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If you ask any DIY hobby ist like me, what’s on top of their wish-list, chances are pretty high that they’ll say a 3D printer or laser cutter/engraver. Laser Engraver/Cutter are incredibly cool, and much like 3D printers.

Two years back, I was looking through a magazine and came across an interesting article on Laser Engraver/Cutter. From that time I seriously wanted one of those machines.I searched couple of times on eBay and Amazon to know the price, but they were still expensive. I could never really justify the expense.Now the prices have come down to the point where they’re now affordable for DIY enthusiasts.

After waiting for a long time, GearBest given me this 5500mW Laser Engraver for review.

Note : This Instructable is not sponsored, Gearbest sent me this Laser Engraver to review, they did not paid me.This is not to promote the product, rather it is intended to help others and to share my experience on Laser Engraving.

The Engraver Have Following Features :

1. Can engrave items including Wood, plastic, bamboo, rubber, leather

2. Can cut paper, foam and thin leather

3. Engraving Area : 15cm x 20cm

4. Run by Arduino Nano

5. Compatible with Open Source Software

6. Working Power : 5500mw

I was pretty excited to assemble the kits and also curious to see the outcomes.Though the product was arrived few months back,but due to my busy schedule I was not able assembled it.

In this Instructable, I want to share my experience on assembling the Laser Engraver, about the using of laser engraver/cutter and what you can do with it . I think it will be very useful for other DIY hobbyist to upscale their work.

Step 1: Parts List

The Kits Include following items :

1. Aluminium frames / Sticks (2 small, 3 large)

2. Aluminium Corner Fittings ( 4 Nos )

3. Acrylic panels (6 Nos)

4. Stepper Motors ( 3 Nos )

5. Stepper Motors cables ( 3 Nos )

6. Stepper Motor Controller Board ( L1 )

7. Parts Box : 6 small acrylic frames,Screws, timing belt, pulleys,washers and spacers

8. Safety Goggles

9. 5.5W Laser Module

10. USB cable

11. 12V Power Adapter

Step 2: Overview of Laser Engraver/ Cutter :

In many ways, laser cutters are very useful for moving quickly from idea to reality.

LASER" stands for "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation".

Working Principle :

Laser Engraver or cutters works by focusing a high-powered laser onto a material surface. The beam is focused down to a point as small as one-thousandth of an inch and can burn, melt, or even vaporize the material it hits.

The laser engraving machine has four main parts :

1. Laser Module : Which emits high intensity light beam

2. Stepper Motors : Which drive the Laser Module to the desired pints.

3. Controller : Control the laser beam direction, intensity and speed of movement

4. Surface : On which the laser beam falls / Materials to be engraved or Cut

First a design pattern is loaded to the Controller Software. The software create a vector file and send it to the controller which guide the laser beam by means of the stepper motors to traverse a particular path onto the material surface. Depending on the laser intensity and speed of traverse, quality of engraving changes.If the Laser beam is much powerful then it can cut thick materials like hard wood and acrylic also.

Step 3: Assembling

First remove the protective layer of paper from the acrylic frames.

Start with the building of the bottom rectangular platform .It need 4 aluminium rails and 4 corner fittings.

As I have explained the details of assembling process in my video, I am not interested to write the long process : )

Hope You can understand the situations.

Follow the [ Video ] to assemble the Laser Engraving Machine.

Step 4: Wiring Instructions

The wiring is very simple.You have to connect the cables to the corresponding connector.

The Motors cable have two headers, one is 6 pins and other is 4 pin.Connect the 6 pin header to the motors.

Now follow the above picture to connect all the cables to the Controller/Driver Board.

Step 5: Software Installations

First plug in the USB cable and 12V power adaptor.

There are lot of software solutions in the internet, but Benbox will do the basics for most users and is simple to use.

So I will guide how to install the Benbox software and use it.

1. Download the Benbox Software.

You can download it from the Benbox website or download the zip file attached below.

2. Install the Driver

3. Confirm The Driver is installed succesfully :

Go to Device Manager -> Ports, You will find " USB-SERIAL CH340 ( COMXX ). Note down the COM PORT No.

