A few years ago I saw an Instructable where Groover had used a pair of DVD-RW drives to make a pocket laser engraver. Inspired by the idea, driven by the recent purchase of a full-sized 50 watt CO2 laser cutter, and roused by the launch of the Microcontroller contest I took the decision to have a crack at making my own mini laser engraver.

I have called the project the MicroSlice.

What are the features of the MicroSlice?

  • The MicroSlice has a work area of 50mm x 50mm (2" x 2"). The V2 is now 100mm x 100mm (4" x 4").
  • It can cut paper and engrave wood & plastic.
  • Open Hardware.
  • Uses the Arduino UNO R3.
  • All the software used by the MicroSlice, including the graphics program, is Open Source, and free to use!
  • There is a 300mw 635nm Red Laser Diode, like you'd find inside a DVD-RW drive, which does the cutting & engraving.
  • It comes as a kit to build at home, at a Hackspace, or with your local Maker group.
  • There are 97 Laser-Cut parts in the kit!
  • It will work with your Raspberry Pi.

The MicroSlice won the Grand Prize in the 2013 RadioShack Microcontroller Contest!

Massive thanks to everyone who voted, and of course to Radioshack for the super prizes :)

Check out my current project live now on Kickstarter!


The MicroSlice V2.6 is now available from The LittleBox Company | http://thelittlebox.co/theshop

Step 1: To Begin

The basis for Groover's axis was the two mini stepper motors from the DVD-RW drives. The motors drive the DVD head mechanism which either moved the laser cutting head, or the cutting table. My first starting point was to find a similar set of motors, and a reclaimed laser diode.

However I wanted a slightly different design. Where Groover has the cutting table move on the Y Axis, I wanted a fixed cutting table. To do this I took my inspiration from a gantry crane.

As the cutting table would be fixed, the cutting head must move along the Y Axis instead, but it must also accommodate the X Axis. So the whole cutting head, and the X Axis, must move along the Y Axis. Like a gantry crane moves up and down the dockside.

So I need two stepper motors with threaded shafts. The longer the shaft the larger the potential work-area for the cutting head. I'd also need a pair or runners for the Y Axis gantry to move along.

To cut a long story short I couldn't find what I wanted from the DVD-RW drives I found. The stepper motors had no threaded bolts which could move along the threaded shafts and the laser diodes were firmly pressed into their housings that I was unable to remove them from the DVD-RW without causing damage. So in the end I turned to old faithful eBay to find the parts.

1 x Arduino UNO R3
1 x X Axis Motor
1 x Y Axis Motor
1 x Dual Relay
2 x Easydriver
2 x 5v LDO  
1 x 3.3V LDO
2 x Heat-Sinks
1 x 45x45x10 Fan (12v)
4 x Stop Switches
9 x Magnets  
4 x Rubber Feet
5 x Thumb Screws
1 x Laser Diode   Alternative
1 x Laser Module
1 x Laser Driver
1 x Laser Lens
1 x 4mm Aluminium Tube
2 x 3mm x 150mm Steel Rod
1 x 3mm x 100mm Steel Rod
17 x M3 Microbarbs
6 x M2 Countersunk (6mm)
6 x M2 Nuts
6 x M2 Pan-head (6mm)
8 x M2 Pan-head (8mm)
4 x M3 Nylon Screws (6mm)
4 x M3 50mm Standoffs
7 x M3 Cap-Head Screw (8mm)
8 x M3 3mm Nylon Spacers
97 x Laser-cut parts!

The Microslice parts have been arranged to be laser cut out of two 3mm x 400mm x 300mm sheets of plywood or acrylic. The MicroSlice plans are attached as a zip file below. A pre-cut set of either Plywood or Acrylic laser parts are available from The LittleBox Company.

The MicroSlice uses a 300mw 635nm Laser Diode. It will hurt you if you are not careful. Please take care when handling the laser. Do not look at the beam, do not point it at yourself or anyone else. Do not be an idiot.

