Introduction: Easy Build Burning Laser for Less Than $20

Picture of Easy Build Burning Laser for Less Than $20

In this Instructable I will show you how I built my own burning laser, including the driver circuit, the laser is able to burn through electrical tape, black plastic, and light matches with Sharpie on them (I'll let you figure out what happens to the Sharpies on your own) I diode I used is a 400mW 650nM laser diode, for those of you who don't know what that means, 400mW means 400 thousandths of a Watt is the peak power for this specific diode and 650nm is short for 650 nano meters this is referring to the wavelength of the radiation (in this case light) coming from the laser diode 650nm happens to be red.

UPDATE: Here are some links about lasers and safety precautions, link 1 will teach you about lasers, the second page teaches the hazards, link two is a guide to which goggles you will need.



Curious as to what my exactly this project will do before you build it? Click this link to watch.

**The $20 estimate is assuming you don't get everything from Radio Shack**

I would like to thank Maximilian Collins, who sold me the diodes and module, he tracked down the schematic and gave me some advice, If I can't answer a question, he can. Email:

Materials needed

1.) One (In my case a few) Laser diode $6.50 (plus a $2 shipping fee)

2.) One Aixiz Laser Module $4.50 (plus a $2 shipping fee)
*this module also acts as a heatsink for the diode*

3.) Perf board or bread board

4.) Thin gauge stranded wire

5.) One LM317 voltage regulator

6.) Heat sink for the LM317

7.) One 100 Ohm potentiometer

8.) Two 10 Ohm resistors

9.) One Diode (1N4001) (I used whatever diodes I had on hand)

10.) Push button/switch whatever your preference may be

11.) A 6V-9V DC power source

12.) One 10µF 16V capacitor, The individual I bought the diode and module from told me as long as the capacitors voltage rating is higher than the power input it's fine and I also used a non polarized capacitor in mine and it worked fine.

13.) Some heat-shrink tubing.

Tools Needed:

1.) Soldering Iron

2.) Third hand

3.) Lighter or Heat gun*

3.) Drill press and your smallest drill bit**

4.) Needle and hammer*

*I used my soldering iron to shrink the tubing, you may prefer to use a lighter or heat gun.

**These are optional and are possible solutions if fitting your diode into the module is an issue.

DISCLAIMER: I do not claim any responsibility for your actions or those of anyone involved in reproducing this experiment you should research and observe your local laws concerning this project and following all proper safety precautions before beginning the experiment. Your typical 5mw laser will irritate and even damage the eye, this laser WILL in fact burn your pupil and burn it if properly focused, it WILL blind you. Take the proper precautionary measures before going any further, it's up to you to know how to be safe I am merely showing you something I built and how I built it.

Step 1: Solder Leads to the Diode and Glue Into Aixiz Module

Picture of Solder Leads to the Diode and Glue Into Aixiz Module

I press fit my diode into the module with my hands and some good luck, you may want to press them in with the right tools a drill press (Turned off of course) with a small drill bit would be the ideal tool for this situation, after pressing in the diode, use adhesive to lock it in place, I used gorilla glue, one drop is enough to do this twenty times so be cautious.

Next I bent the "not used" pin and removed it using wire cutters, then, I bent the negative pin to easily tell between the two remaining pins "What if I accidentally cut off everything but the positive lead?" Don't worry, every thing other than the positive lead is negative, including both pins and the body of the diode, as long you have the positive right, you're fine. I then tinned my leads, I highly recommend that you use stranded wire as opposed to solid, then all it took was touching the wires and soldering tip to their respective pins just long enough to melt the solder any more time than this and you can burn the diode like I did, don't be like me, I've had to buy four (I'm showing you how to do this so you don't have to!) Now heat up the heat shrink and tie a knot in the wires and you're good to go.

Lastly for this step re-insert the lens in to the module, a trick I found that works on anything with threads, turn it counter clockwise until you feel a "click" then turn clockwise until snug, or in this case, focused.
*Reminder when finished the Aixiz module will be grounded so be mindful of this. Don't touch it to the heatsink of the LM317 unless it's insulated, this is another way to burn a diode.

Step 2: Build the Circuit

Picture of Build the Circuit

For this step I tried to devise my own color coding system to make things easier, here I'll list the colors of wires and what they are, also DO NOT connect the battery before you connect the laser diode, this will charge the capacitor and blow the laser diode. be safe and short out the cap before connecting the diode.

All Red wires are positive, and head straight to the power source, aside from the two used for the switch.

All Black wires are ground.

The Orange wire is wired from the middle pin of the LM317 to one pin of the POT.

