The laser cutter is one of the most useful tools in a modern shop. Laser cutters work by directing a very powerful laser beam, at a precise focal length, onto a material which they either cut or etch, depending on how the laser cutter has been set up. Laser cutters cut materials similarly to other computer controlled tools, only they do so using a beam of light as opposed to a blade. When laser cutters are set up to etch something on the surface of a material, they operate like a printer, literally using their laser beam to etch an image onto something.

This Instructable is meant to be a resource to anyone who is looking to do some laser cutting for the first time, learn a bit more about how laser cutters work, or just explore the wonderful world of laser cutters.

Step 1: Materials - Part 1 - The Machine

The first thing you're going to need to use a laser cutter, is the laser cutter. Though, chances are if you don't have one yet, purchasing one may not be within your budget.

Epilog recently released a line of budget laser cutters that come in just under $8,000.00. With that in mind, I'm going to explore other ways of getting your hands on a laser cutter.

First, there's always local colleges. Community colleges are fairly cheap for classes, and it can't hurt to see if they offer any classes in art or engineering that involve laser engraving. Less then a hundred dollars (depending on cost per credit) for a class, and you should have access to a laser cutter for a whole semester. Going about it this way, you not only get cheap access to a laser cutter, you also get to learn some tips and tricks, plus constant hands on experience.

If you just want your design made and don't have the cash for, or want to buy, the machinery, you can do some searches in your local area for businesses that will laser cut for you. There's a lot of places that make a business of laser cutting items for other people. You can also try to find places that use laser cutters, and see if they wouldn't mind helping you out.

Another way to get your design made without buying a laser cutter is with a company like Ponoko, who will cut whatever design you send them, and send you back the finished product. There is an excellent set of Instructables on doing just that.

If you really want your own laser cutter and just don't have the money for it, there are a couple of options. You can go to manufactures websites and see if they have an option to purchase pre-owned models, or go to a site like ebay and hope that what you buy is what you get.

You could also treat it as you would a car, since it costs just about as much, and lease-to-own.
<p>Hi everyone this website is amazing , the community is very dynamic ;)</p><p><br>I would like to make very little dots ( not a line only one point ) on glass material.<br>What is the minimum size available for the dot diameter ( i would like something between 10&micro;m to 100&micro;m) and deep around 1mm ? Do you think it is even possible ? What component do i need ? <br><br>Thank you all ;)<br>Jeremy G</p>
Hi everyone, hope u can help me! I am a stay home mum and dying to make and sell from home some acrylic cake toppers. I'm not sure where to begin, what machine to buy and how to learn to use it. I'd like one that's not huge so it fits somewhere in my office, do they come in different sizes. I'm in Australia, if anyone knows what machine to use please let me know. Thanks
<p>Most of the major companies who make Laser cutters, make desktop versions. You can do a search for desktop laser cutter, and you'll find a several to compare against each other. I would suggest looking at what each offer, and deciding which best suits your needs based on cost, size and function.</p>
<p>hi i have one engraving machine but dont know how to go about it please help me out </p>
<p>What kind of engraving machine?</p>
<p>We have 2 epilogs in our class, (25 watt and a 35 watt) but do all our designing in Coreldraw. How do you com vert dxf and dwf files to corel?</p>
<p>You can try something like 123D Make: </p><p>http://www.123dapp.com/make</p>
<p>This was an amazing article. Thank you for creating it, it helped me so much! </p>
<p>Thug Life</p>
<p>Thanks for the tips, I think the idea of using a community colleg's laser cutter is a great idea. These things remind me of 3D printing a bit, but this has been around longer right? I would like to design some partitions that go between my living room and kitchen.</p><p>Yvon Lebras | http://www.rapidlaser.com.au</p>
<p>Thank you in advance ;) I highly apreciate it </p>
<p>This was super helpful thanks!! =D</p>
<p>Is all acrylic laser cuttable?</p>
<p>Wanted to mention this free open source ruby software that you can use to generate notched boxes outline. You run the script, and it generates PDF file that can be imported into Adobe or CorelDraw:</p><p>https://github.com/kigster/laser-cutter</p>
<p>yes ,laser cutting machine can cut almost any nonmetal materials .</p>
Don't forget to see if there's a hackerspace or makerspace in your area. We (Bloominglabs in Bloomington, IN) recently pooled our resources to purchase a laser cutter. Members can use it for reasonable rates (mainly, we just want to cover costs) and members of the public can work something out with us. There may be a place in your town like that, and it's a heckuva lot cheaper than buying your own.
<p>GRMakers(.com) in Grand Rapids, Michigan is eagerly awaiting the delivery of a brand new Laser Cutter this week (April 22, 2014)! I look forward to using it to make custom-designed fence panels and trellis!</p>
Can I use Autodesk Inventor to design a knife and cut it? Thanks in advance :D <br>
I just took the Laser Cutter class at San Jose Tech Shop last night, and this is a really good tutorial! Can't wait to start using the machine!
its ... HUGE .
I found an affordable laser cutter right here: <a href="http://www.troteclaser.com/en-US/laser_systems/speedy_flatbed_laser_systems/Pages/Laser_Engraver_Speedy100.aspx">Trotec Speedy 100</a> <br>It's an entry level laser system at high quality. <br>
FANTASTIC tutorial - I always wondered about the process...I. Really. Really. Really. Want. One! I think I will get a large piggy bank and start filling it up with change...one day it'll be enough.....
If you are going to laser engrave glass, be prepared to run the focusing equipment manually. I found that the glass reflection can confound the auto focus.
Awesome... now only if i could afford a $8,000 dollar laser cutter:p
They can be bought used, but that doesn't mean dirt cheap. Be prepared for a big bill anyway.
It seems to me that a laser cutter is something that a group of folks could buy together and share. Like a snow blower in the South. One person might not use it enough to make it profitable. But divided among 4 people?
ponoko FTW. hackerspaces FTW.
Agreed. But there are more specialty tools in general at TechShop.
3 friends and I are planning on buying a Epilog Mini this next year. Gonna start a engraving business, might even take orders offa the internets as well<br />
IIRC, the autofocusing happens at the first point where the laser will be on, right?
Yes, but I find it can be a little difficult to determine what point that will be on larger images. I think you have to be very aware of which line is on top of all the other line segments in your vector image.
was that the EEE 900HA?
It's actually the 1000 model (got it before they started releasing ones with suffixes).
cool. Anyways it reminds me on what i want to do one day. I want to get i really old laptop (that runs windows 3) and put an EEE or something like that in its shell. Just for something to do..
?<br><br>also, I wish they had linux drivers
HOW TO BE RICH ENOUGH TO AFFORD A LASER CUTTER, so all these instructables don't go to waste. These teases irk me. I want a laser cutter. Waaaaaah.
step 1: be rich enough to get a 3D printer<br>step 2: print 3D printer parts until you're rich enough to get a laser cutter
Me, too. I so want a desktop cutter and yet...so out of reach I think...big sigh
OMG! I was thinking the same thing! I am going back to school in Sept, when I am done and in my job, first thing I buy is a laser cutter! Damn thing is worth more than my car :(
Same here! But $8000...!
&nbsp;What is the purpose of this instructable?&nbsp;<br /> <br /> If someone spent 8K on an Epilog Laser, shouldn't they have the initiative to RTM?<br />
but trust me, the manual dosen't cover everything.<br><br>same goes for the manuals for MRI machines. apparently, they're not to be used in explosive environments*.<br><br>*I actually found that in a manual for an MRI machine

About This Instructable




Bio: You can see my personal website at sneezingturtle.com.
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