Picture of Pocket laser engraver.
I have been trying to get my hands on a laser cutter for some time but they always seem out of reach. All the great things that can be done with a real laser cutter tickle the imagination.

I feel it's time to share my latest project - a low cost laser engraver,. The workspace is a bit small but none the less it works and comes so cheap that most will be able to replicate the result. I did take a few shortcuts, as I feel I don't have the knowledge to do all the electronics I opted for readymade but low cost in favor of trying to make my own (and most likely fail). All parts used are however easy to find.

I am pleased with the end result even if there is room for improvements. The small size and low power is a bit limiting but I have made allot of fun things already. Paper cutouts, plant markers and stamps among some. The engraver itself might not fit in a pocket but the workspace limits what you can do with it to fit in the pocket.

A word of warning is in place . This instructable is using a ~200mW red laser. It might nut cut through chunks of wood but it will make you go blind if you are not careful. Never look into the beam, even reflections can be dangerous if focused. Please be careful.

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ljfa3212 years ago
Hi, quick question, my stepper gets really hot when using a 12V power supply, does that happened on ur's too?
(At least I'm not able to touch it)
arvacon ljfa3212 years ago
Hi. I have the same issue with you, using a 12V power supply at 1200mA.
How did you solve this problem?
I just connected everything for first time at the circuit and double checked everything, so I can't see any problem except if the wiring of the steppers is wrong.
When I power on the circuit, the one of the motors is moving for some steps and then both become really hot in about 15 seconds..

Any advice?
arvacon arvacon2 years ago
Dear friends, after lot of hours of tries and experiments, I realized that easydriver V4.4 is the responsible for the overheating at steppers.
I measured the current that it goes to the steppers and guess what.. the silk error on the min/max adjustment is not fixed!
Actually the max is the min and the min is the max at the small switch, so that is why the steppers becomes totally hot!
After searching for confirmations at, at the comments of easydriver, the guy that seems representative of this units admited that this error still exists..
You can see his comment here

I found also that these cd-rom steppers are made for 5 volt operation, so I powered the easydrivers with 7 volts power supply and everything run perfect and with very low temperatures. I tried afterwards also with 12 volts again but the only difference I saw is that the steppers makes a high pitch noise in this voltage but they stay cool too, except from the easydriver that it becomes double hot, so I think that the 7 volts is the way to go.
chintans arvacon17 hours ago

emedina146 days ago

Beams expand, so wouldn't it be better or more efficient if the laser was as close as possible to the plate? Maybe build it so that there could be a varying height distance depending on what is being engraved.

pr7 emedina145 days ago

Beams do expand, but in general speaking, laser beams do not expand. That's what makes them lasers. Their light stays coherent. the diameters of a good laser might expand maybe a few mm every mile. and that's probably an over estimate.

starphire pr72 days ago

pr7, I am guessing you haven't actually gone
to look at the projected spot from a diode laser at such a distance, as your
estimate is very unrealistic. Diode lasers (such as used in this
instructable) have the worst divergence of any common type of laser, and
generally require an additional lens to focus the spot just as one
would do with a less coherent light source. Some laser modules allow you
to adjust the focal point by moving the lens a bit, while most laser
pointers etc. fix the focus at the factory to a typical useful distance -
say 50 feet away. Beyond the focal distance, the spot then expands

Diode lasers also typically have serious astigmatism,
expanding much more in one dimension than in the other. It is common to
see the beam projected as a short line or bar rather than a round spot,
and again a good lens can correct for this.

The best lasers for
minimal divergence of the beam (without corrective optics to a focal
point) are gas lasers. As an example, when we did a 1-mile test beam for a professional laser show using a 12 Watt Argon ion laser (which is 6 feet long and requires water cooling
and thousands of Watts of power to run), the spot at that distance was a few FEET in diameter. Helium-Neon lasers are very good at producing
a tight beam with minimal divergence, because they have an extremely narrow bore tube where
lasing takes place. But they are far, far too weak to ever be used for
engraving, and pretty much obsolete now for nearly all of the uses they were once mass-produced for.

emedina14, your question is a good one. For an application such as this, the laser module should ideally use an adjustable lens so that the beam can be focused to its minimum diameter at the distance to the engraving bed. The best distance can then be whatever is convenient for the maker.

borsaci06 made it!2 days ago

Made a similar CNC.... Thx for the greatr post... details at my web site:


Can i use arduino uno with same circuit and code?

chintans3 days ago

Hey guys,

Can any1 tell if I'm going the right way on wiring?

buckhebb made it!2 months ago
Thank you so much for this tututorial, I started this project several years ago and finally got motivated and finish. Now I want to go bigger!

hey buck,

congrats on your project completion can you please share the lm317 or the power supply for laser?

