instructions provide methods of wiring the machine that do not require soldering. I chose to solder and then heat-shrink all of the wires that were connected, to provide for a longer lasting solution.
In addition to a functional Shapeoko 2, you will need the following supplies: