Introduction: Convert Any 3D Printer to Laser Engraver

Picture of Convert Any 3D Printer to Laser Engraver

What is up guys, In this instructable I am gonna show you how to conver any 3d printer into a powerful 2.5 w laser engraver capable of cutting wood and engraving into almost every material(except metals).

Step 1: Laser and Equipment

Picture of Laser and Equipment

So, We are gonna start this project by firstly choosing the right laser module for our needs.

Starting with 500mw laser you will be only able to engrave some shapes into wood, plastic or leather and you can get that one really cheap for 35 €.

Furthermore, With higher power output lasers you are able to engrave deeper, quicker and also cut some plywood , and that is the reason why I chose a 2.5W laser which is just strong enough to cut 4mm plywood with multiple passes.

Here is the list of a few different lasers and a 5v regulator:

► 500mW Laser: https://goo.gl/Upg5GQ
►1.6W Laser : https://goo.gl/Sbs6h9

►1W Laser: https://goo.gl/P55uD9

►2W Laser: https://goo.gl/P55uD9

►2.5W Laser: https://goo.gl/P55uD9

►5.5W Laser: https://goo.gl/P55uD9

►10W Laser: https://goo.gl/P55uD9

► 5V regulator: https://goo.gl/TVSTJW

And when handling with laser dont forget to put on some safety glasses!!

Step 2: Preparing Printer for Laser

Picture of Preparing Printer for Laser

SO, I firstly detach a fan and extruder and remove the mainholder so I can drill 2 holes for the screws that are gonna secure a laser to the printer.

Secondly, we are gonna need 12v to 5v voltage regulator which is necesarray to control the power output of the laser.

3d printer fan port provides 12v at full power but Laser ttl modul only accepts a voltage up to 5v, so that is why we need a voltage step down regulator.

So, after soldering that together, I connect laserd diode, fan, ttl port and main power input to the smal motherboard that you receive with the laser.

For the main power source I am gonna use this regulated dc power supply but you can use any 12V power adaptor capable of providin at least 2 amps.

Step 3: Installing Laser

Picture of Installing Laser

Autohome all axes and try to turn on the fan somewhere from 1-255.

As you can see the laser is turned off at 0 and outputing the maximum power at 255.

Now I would suggest you place a piece of paper on the bed and reduce the power to a minimum so we can better see if our point is in focus or not. You can simply adjust that with a small knob on the laser itself.

After you manage to do that, lets hop to the computer and download the needed software for engraving.

Step 4: Full Image/infill Engraving

Picture of Full Image/infill Engraving

Firstly, download an inkscape software and two plugins for laser engraving.

► Inkscape: https://inkscape.org/en/
► Full infill plugin: https://github.com/305engineering/Inkscape

► Outline/cutting plugin: https://jtechphotonics.com/?page_id=2012

After installing the inkscape, extract both plugins and copy the content to the written location.

Now, simply open the inkscape and firstly define the workspace of your printer.

After that import your favorite logo and vectorise it by clicking trace bitmat command.

Also, dont forget to resize the image to the final dimensions and place it in the left bottom corner.

So now, the first plugin we are gonna use is the one that are going to fully engrave the whole image on our material. Set the speed around 1000 and click apply.

The g-code will be generated in the txt file so open it and replace txt ending with .gcode and that is it.

As you can see that method is pretty slow but it can engrave some really nice logos and also greyscale images but I will cover that up in the next tutorial

Step 5: Outline Engraving/cutting

Picture of Outline Engraving/cutting

So the second methond is almost the same, you need to set the right engraving speed and how many passes you want which is very practical if you want to cut some plywood.

I managed to cut balsa wood with only few passes but that is not the most amaizing part.

2.5 w laser is also capable of cutting some 4mm plywood but it takes a bit more time and much more passes but all in all, it is very practical equipment for all tech and diy enthusiasts.

And yea if you are into electronics you would also be able to create your own circuits and many other things...

If you have any questions about the build, I would love to answer them and help you with problems that occored during the build process.

Thank you for reading this instructable, I also made a video tutorial on youtube, so you are welcome to check it out.