I'm not really getting that part properly in the diagram.

Here I'm attaching, I have LM317T based power supply.


is that jeep engraved in metal? I wanna engrave the slide on my Glock G19 and laser engraving looks better to me than rotary (Mechanical?) engraving. I just don't know if this would go deep enough. thanks!

kewlkiwi5 days ago

For people who dont have the time or expertise to build their own 'mini-engraver', DX has several models, see:

God you are a genius!! I always wanted to have a portable laser engraver/ cutter! I don't know why they don't make them. This is awesome!

GeckoDiode16 days ago
Can this etch a PCB?

Copper is too conductive -- the heat gets dissipated too fast for even a 1kw Yag laser (but at least that can punch holes in it, but getting rid of just the copper wasn't possible)... but you could use photosensitive boards and use a UV/BD laser...

beardy1 month ago

Cheers Groover for the inspiration!

My laser arrived today so it's all systems go now!

Does anyone know if the compatibility problem with Laser Engraver Extension Inkscape v 0.91 is an Inkscape problem or an extension problem? It would be handy to get it fixed.

For now it seems to be playing ball with Inkscape 0.48.5 on OS X.

jmood6 days ago

Fine work, and useful. 5 star work!

I will be looking this one over and study it for possible building. I wonder if a broken Blu Ray Burner will provide a higher burn temp or not....

vvashurin made it!1 month ago

This is my attempt. No wood-burning, but black plastic, and dark polyester (polyurithane) foams engraving is good, as for me. I use "Lite Fire Laser" program, and "Universal Gcode Sender". This is my second CNC project.


hi.what is link"lite fire laser"?? thanks

i am wondering myself as well. my guess is that it is software to enable variable Mw output like a rheostat does?

zacker6 days ago

so it wont etch into metal at all? not cut but engrave...

dollarseed6 days ago

Here is something that I think others will find valuable. Rather than going through all the software setups you've described, which are good, there is an easier way I have found. has a free program called EFL CNC. This will automatically install Grbl to the Arduino, and sends the G-code to it. Just have to set up the port to use, and beware of the pinout diagram they have, as this is all programmed in. I build CNC machines of various sizes, and this program is the only one I use for all of them. I love the laser concept, and will be building one of these soon for my own shop at

If you're going to operate a laser cutter without any shielding around it you need to be, as you say, very careful. You should get some glasses, and make sure the glasses you get are effective against the wavelength of laser you're using. All lasers and all glasses are not made the same.

stevedee78 made it!10 days ago
Yeah i am ready ...
RobertWa1 year ago

I am having problems with circles being boxy (flat) on the top and sides. Have you run into this problem?



filip51141 month ago

As far as I know it is possible to cut paper and engrave wood. What about plastic like back lid of the phone or cover for the phone? What other materials can be engraved on this kind of laser?

geceng1 month ago

i am using arduino uno and L293D shield...where do i connect the laser??

This is my first electronic project. I really dont know much about the circuit

Hi, geceng! In my first attempt, I build this engraver on L293D, but there is no compatible software to use it. All standard CNC working with controllers with "DIR-STEP-GND" control signals, and no way to use L293D without problems. May be - add another ArduinoMini for "Dir-Step" signals emulation. One Arduino - with GRBL software, and another - with dir-step controller emulation on L293D.

shamid11 month ago

hey groover, can you just tell me how much voltage you are providing through power pin? (i.e. external power used through "Vin")

rudsomlima made it!1 month ago

Thanks Groover!

First build with 2 axles. After 3-axis to regulate the ideal height of focus, depending on the height of the material that will cut or burn.

geceng1 month ago


when i type $ return..

there is nothing happen

help please

aborge2 months ago

Hi there. I need some help please: Can you see this forum post and reply to it if you can help?

aborge2 months ago

What type of arduino will fit nice in this circuit? the uno? And why are there 2 different circuits? the one on the picture is not the same as the one in eagle format. What type of LM317 is used? I know there are many types of them like K, L, S T and EMP.

gowackiukasz2 months ago

Hey guys, what I need to do, if I want to use my Arduino Motor Shield L293D instead of easydrive's ?

kyacker3 months ago

I'm getting this error from inkscape when trying to export the .nc Any Ideas?

Traceback (most recent call last):

File "", line 3188, in <module>


File "C:\Program Files\Inkscape\share\extensions\", line 268, in affect


File "", line 3156, in effect

self.orientation( self.layers[min(0,len(self.layers)-1)] )

File "", line 3080, in orientation

doc_height = inkex.unittouu(self.document.getroot().get('height'))

AttributeError: 'module' object has no attribute 'unittouu'

cbarran kyacker3 months ago

Same error i got, any fix ?

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