Introduction: Lego Laser Plotter

Picture of Lego Laser Plotter

UPDATE: I will be unable to post the programming video because of a few problems getting video from the camera onto the computer. I'll see if I can get it fixed.

To build this plotter you will need the Lego robotics invention system with few extra parts and a laser. It's too complex to describe with just words so look at the pictures and descriptions. High powered lasers can be purchased at Wicked lasers. If you are interested in learning about high powered lasers go to Laser forums

General description: The robot can move along two axis and turn a laser on and off. The X axis is controlled by a rack and pinion that move very slowly. The Y axis is controlled by a slow turning axle that pulls a string connected to the rack and pinion assembly. Each of the axis has a touch sensor that is pressed about every millimeter. This makes the robot very precise because it knows where it is at all times. The action used to turn the laser on and off is simple but very efficient. It slides a small part over the button on the laser. This part is constantly being pushed against the laser with rubber bands. Thus it can simply slide on and off the button without the motor having to run constantly to hold the button down. I only have a 15 milliwat laser so I have to focus it. I used a small plastic tube that is about the same diameter of the laser. At the end of the tube is a small convex lens I took out of an old gun sight. This is all attached to the end of the laser with electrical tape.

I have uploaded some files and software to view in 3D. The software will install MLcad and LDview. After you have the software installed, open LDview and it should ask what files you want to open. save all of the files I have posted to one folder and open them one at a time. The file named laser plotter is the whole assembly. I recommend looking at each part individually to build them then using the laser plotter file to see how they are put together.

Posted by Laser Community member: CaptainCrash

Step 1: Base, Y Axis

Picture of Base, Y Axis

The method for building I used is rather easy to look at and figure out. The longer black beams are spaced apart by two layers of flat parts this makes it very strong and spaces them the right distance so that vertical beams can be added. A lot of gears are used in this assembly because it has to go slow enough to give the laser time to burn.

Step 2: Rack and Pinion, X Axis

Picture of Rack and Pinion, X Axis

This is very fun to make because of how this part works. The gears make their way to the bottom of the assembly and touch the beams at the bottom that have teeth on them. On side of this assembly has wheals on it so when it has to move along the y axis it moves evenly.

Step 3: The Laser Mount

Picture of The Laser Mount

This was the hardest to design but it works very well. There is one arm on each side that move up and down to activate the laser. A small piece is slid over the button holding it down without constant motor activity. The laser I used is the Executive Classic that can be found here. The model that I received is a bit over powered so I recommend using the 35 mw. The lens I used to focus the laser was from an old gun sight that is attached to the laser with some electrical tape.

Step 4: Final Assembly

Picture of Final Assembly
To see how all of the parts work and are put together I took a video of it in action.


Infinnion (author)2013-12-07

Nice instructable! How precise is this system? in mm/cm? thanks,

Infinnion (author)Infinnion2013-12-10

every mm, now I see nvm, great job.

aspire4higher (author)2013-07-06

How well does it do on curves?

matstermind (author)2012-06-12

how do you tell it what to draw?

kmorrison2 (author)2011-07-03

wat does it do

kittensare (author)2011-02-21

what is it? its ok

christophor (author)2009-06-18

Great instructable. The pictures are very helpful. I love this thing. I so want to build something like this. I saw this thing a few weeks ago. Ever since, I've been obsessed with Legos and spent way too much money on them. My kid is happy because we play together, but my wife isn't too thrilled. I have a question for any Lego experts out there. I need some Lego gears. Which sets have lots of gears? The packaging isn't always clear about what's inside. I could order some individually from the Lego web-site, but I think buying sets is more cost effective. Maybe I'm wrong. Any advice would be appreciated? Thanks. - Chris

JB123 (author)christophor2010-06-08

Im OBSESSED with legos also and I got Lego Mindstorms NXT 1.0 Its a little expensive but its WAY worth it. it comes with lots of gears and lots of other great parts HERE IS A PARTS LIST:

christophor (author)JB1232010-06-10

HAH! Thanks JB123! Actually it's been nearly a year since I posted that comment. Since then we removed all of the furniture from our spare bedroom and populated the space with a futon, an HDTV/Xbox 360 and a whole lot of Lego. It has been dubbed "The Lego Room" in our family. We have the Mindstorms NXT 2.0 and a whole bunch of the Creator / Power Functions sets. It's awesome. We make all kinds of crazy stuff now. We go to the Lego Store in Orlando, where they have these big plastic milkshake type cups that you can fill up with parts from the wall-o-lego bins for like $15.00. We buy lots of sets there too. I think I'll use your list to order more motors and maybe another brick. Thanks for the tip.

(YOUR N (author)christophor2010-11-07

(removed by author or community request)


JB123 (author)christophor2010-06-17

You are SOOOO lucky I only have 1.0 and I have been to that wall-o-lego bins its called pick-a-brick you can also go on and order from there just type in pab in the search box. Speaking of I ordered from there bout a week ago, when will my parts get here? ps: Does the 2.0 set come with any technic bricks Thanks, JB123

Skyfred (author)2009-11-19

Hey, I'm currently trying to develop a plotter to laser cut my stencils using the light sensor ... 

I really appreciate your work. And if you have some good advices ^^


Skyfred (author)2009-05-16

Do you think it is possible to cut an image with that robot... I think about doing "stencils" ...

