I recently built a laser etching machine, and this Instructable covers the process I followed while making it, as well as some basic usage tips!

I've entered a couple contests with this Instructable, so if you like what you see, I'd greatly appreciate your vote! and be sure to check out all the other fantastic projects in the contests!!

BUT, First off, Some safety information.


I cannot stress enough how important it is to BE CAREFUL with these! Even while following all proper safety procedures, I have gotten several small burns on my hands as well as a couple tiny blind spots where a reflection glanced across my face.


Now that all that is out of the way, we can get on with the more interesting stuff! Then again, It's worth saying again: Don't be ignorant, if you aren't sure if you're doing something right, post a comment and I'll try to help, but at the end of the day, this is an advanced project, so be aware of the risks and take the appropriate precautions!

This is a VERY text heavy Instructable, I will be adding more pictures soon, but when I write these, I err on the side of over-explaining!

WOW, got featured on Hackaday!!! http://hackaday.com/2014/01/07/delta-laser-engraver-uses-inkscape-for-g-code/

Step 1: Materials / Tools Needed

To build this machine, I used several things:

A SeeMeCNC Rostock Max 3D printer. (available at SeeMeCNC)

This was used both for the manufacture of components (the brackets and connectors) as well as being the movement frame used for positioning the laser.

The Rostock Max could be substituted out for any other 3D printer, but a different custom bracket would have to be designed to mount the laser

A WickedLasers Spyder Arctic 3 2-Watt handheld laser (available at WickedLasers)

This is a BEAST of a laser. It's not cheap, but it is built to a very high quality standard, and WickedLasers stands by their products and is more than happy to help out if any issues do occur!

Lower wattage lasers will still work, but will take longer to burn material - this however, can be helpful in that it allows finer control of the look of the burn!

Side note: the above link to WickedLasers is my Zferral link, if you use that link to get to the site when buying a laser, I'll get a commission! Thanks!

I'm going to take another moment to say BE CAREFUL! This is not your average laser pointer. Laser pointers are generally around 5mw, that's MILLIWATTS. this laser can put out up to 2.5 WATTS. that is SEVERAL orders of magnitude more power. Where a laser pointer might annoy you, this laser could instantly blind you! Also, no, I won't shut up about it. Safety is important.

WickedLasers Spyder 3 Expanded Lens Kit (see above)

This kit comes with the burning lens I use on my laser for this project. While not strictly necessary, it definitely makes for a better quality burn!

Inkscape Vector graphics editing software (available at Inkscape)

Inkscape is a great free vector editor, and works very nicely to prepare images for burning. Along with some plugins, it is also used to generate the GCode for burning!

GCodeTools Inkscape Plugin (available at GCodeTools)

GCodeTools is a pretty easy to use plugin that allows a user to generate GCode that matches the paths in a vector image. There are some tricky bits that arise with certain printers, and those will be discussed later.

EggBot Inkscape Plugins (available from EvilMadScientist Wiki)

The EggBot is a pen plotter designed to draw on spheroids. They use inkscape to generate the code! They have posted a lot of really handy plugins on their wiki, specifically the Hatch Fill plugin, which is what I used to do filled areas in my etching.

3D Printed Parts! (design files attached!)

I designed a quick-disconnect extruder coupler for my Rostock, the details of which are posted here: Thingiverse

I then designed a mount for the Rostock Max that clips into the coupler I designed, details here: Thingiverse

That's about it in terms of materials and tools, of course, a regular toolbox will come in handy, but if you're building a laser etching machine, that's kind of a given!

