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Frankenstein Laser Engraver

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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!!):

--- SEE STEP 16 FOR LASER SAFETY GLASSES ---

Laser safety glasses 50 €
New total 100 €


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.

UPDATES:
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.

 
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elabz1 year ago
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"x1.5" (38mm x 38mm) workarea is quite a limitation - I'm sure having 270mm x 200mm is quite liberating!
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?
ianmcmill (author)  elabz1 year ago
Having such a big work area is really quite nice !

I am getting an accuracy of 1/10mm (0,0039"). The x-axis driving pully (scanner) is 9,1mm in diameter(0,358"). The y-axis pully has 6,4mm diameter.
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 "clean". 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?

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)  if your accuracy is 0.1mm, 5 teeth if you accuracy is 0.2mm, 4 teeth if 0.25mm and so on.

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 =  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.

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  model of Lockheed P-38J Lightning 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  focus the laser into a spot less than 50 micron anyway.

Cheers!
P38-Lightning-Coin.jpg
ianmcmill (author)  elabz1 year ago
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.

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)  if your accuracy is 0.1mm, 5 teeth if you accuracy is 0.2mm, 4 teeth if 0.25mm and so on.

You mean like "M3 X100 Y100". Cutting a diagonal line ?

M3
G1 X1 Y100
M4

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.

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
M3 X1 Y100

Cheers!
ianmcmill (author)  elabz1 year ago
I had a chat with elabz and here is the result of his Gcode from above
http://imgur.com/ehNSXsP

Top lines show the accuracy of the Y-axis.
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.
ianmcmill (author)  ianmcmill1 year ago
picture
img017mod.jpg
ianmcmill (author)  ianmcmill1 year ago
(9.1mm x 3.1415)/96 = ~0.29mm as the max resolution

Ah okay now I understand what you mean by 'max resolution'. The more I think about it, the more my "measured" accuracy cracks. I measured it with a ruler that has 0.5 mm steps (0,01968 inches) and I just estimated this 0.1mm.
billgeo2 days ago

Thats great!

I got an old and clanky printer and an old and clanky A3 scanner

and I have striped them down to their axis and I am testing their movemnt now!

I plan on using an IR laser diode I got laying around for years.

Wish me luck, and thank you for the instructable!

fletcherjeremiah made it!1 month ago

Good instructable! Thanks for all of the details.

IMG_20140626_170743_421.jpg

Hello, Is it possible to engrave anodized aluminum on this? I read that a CD burner diode is much stronger (and more Dangerous) but do you think It might if the red diod does not?

Thanks for the great instructable!!!

ianmcmill (author)  TfdPaintball1 month ago
Don't nail me on that but I think CD (!) burner diodes are infrared lasers with 50-100mW.
It lies in the nature of light that: the longer the wavelength, the lesser power it.

Infrared is a longer wavelength than red light so those 50-100mW will be weaker than a 50-100mW red laser.

Anodized anluminium might be possible to engrave...
Boff9991 month ago

Hi Ian, great project! I have found a couple of stepper motors from some old laser printers but not sure they would be suitable. Mitusmi M555SP-2K (http://www.datasheetlib.com/datasheet/1094116/m55s...

They are 7.5deg steps (so 48 steps?) but 24v. Should I forget them and look for more suitable (higher steps, lower voltage) steppers?

Thanks in advance!

ianmcmill (author)  Boff9991 month ago

This is more of less the same stepper as I used for the Y-axis. Thing
is, 48 steps (without transmission as my X-axis stepper has) are not taaaht great. If you want to make it MacGyver/Frankenstein style go with the Mitsumi. Else get a 200 step <12V motor. Beware though
the heavier the motors are the more noise you will get in your
engravings. Means with heavier motors sturdy guides/rails left AND right
become important.

Thanks for your quick reply. For now then I think I'll just do a 'pocket engraver' as per Groover's instructable (but using a ready made laser driver as you have done). Then when I get my hands on some some suitable steppers I'll upgrade to a bigger work area.

