Introduction: DIY Laser Engraving
As manufacturing electronics became much cheaper, more technologies are more accessible for makers, enabling us to be able to create anything we would like.
One of the things I am more passionate about is laser engraving. I made a little research before I decided which technology I would like to use, that will be both affordable and high-end.
In this instructable I'll give you all the information I have gathered, along with instructions about how to laser engrave by yourself and create anything you'd like with it.
Hope you enjoy it, looking forward for your comments.
Step 1: Laser Engraving Machine
When looking for the right laser engraving machine, the most important criteria comes to our eyes is the power. Prior to your purchasing, think about what you want to engrave on. The more difficult the material to engrave on, the more power you need, the more expensive the laser engraver is.
The common powers you should see on the affordable machines varies between 300mW to 1000mW. Since my main goal is engraving on wood and cards I have chosen to go with the 500mW.
Going through different reviews and stores I have decided eventually to go with the following laser engraver:
This engraver usually goes on promotions and goes for really cheap (around 80$). Their 1000mW version should be slightly more expensive, around the 10$ more.
This laser engraving machine has the following specification:
- Image format: jpg.
- Image size: 512x512 pixels.
- Image engraving pattern: Bitmap engraving.
- Power: Input 4.2V-5.5V 1A
- Comes with a usb charger.
- Can carve on hard wood, plastic, bamboo, rubber, leather and more.
I love giving my bottom lines at the beginning, so I'll just give a short spoiler, that this engraver is pretty sick :) Read more to find out how..
Step 2: Unboxing
The engraver arrived within couple of days in a protective box (you can see in the pictures above).
Inside the box you can find the following things:
- Laser Engraving Machine (assembled).
- Protective Glasses.
- Data Cable.
- Power Cable.
- USB Power Supplier.
- Micro SD Card (1GB).
- A hex key.
Step 3: Initial Setup
Time to prepare the machine for our test flight.
This step is pretty easy, all you need to do is removing the nylon and bubble wrap, and removing the duck tape around the bottom board used to hold the material we engrave on, and remove the wraps around the laser pointer.
I have also noticed to some screws that weren't strengthened so I fixed that as well.
Step 4: Safety First
Laser Protection Eyewear
Any device that emits laser light requires us to use addition protection to what we are used to. The engraver includes a laser protection eyewear, which are glasses that are used to protect our eyes since this device emits laser light in different wavelengths. This laser light is consisted of both invisible and visible wavelengths.
Since we're not using a professional laser engraver, I would recommend not even looking into the direction of the machine while engraving. I have seen some people that create a box around the machine, which blocks the light from coming out. Personally, I think that's the best solution.
Still, if you're into looking into the process, either place a camera next to the engrave, or use the glasses that came with the engraver.
Since we're using light, we should avoid engrave on a white material. The white color highly reflects the light, so using laser can be extremely dangerous. In addition to white materials you should also avoid try to engrave on mirrors, lenses and metal. There are special engravers for such materials, it's not the one we use :)
Step 5: Test Flight
Powering up the engraver
Our engraver has two ports:
- Power port
- Data port
It is easy to determine between the ports since the power port is a normal USB port, and the data port is a mini usb port. First connect the power using a 5V 1A (PSU is included), and then connect the the data cable to the computer. We're not going to use the computer, but we need it connected so the printer turns on.
In order to achieve better results, we need to make sure the focus of the laser is adjusted to the surface's height we engrave on.
Before we can check if the focus is correct we should place the surface we engrave on right on the engraving board (in our case - the blue board you see in the pictures). Use rubber bands in order to make sure the surface won't move as the engraving machine moves the bottom board.
Once the surface is still, you should see the laser pointer on it. Wear your protective eyewear and start adjusting the focus until you get the best results. I have attached a picture with the focus screw that you need to play with.
If everything goes right, you should see the laser pointer marks a dot on the paper below.
In our test flight we're going to engrave the default icon comes loaded into the printer, just to make sure our focus is set right, and the everything works. We want to do that before we make things more complicated when we load our own artwork.
Before we engrave make sure you've done the following:
- Use the protective eyewear.
- Place the board we engrave on and make sure it's steady.
- Adjust the focus.
One click on the button on the top (yellow in our case), will enable the carving preview mode. In this mode the engraving machine will draw a rectangle that shows you the bounds of the artwork it is about to engrave. Here you can make sure that the machine engraves only on the relevant surface and also you can place the surface so you can engrave exactly where you wish.
Another click on the same button starts the engraving process. Here you should avoid looking directly at the laser, and you just need to wait until the process is done.
In case you wish to pause the engraving click on the button again.
Step 6: Engrave! :)
In order to operate the engraving machine you need to download and install a driver and a software from the following website:
Make sure that you download the latest driver & software. It is also possible to download a pack of images that you can play around and engrave as much as you like.
Once everything is connected, and the software connects successfully to the machine, follow these steps:
- Drag the image to the software window.
- Click on "Send Image to Machine" button.
- Click on "Preview" button and see that the size is right.
- Position the area as you like, using the arrows.
Don't get nervous about the smoke coming out from the material.
Hope that everything comes out right,
let me know if you have any questions,