4. Open Benbox and change the language

5. Select the board to " NANO(328p) / LX- Nano

6. Update The Firmware : The firmware file is located inside the Benbox -> ROM folder. After successful updation a green tick mark will be appeared.

7. Set the COM PORT : Enter the COM Port number,which is earlier noted.

Step 6: Software Settings

The software have lot of parameters.There is no such rules for it,you have to choose different values according to the actual situations. I am explaining each of the parameters,if you understand the parameters you can easily play with them to get the best result.

The parameters are :

First Page

Intensity: 0-255 sets the laser power by controlling the voltage ( PWM ) sent to the laser head. (It has no effect on most systems )

Speed: Sets how fast the laser head moves across the work surface ( the major factor to adjust burning ).

Time: Time is used in discrete mode only and affects how long the laser is on for each pixel (higher time = more power density)

Step: Step is the distance moved when using the axis control buttons (does not change the output).

Carve Mode : Can be i ) one-way (left to right), ii ) Z for bi-directional (left-right-left etc.) or outline to cut out a shape.

Discrete : Stops the laser on each pixel based on the time value, it is slower but more accurate.

Continuous : Scans the head and pulses the laser - it is faster but less precise.

Second Page

STEP : Stepper motor pulse control pin outs from the Arduino.

DIR : Stepper motor direction control pin outs from the Arduino.

MIN and MAX : To limit control pin PPM (Pulse-position modulation).

PPM : Resizing change drawing scale. PPM should be 320 for both X and Y to get the good result.

LASER: Laser module control pin number.Laser on/off should be 12 or 11 if using PWM mode (there's a jumper under the Arduino Nano to change this)

SERVO: Control pin number.

FEED RATE:Feed Rate is the maximum speed when the laser is OFF.

Note : In the second page, you have to only change the PPM and Feed Rate.No need to change the other parameters if you are not an expert.

Credit : laserengraverforum

Step 7: Risks, Caution & Warnings

Before moving on to the next step wear Safety Goggles first. Its mandatory
You should remember that this tool is useful but not at all a TOY. The laser beam can give rise to permanent damage of your eyesight.
During engraving or cutting, harmful and toxic fumes are generated from the burning surfaces. So it is important to know that if you are engraving anything, it is recommended to vent the fumes out side.You should keep the room window open at all times.You can also use an exhaust fan near your work place.

If you are cutting PVC or any kind of vinyl materials, it will release chlorine gas.This will mix with moisture in the air and create hydrochloric acid , which is harmful for both human and machine.S be careful with it.

Note : It is advised to keep a Fire Extinguisher near to your working area.

Step 8: Preparation Before Engraving / Cutting

The Laser Engraving Machine have no platform / bed to place the engraving materials.So you have to make the suitable arrangement for it.

In my first attempt I started to engrave by placing the machine over the table.After a fraction of second I noticed my table was burning.So be careful before engraving or cutting.

Now I am using a thick card board ( whose size is slightly larger then the engraver base surface ) for base platform.You can choose other materials also according to your situations.

Place the material to be engraved or cut on the base platform.

Then adjust the laser head position to align it on to the material by pressing left-right or forward-backward button in the software.

Step 9: Focusing of Laser

To get more precise result,you have to focus the laser beam first.In my first attempt I missed to do this, the results were very bad.

First Turn On the laser switch on the Driver Board.

Then slowly rotate the focusing ring to focus the laser beam falling on the engraving surface.

Step 10: First Engraving

Go to the menu in the software and press connect.

Load an image you want to engrave /cut. In software file there are lot of cool designs, you can use one of them.

Then set the different parameters and hit the play button.

Finally your engraving is done !!!

It not only engrave , but can cut materials like paper,foam and thin leather.So now you can use your creativity to use this product to match your requirements.

Step 11: Conclusion

If you are innovative at heart and have some amazing ideas for uses, this laser engraveing machine might be just the tool that will send you into a whole new realm of DIY platform.Still now I am new to Laser engraving, and learning new techniques from different forum and articles.If I will find new information, I will update here.

Thanks for reading this article.Hope you have enjoyed.