<p>i'm trying to make somethin some similar with my small desktop cnc, and this my first question , how do i adjust the lense , just an error and trial ?. i'm talking if there's a way to get an optimal result on laser wood burning</p>
<p>it's total trial and error. Once you know the distance, you can generally make a little block that is the right height, and set it from that, but other than that it's a bit of guesswork :)</p>
<p>Hi,</p><p>Is it working with Mega+Ramps?</p><p>and does Marlin firmware support it?</p><p>Thanks</p>
<p>The printer I used for this has the RAMBO contol board, but I did not make any modifications to the firmware for this to work, it just uses the extrusion stepper to push the button, so it should work with any printer with a bowden extruder</p>
<p>So cool that lasers can be used to engrave images and patterns on all types of things. This machine must be really accurate to be able to engrave things like this. How much does it cost to own a machine like this, because I can see myself using this machine for a lot of things. http://www.apogeesigns.com/services/engraving/ </p>
<p>This machine is a hack-together, and is honestly not all that useful for production, I built it more to see if I could :) the printer was around $1000, and the laser was another few hundred, but I've got several hundred hours invested in the machine, so it's by no means plug-and-play. </p>
<p>Laser etching is so cool. I agree with everyone that this was a great project ... a little on the expensive side, but still really cool. That laser radiation image was pretty funny too!<br><br>You can use laser etching for a lot of things. Check out how this company used a <a href="http://www.primeproductsinc.com/cnc-laser-cut-etched-polycarbonate-overlay-dead-front-graphics-kansas.html" rel="nofollow">laser etching machine for the airplane industry</a>: </p>
gosh its 1400$ for the seemecnc printer unless I followed that link wrong, neat project but def not affordable for me :(
<p>That's fully assembled. If you build it yourself it's around a grand, but still not a cheap project by any means :/</p>
<p>great project!</p>
<p>What about balsa wood for modelling use? I mean sheets of 1-6mm usually.</p>
<p>As far as etching goes, balsa wood should mark quite nicely, I don't know if it would be possible to cut them with this laser, but you could certainly try!</p>
<p>Could this be used to etch a PCB? Would the copper reflect the beam too much? Nice Instructable, it has my vote!</p>
<p>As far as I'm aware this would not work as is to etch PCBs, that said, that doesn't mean it can't be done! It would be interesting to see if it could be, and what changes would need to be made!</p>
<p>Copper is bad-ass and refuses to be etched -- it took a 250W YAG laser to punch holes in it (micro-vias), but even that was hit or miss.</p><p>Copper reflects light (really reflects infrared), which limits the amount of energy you can put in. Then it conducts the heat away very efficiently, when means that it's a great heat sink.</p><p>Some people are using lasers like this to either expose a photo-mask or directly deposit toner onto PCBs, but those are still early-stages and not figured out yet.</p>
<p>Great Intractable, you have my vote and I added to my favorites. I am going to be buying a Delta 3D printer and this is an add on I will definitely make. Are there any limitations to the types of wood you use? Do you do a test run to determine the speeds on different species of wood?</p>
In the images on this instructable, the cuts made are on cardboard and leather. I have done a bit of wood burning with it, and just about any wood works well! You'll have to try different settings and figure out what works best for you. Generally, the first time I try a new material, I'll run a few tests, starting with a burn at the machine's max speed and then working down to a speed that gives the look I want.
You quite rightly mention wearing safety glasses, but why not build an enclosure for it too? I'm not sure what works best for these lasers, but for a CO2 laser ordinary transparent acrylic will do the job.
This laser emits bright blue (445nm) light, and the materials used to block it (as far as my research has shown) are very expensive proprietary plastics. Since the light emitted is within the visible spectrum, any material that is clear and transparent to the human eye will be transparent to this laser. Orange-tinted plastic may help at least, but when dealing with 2.5 watts, I'm quite hesitant.<br><br>CO2 lasers are in the Infrared range, and Acrylic is effectively opaque to infrared, and as such, opaque to the CO2 laser (this is why acrylic is so easy to laser cut, even though to the human eye, it appears transparent!) A cool trick to try is to stand in front of an infrared camera holding a sheet of acrylic! the camera will register the temperature of the acrylic, not what's behind it! If you do it with a sheet of glass, it will show what's behind it instead! And Aluminum is a very good infrared reflector, so it will act like a mirror to an IR camera!<br><br>Anyway, Thanks for the idea, I'll do some more research, and if I can get my hands on a laser power meter, I'll test a few plastics!
Pretty cool! Note the typo: should be &quot;almost 3 orders of magnitude&quot;, not 4.
oops! thanks! I'm always getting my units mixed up!
<p>Loved the &quot;don't look at the beam with the reminder eye&quot;, BTW.</p>
<p>It's actually a pretty common sign to post in laser labs! Even the reflection from the laser (the &quot;dot&quot; that the laser projects) can be many times brighter than what your eye can withstand without damage. The running joke is that there's no such thing as a laser operator with two good eyes.</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: Industrial / Manufacturing / Systems / Quality engineer with a passion for gadget making and emerging technologies
More by Zinventor:Autumn's Light 3D printable WickedLasers Lens Holder DIY Laser Etching Machine 
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