Check out the 2008 Universal Laser Cutter contest here!

The winners are in and the results posted! Check them out here in the Instructables blog!

You've seen all the sweet laser cutter Instructables, and dreamed about the projects you'd build if you had one.

First you'll tattoo your laptop, then build your own army of Autonomous, Self-Assembling Robots; next you might grab a little press for your new laser-cutter-based army by etching Martha Stewart's face in an eggplant, then finally relax and recharge with some Laser cut cake.

Quit dreaming and get working, because Instructables is giving away a BrightStar LG3040 laser cutter package worth over $6000!

To enter the contest, here's what you need to do:

Important update! We have changed the rules!

It seems the contest rules were unclear and had some unintended consequences. So, we're changing the rules, and moving the deadline back so people who had previously decided not to enter can still give it shot. These are the new rules:

1. Publish an awesome Instructable on any subject anytime between April 15th and Sunday July 1st 11:59 PM PDT and add it to the Laser Cutter contest group. You may submit as many Instructables as you choose.

Entries do not have to involve lasers; any Instructable is eligible. The focus is on sharing what you're passionate about.

2. We'll judge the projects and select 10 finalists. The 10 finalists will be announced on July 6th, and we will create special ratable forum posts about each finalist and their project. We will then invite the Instructables community to help judge by rating these special forums posts. From the finalists we will select a winner with help from Squid Labs, past winners, and the forum ratings.

We decided to make these changes for two reasons. First, the concept of writing a proposal seemed to be scaring people off. We simply wanted to know what you had in mind for the laser, and "I want to build cool stuff" would have potentially sufficed. Given this potential confusion over the proposal, we're just dropping it. Second, we're not going to explicitly use the pageviews and rating of the projects to help judge. Even though we only were only going to use it an an input into judging, it can favor a project that is older rather than better. So, by creating the special forum posts, each of the finalists will start on even ground. We didn't want anyone to decide not to enter because they were only going to get their project finished and published right before the deadline.

The winner will be announced on or around Friday July 13th.

Grand prize
BrightStar LG3040 laser cutter, Instructables t-shirt, stickers and patches.

First prize (to the the nine finalists)
Laser-etched Instructables Leatherman Juice S2 and an Instructables t-shirt

20 Second prizes
Instructables t-shirts.

Wondering how to write a great Instructable that is likely to make it to the finals? Read the How to make a great Instructable Instructable, and check out the winning Instructables from our previous contests:
Use it Again! Contest Winners
Show Your Heart Valentine's Day Contest Winners
Homemade Gift Contest Winners

Contest boilerplate is here and here; substitute contest names/specifics as necessary. Here are some details specific to this contest:

You must be 18 or older to enter. If you are 13-17, you can still enter, but to win you will need to verify that you had the permission of a parent or guardian (we will have a permission slip for you). The best solution would be to have your parent join you as a collaborator on your Instructable.

Only U.S. residents can win the laser cutter. Winner is responsible for all taxes (we will remind the finalists of this to make sure they are able properly deal with the taxes). Shipping internationally would be tough, but customs and differing world regulations on lasers make it impossible for us to give you a laser cutter if you are outside the U.S. I am sorry. I hope that non-U.S. residents will still enter; you can win any of the other prizes, and I promise that we will be blind to location in judging for the finals. If international entries make the finals, we will recognize them as such, award them a Leatherman, and select alternates from among the remaining pool of submissions to submit laser cutter proposals. (We're still confirming whether we can ship to Canada, and will update as soon as we know.)

Let me also encourage groups to enter the contest using our collaboration feature. I know a laser cutter would be a perfect addition to a community hobby shop.

Have fun!
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101gazz8 years ago
Im starting to get worried about the types of people entering this contest, Some of them seem to believe that they can cut anything and everything they want. There are certain things that you just dont cut with a laser cutter, As they produce fumes that are highly carcenogenic and even the filters cant stop. Someones gunna kill themselves..
what can you cut safely?????
Well if you think about it, you wouldn't melt plastic with a soldering iron because the fumes would get to you. Same with other toxic materials.

