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!

Step 1: Supply List and the Shapeoko 2

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:

  • A 2W Copper 445nm M140 Blue Laser Module ($63 on e-Bay)
    • Don't get a module that has a built-in driver designed for use in a laser pointer, unless you only intend to engrave at full power. The module I purchased included:
      • The M140 445nm 2 watt Laser Diode, with soldered wires attached
      • A machined casing
      • A 3-element glass lens. You may wish to use the G-2 lens, but others have reported that this is not necessary and it may over-power the laser to the point where it will be more difficult to get lighter (gray) burns.
    • These modules can usually be found on e-Bay or from DTR's Laser Shop.
      • Though not currently (8/18/2014) listed on the main page, in the past the full modules were listed and available on this site.
  • A FlexMod P3 Laser Driver ($35.99 from InnoLasers)
  • A small piece of 1" x 1/16" Aluminum Angle (cut with a hack saw to 3 1/4")
    • Most local hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowes carry these
  • 2 10-24 3/8" socket screws
  • 2 10-24 1/2" bolts (size here doesn't matter too much as long as you can tap a while to match)
  • Various bolts / screws may be useful. I used several 8-32 bolts.
  • A piece of 1" 6061-T6 Aluminum Bar
    • Note: Making this piece requires the use of a metal lathe. If you do not have access to a metal lathe you can purchase a separate heat sink designed to work with your laser module, or you can use alternate construction techniques to adapt a CPU cooler to properly hold your laser module.) I'll show you how I did it, but this part isn't critical -- what is critical is that you keep your laser module cool!
  • A CPU Cooler suitable for holding and ventilating your laser module.
    • I used an inexpensive MASSCOOL Model 9T288B1M3G which is compatible with Intel Socket LGA 478 CPUs. I found this at a local computer parts store.
    • Note: The important thing here is to have a way to transfer heat from the laser module to keep it cool. The CPU cooler is also convenient in that it provides a fan for additional cooling and for ventilating away smoke produced by burning (caused by the laser hitting it's target), and because it is easy to mount to the Shapeoko 2.
  • A power supply for you CPU fan (if used) - A simple wall wart that outputs the proper voltage for the CPU fan (usually 12 volts) will suffice.
  • A power supply for your FlexMod P3 Laser Driver. If you want a setup like mine, you can use an HQ Power PS1503SB, adjustable DC power supply. This power supply is helpful because it shows the current draw -- which is a good indication of how much power is going to your laser diode. Nevertheless, a 6 to 9 volt wall-wart providing DC power will suffice. (I keep my power supply set at 6 volts.)
  • Laser Safety Goggles for 445nm Lasers! Don't skimp here, you only have one set of eyes. Make sure to have a separate pair of safety goggles for ANYONE that may be in the same room when the laser is in use! I personally use 2 different types of goggles, sometimes wearing both pair at once to provide additional protection. One of the types I uses is "Eagle Pair® 190-540nm & 900-1700nm Laser Safety Goggles". These can be purchased from survival-laser. Note that the are CE certified OD 4+.
  • Various misc. hardware and tools, including drill bits and taps, a die for threading, saws, etc.

Tools Used:

  • Hacksaw or metal cutting bandsaw (unless you make a different laser module mount/heatsink)
  • Drill Press (You might be able to get by with a hand drill)
  • Metal Lathe able to turn 1" bar stock. (See the "Laser Mount" page for details on options that do not require this tool.)
  • Soldering Iron and good solder
<p>Thanks for the tutorial. The only differences I did was that I bought this inexpensive Amazon laser controller, which appears to work well (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B012FOFGAC?psc=1&amp;redirect=true&amp;ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o07_s00). Also, I just use the 1 power supply off of my Shapeoko 2 and run the 24 volt to my voltage converter, also from Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/RioRand-Adjustable-Regulator-Experimental-Converter/dp/B00HVB29LY/ref=sr_1_1?s=industrial&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1454477512&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=dc+voltage+converter+40v).</p>
<p>amccoy9 - Thanks! I'm glad it worked for you. I also noticed Amazon has a lot of options now for heat sink/mounts.</p><p>Does the TTL on that driver work with the PWM to support grayscale? If so that would be good as a lot of people have commented on the difficult of finding the FlexMod driver.</p>
Here is the picture.
Here is the picture I burned from PicLaser. Im quite pleased with this, the quality is excellent for it being just my second run of the machine. I still need to fiddle with the focal length and materials.
I think so, but I'll tell you for sure later tonight when I try to burn a picture using PicLaser. I made that star in MakerCam and had it just set the laser all the way on.
<p>For Andrew or anyone. To use this in laser mode, every file/document will need to have the additional info added every time? </p><ul><li>Add $L1 to put the controller in Laser Mode<li>Add <br> a line with G0 Z0 to turn the laser intensity to zero.<li>Add a <br> line with G0 Z255 to turn the laser to full intensity. <li>When the job is done, shut the laser off with G0 Z0.</ul>
<p>Yes, thank you. Also M3/M5 can be used to turn the laser on and off if properly setup.</p>
<p>Thanks for the reply. Have you made any updates to the hex file lately?</p>
<p>What do you understand for &quot;inexpensive&quot; program???</p><p>PicLaser Lite costs 29,95$</p>
Yes, PicLaser Lite is great for generating GRBL from a photo. $29.95 USD is great. If you are not engraving photos you can use MakerCAM or others similar. I also use the much more expensive Cut2D, simply because MakerCAM can't handle much.<br><br>Best Wishes.
<p>Hey,</p><p>what about this driver...<a href="http://www.ebay.de/itm/191497328774?_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT" rel="nofollow">http://www.ebay.de/itm/191497328774?_trksid=p20578...</a></p>
<p>Great projects.. and some questions.. Can I use this laser ? (12v, 450nm, 2w) ?</p><p>I dont understand the part about the input V.. (&quot;The input power to the driver should be approximately 6 volts. A little more is fine but keep it under 8 volts&quot;)... Is this laser dependent?</p><p>Thanks !!</p>
<p>Other than the Flexmod P3, is there another laser driver that will work, or a good schematic to build one?</p>
Impressive ! Can it cut patterns from a sheet of paper / cardboard too ?
<p>Yes, definitely. Sometimes it takes more than one pass depending on thickness and color, etc.</p>
<p>Just to follow-up on this question, I used this a few days ago to cut a 12&quot; star (using makercam) from vinyl. It was used as a mask when I painted the nose cone in this 6&quot; diameter, 102&quot; tall high power rocket...</p>
<p>That looks pretty awesome :) ! and congratulations on your win !</p>
Yes, it definitely can cut patterns from paper or cardboard. The only question is how slow to make the feed rate given the thickness of what is being cut. Since you are burning it, you might need to make more than one pass at a higher feed rate to keep from burning the edges around it too much.<br>
<p>That's great !</p>
<p>Hey be carefull the site <a href="https://innolasers.com/shop/index.php?id_product=11&controller=product" rel="nofollow">InnoLasers</a>.com only charges your credicard but does not send the product or answer the mesages. You can search in internet many people have done the same thing. Not answer messages, telephone or email. no way you refound the money, your lost your money and credicard information.</p>
<p>Try one of these drivers: </p><p><a href="http://jtechphotonics.com/?page_id=126" rel="nofollow">http://jtechphotonics.com/?page_id=126</a></p><p>They have additional safety features, and they will work with PicLaserLite using a new GRBL hex file that integrates my changes for controlling intensity, adapted to their driver. You can also pick up laser modules from them and laser safety glass, etc.</p>
<p>The next best option for the Flexmod P3 is this analog/TTL driver.</p><p><a href="http://www.ebay.com/itm/3A-analog-laser-diode-driver-with-thermal-protection-for-445nm-638nm-520nm-diode-/161353680119?pt=US_Stage_Lighting_Controllers_Dimmers&hash=item25916dc4f7" rel="nofollow">http://www.ebay.com/itm/3A-analog-laser-diode-driv...</a></p>
<p>Author's Note: I recently found this website and tool for making <br>gcode. It looks very promising! I've not tried it yet but will soon. I <br> think the only edit necessary will be to change the letter S to Z (to <br>change from spindle speed to Z-axis), after turning on $L1 laser mode. </p><p><a href="http://jtechphotonics.com/?page_id=1980" rel="nofollow">http://jtechphotonics.com/?page_id=1980</a></p><p>There are instructions for use on the page.</p>
<p>Yes, it should be able to remove the paint coating. Nevertheless, it may take some experimentation to get right -- it may take more than one pass, and depending on the coating you may fixed results.</p><p>You can also try spraying the lighter with Dry Moly and then marking it. The dry moly will change and to yellow/gold where it is hit with the laser. You could probably leave it on the lighter, or try to remove it with acetone. It works on tile but takes a few passes to look good.</p>
<p>hi</p><p>what the type of laser can i use</p><p>i want to know if the laser removes the powder coated paint from the surface of the Zippo Lighter to reveal the bare brass metal underneath.</p><p>like this video on youtube</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/-Zjwc1OIHZU" width="500"></iframe></p>
<p>Hi</p><p>I'm trying to create a cnc laser myself and using your project as a referance.</p><p>first of all, i have to say you did a great work and i can't wait for my laser machine to work that well.</p><p>anyway, i'm having a lot of troubles. i bet you could help me.</p><p>1. i downloaded the HEX file from the github directory with the laser mode. i flashed it to my arduino using Xloader and tried to access the arduino using Grbl Controller 3.6.1. it returned a &quot;No data from com port after connect, Expected a grbl virsion string&quot;. could the hex file be corrupted?</p><p>2. my machine using a CoreXY mechnism. and I have a working GRBL HEX file to run the steppers with the CoreXY configuration. my question is which files should i replace in the CoreXY directiory with files from your LaserMode directory in order to get bot CoreXY motion and Lase Mode Feature.</p><p>3. after i merged the files, how do I generate an HEX file to flash into my arduino.</p><p>I'm not a programmer, so i'm sorry if my questions sound trivial, but i'm experiancing a lot of frustration with this machine. </p><p>I would really appreciat your help.</p><p>If you'd like i can show you my machine (and my problems) on a video chat, </p><p>Best Regards</p><p>Liran Ankri</p>
<p>Yes, I think it should work fine. The reason for selecting the FlexMod P3 is the modulation support. A PWM pulse on the Mod input allows you to vary the laser intensity. I don't actually use the output loop monitor or the interlock option IIRC.</p>
<p>About the FlexMod P3 the store said this:</p><p>This product is no longer in stock with those attributes but is available with others.</p><p>whit the optinion interlock,output loop monitor,</p><p>there is only with the option: standby supression kit. Is this ok for the Project?</p>
<p>can you add a 4th axis to burn around round objects like pens?</p>
<p>Others have experimented with this, but, it requires a different controller. The GShield can only control 3 axis. Here is an example discussion on the Shapeoko forums: </p><p>http://www.shapeoko.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=30&amp;t=2819&amp;start=10</p>
<p>Don't look at the beam with your REMAINING eye :)</p>
<p>Oh my, this is so cool. Way, way impressive!</p>
I'm going to make a tardis when I get on

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Bio: I've been writing software since I was in the 6th grade. In recent years I've developed for Blue Coat Systems, what I believe ... More »
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