The White wire on one end is connected to the left most pin of the LM317 to the end of the resistors opposite of the POT.

The Yellow wire is used to make more room for components, one end is wired to the White wire and resistors and the other to the diode, cap and laser.

The Blue wire is the wire used to connect the positive side of the cap to the positive lead of the laser diode.

Once again be sure the power source is the LAST thing you wire up to the circuit and don't forget the HEATSINK for the regulator.

Step 3: Burn Things!

Picture of Burn Things!

Take the proper precautions and have fun burning anything dark (black) in color, focus the beam by turning the the lens on the module, don't worry about it burning your finger unless it's at the focal point (even then I'm pale so it can't burn my skin), This doesn't mean your eyes are any safer, you've been warned.

In the pictures you can see it can cut through tape and I managed to burn holes in the plastic reels LED strips come on. I think the plastic is about 1mm thick and it burnt through two layers.

Did I mention I found a fun use for old sharpies?

Click here to watch my laser in action on Youtube!

Don't forget to vote for me, this is my first Instructable!


jman250x (author)2014-11-13

Can I use a blue laser diode instead of red if since it has the same voltage just different wavelength?

yrralguthrie (author)jman250x2016-06-12

No. KalTol1994 is wrong.

Blue laser have less energy because of the color of the light. The 400 mW is input power not output.

LESS energy?? Blue is a higher frequency, by definition, it has greater angular momentum. This should equate to higher energy. Isn't this why there was such interest in designing X-ray lasers? Can you elaborate on this. Please?

I do know that some frequencies are better for cutting metal than say, organics such as wood.

Schlag96 (author)yrralguthrie2016-06-12

Actually, you're wrong. The lower the wavelength, the more heat is transferred. Ever heard of blocking UV rays to prevent sunburn? If everything else works with blue diodes in this build, it would be more powerful. Probably not enough to make much difference, though.

KalTol1994 (author)jman250x2014-11-13

if it's 400mW it should be fine, here's the email of the guy I bought my diodes and module from, he's very knowledgeable and helpful which reminds me I should probably make another edit to my Instructable.... Maximilian Collins <> this guy really is helpful just mention this instructable.

jman250x (author)KalTol19942014-11-18

Thanks a bunch!

samern (author)2014-11-16

One thing that might be useful is to build a box around this rig so os mounted pointed down at a suitably absorbant surface. You can then place your item inside the box and bore your hole. The box walls can be made of material suitable for the wavelength. Extend that a little more and mount it on a suitable CNC type rig like Littlebox does and you have an engraver you can fully control. With it fully enclosed you are well protected from the light itself. What I haven't heard mentioned is the protection needed from what you are burning into. PVC for exanple, will release Chlorine gas which is lethal. So don't just protect your eyes, be sure to have loads of ventilation and don't inhale any fumes -- if you are burning through plastic have some sort of breather mask on.

msallen (author)2014-11-16

The most important part has been left off the parts list - A PAIR OF LASER SAFTEY GLASSES!!!!!

Guys, this will do very serious, irreparable damage to your eyes, and all it takes is a stray reflection off a mirror or piece of glass or reflective piece of metal. PLEASE do not make this without buying and religiously using laser safety glasses (ordinary dark glasses will NOT work!). It only takes a flash of light to damage your eyes and there is no healing them. Try closing your eyes and walking around without them for 2 minutes so see what that means...

webgomer (author)msallen2014-11-16

Outstanding basic information and warning. Thank you msallen!

NoseyNick (author)msallen2014-11-16

... and that sign that says "WARNING! LASER! DO NOT LOOK INTO BEAM WITH REMAINING EYE" :-)

NoseyNick (author)NoseyNick2014-11-16

Some examples

The Lightning Stalker (author)2014-11-16

I flagged this as incomplete. Although you did add a warning to take safety precautions, you did not provide any details about such precautions. Laser safety glasses should be in the materials needed list and there should be a step about proper usage. eBay GLASSES DO NOT WORK with this wavelength! The cheapest ones that actually work are the Eagle Pair available from Survival Laser. At least provide a link to them. The AixiZ glasses work better, but cost more. This is a case of, "You get what you pay for."

That's good information that I can now research. Lasers and wavelengths vs what kind of eye protection. I would not have thought to look for that specific info. Thank you!

I've found a link about lasers and one for goggles, and I've featured your comment since it contains links for goggles pertaining to this.

Bowtie41 (author)2014-11-16

Another GREAT source of info is about all sorts of lasers and their SAFETY

jay-bee (author)2014-11-16

I would highly recommend Laser Safely Goggles when using a High Powered Laser as you describe.

