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Laser engraver from a printer? Answered


I was wondering if it would be possible to create a laser engraver from an old printer?

I want to create it from a printer because it would be a cheap and easy project.
It also gives me the advantage that I don't need to create driver electronics and programming tools for creating the cutting pattern.

It would work just the normal way as a printer works: You create an image, in Paint or something really simple.
You press Print, and then the cutter starts printing the pattern.

I would need a contact or relay or something that closes right at the moment when the laser needs to go On and Off. (The laser I already have, that's not a problem).
Is there any contact inside the printer like that? (perhaps some signal that tells the cartridges when to spray ink and when not to.

The cartridges will also have to be removed, without me getting the "please replace your cartridges" message. (how can I do that?)

It might be a little weird project, but if you think about it, it should be possible!

The cutting process is for engraving plastics, not for really Cutting trough objects.

I also know that the printer won't move backwards, only sideways and forwards, but I want to try it.

Thanks in advance,



Not many inkjet printers work on a flat surface - most expect the material (paper) to roll round as it is printed on.

I guess all the mechanism is there to raster scan an area but most engraving is done with vector movements so you would have to create a new controller.

Our laser rasters to engrave, vectors to cut - rastering is hideously slow comparatively.


Then it wouldn't look very good at all - think how you'd object to missing lines in a printed page.

See Jayefuu's answer - you're onto a loser that way.

You should look at some of the open source laser cutter plans. They're VERY different from a printer.

You need different electronics, power supplies and controllers. A printer moves only in one axis and moves the job in another whereas most "hobby" laser cutters move in two axis. Although most high power laser cutters used for metal move the lens in one axis and the job in another, the bed the job is moved on is flat, unlike in a printer.

Then there's the fact that if you want to cut something with a laser you need to disperse the beam after it's cut, most laser cutters use distance to do this, the beam disperses enough over 30cm that it won't burn or cut anything, a printer is very compact and doesn't have this space below the job bed.

There are loads more reasons why printer hardware is a poor choice to base a laser cutter. Your question is similar to asking "Egg frier from an electric kettle?", yes they both heat, but differently. In your case, yes a printer and laser cutter both move, but differently.

Vector = point to point drawing with lines

Raster = Scanning the page top to bottom making dots as required as you go.

Except when the firmware detects no more printing in a line, an inkjet rasterises the print job, and plots it line by line.

"Regular" dot matrix printer?
"Regular" laser printer?
"Regular" inkjet printer?
"Regular" thermal printer?

If you start with an old plotter, you can replace the pen with a laser, and trigger the laser with the signal that would otherwise lower the pen to the printer.