Just one more question!: Is the fan for cooling the laser, or just the easy drivers, or both? Do you have it connected to a relay or are you switching it on manually?

elliot42063 months ago
I understand that there isn't a generic part number, but I cannot see which parts I need from the printer. Could you upload a picture of all the parts from the printer, and all the parts from the scanner?
ianmcmill (author)  elliot42062 months ago
​Take a look at the pictures in first steps. They should be pretty self-explanatory.
eastham082 months ago
casvandegoor3 months ago

Thanks for the nice instructable! I've salvaged two scanners and I'm ready to try this. Have you tried to engrave painted materials, such as painted scheet metal or painted glass? It might be an interesting feature if it could burn away the paint, exposing the material underneath.

ianmcmill (author)  casvandegoor3 months ago
I actually tried it and it works pretty nice.
From an old PC metal case I took the side panels and cut them to size to use as a working area for my laser. Those metal panels are painted with a gray-is paint. The result are very fine and sharp engravings.

Post some pictures once your build is finished !
goldenshuttle3 months ago

magnificent DIY..I will try to make one.

elliot42063 months ago
Okay thanks. And my other question?
ianmcmill (author)  elliot42063 months ago

Maybe you should read the whole instructable and have a look at the pictures. There is no generic "Part No. 123B".

elliot42063 months ago
Could you please explain exactly which parts we need from the printer? And can I use the laser from my printer?
ianmcmill (author)  elliot42063 months ago

Hey elliot4206

You need the laser diode (red light) from a DVD burner.

KrisCross934 months ago
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?

Cheers Kris
ianmcmill (author)  KrisCross934 months ago

You can find a link to Groover's laser shield in Step 11.

Step 13 direct download link to my alternate laser driver with jumpers for different microsteppings.

ianmcmill (author)  ianmcmill4 months ago

"My" original layout was done with microsteppings in mind. Though I made a mistake where different jumper settings did not change the microstepping mode. Jduffy54 took the Eagle layout and fixed it.

If you like I can upload "my original" (non-working-jumper-layout) and practise your Eagle skills.

Hey, thx for your help. I finally found both download links, seems like I had to be logged in to see them...
But when I open the fixed one with Eagle it looks wrong to me? (pic)

Layout.jpg
rcerchier5 months ago

the jp1 would be have a jumper?

rcerchier5 months ago

hi, i make the circuit by Goover but when i put laser in the terminal it doesn't
work..If someone would help me on this problem my e-mail is
riccardo.cerchier@gmail.com

ianmcmill (author)  rcerchier5 months ago

Did you check the laser diode with a battery first ?

Are your soldering joints OK ?

Try to measure your circuit on continuity.

I bought this laser diode http://m.ebay.it/itm/180937129646?txnId=1138678458008.. The joints are soldering ok..

the only different component is 6ke15a rather than sa15a

foto 1.JPGfoto 2.JPG
ianmcmill (author)  rcerchier5 months ago

Directly measure on the terminals if current is flowing.

ianmcmill write to me on these email

riccardo.cerchier@gmail.com please

ianmcmill (author)  rcerchier5 months ago

M04 for "laser on"; M05 for "laser off" in the g-code sender

ianmcmill (author)  rcerchier5 months ago

In the ebay description it says "These are multi-mode display diodes similar to the 1W+ 445nm diodes. Check these threads for info on output and beam correction."

I don't know if they are wired different then the DVD diodes or the
diode I used. Did you check if the diode is OKAY with a battery ?

the laser is ok, tomorrow at shool i measure on the terminals if current is flowing, with the command m04 the laser doesn't light

rcerchier5 months ago

hi, i make the circuit but when i put laser in the terminal it doesn't
work..If someone would help me on this problem my e-mail is
riccardo.cerchier@gmail.com

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