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<p>Can it engrave glass. and can it do photos?</p>
<p>Sorry, I meant raise and lower the slide rack not the entire platform.</p>
<p>Hi, nicely done and thank you!</p><p>I'd like to use my 50x60 platform with a 500 MW laser diode with BenBox to serve as an <strong>auto stainer for Biology research</strong>. The platform has great x-y travel but I need 15 cm rise on the servo to lift a rack of slides out of reagents (which is more than the usual sweep of a linked servo horn). I'd like to use a <strong>servo trigger for continuous rotation</strong> from Sparkfun (see link below) to raise the platform on the Z axis with a rack and pinion. Of course I need to keep the laser for engraving microscope slide labels and vaporizing tissue/cells on the microscope slides. So I'd like to add the servo next to the laser.</p><p>My Question: Since I need to send gcode instructions to run a staining protocol, can I connect the &quot;signal&quot; for the <strong>Servo trigger</strong> to say PIN 13 on the Nano and use the M3 and M5 gcode statements when in Benbox is in servo mode to raise and lower a small staining rack? What would I put in the Servo box in BenBox, 13? and can I power the servo from the Nano? Thanks for sharing!</p><p><strong>Servo trigger</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/SparkFun-Servo-Trigger-Continuous-Rotation/dp/B01GM5Y2Q4/ref=sr_1_2/163-6533804-9831666?ie=UTF8&qid=1488718094&sr=8-2&keywords=sparkfun+servo+trigger" rel="nofollow">https://www.amazon.com/SparkFun-Servo-Trigger-Cont...</a></p>
<p>Good Work man, could u tell me dimensions of aluminium frame?</p>
<p>How does it cut clear plastics? Ideally, I'd get this to cut thin clear plastic sheets into shapes for a variety of projects. It says it will cut them, but how well (does it burn/melt the edges)? Also, how well does it cut paper, for many of the same reasons. Also, will it really work the full 15x20 bed? Or is it smaller in practice?</p>
<p>you need to check your material absorption spectrum, if it absorb more than 50% at your laser wavelength then it will work. Otherwise you need to use another laser module with a different wavelength</p>
<p>You need more power. I can (barely) cut 4mm thick (others say 8mm, but I haven't managed that yet) with my 40W CO2 laser...</p>
<p>Hi guy, this is a wonderfull project, i&acute;m doing one, i would like to know about step motors configurations, voltage and current, how do you set steps on each motor?</p>
<p>Hey,</p><p>I want to make CNC laser cutter/engraver which can be used on wood, acrylic sheets, cardboard. Can you please give me some references on this, also if this is feasible</p><p>Thanks! :). </p>
Hi Sidharth,<br>For your requirement, you need a more powerful laser.<br>This machine can cut thin cardboard, foam and leather.
<p>is your laser engraver can engrave an acrylic? </p>
<p>Dibujo en Benbox, con sus herramientas, grabo y todo bien. Pregunto y doy las gracias a quien conteste &iquest; Como puedo SALVAR/GUARDAR, lo dibujado, para otro d&iacute;a ? &iquest; Porque no admite im&aacute;genes vectoriales?</p>
did you compare solid state laser to co2, which one has better cut result, is there any burn mark on the edge of paper or card board.<br>thanks
<p>Hi. please help me.</p><p>I draw a square, for example 30x30 in Corel Draw.</p><p>I send it to benbox, and it cut or draw more than 30x30. Why? Help me please</p>
Can it make tear away tickets?
<p>Is it from gearbest.com?</p>
<p>Can you engrave clear acrylic with these diode lasers? NOT cut but just engrave the surface is all im asking? thanks</p>
<p>No, It can't</p>
<p>Thinking of having one.</p><p>Looks sturdy frame.</p><p>Hows it going.</p><p>Cheers</p>
<p>Great job and review. Slowly getting my parts together for one.</p><p>Some people just don't get it. There is no difference in a kit or a DIY. You still have to put it together.</p>
<p>Some time ago I built a Laser Engraver with this GearBest Kit.</p><p>Unfortunately I have not found a software acceptable and easy to use, so I wrote my own.</p><p>My software allows to load a picture and send it to the laser engraver quickly and easily.</p><p>My software is written in a generic way for almost all machines with standard GCode firmawre.</p><p>At the moment the software is WORK IN PROGRESS currently, in ALPHA testing.</p><p>As I needed to modulate the laser power (I have a 5500 mW one) I used GRBL firmware version 0.9 (other versions are ON / OFF, 0.9 is PWM)</p><p>Here the Robot Laser Project page : <a href="http://www.robot-eyes.com/en/RobotLaser/" rel="nofollow">http://www.robot-eyes.com/en/RobotLaser/</a></p><p>I will update soon the page (for now very rough).</p><p>Please send an email at carlo.guasco@robot-eyes.com if you download the software, thanks.</p>