A 400mW Laser WILL burn your retina since your eye's lens acts as a magnifying glass. It may also burn your skin if contact is made with the focused beam.

According to the drawing you supplied the Max current that can be supplied to the laser is limited to ~250mA. (1.25 / 5 Ohms = 0.250 A)

Not knowing your Laser diode type... An LPC-826 red Laser Diode will output ~150mW at 250mA. It will output ~350mW at ~570mA.

I say "about" (~) because all LDs are not identical.

The only true way to know the exact power of your Laser is with a Laser Power Meter. Hobbyist power meters such as the LaserBee Laser Power Meter products would be the way to go.




sappalangi (author)2017-01-07

Hi guys, I got a laser diode from my DVD writter drive.before making the driver circuit I just want to check the laser diode is working or not .so I checked with a multimeter using diode mode.there is no light rays multimeter shows the value 1702 but no beep that spoiled? Plz help me

RGTech (author)2016-12-30

Hi! Can you tell what gauge the wire is you are using is ??

Troller521 (author)2016-08-20

Will this not work if i use a 2000mW laser diode?

SHOE0007 (author)2016-08-05

Prehaps if you are going to use a diode like this (Laser diode) for a long time then it may need to be cooled with a fan (air cooled method). All high powered lasers require a fan to cool it.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-08-05

Interesting the diagram explains the logic circuit behind any burning laser.

yrralguthrie (author)2016-06-14

Whatever, buy a blue or purple laser. It won't light a match. The green one will, the red barely with patience.

BiggDanny (author)2016-06-14

"then all it took was touching the wires and soldering tip to their respective pins just long enough to melt the solder any more time than this and you can burn the diode like I did, don't be like me"

You need to use a heat sink on the component wire between the diode and the soldering iron. An alligator clip should work fine.

jim_m_coates (author)2016-06-12

It is NOT safe to cut PVC with a laser. Be very careful and do your research before cutting plastics with lasers.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a plasticizer that is used to make a multiplicity of products including signage, figurines, flooring and many other products.

PVC emits extremely toxic and corrosive hydrogen chloride acid gas, dioxin, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride, which make a very toxic carcinogenic combination.

don't care what you, use to cut pvc. using too much power, shall always produce undesired compounds. in fact pvc, will out-gas appreciably even at a bit more than slightly above room temperature. pvc used on car interiors, leaves a white film of vinyl chloride on your windows. the higher the temperature, the grater is the deterioration for pvc. and uv wavelengths, ozone, heat, and vacuum are particularly harsh on pvc. there is no considered safe medical, or food grade for pvc products.

Its ok when cut with bladed tools, mill/ lathe/saw but you are quite right its not good. The laser however causes causes the release of HCL which is carcinogenic and highly corrosive to anything it touches (I witnessed this in a cleanroom I was having built for a medical device).
Cutting PVC with a laser is a very bad idea.

personally i, don't machine pvc. every time you machine pvc, your exposing fresh material to air. and you, can even smell a marked increase in vinyl chloride and other stuff. and it is not good, for the environment. and if you throw it out as spent trash, you have no control over what happens to it.

The_Doer_Of_Things (author)2016-06-13

I like this

qdogg (author)2016-06-13

I got a burning purple laser from DH Gate in China for $18(no battery, that's another $4). But you don't get the fun of modding.The Russian Hacker says you can use a magnifying glass to make a cheap laser burn but I haven't tried it.

Raiden351 (author)2016-06-13

Bought a blue laser online cost $100. Rated at 8000 times brighter than the sun. It should be handled like it's a firearm. Lots of fun but 1 mili sec in an eye and your eye is toast.

sarasahil (author)2015-11-18

do you have any idea how to build a gas laser specifically carbondioxide laser,this semiconductor diode laser you have built is it direct band gap (compound semiconductor) or indirect band gap (elemental semiconductor ) laser?

well that is most likely, beyond the scope of what most of you can do. to build, a regenerative or non-regenerative CO2 laser requiring specialty materials for lenses, mirrors, prisms and windows where glass is not an acceptable material. where even the CO2, hydrogen, nitrogen, (xenon) and helium, gas mixture, high voltage and safety requirement are all a specialty. as a non-regenerative system, limits the power output obtainable. and a regenerative system, is quite a lot more complicated. and as familiar as, i am to them. i don't think i would attempt to build anything of that complexity with the equipment i have. even though i, know how they are made. i operated a regenerative cooling 15joule 10micron laser, for almost 5 years for scientific research. and i own a 1/2 watt, non-regenerative CO2 laser that i bought on e-bay for $25.

yrralguthrie (author)2016-06-12

I'll yield to the guy that stated that the lower the frequency the more light energy is transferred. However; ultraviolet which he mentions is a higher frequency than either green or red. So according to him a blue laser will have lower energy transfer since it's a higher frequency that green and thus green with have higher energy than red.

