This Frankenstein Laser Cutter was built out of an old scanner and printer.
The whole thing evolved around the instructable of Groover and his 'Pocket Laser Engraver'.
This is a Making-Of. Although a lot, if not everything, of the mechnical construction requires ingenuity I tried to document the complete build process as much as I could. Every scanner and printer mechanics are different so this could not be used as a step-by-step guide. More of a "how it can be done"-guide. I try to cover the questions that could arise in the process of making.

I had absolutely no clue about electronics. All I knew was that RED is (often) + and BLACK is (often) Ground.

Therefore I have learned a lot in this project. Starting from mechanical stuff like self-replenishing brass bearings to electronical stuff like stepper motors and the difference between bi- and unipolar motors to soldering and etching my own board.

The work area is 270mm x 200mm. Just about right do cut some flip-flops for the summer.

It is able to cut :

  • foam rubber
  • tape
  • vinyl
  • paper (nearly every color but white/red)
  • several plastics (could require several runs depending on thickness)

It can engrave:

  • light wood (Balsawood/Poplar)
  • leather
  • bone
  • horn
  • plastics
  • some varnishes
  • blank cds/dvds (purple/blue)
The color is quite important. White and in general bright colors are hard if not impossible to work with.
Those colors reflect the red laser beam to much.
Red(ish) colors are a problem as well as they reflect all light in the red range spectrum.

The building costs (without mispurchase [easydriver clones were for the trash can]) is around 45-55 €.

Arduino(clone) 10 €
Easydriver x 2 20 €
Electronic bits and pieces 10-15€
Aixiz housing /w lens 6 €
Alu-profiles 5 €
------------------------------------- ----------
Total 46-56€

Well I forgot the Laser Safety Glasses (THIS IS A MUST!!):


Laser safety glasses 50 €
New total100 €

Build time with knowledge acquisition and waiting for shipping was around 4 month...
I am constantly updating this so be sure to come back from time to time for further improvements.

May, 9th 2013 : Updated Step 14 : The Laser diode (pictures and some focus hints)

May, 13th 2013 : Added Step 17 - Links and files section

Added Step 18 - Take it to the next step (Improvement - optional)
Updated BOM list. Now contains more stuff you need
May, 20th 2013 : Corrected mm/sec to mm/min ! Seconds would be very very fast.

June, 1st 2013 : Added Step 13 - Alternate laser driver shield (Easylaser Shield)
December, 4th 2013: Updated Alternative Easylaser Shield schematic/layout with the help of jduffy54.

Step 1: Indentifying the Salvage Loot

Before you go an a salvage rampage consider the following hints:

  • The older the printer the better.
  • The newer the scanners the better.
Scanner stepper motors are often superior to printer steppers. They do have more steps in general.

The newer the printer, the lesser is the chance of getting steppers out of it. 
All scanners have stepper motors. The older the more likely you are getting a unipolar stepper which we can't use in this project.


Identifing the parts of old devices is often a pain but I had luck with at least the scanner stepper. For the printer I had found a service manual. But this didn't helped me alot.

Scanner / X-Axis
The scanner is an old Tevion 2400 dpi scanner. Equivalent to a Microtek Scanmaker 5800.
The stepper is a 96 step bipolar stepper motor. It's description is NEOCENE 2T354207.
Do not believe anyone other that says this is a 100 step motor. It is not ! It has 96 steps. Not more not less.

I used the bed of the scanner as the basis of the whole construction.
The rail and the timing belt aswell as the sled which carried the photoelectronics is used.
Though the sled needed to be trimmed to give more space for the laser.
There is something special about the stepper. It has a 4 gears mounted on its foreplate.
The gear ratio is luckly negligible.
If you are still curious how to calculate a gear ratio have a look at this page.
It is in german but the math shown there is a universal language (or use the google translator)
The scanner stepper serves as the x-axis.