<p>so.. you need a laser cutter to make a laser cutter. :D </p><p>the code and the idea are very useful anyway, i might make one with a non-lasercut frame.</p>
<p>It comes as a kit to build at home, at a Hackspace, or with your local Maker group. <br><li> There are 97 Laser-Cut parts in the kit! </p>
ohh i see. thanks. i try to avoid kits anyway it just.... kills the craft spirit :)
<p>you are a true maker my friend</p>
<p>why, really it's l'art pour l'art for me. :)</p>
<p>Nice Work</p>
<p>This laser cutter is awesome..</p><p>Can u please send me the complete circuit diagram..!</p><p>My email is&quot;maheshjshetty@gmail.com&quot;</p>
<p>cool. Can I 3d print the parts that have to be laser cut?</p>
<p>Great design! </p><p>Must try laser marquetry with ImagePaint software by Amazon Canvas.</p>
<p>what is the point of making this if you need a proper laser cutter?</p>
<p>This is from the above page. It should solve any problem with not currently having a laser to cut the parts out.</p><p><strong><em>It comes as a kit to build at home</em></strong>, at a Hackspace, or with your local Maker group. <br><li> <strong><em>There are 97 Laser-Cut parts in the kit!</em></strong> </p>
<p>you could easily incoperate this to be part of a pcb etching system it would create very good one sided PCBs</p>
<p>Kantos, the point of making this is the same as making itself, and the same why you look into instructables.com instead of going to a shop. <br><br>In fact, several <br>- forming it to your needs and not to the ones another has tried to figure out</p><p>- avoid costs if you don't have the money</p><p>- being able to have it if you aren't in a place where the item is present or affordable (the world is bigger than US and EU, I am in a place in Peru where you can't get a laser cutter easy and cheap). I am always impressed how much users of internet seem to ignore than internet is not geographically bounded, and/or that the world is bigger than their hometown with their very specific conditions </p><p>-the pleasure of making. Like hand rolling cigarettes if you could buy them.<br><br>So, you inquiry results in what the point of this webpage ... if you missed that, are you just passing by or did I misunderstand your question? In first case: welcome! in second case: sorry. <br> Best greetings.</p>
Well done, and to the point, and you were not mean or belittling to anyone...<br>We see a number of people that criticize a person's design but offer nothing but criticized remarks.
<p>nice words.</p>
<blockquote>(the world is bigger than US and EU, I am in a place in Peru where you can't get a laser cutter easy and cheap).</blockquote><p>The point of making laser cutter from laser cut plywood part is the absence of laser cutter? I spot a logic hole there.</p>
<p>Oh, I see what you meant. So your original question to the author was like you need a laser cutter to make the parts for a laser cutter? That logic figure is called petitio principii, but in this case, well, I guess his point is using a laser cutter for making others. <br>If your logic hole tries to refer to my answer, it does not really fit. At one side, you can still borrow, rent, or what ever a third party laser cutter to do the parts, and then have your own. Buying one is not the same price, you know. <br>And if you don't have access to one (as I guess you refer to by quoting) - I think, again, that the point of this page is to find ideas for own solutions. Do it yourself, think it yourself, but with the help of ideas of other. That fore we read it. If we would be incapable to find (nor willing to search) own adaptions, I guess most of us wouldn't really be here. So, doing exactly the same thing with exactly the same material and exactly the same form ... wouldn't be interesting for many. Heard of good old hand sawing? Variating material? I neither can get the parts by eBay, also there I would look for an alternative. Best greetings from another part of the globe.</p>
<p>And kantos: when mentioning users which ignore the world being more than US and EU, I really wasn't thinking of you nor projecting in you a idea of limitation to own conditions. That certainly would be a logic hole, because I have to assume you can be anywhere on the globe (well, anywhere we can limitate our imagination to own conditions, but that's not my point). <br>It was a comment due to something I find on many forums, and is important for me to remind that part of this open source culture is spreading knowledge really everywhere, because I think the real gap is education. Sorry if you felt I was addressing you with a prejudice. </p>
You certainly don't &quot;need&quot; a laser cutter to build this. Simply print the plans 1:1 scale on paper, glue them to 3mm plywood, and then cut them out using a scroll saw, coping saw, or jeweler's saw. Sure, it will take some time. But how do you think the first lathes, mills, and drill presses were made?
<p>The comment space is dedicated for those who want to be constructive by either asking questions that help make sense or by bringing ideas related to a project so that project becomes more advanced. </p>
<p>In pulling apart a dozen or so printers and faxes, I find that the toroidal ferrite cores are used extensively in this type of equipment. There are toroidal cores used on the secondary of the power supply, but especially on the cables to any of the motors, either continuous drive or steppers. Presumably, these toroidal cores are used to dampen any higher harmonics in these cables, thereby ensuring there is minimum e/m interference generated. </p><p>Maybe people using steppers in their designs might give some attention to possible interference produced by their equipment.</p>