So i'd say you'd be able to cut things like wood or glass with a laser, but it's up to you to find out if things will let off fumes given the method you're using to cut.
You may think it's fine now, but you don't want cancer 10 years down the track.
JimO 101gazz8 years ago
You make a good point here. The prize laser is a CO2 laser that is primarily designed to work with materials specifically designed for laser engraving or cutting. These machines are most commonly used in the trophy and engraving businesses as well as some fabrication businesses. Everyone should be aware that you just can't grab ANYTHING and stick it in the machine and blast away. Not only will some types of plastic produce dangerous fumes, some will produce fumes that will eat the coatings off the lens and mirrors (NOT covered by warranty!). These machines WILL work great when engraving anodized aluminum, acrylic plastic, engraving plastics as found at http://www.rowmark.com/laser/Laser_Engravable_Materials.asp. Additionally, the machines will cut paper, cardboard, cloth, balsa wood, 1/8" or maybe 1/4" plyood, acrylic plastic, leather etc. NOT any kind of metal. Plastics like ABS and PVC should not be cut as they will produce very bad gases. Naturally things like foamcore won't work since the paper surface will cut fine but the foam innards will melt. While people can obviously put just about any kind of material into a laser engraver/cutter materials that are not specifically designed for lasering can damage the machine and/or your health. If you have no experience with these kinds of machines, you might do well to get copies of trophy and engraving magazines such as Recognition Review, A
&E or Engraver's Journal and learn a bit about what laser engravers are designed to do before skydiving without a parachute. Please feel free to ask any quesitons about these machines.
ianswanson JimO7 years ago
Hey, this is Ian from Twice Framing in Detroit. Are you one of the guys who brought me the Brightstar laser our company uses? Still loving the machine, been making clocks and plex end tables on my off hours with it.....(better than those damned epilog machines) If so, small world, eh?
doublefry JimO8 years ago
but what if you "engraved some aluminum flashing then it would be thinner and easier to cut would it not? what i'm saying is that it doesnt have to cut as long as it makes it easier to cut
JimO JimO8 years ago
I should have also included a link to LaserBits - www.laserbits.com - they have lots of cool stuff you can laser and they have a good tech tips section to help you with basic settings. We supply with the machine manual a sheet of basic settings for many materials but when engraving any material, it's a bit of trial and error the first few times until you work out the best power/speed combination. Check out LaserBits to get ideas of some things you can do with laser engravers.
lebowski JimO8 years ago
Seems there are a lot of questions around this topic, so I just wanted to bring this thread to the top again.
let me explain it to onion ring. the reason its not international is because there are laws that require different permits and stuff. so the fact that your dumb, and gonna call americans capitalist pigs, just means that you dont know what your talking about.
FreakCitySF8 years ago
Wow I'm not a numbers guy but I'm glad you posted it!
onionring8 years ago
what is the deal for contestants from your 51st state - canada? i see you've not even given a thought to mexicans as usual, you capitalist american pigs! i saw at least one good entry from mexico. if someone wants to make a couple day drive from mexico to pick up the laser cutter, why disallow them? really, anyone international that can show up in person (or have an agent show up) should be able to claim the prize. or anyone that will pay the $800 or so it would cost to ship this anywhere by fedex. really, export/import with fedex is not so hard.
Its not just the drive/shipping, but actually getting it through customs might be hard...
"you capitalist american pigs" -hmmm thats not very nice, and by the way America is spelled with a CAPITAL A
ewilhelm (author)  onionring8 years ago
As I stated here: I'm not going to check anyone's citizenship; I just going to have the laser cutter delivered to the US address the winner specifies.
karylnewman8 years ago
Hey I love this contest and I recently uploaded my instructable, the LED picnic blanket, but the site says July 2!!! Oh no, it was JULY 1!!! Before 11:59 PDT. Please tell me it is all going to be okay!
ewilhelm (author)  karylnewman8 years ago
It's ok.
dan karylnewman8 years ago
i don't think the instructables webserver clock is on PDT, the admins will check your actual submission time.
pabluski8 years ago
What will you do with the grand prize if the winner is ineligible or can not accept it? Will you give an alternate prize or cash?
5Volt pabluski8 years ago
I think that a good alternative would be to donate the LASER cutter to a school. In return a LASER-engraved plate would be appreciated ! Ciao
sixx8 years ago
looking through all of the entries, it looks like there are some very original ideas and then there are those ideas that someone else out there is already doing and people are just laying out how to make it. they are both termed as "instructables" because someone is telling you how to construct both of these types of things. i don't know what it is, but i can't help but to separate these two categories. there's something about awarding the explanation of an existing idea that seems strange to me. it's pretty cool to make your own products that you've seen, but i think coming up those original ideas is more inspiring and more deserving of a laser-prize. i don't know, maybe that's just me. props to those originals!!
hey does anyone know if it would be possible to "etch" printed circuit boards with the laser cutter, I know its metal, but copper is very soft and PCB copper is very very thin.
Copper is extremely hard to cut with a laser as it reflects the wavelength of the laser light. You would need somewhere in the vicinity of a 400 watt laser to even look at a very thin piece. I have read that if the laser is pulsed at very short durations then it is possible. Copper is used as some of the reflecting mirrors in low wattage lasers because of this. Aluminium, gold and some other metals are also very hard to cut because of the reflectance. After all, you are cutting with light.
doublefry8 years ago
i have two questions A. is there a limit to the amount of instructables you can enter? B. what kind of laser is it (I.E. what gas it uses)?
A. As many Instructables as you can make.

