Picture of Homebrew Laser Cutter made by Zach Radding
Zach Radding and his daughter Taylor with some robots he built using his own CNC laser cutting machines.
Check out to see more of his projects and info on the classes he teaches.

He's built two laser cutters so far.
Click on the little numbered pictures above to learn more about them.

Note: These are not fully detailed plans.
Included are part numbers of all the major components. If you have already built a CNC machine of some sort,
this information would help you adapt it for doing laser cutting. You should build a CNC router table before attempting a laser cutter. The book "CNC Robotics" from Tab books has good plans. used to send you plans for two cnc machines with a subscription.
Zach recommends for homebrew cnc info. He likes Dancam cnc software.
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Step 1: SAFETY

Picture of SAFETY
First some warnings.

The laser beam is invisible. It can blind you and your loved ones in an instant.

Here are the safety glasses Synrad supplies to work with this laser tube.

Read all the manuals that come with your laser tube and do exactly as they say.

The laser can start fires and generate poisonous gases if it shines on the wrong materials.

Step 2: Zach's first lasercutter

Picture of Zach's first lasercutter
This first version uses a Roland digital pen plotter to move the cutting lens, and incorporates a number of lasercut mechanical parts.

Zach used the following components. Prices have changed (fallen) since '94 when he bought his, and some
of these things are no longer manufactured. Similar components are available, or you can look for
these on the used market.

Here are the components he used:
CO2 laser tube: Synrad G48-2-285 25 watt laser cost approx $2000
Power supply: Power One Model SPM3E2K 28 volt 27 amp switching power supply. cost approx $300
Mirrors: Four high quality front surface mirrors ~$20 each.
Focusing lens: must be made specifically for the laser wavelength. It must be optically clear to this
color light or it will etch and melt. Zach's lens came as a unit with a 45 degree frontsurface mirror
from Synrad for ~$600
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AnujB13 months ago

how to convert my cnc router to laser cutting

AnujB1 made it!3 months ago

hi all i have gerber cnc router cutting machine i wont it to convert as a laser and router 2in 1 in my machine

can u tel me how to convert and wht kind of part sued i change r put in my machine

JorgeV4 months ago

Hi Zach

I am trying to build another Laser Cutter with a Roland GRX 400. I've read that you used the pen selector of the plotter to tell the laser controller
what sort of cut was expected. Please could you send me a photo of the system ant explain me how did you get it.

Thank you very much. (Sorry for my English)

nivinp10 months ago

I am a newbie into this product. I am looking for a cutting tool. Wanted to know if it can be done through laser. For example, I need to cut a branch of a tree (lets say 3mm to 10mm) thickness. If so, can I use the laser cutter and which laser cutter would be best according to your opinion.

noelsgordon10 months ago

Very impressed Zach. Apologies if you've answered my question elsewhere. I need to cut 3mm opaque ABS sheet quite rapidly - maybe 4000mm/minute. What power laser would you suggest please ? Is there a viable alternative to CO2 laser for this. I've seen 30W blue & other diode lasers that claim to be focusable on Alibaba and elsewhere. What could these cut please ? I know nothing - less than Colonel Klink - about the cutting capacity of lasers. ps Absolutely gorgeous daughter. Enjoy her, our children are only 'on loan'.

Machine2 years ago
Thanks for those warnings. A lot of people (me included) don't really have experience with lasers and don't understand the full power they have.
smustafa4 years ago
the cutest lil baby on earth:)god bless her
askjerry5 years ago
I was reading your section on the blower... from experience I have learned to put the blower OUTSIDE in a weatherproof container. This way the entire line rom the laser to outside is negative pressure. If you have the blower inside... you may filter some of the smell... but the chemicals in the air can still reach levels to cause you harm in the long run.

I use something like this:$Ntt=deck%20storage$y=0$x=0

If the link doesn't work search for "Deck Storage" or "Deck Box"

I made a lexan plate for my window and have the blower vent at roof level. The air I intake is clean and odor free.
hintss askjerry4 years ago
aren't you supposed to have the line from the blower lead outside?
not very well known, but you can get incredible mirrors by cutting them from harddrive platters. if you don't have a glass cutter, you could also use some of the aluminum ones. both are polished so that not a spec of dust is on them originally, i'd spray coat them as soon as you open the harddrive, or fingerprints will settle on them, but they're as perfect as you can get.
What would you use for a spray coat?
 good question... 
hard drives are shiny. also united nuclear sells tiny circular mirrors, less than on inch in diameter, and they're made for infrared lasers. they're in their death ray parts category...
njsoffice4 years ago
Any chance of getting a look at the head mechanism, like a $250, 150watt 1200mm long laser tube is probably mounted horizontally, secured to the gantry right?. mirrored to/through the head to the work piece. Otherwise, I guess I`ll have to raise the ceiling...ha,ha, vertical mounting (might get wonky when speed picks up), OR... has anyone got any ideas?

Cheers :)
on epilog/universal lasers, its mounted inside/behind the machine, then a mirror or 2 reflect it toward the front of the machine, along the left side, where it hits a mirror mounted to the gantry, making it go toward the right of the machine. then a mirror on the head reflects it downward, through a lens, onto the material
Hi, I'm interested in cutting metal sheets with the help of lase beam, I would like to know how does the CNC system (or) any servo system comes to know whether the metal sheet is cut  or not so that it can proceed for further cutting
 it does not "know". you input settings for power of the laser and speed of the movement, and it cuts however much it cuts. there are suggestions about settings for certain materials probably floating around on the internet, but much of it probably just comes from experience with the tool
Thanks for the info.
fade4006 years ago
This question doesn't have anything to do with your project, but rather your experience with lasers.