Skyfred (author)2009-05-14

Hi ! Your creation is really interresting and could be really helpfull to cut stencils ... But, do you know if it's possible, to ask to the robot to laser-cut a picture ?

the gizmoman (author)2008-11-19

will this cut paper?

BorisTheSpider (author)2007-11-27

Let's see you do that with K'nex. Haha, game over, legos win.

-Cry_Wolf (author)BorisTheSpider2008-09-12

tru dat!

warmouth21 (author)2008-01-03

well im not stupid enough to shine it in my eye second polarized sunglasses filyer it out unbeknownst to you apparently and no one said that you have to participate anyone that chooses to make instructables does it at their own risk and finally i dont mid your input but your attitude was rude and stuck up and i would appreciate it very much if you had said that nicer because we're not enemies we're just not on the same page about things.

CaptainCrash (author)warmouth212008-01-04

I didn't mean to sound rude. That is one of the problems with reading text. The laser would not have to be shined directly into your eye to cause damage. I'm careful with my 15-25mw because the dot is so bright. 120mw of IR would kill your eyes just looking at the visible 5 mw dot. If you can find some IR goggles or something to protect yourself then go ahead and do it because it will save money. But if you can then I think you should save your eyes instead.

rrrmanion (author)CaptainCrash2008-07-27

can you use the goggles and shields surveyors use?

warmouth21 (author)2007-12-26

im a pyro and a lazer freak the more i have the merrier how do u make a burning laser out of a cd player laser

drunkenmonkey (author)warmouth212008-06-05

cd diodes are ir so dont try it use a ddvd burner diode instead

CaptainCrash (author)warmouth212007-12-26

I'm not exactly sure. I believe there are videos on how to do it on youtube.

conceptualstratagem (author)2008-02-23

This laser looks like it was worth every red cent, especially the way you put it to work.+

joejoerowley (author)2007-11-26

Very Cool!! How much did the laser cost if you dont mind me asking?

The laser was 118$ including shipping form not that bad.

how many mw?

It is listed as 15mw but I think mine is putting out 25 or 30mw...

Gene Hacker (author)CaptainCrash2007-12-19

30 mW? Are you sure it's 30mW, it seems like you would need at least 100mW to me.

joejoerowley (author)Gene Hacker2007-12-19

Yeah, I have a 30 mw from deal extreme. It cost $24 and it can pop balloons(With Sharpie). It takes a minute but it will.

Gene Hacker (author)joejoerowley2007-12-27

Hmmm... was the video sped up then?

CaptainCrash (author)Gene Hacker2008-01-02

nope. If I had it write a longer phrase I probably would have. The laser is focused to a tiny point about the size of the tip of a toothpick and it melts the plastic pretty quickly when it's all warmed up. I have also engraved some things into chocolate bars....

Helioplasma (author)CaptainCrash2007-12-09

I think it would be even more powerful since it can engrave stuff in a CD box. You've done some very nice work here ! I have a 75mW laser but I'm having a hard time trying to engrave stuff. I made lot's of engravement's but the lego system you've made is better than me !!!!!!

CaptainCrash (author)2008-01-02

Well, if you know anything about lasers then you would know that it is not a good idea. No matter how much money you could save. Most lasers that are sold to the general public have what is called an IR filter. This filters out the infrared spectrum from the light emitted from the laser. Infrared light is invisible to the human eye so if you are exposed to a very powerful source such as a laser you will not know how much damage you are doing to your eye. The modification that you are talking about removes the IR filter so that none of the light is filtered. This is very dangerous because it can cause permanent eye damage and you wouldn't even know it was happening. even if you have goggles that protect you from the green light the IR will still get through. The "dot" of the laser should not appear to be much brighter because you cannot see the spectrum that it is emitting.

the_burrito_master (author)2007-11-27

woow nice you could never make that with knex

This guy made a pen-plotter with knex.

So, in other words you could.

cool it just has to be allot bigger though.

Wanna bet? +P

you couldn't unless you have he cyber knex and found some way to control it with the chips. or you could do it manually.

Or just use a computer and hook it up ti the motors, make your own program.

yeah that would work too.

Sandisk1duo (author)2007-12-06

pretty cool! tho, you should put in a relay to activate the laser, other then that, awesome!

naw, a laser that expensive, you wouldn't wanna open it, but you might get away with dummy batteries with wires going to external batteries and a relay switch

that what i meant

Bongmaster (author)2007-12-09

wouldn't mind seeing this done with an Arduino :3

juggalo_assassin183 (author)2007-12-05

Would a DVD +- rw-ram laser work to burn stuff?

yes if focused correctly. i have made a laser from one and its got a good strong beam for pointy stuff, and i focus it down to short range to burn stuff.. tho u gotta beware that there isnt an ir filter so u need eye protection (ir goggles) unlike me who will prolly go blind :3 i used a coin with a hole in fr a heatsink. it works well :)

thepianomistro (author)2007-12-03

could i use kipkay's laser? great instructable

It wouldn't be easy. There would have to be a different mechanism to activate the laser. It would work though.

FathomBoy91 (author)2007-12-02

This may be too advanced for me but i admire ur talent..

I'd love feedback for mine and best of luck to you
Personal Wicked Laser Light Show

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