Jake

Step 6: Watch a Video

Comments

Kdemon (author)2017-11-22

I'm in the process of attaching a 405nm laser at 500mw to my Prusa i3 MK2. Any reasons I shouldn't power the 12v laser using the heating element off the board? I could just wire it to the 12V 20A power supply?

CliffordLeeBurton (author)2017-11-03

I'm planning to buy the 5.5W or 10W laser, can it also cut steel or aluminum?

Hi, That is great choice! Unfortunately, metals can not be cut by these type of lasers but you can cut almost every possible organic material(wood, plastic, cardboard..)

Jake

reddxx (author)2017-10-30

Great idea! Waiting the parts and your gray scale tutorial! Thanks for your instructable!

Jakes workshop (author)reddxx2017-11-02

Thanks you! Grayscale tutorial is out so dont forget to check it out :)

Dandeman321 (author)2017-10-30

Did you set up any sort of ventilation system?

Not yet, but If you plan to engrave more times per week that is a must :)

Razanur (author)2017-10-30

Hey,
Thanks for this tutorial. I've been thinking of upgrading my 3D printer for quite a while now. One of the things I would love to be able to do would be to cut plexiglass. Have you tried it? What would it take to cut transparent plexiglass?

Razanur (author)Razanur2017-10-30

Oh and I was wondering if you considered using a voltage divider instead of a linear regulator (BTW what you are using is a linear voltage regulator, not a step-down. A step-down would actually not work for this purpose!).

Razanur (author)Razanur2017-10-30

And one more question :D
I've read quite a few comments on similar lasers (and UV lasers in general), that the spots are line-shaped and hard to get a small focus point. Have you noticed/had any problems with that?

Jakes workshop (author)Razanur2017-11-02

Yes, that is a good question! Actually the laser itself is a rectangle point instead of circle but you can focus it to such small point you could not see the ractangle shape anymore just a small dot.

Jakes workshop (author)Razanur2017-11-02

hi, I haven't tried to cut plexi but I think you would need to buy stronger laser for that

Ralphxyz (author)2017-10-30

Thanks, finally someone has thought this out for me. Been "thinking" of doing this for a few years but never took the time to think out the details. THANK YOU!

Ralph

Jakes workshop (author)Ralphxyz2017-11-02

Ralph, I am glad you like it!

Jake

Xylit0l (author)2017-10-30

is that a sunhokey?

Jakes workshop (author)Xylit0l2017-11-02

Sure :)

kraiv (author)2017-10-31

What is the power of the laser module needed for cutting acrylic glass 5-10 cm thick?

Jakes workshop (author)kraiv2017-11-02

haven't tested that yet, but the laser shoul be definitelly more than 5W

chingada (author)2017-11-01

cool project 2 tools in one just fine tune the conversion

Antzy Carmasaic (author)2017-10-26

I'm planning to do the reverse. I have a CNC router + laser cutter which I'm planning to convert to a 3D printer

Razanur (author)Antzy Carmasaic2017-10-30

See Kinnishian's comment. If space is not too much of a constraint, consider having at least two devices.

Antzy Carmasaic (author)Razanur2017-10-30

Yeah I totally get that. Although I do think that 3D printers and laser cutters are both quite similar in frame requirement and so a 3D printer can be upgraded to a laser cutter without too much of a compromise, as shown in this instructable. The reverse obviously isn't true as laser cutters only have 2 axes.

CNC routers on the other hand require a very solid frame and people who convert 3D printers to CNC routers get bad results. The reverse is possible as we'll be having many order of more strength than required for 3D printing. As Kinnishian pointed out, for strength axes have heavier loads and so can't be moved as fast as a dedicated 3D printer. But the end result will still be good, just that it will take a bit more time. And since I already have a CNC router, why not strap an extruder+hotend+driver combo(around $25) on it and get a perfectly good(but slow) 3D printer? Better than not having a 3D printer at all or buying a complete 3D printer for $200(cheapest one on market!).

Razanur (author)Antzy Carmasaic2017-10-31

Your logic is sound. And it will probably work (though it'll be a lot of work). I would have wholeheartedly agreed before I got my 3D printer (actually I had a similar plan as you, but then someone offered a 3D printer that was too good to refuse). But: even with a decent 3D printer (Ultimaker 2+), a fist-sized print on not-so-crappy settings (not too thick layers) can take up to a day (20hrs or so). So "a little longer" might easily become "too long to bother".