Right now it's like a blizzard outside. annndd I was just imagining up a possible way to drive on snow covered roads by building a rig to melt the snow under the front of my car with a laser. what are your thoughts on this idea ? I saw some patents with similar ideas (not on a car) but havn't heard of any commercial products. Can lasers be powerful enough to rapidly melt or even vaporize snow ?

Thanks =)
danlab fade4005 years ago just put two on the front of your car and you'll be riding in style (or arrested I don't know which)
I DO belive that they can be powerful enough, and it sounds like a legit plan, but maybe you should clear it with the government first to see if its ok with them. it might be pretty damn hard to make a laser that strong though......
 haha i bet the government probably has that already, only they use it to kill people....
To melt all of the snow in front of you at the speed of a car would take far more power than moving the car itself. You would need some kind of diesel generator as well as your car's engine to produce the wattage to feed something like that. Next, the snow crystals would diffuse high-energy laser light, permanently blinding everyone around for hundreds of feet in all directions.
led5558 years ago
so this instructable is still in the works? I'm eager to see the source code for the PIC16C74. Will you publish that also? Are those lasers readily available? For how much can I buy one? -peace
led555 led5558 years ago
I found the price of the laser you're using... $2,000. Did you actually buy it, or was it a scrapped part? Can't you buy a simple laser cutter for $2,000? Just curious.
n6nz led5558 years ago
$2K? Ummm, not so far as I can tell. I did some web-searching on the subject a while back. For <$10K you seem to be able to get a 25W 8x10 inch, Windoze-only unit. Now, that isn't bad if you are willing to work within the power, size, and software limitations. These are targetted at engraving shops for trohpies and gifts and what-not. The sweet spot in terms of functionality of interest to a hacker seems to be sort of $15K-$20K, which should get you 18x24 inches and 100W in something you can drive with G-codes. 100W will cut a lot of interesting materials, but not shiney metals.
n6nz n6nz8 years ago
Well, that sucks. Most of my post got whacked off. Does the software not like "less-than" symbols? Better file a defect report. Back to my comment: For under $10K you can get a 25W or so 8x10 inch Windoze-only unit. These are targetted at engraving shops. Of more interest to hackers, in the $15K-$20K range you can get 18x24 inches and 100W in something you can drive with G-codes. This will cut a lot of interesting materials very nicely, but not shiney metals.
askjerry n6nz5 years ago
It probably thought the brackets were HTML code and removed them.
rivetgeek n6nz6 years ago
100W CO2 laser will easily cut sheet metal with a polarized filter
askjerry led5556 years ago
I have a 12x24 inch 35W unit... it cost me $16,400 so I can beleive that a 25W tube would be $2,000 with ease. I'll say this... if you are considering any laser engraver/cutter... don't settle for less than a 35W tube. If I were to do it over... I would have bought a 50W unit. The 35W isn't really enough to do metamark... and sometimes when I'm doing 1/4 inch plastic I need to either run at 1% speed, or make two passes. (I cut some parts that took 1.5 hours... it would have been about 1/2 hour with a 50W, likely 20 minutes with a 75W.) Great project though... at some time I want to build an X/Y table in the 4x4 foot range... and actually have the laser head on the gantry so the distance from the laser to the part remains constant. In my current Epilog unit, when the head is in the lower right corner the beam length is 3 feet, in the upper left corner it is 6 inches... so sometimes I have to adjust cut speed so the lower right corner cuts all the way. With a constant distance... you don't have those issues. Jerry
TimAnderson (author)  askjerry6 years ago
How heavy do you think the laser head would be - the way the head moves around a 50watt gantry might end up looking like a waterjet cutter. Maybe moving the laser with the "gantry axis" would be good. ( I don't know what to call it. on some machines it's the X, on some it's the Y. The motion axis that carries the other one)
I'm not sure. My thought was to mount the head and transmit the power via a fiber optic cable... moving the actual head would be option #2. It would likely be much slower... but considering that the laser is faster than a cutting head (mostly) it would be about the same as having a big plasma or drill head. Jerry
 ...... couldnt you just have the laser static and move the work piece around underneath it?
You could, it depends on what kind of speed limitations you are willing to deal with. On my Epilog unit in raster mode, it swings the head back and forth about 100 times a second to create raster art. Doing vector art it ouwld only need to move at up to about 20 IPM or so. Routing the laser energy via fiber or mirrors allows you to move a 4 oz head ves a 15 lb head.

~ Jerry
I have an Epilog laser. The laser itself is static, but mirrors direct the beam where you want it.
zachschi5 years ago
Where do you purchase one of these units? Directly from Synrad?
linuox7 years ago
great job, this is awesome, but if only i had the money and time to find all these parts!
Me too..... *Sigh*
matroska5 years ago
I'm planning to build a laser etcher out of a printer (rest assure, if it works out properly an instructable is to be expected).

However, I don't have a clue at all on making the laser part. What laser should I use? How can I supply it?

I've looked quickly and stumbled on this: ebay link

Is that the kind of thing I want?
Remember, I am starting from scratch. What I already have is the X and Y axis, all I need is the laser part of the laser etcher machine.

Thanks! I badly need help about this :)
TimAnderson (author) 6 years ago
Has anyone seen good plans for a homebrew CO2 laser? Made one? Had a job making them?
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