<p>Hi, I found a source for nice stepper motors in old Minidisk players. Fortunately the motor is easy to get to and the sled is very repeatable.</p><p>Another source might be the drives out of Sony PSP units as these are still available as a spare part :-)</p>
<p>will this work on Arduino Mega? just to know, I have one around so...</p>
<p>This is a very clean looking little machine! Also, congratulations on getting funding for 'the big box'!</p>
<p>Thanks :)</p>
<p>Great project. I`m seriously considering making one and allready guttet a DVD drive for one X/Y axis motor, BUT - what do you use to connect those flat cables running into the motors to the rest of the project? It sucks to solder those and the contacts on the DVD drive cards are suface mounted, so they`re no fun soldering off.... :-)</p>
<p>it's very perfect &amp; nice </p>
<p>thanks :)</p>
<p>Would this handle etching the copper off a circuit board?</p>
<p>Nope.</p><p>But, it will etch UV photo-resist costings.</p><p>Details on another of my other instructables at http://www.instructables.com/id/The-MicroSlice-V2-Aurum-A-gold-mini-laser-cutter-e/step15/Making-PCBs/</p>
<p>Hi guys, I just joined in, I need to buy a ready made unit, if any of have sucessfully build one and wanting to sell, please email me a quote <a href="mailto:anthonyarmban@gmail.com" rel="nofollow">anthonyarmban@gmail.com</a> </p>
<p>Hi,</p><p>You can buy factory assembled MircoSlice here | http://thelittlebox.co/theshop/index.php?route=product/product&amp;path=60&amp;product_id=114</p>
<p>Hi, does the color of the laser influence the performance/efficiency? or the power output is the only thing that matters?</p>
<p>Yes, you'll get more power in a blue ray diode than you will from an equivilent red diode.</p>
<p>As a follow up question, does the color of the laser make a difference in what materials and/or color of material that can be cut?</p>
<p>yes the wavelength of the laser used, determines the material than can be etched or cut. you would not be able to etch or cut glass, or any other material transparent with a blue laser. since they are not opaque to the blue, green, or red spectrum.</p><p>the specific color is another issue, since it is not necessarily the color but the opacity in the material used in to make the color. the more black the material used, to the specific wavelength the more effective it will be.</p><p>and if a lens is used, the wavelength will determine the lens material used for a sharper focus. such as gallium arsenide, being used for invisible infrared wavelengths. where most visible light, can use silicon dioxide lenses.</p>
<p>Thanks! </p>
<p>great build! Does anyone know if this is capable of engraving text on to anodized aluminum parts?</p>
<p>I did some testing with anodised aluminium and got mixed results. It works, but only really good enough on darker colours. If you want to send in some test material I'm happy to try it out for you.</p>
<p>it is a matter, of the opacity to the wavelength used. not all visible black to the human eye, is necessarily black to a specific wavelength. example silicon dioxide, is opaque to 1200nm, but translucent or transparent to other higher frequencies of light.</p><p>if you run into transparency problems, you might try scorching rather than etching. by placing an opaque substance to the specific wavelength, on the anodized surface. thus burning the substance, into the porous anodized surface.</p>
<p>well the problem with anodized aluminum, is that the wavelength here is wrong. in which you would need, 1200nm infrared laser to be most effective. which would target, the opaque oxide bonding only. there is danger using any invisible, infrared etching laser. so much caution is needed, using invisible laser beams. and care must be taken not to use, high power lasers on reflective surfaces.</p><p>but aluminum metal itself, would be transparent to 1200 nm. the further you deviate from 1200nm, the more inconsistent would be the results on anodized aluminum. but to etch metallic aluminum, you would need a higher frequency in the blue spectrum laser.</p><p>and remember the shielding requirements change, according to wavelength.</p>
<p>Great work. Nice to see someone do skilled work...</p>
<p>Is it just me? I think any man who knows how to create things like this, actually does it and then tells everyone else how to... is very attractive! ;-)</p>
You give me hope that I'll find my soulmate one day. :)
<p>That is very good</p>
<p>Nice machine. </p><p>May I suggest as this machine has such a small footprint that you enclose the entire thing in a laser proof cover. Also your warning label should be yellow so that it stands out effectively, a good guide to laser hazard classification can be found here <a href="http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/healthsafetywellbeing/guidance/lasers/appendix1classification/" rel="nofollow">http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/healthsafetywel...</a> (though you should look for relevant standards in your own country too).</p>
<p>There is a display case available for the MicroSlice V2 which does exactly that | http://thelittlebox.co/theshop/index.php?route=product/product&amp;path=60&amp;product_id=124</p>
<p>Wow, That's Amazing!!! Now I'd like to know how to build an air conditioner at home cuz its so hot today! Lol!</p>

About This Instructable


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Bio: A passionate make of things. Chief engineer for the BigBox 3D printer and inventor of the MicroSlice Mini Laser Engraver & Cutter. I spend my time ... More »
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