The blue laser of the same power as green and red will not burn.

be really careful here, green, blue, and uv lasers are higher energy and more penetrating will burn flesh deep down. blue lasers, are used for precision surgery blood and reds tend to be black to blue and uv-lasers.

infra-red and red wavelength are generally more surface heating/burning. and not all solids are opaque, absorbing, or reflective at different frequencies.

10-micron infra-red is used, for cutting/welding glass and most plastics or anything with an oxygen bond so a glass, or polycarbonate lenses are useless. and will pass right thru, most metals or reflected by some once it removes the oxide coating.

never assume, that any coherent beam is not dangerous no matter what the wattage. and invisible laser wavelengths, pose a more serious threat not being seen without special apparatus.

what you are going to cut, weld, melt, burn should determine what light wavelength to use. and the type of wavelength, determines the type of protection and safety precautions needed. and uv b and c wavelengths, are increasingly penetrating ionizing radiation.

know what your getting into, before you get into it not after it's too late.

deswiger (author)2016-06-13

Do you think I can use this to etch glass or at least set my dumb cousins shoes to smoking from the other side of the room at the next family reunion????? ;) Semper Fi

fastrat2000 (author)2016-06-12

I think your dvier maybe not be what you thinking it is, its fix volt drop, so if input volts change its so does output to laser. also there no current limiting, your counting on the laser to self limit and they don't do that very well. If you add 10-5K from 2 10r at bot to ground this give make your input pin on LM317 ref to output volts not just volt drop across it, this should give fixed volt out, if then add .5r or 1r resistor in line with the laser this gives you fix know load, you then use volt meter read volt drop over the resistor, then use oms law work out amps going throw laser, or could split in amp meter. This cost few mill amp more draw but give much safer and set output.


yrralguthrie (author)2016-06-12

Or just buy this for $9.00

They have red ones, green ones and blue ones. The green one has the most energy and will work with patience. The red maybe. Very bright, some eye protection will help as you will see spots if you look at the reflection for long. Do not look directly at the laser source.

Blue laser have much less energy and will not burn at anywhere close to the same power level. Different colors have different energy out with the same input power.

yosuf.harb (author)2016-02-20

can you use a higher MW diode without changing the rest of the parts?

asingh218 made it! (author)2015-12-13

made it right had coolers added too didn't burn after a week or so probably because I took the diode out of a used DVD multipurpose drive. sorry I had to label each and every component I used as it was my school project!

cybericius (author)2015-08-17

Thanks, now I have a fancy cigarette lighter!

GaryC6 (author)2015-08-16

What is the part number of the laser diode. Your LM317 is in constant current mode, do you know how much current you are using for the diode?

smandal13 (author)2015-08-16


markintaos (author)2015-08-16

if I draw with a black sharpie on clear plastic then follow with the laser will it work to cut the plastic??

icarusmed (author)2015-08-16

Hi there! Great instructatable!

First of all I'll give you my impression about safety instructions. IMHO I would have put the disclaimer just below the title! Probably you could have done better with links and you could have put the safety goggles in tools list. ANYWAY all of my suggestions are meant for children safety. About adults, i would feel a bit ashamed by needing this kind of advices and claiming to be an adult.

My apologies if i'm hurting someone's adulthood conception!
About the diode. What does a more powerful diode need in terms of variations of your project (except a more efficient heatsink).


VladY1 (author)2015-08-16

Constant current source schematic is wrong.

It should be like

VladY1 (author)2015-08-16

Razanur (author)2015-08-15

Thanks for this! Could you use this diode for chalking wood?

LaserByte made it! (author)2015-07-21

I built a handheld version of this laser. I used some PVC pipe to make an enclosure and powered it with a 9-volt battery. The handheld version is not powerful enough to burn anything because the battery does not have enough current to fully power the diode. This is mostly useful as a fancy laser pointer, but I might make an external attachment that would make the laser more powerful. BE SAFE WITH LASERS!

LaserByte (author)2015-06-20

Can I use a 9 volt battery as a power source for a handheld version?

About This Instructable




Bio: If you have any questions about my Instructables just ask me Twitter and Snapchat Kaltol1994
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