Antzy Carmasaic (author)Razanur2017-10-31

Right you are, but the funny thing is CNC routers have very small Z axis travel. Mine only has 3.5-4cm Z travel. So it is actually not possible to make fist-sized parts. That's another disadvantage but I plan on building project enclosures so not too much of a worry and will help me get my feet wet. If I find 3D printing interesting enough and worth the time and money, will buy a cheap printer like Tevo Tarantula.

mgoodfel (author)2017-10-30

Tech2C did this on his Hypercube design. See

I copied him on my DIY printer, but I didn't have quite the same result. No matter how many passes, I can't seem to cut all the way through 3mm Birch plywood. It just produces a wide cut with a lot of ash. To even start to cut acrylic, I have to remove the paper first, which he doesn't.

You can easily cut card stock for papercraft projects, but it leaves a lot of ash on the edges that gets all over things. And don't cut too slowly, or you'll set the paper on fire! Same with cardboard.

The real problem is the smell. Both wood and acrylic really stink up the place! You'll either want to move the whole thing outside, or build some kind of box and vent around the thing. Even after I did that, engraving wood for a couple of hours stank up the apartment for days.

Kinnishian (author)2017-10-30

I have a somewhat aggressive opinion about combining lasercutter/3D printer/ cnc routers. I think since this is a very hot-swap kind of configuration, it has a place for occasional engraving. But I think it's important to note that 3D printers and lasercutters and CNC machines have very different mechanical requirements such that most of the combo-machines that I've seen are bad for at least one of the functions :).


CNC machines need to be rigid, and deal with axial loads. So intrinsically they tend to be heavy. The speeds that they typically mill are very low compared to the speeds you want in a 3D printer.

3D Printers ideally have lightweight gantries. They do not have the axial load of cutting into a part, and have inefficient path planning that requires very many high speed movements and accelerations/deceleration. So to minimize the energy required you want a lightweight gantry. You don't need as rigid of a frame as a CNC cutter.

Lasercutters, especially engravers, need to be ultra fast!! They have almost none of the axial loads that CNC machines have, even less than 3D printers have. Most have the heavy laser off the motion system and use mirrors to move the beam. They also typically need smarter acceleration programs.

Anyway those are my reasons for looking at 3D printers with CNC heads and cringing a little :).

But do I now want an engraver on my 3D printer? Uhhh, yeah! I can think of a lot of cases where I'd want to engrave something but not enough to have a dedicated machine :). Thanks for this instructable. My mildly self-centered monologue is not meant to be a detraction from the instructable!

Razanur (author)Kinnishian2017-10-30

I think you are right to point out, that there is still an advantage to having dedicated machines. Anyways, as most of us have quite limited resources (not only in money but also space), such an upgrade could be quite nice (and when it takes a little longer, well be it). Especially 3D printer and laser engraver/cutter are imho (at least for hobby purposes) quite compatible.

Kinnishian (author)Razanur2017-10-30

I totally agree :)

This is mostly directed at the million kickstarter ideas that attempt to say "you'll get a perfect X machine and Y machine in 1!" and deliver a "inadequate machine for X or Y" :p

I certainly see the scope for this kind of modification to an existing machine, for the added benefit of a little bit of engraving. Even so tempting to consider adding it to my own machine...I have wanted to do some etching and an engraver would allow me to engrave off an etchant mask on a part :P

voblak (author)2017-10-30

Please don't do this without protective cover around the device. Even reflection form 2.5W laser can damage your eyes. The cheapest this is to have IR laser and use plexi which is a little sanded (but normal clear plexi should work too).

GaryB174 (author)2017-10-26

Great idea and something I need to think about doing. If this could be side mounted to an extruder somehow so that you could still print or cut depending on what you needed that would absolutely amazing.

Jakes workshop (author)GaryB1742017-10-26

Thanks! Yea, A side mounted laser would be perfect but then there is again a problem with positioning the laser and there you will lose some engraving space as well.

keets (author)2017-10-26

Really great project!

And good to know: inkscape is also working under Linux. In fact it is in the repo's!

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