Printer / Y-Axis
The printer was an old Epson Stylus Photo 925.
The stepper I salvaged is oddly described in the Service Manual.
It says it is a  4-phase 48 pole bipolar stepper motor for 42V (??) but as it is a bipolar stepper there must not be 4 phases but 2.
Turning the shaft by hand and counting the steps I came up with 48 steps.
This motor (and plates for printer head) serves as the y-axis.
In the end I realized that the 48 steps or the motor itself are the weak spot in this built. It moves slower than the scanner stepper and clatters on the rod. No brass fittings here. Vaseline should dampen the negative effect.

Stepper motor specifications:
  Tevion 2400 dpi / Microtek 5800 Epson Stylus Photo 925
Phase   2 2
Step angel   3,75°/Step = 96 steps 7,5°/Step = 48 steps
Voltage   5 V 5-12 V
Current  ? ?
Resistance   5,5 Ω 7 Ω
Holding torque  ? ?

Later in the process I found out that both motors draw less then at least 300 mA.
The Easydriver V4.4 still has the bug with the silk print on it mixing MAX and MIN of the poti.
So in V4.4 they switched the print on the PCB but simultaneously replaced the poti with a reverse poti.
At least this is what I have read in some forums or the comments over at Sparkfun. 
Smart :)

So long story short:
The poti is set to a low resistance that means the steppers get a fraction of the current the Easydriver can deliver. Max 750mA per coil. The poti is set to roughly 25%. Just so that they dont scream in pain.

Stepper motor pinout:

On my journey through the endless deepth of the internets I often stumbled over question as how to get the correct pinout from the steppers. 
You just need to take a piece of wire and connect the pins. If you connect the correct pairs you should feel a resistance when turning the shaft of the stepper
<p>It's alive! :)</p>
<p>Good instructable! Thanks for all of the details.</p>
Nice project! The scanner base gives a very nice area to work with. I've dabbled with DVD-RW based laser engravers/cutters (a lot) and their 1.5&quot;x1.5&quot; (38mm x 38mm) workarea is quite a limitation - I'm sure having 270mm x 200mm is quite liberating! <br>What are the accuracies you are getting with this setup (96SPR + pulley) - what diameter is the driving pulley and how close are you able to get to the max resolution with EasyDriver?
Having such a big work area is really quite nice ! <br> <br>I am getting an accuracy of 1/10mm (0,0039&quot;). The x-axis driving pully (scanner) is 9,1mm in diameter(0,358&quot;). The y-axis pully has 6,4mm diameter. <br>For the resolution, the scanner stepper with 96 steps does very well with 1/8 stepping. The printer stepper is running in 1/8 stepping as well but as it moves the motor doesn't sound very &quot;clean&quot;. Actually it has a nice accurarcy of 1/10mm, too. But 1/4 stepping would be better I think. Another option would be to replace the stepper with another, bigger (in number of steps) stepper motor but I havn't found any good replacement (slavage) by now. I am learning something new everyday and things get clearer the more I read and try.
I'm coming up with (9.1mm x 3.1415)/96 = ~0.29mm as the max resolution for the scanner motor with 9.1mm pulley in full step mode. I am curious if you're able to increase that by using 1/8th microsteps. Did you measure 0.1mm?<br> <br> I've done such measurement before by cutting a line at a very acute angle. Say, you want to cut a line along the Y axis but have the X at the beginning to be 1mm off from X at the end. Doesn't matter, 1mm more or 1mm less, just has to be off. The longer the line the easier it will be to see the accuracy. Once you cut the line, you should be able to see quite clearly 10 saw-tooth like regions that break the straight line (hold it toward a light source to see easier)&nbsp; if your accuracy is 0.1mm, 5 teeth if you accuracy is 0.2mm, 4 teeth if 0.25mm and so on.<br> <br> I've done it for DVD-RW steppers with the stock 3mm pitch lead screw which in theory should have 0.15mm resolution (3mm/20SPR =&nbsp; 0.15mm per step) and I cannot see any improvement whatsoever in any of the microstepping modes. I've also played with the current setting of the EasyDriver - nothing I did could create any better resolution than what's available in full step mode. I chucked it up to my stepper being overloaded. I wonder if you get any different results from yours.<br> <br> By the way, I actually found 0.15mm accuracy to be quite bad for my tiny cutter. The details I would want to cut were so small that I needed them to be extremely accurate and 0.15mm just didn't cut it (pardon the pun). See if you can cut yourself a tiny 1:212 scale&nbsp;<a href="http://elabz.com/resources/cnc-files/" rel="nofollow"> model of Lockheed P-38J Lightning</a> from here out of 3mm craft foam - it only holds together without glue if the accuracy is better than approx 0.05mm. Same with the tiny rocket model there - if it holds together, it's at about the maximum resolution that you can get from this laser cutter. It will be really difficult to&nbsp; focus the laser into a spot less than 50 micron anyway.<br> <br> Cheers!
Okay trying this one but I think the printer stepper is the crucial point or it's microstepping mode. I did the rocket you coded on your page and I needed some glue to hold it together.<br> <br> <blockquote> <p> you should be able to see quite clearly 10 saw-tooth like regions that break the straight line (hold it toward a light source to see easier)&nbsp; if your accuracy is 0.1mm, 5 teeth if you accuracy is 0.2mm, 4 teeth if 0.25mm and so on.</p> </blockquote> <p> You mean like &quot;M3 X100 Y100&quot;. Cutting a diagonal line ?</p>
M3<br> G1 X1 Y100<br> M4<br> <br> I think this would be the right Gcode as interpreted by Grubl (if M3 turns the laser on, M4 off). In other words, the X travel should be minimal, ideally 1 mm.<br> <br> I don't know idiosyncrasies of Grubl's processing of the Gcode. Perhaps the construct you gave will work but even then it would read as<br> M3 X1 Y100<br> <br> Cheers!
I had a chat with elabz and here is the result of his Gcode from above <br>http://imgur.com/ehNSXsP <br> <br>Top lines show the accuracy of the Y-axis. <br>Bottom, that of the x-axis. The x-axis is pretty clean so far. But the y-axis lacks accuracy for now. Switching the stepping mode could help. Or some dumpster diving.
(9.1mm x 3.1415)/96 = ~0.29mm as the max resolution<br> <br> Ah okay now I understand what you mean by 'max resolution'. The more I think about it, the more my &quot;measured&quot; accuracy cracks. I measured it with a ruler that has 0.5 mm steps (0,01968 inches) and I just estimated this 0.1mm.