What thickness plastic and wood can it cut?
It can cut paper, foam and thin leather. I have to test it on wood, not tried yet.
<p>5 mm wooden, perfectly.</p>
<p>Can you give more details please or better can you do a short video?</p>
Have you tried ?
Hi, lots of good info here, but still some questions:<br>1. What is the resolution of the cutting/engraving motion (depends on how many mm corresponds to one step in the stepper motors on x and y axes. Are they the same (probably))? If the documentation does not specify, maybe you can try engraving a pattern of lines that converge slowly, and use that to see where they merge.<br>2. What type of stepper motors and what type of motor drivers are used? <br>3. What operating systems can BenBox software run with? Does it run under Linux variants like Xubuntu? If not is there an open source alternative that does?<br>4. Can you add the wavelength of the laser to the information about the kit, since this seems to be a big factor in what it is capable of doing?<br>Thank you.
<p>The wave length of the laser module is 445nm</p>
<p>Hi Keith,</p><p>This is a video regarding the motor Driver.Hope it will be useful for you.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/_ID-xiGW2K8" width="500"></iframe></p>
Hi Keith,<br>I will try to answer few of your questions after gathering more information on it.
<p>Hello.</p><p>I just buyed the Eleks machine and installed Benbox software and seems working,</p><p>but I can't find any power control. PWM seems not working and also with 10000 (unusable) as speed the power is too much.</p><p>Also GRBL seems unable to control the power.</p><p>Anyone know if there is some optical filter to reduce output power?</p><p>Or there is some way to use PWM ( seems that GRBL ver 0.9 can , but not work!!!)</p><p>I think not logical buy 200, 500, 800, 1600, 2500 mW lasers in order to change output power changing the laser. </p>
<p>There is a great support forum with users from all over the world at <a href="http://benboxlaser.us" rel="nofollow"> http://benboxlaser.us </a> </p><p>You will find a lot of information and some custom software written by several of the members. The T2laser application is a quantum leap above benbox software.</p>
<p>Thanks ...</p>
twlongo007<br>I got the 2000watt version and it was a little different from the one on your site. I built it over one evening and then I can not get it to fire up and how do I get to the software when connected to my computer it does not show up. So far this was a bad buy from Gearbest and there contact info and people have never contacted me very disappointing. If you can help me please do so?
<p>Nice build,</p><p>Is it possible to cut 4 mm wood (plywood / jigsaw wood) with this laser?</p>
<p>I doubt it. I can do that with 60% power on my 40W CO2 laser, so I think you'll need ~20W to do that.</p>
Thanks <br>Not tried yet...<br>If it will cut, I will update here.
Hi - Im not an expert on such things, but those goggles don't look like they filter out blue light. That's probably a 495-445nm laser, and goggles would need to be reddish to filter them out.
<p>We have a commercial 1500 W CO2 laser in my workplace and according to the manufacturer, simple safety glasses are all that are required to protect your eyes from the reflected laser light. This is a laser that can cut through 1/4&quot; steel.</p>
<p>Yep. CO2 is blocked by (and can etch) glass. It won't go through your eyeball's lens (though it will vaporize part of it -- like lasik, though they usually use a fibermark laser).</p><p>OTOH, *this* laser is visible (not infrared), so it has no problem getting focused and destroying your eyesight without special colored lenses.</p>
<p>1: CO2 is 10600nm, which is differerent than ~440nm. Each wavelength is absorbed by different materials. That is why CO2 is used so often. You can cut clear acrylic, which means it absorbs the CO2 wavelength well. Simple safety glasses are normally acrylic</p><p><br>2: If you have a commercial CO2 cutter, you better hope to hell there is no class 4 energy coming OUT of it that people can see/get hit with, else OSHA will shut you down!!!</p>