B. Have a look at the specs for: LG3040tt Features:

  • 16" x 12" Engraving/Cutting Area
  • Laser: C02 - 40 watt TEM00
  • 50mm (2") ZnSe Coated Focus Lens and Mirrors
  • Air Assist w/ Compressor Included
  • Cabinet Smoke Suction Vacuum Included
  • Easy-to-use Software
  • Color-based Laser Power Settings
  • Vector, Raster and Mixed Mode Operation
  • Print Directly From Corel Draw
  • Input Files: BMP, HPGL, PLT, DST, DXP, DXF, DWG, AI
  • Micro-Stepper Drive System
  • 36"/Sec. Engraving Speed
  • 50-1000dpi Resolution Raster Engraving
  • 0.0004" Position Repeatablility
  • Overall Machine Dimensions: 36" x 25" x 18"
  • Machine Weight: 253 lbs.
  • Power Requirements: 110v or 220v AC, 1-ph, 1,000w max.
someone asked this, but, no, it probably won't cut metal, maybe aluminum foil, but that's about it. 40W of 10,600nm light isn't going to do much to metal... you usually need a good kW or so before you really get going anywhere with metal. (1kW is 1000W) thought I should bring that up. plastic? yeah, it's dead, wood? more likely it'll be limited to engraving (I'm sure you could cut the wood, but I think it would catch on fire first, rendering it useless, jigsaws are amazing things) my two sense :P
Will it engrave steel?
As far as I know, it probably won't... it MAY, I'm just not sure... I DO know that it won't cut steel... engraving may be a possibility though... BUT, no cutting, that's for sure.
WILL it cut aluminum foil? A device that will accurately cut thin metal foils might have some interesting applications; foil can be a real PITA to cut by hand.
jim lyon westfw8 years ago
VIRON westfw8 years ago
HMMM !!! IF the 9/11 story were true THEN the laser would be able to cut down buildings! (I live in NY - and it's totally WTC7 silly!) The laser is no 40 watt dimbulb, it's probably close to 40W per one Square Millimeter! Sunlight at noon is 1kw/m or 1mW/mm if my math is right. And ONE WATT/mm lasers definitely burn holes in things.
CameronSS VIRON8 years ago
Err..What? The laser light is focused to a point. It is a 40W laser diode.
VIRON CameronSS8 years ago
Yeah, and the point is one square millimeter a million times "brighter" than one sqmm of sunshine.
what about sheet metal? or some heavier aluminum metal? could it possibly cut that i doubt it but maybe
Most new balsa aircraft kits have laser-cut balsa sheet parts. This is a step up from die-cutting, which was a step up from die-crunching.
Not quite. Wood burning kits technically burn wood without catching it on fire. Also, I can burn eucalyptus leaves without any fire (just smoke).
I love you!!! You just made my day - and I had almost given up hope because it's time for bed :) Thank you!
Kira_Koenig8 years ago
"The winner will be announced on or around Friday July 13th." Well, At least somebody will have a great Friday the 13th!!!! :)
tanntraad8 years ago
I can tell you for sure that you can ship the laser cutter to Norway! Just drop it off at the post office. I think it is sad that you exclude the rest of the world in favour for the US. And yes, I mean exclude, lets face it; who wants to enter a contest without a prize?
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