<p>hello can someone help me to wire this module laser and driver to my cnc machine? i have the laser module and laser driver but i don't know how to wire to arduino uno. look the pictures please. if someone know how can i make it please i need a wiring diagram </p>
<p>Hi,</p><p>does the laserdriver works with a 1w laser too or did i havet o make some changes for it?</p>
<p>good work</p>
<p>Question!<br>Why does 200mV over the 1 ohm resistor make it so the laser is &lt;200mW ? I tried to calculate it using ohms law but that did not work at all somehow. I got<br>P = (200mV+4*0,7V) * (200mA) = 0.6W = 600mW. Do you have to calculate the rms value instead and divide by sqrt(2*pi) ?</p>
<p>Agree. In the picture, the current is passing through 4X diodes (each with a forward voltage drop of 1.0 - 1.1V). It also appears that the supply voltage is from the Arduino at 5V. Not sure why the 4X or 6X diodes...why not a resistor, potentiometer, or use the PWM function of the Arduino to give you the ability to adjust the laser strength in the text file. </p>
<p>I don't know what I am doing there but I found this setup somewhere on the internetz. And then it must be true. Anyways works for me :)</p><p>Also I switched from this driver to a ready-made driver board you get from Aixiz for 5$.</p>
<p>Awesome, Awesome instructable! </p><p>I have a question regarding the Aixiz driver. Did you use that same 4X diode dummy load circuit to set the potentiometer to 300mA on the Aixiz driver? And if so, How? I have been trying this and can only get to maybe 130mV on my multimeter before addition turns on the pot drop the voltage like a rock only to increase again to a max of maybe 130mV. I have even reached out to Aixiz about this problem and they sent me a replacement driver saying that that was odd that I couldn't reach the full 500mA they quote. The replacement had the same issue. I have the Arduino Uno driving the driver when I test it and I have pin 12, GRD and the 5V going to it. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I'm so close to my own laser engraver!!!</p>
<p>You dont need to connect Easy Driver pins MS1 and MS2 to 5V.</p><p>The default setting is 1/8th stepping.</p><p>Quote from Easy Driver website:</p><p><strong>The Easy Driver is able to operate in 1/8th, 1/4, half, and full<br> step (2 phase) modes. These four modes are selected by the logic<br> levels on the MS1 and MS2 input pins. Normally, the pull-up<br> resistors on the Easy Driver hold MS1 and MS2 high, which results in<br> a default setting of 1/8th microstep mode. You can pull either<br> or both to ground to select the other 3 modes if you want.</strong></p><p><br></p><p><br></p>
<p>Hello, you thought to add a Lcd display i2c 16x02 to the machine?</p><p>Thanks, Stefano</p>
Hi all, i have a similar laser (2.8 w, 450nm) engraver but I'm slightly worried about the safety. It came with goggles but im not sure whether they suffice. <br>Is an indirect beam of this laser dangerous? <br>Which type of material wouldn serve as a good safety screen for such a laser? <br>Thank you! *<br>Joris
<p>This is something i have been looking for! I think about upgrading my 3D printer with laser cutter and this is just what i needed!</p>
Hello this is very nice project i like it and now i try to make it i read and make step by step. But have a problem i upload 0.8c hex file on my arduino but with default settings how to change settings like yors. I want to make like yours settings because i take printer and scener liker youra model. Or if is possible to send me file will be great for me. Thanks in advance.
Hello this is verrt nice project i like it and now i try to make it i read and make step by step. But have a problem i upload 0.8c hex file on my arduino but with default settings how to change settings like yors. I want to make like yours settings because i take printer and scener liker youra model. Or if is possible to send me file will be great for me. Thanks in advance.
<p>what program you use to draw?</p>
<p>Ian, have you seen this?</p><p>http://www.banggood.com/300mW-Mini-DIY-Laser-Engraving-Machine-Picture-Logo-CNC-Laser-Printer-p-958368.html</p>
<p>Also for 129$ I would not expect to have the laser glued with a hot gun to the sled.</p>
<p>yea mate I bought one of them its pretty limited as to what it will do, the unit dosent work at the moment some thing stuffed up in the board some where and it hasnt done a lot of work as for the hot glue well at least you can reglue it easy the base board has fallen off a couple of times but it works </p>
LOL I thought the same!
<p>Woah 129$ including safety googles. My safety googles were already 60$. Anyhow looks nice and once again proves that no one can beat chinese pri....wait they used my picture ! </p><p>Should I know feel honored ? Actually all of their sample cut pictures are downloaded somewhere from the internets. Doubt the T-Rex fits on the working surface.</p><p>Thanks Andrea !</p>
<p>Very good work .</p>
<p>Very good work .</p>