I am not an expert.But the seller is giving this Goggles along with the kits.Even I have seen all the users who are using these products wearing the similar green Goggles.<br>So I am thinking it's the right one.
<p>Hello, I actually have a large bed LASER Engraver and see a lot of similar issue with yours. A few things you really need to do though. First, get a good quality ventilation fan to dump fumes outside. Because some materials give off toxic fumes when LASERed...I know for fact about that. Second, you also need to make and install some sort of cover so that reflexed LASER light can not get reflexed into someone's eyes. Easy to do with such things. I was wondering what the LASER frequency was as well. Because if you can control the frequency, you can also LASER metals. I also see you use some software to control the X and Y axis movements. We use CorelDraw to accomplish such vector and raster. I was wondering how your software handles text verse lines? Those are two different capabilities that are used with commercial units. Looks like a nice setup and you will certainly love using it. Thumbs up!</p>
<p>The LASER light is produced via a diode LASER module, it will only produce one frequency of light. I have an <a href="http://www.thermark.com/" rel="nofollow">Epilog 35w LASER</a>... it uses a CO2 sealed system, it too only has one possible light frequency. To engrave metals you need something with a wavelength in the 1000 angstrom range. The CO2 is 10,000 angstrom and I'm certain this one is too. The only frequency you can change is the <strong>pulse repetition frequency</strong>... how many times it fires per second. The metal cutting/engraving lasers use a <a href="http://www.thermark.com/" rel="nofollow">fibermark</a> system... a synthetic ruby that is pulsed with a high power strobe. You could look into <a href="http://www.thermark.com/" rel="nofollow">Thermark</a>, it is a ceramic substrate that bonds to metal when LASER is applied... but I doubt this system would have enough power to properly bond it. You could however request a sample and test that theory.</p>
<p>The message from askjerry needs some comment. First of all, normally LASERs are not designated by frequency but rather wavelength, and Angstrom is a measure of length and not frequency. However, dividing wavelength into the speed of light (using correct units!) does give frequency. Then there is a slipped decimal point, CO2 has a wavelength of 10,600 nanometers and not 10,000 Angstrom. Because I cannot get superscripts here I will resort to a common scientific notation.</p><p>1meter = 10E9 nanometers =10E10 Angstroms i.e., a nanometer is 1 thousandth of 1 millionth of a meter (awkward way to write it but avoids some difference of the meaning of &quot;billion&quot; among languages).</p><p>While I agree that different wavelengths are often used for different materials I have doubts that you cannot work on metal with either 1000 (1064 nm is frequently used) nanometers or 10,600 nanometers (CO2) and, in fact, one major maker of LASERs mentions both CO2 and 1064 Nd in YAG as suited to processing (welding or cutting) metals.</p>
<p>I'll just say this on the subject... if I put a piece of aluminum foil in my 35W CO2 machine... it won't even mark it at full power. This device uses a 5.5W unit... the likelihood is that it won't mark metal. <em>If it does, by all means please let me know.</em></p><p><br>Yup... the wavelength was off... <em>coffee deficient today</em>... In any event... a<strong> 10x</strong> difference between the two. At the 10Knm range you will likely need at least an order of magnitude more power.</p>
<p>Just put black paint on the metal! Then you laze it 3 or 4 times. it will make mark 5 to 20 thousands of an inch depending on how hard the surface is. </p>
<p>Mick, I have tried that before with my commercial CO2 large bed LASER engraver and all it did was LASER off the paint. What I was hoping for was to LASER PC boards with my LASER and it just isn't the correct type LASER machine to do that. I even tried to LASER off the paint allowing me to etch it in ferric chloride, that didn't word either. The LASER doesn't remove enough of the paint to allow the acid to etch the copper off. JMHO! </p>

About This Instructable




Bio: I am an Electrical Engineer.I love to harvest Solar Energy and make things by recycling old stuffs. I believe &quot;&quot;IF YOU TRY YOU MIGHT ... More »
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