<p>Hi,</p><p>Having made a Groover-based laser engraver of my own, I like to see how others go about it too. I really like how you have used the printer/scanner to increase your work area. Well done.</p><p>I thought I would add a few things I have found in playing with my engraver.</p><p>I use the LPC826 laser diode. I believe that was the LD that came in the DVD burner I hacked up. After I zapped it by not treating it well, I bought some online. I have been driving them at about 380mA for a while. They seem to be quite happy there.</p><p>I found that when I thought my laser was best focussed with the smallest dot, I was wrong. I did some tests where I would repeatedly try to cut a shape from foam and incrementally raise the laser each time. The best cutting at the highest speeds was not where I thought it would be. I think that although the laser 'dot' at that height was larger, the tiny center-point was better focussed. </p><p>Another thing I did was have a steel bed (like you). I drew up a grid in Inkscape the same size (approx) as my work area and saved it as a template. I then covered my steel plate with white masking tape and burned the template into the tape. Now I can position things accurately before engraving or cutting. (To burn the template into the masking tape, I laid down a piece of black paper for the laser to burn through, otherwise the white tape would not burn). I only burned small crosses at the grid crossings. If you burn the grid lines you will get a whole heap of little black paper squares that will move as you cut and stuff things up!<br>Also, you can set the grid as a separate layer to your designs in your Inkscape file, so when it comes to converting to code, you first hide the grid layer. </p>
<p>Wow save $2000+ from buying the http://glowforge.com/ and build your own!</p>
I see you cut Vinyl , Warning do not cut vinyl with any laser as it omits a toxic gas.
<p>Yeah smelt pretty hazardous. Don't do this!</p>
<p>Me and my friend are planning on building this for a senior project and maybe building some for us as well as long as we get the first one working. Would you be willing to videoconference or email with us or something so we could talk about techniques? We would really appreciate it. I am a bit rusty with pcb's but i have all the most common electrical components and a couple spare arduinios laying around, and plenty of tools available. I have several areas i can check for the stepper motors, and the other parts. Your instructable is fairly clear but i just want to make sure we do this right the first time. It's hard to be the salvage king I am because my parents don't like clutter. If the first one or two work we will be donating them to our school to work in tandem with the 3d printers they have but then we also want to make our own, so hopefully we can get the first to work. My phone is currently broken because my cousin ran it over in my 3/4 ton truck but i still have skype, email, and a webcam with audio so whatever works for you! I live in NM currently.</p><p>Thanks!</p>
Great work dude great project !!!
<p>hi,thank you so so much for nice job.i make it and now i have a <br>problem.i can not Conversion my picture to g code .please give me a <br>softwar for Conversion any picture to g code and sending g code to my <br>arduino.</p><p>please tell me how i can conversion text to g code with inkscap softwar</p>
<p>just wondering would this work on the uno r3 version of arduino as thats the one i have and also different driver too i also have a laser driver my mechanical setup is almost the same as yours but my electronics are all different will this make much of a difference in getting it to work </p><p>?</p>
<p>when I hit ratnest on eagle the entire image turns blue apart from the traces and then the holes don't show up either. am I doing something wrong?</p>
<p>Can you provide a link to where you bought your laser driver? I'd really appreciate it.</p>
Excuse me for my dumb question but why can't i just use a relay to power the laser?
<p>This is by far the most comprehensive and best tutorial on the subject of laser cutters on instructables!! Good on ya! I'm just learning about this and wow, am I glad I found this tutorial. </p>
<p>hi</p><p>what the type of laser can i use</p><p>i want to know if the laser removes the powder coated paint from the surface of the Zippo Lighter to reveal the bare brass metal underneath.</p><p>like this video on youtube</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/-Zjwc1OIHZU" width="500"></iframe></p>
<p>Hi</p><p>I managed to engrave a vanished metal sheet of an old PC case with my diode.</p><p>The result from that shown in the video may vary though. </p>
<p>thanks</p><p>can i see The result from a vanished metal sheet of an old PC case with your diode</p><p>ad image pleas</p>
<p>I don't understand how the laser diode can stay on for so long. Normally laser diodes die after 10 minutes if only cooling is simple heatsink.</p>
<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, i bugth a 1w 445nm blue laser</p>
<p>Almost all of the motors I am reclaiming are 5 wire steppers. Is there a way to make those work for this with the easy driver? Sorry but this is my first Arduino project. </p>
Hi, I'd like to make the lasershield, but can't find the download for the fixed version. What exactly is wrong with your orignial layout? <br><br>Cheers Kris

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