Introduction: Laser-Cut Lead Bender

About: Instructor at Maker Works, a 14,000 sq ft membership-based prototyping facility. I enjoy helping people make things.
This handy tool lets you form the leads on resistors, diodes, and other small axial components quickly and accurately to 0.4” or 0.5”.  Make using a laser cutter with 1/4” or so thick acrylic.  Modify the design to add more sizes or other component types, and personalize with your own logo or name.

Step 1: Modify or Create the Artwork

Skip this step if you are happy with the two lead spacings provided (0.4” and 0.5”), and don't want to personalize the bender with your name or logo.  (If you are using a print driver other than Epilog, you may need to modify the artwork in order to differentiate raster vs. vector.)

Load the SVG file in Inkscape (or the PDF in another program like Corel Draw) and add your own logo, name, or enhancements.  The notches and spaces work well for 1/4W and similar-sized axial components.

Note that unless you get fancy with advanced print driver settings like Color Mapping, any text or logo you add will be engraved fairly deeply, since we're using the raster setting to cut a pocket for the component to sit in.  If you want to cut a ton of these out, you can optimize things so any logos are engraved quickly at a high speed setting, and the pockets are cut at the slower speed (hence, deeper).

If you add or modify any paths that should be cut, remember that the Epilog print driver requires vector cuts be indicated by thin lines (e.g., 0.002”).

Step 2: Cut the Lead Bender

Select 1/4” or thicker acrylic.  Set the laser parameters as per your machine's power.  With a 50W Epilog Helix, useful settings are (and see photo)
Resolution:  300 DPI
Raster:  10% speed/100% power
Vector:  8% speed/100% power/5000Hz Frequency

This is a much slower raster setting than usual, but we're carving out material deeply rather than engraving.

(As mentioned earlier, you could optimize this process by using Color Mapping; adding Air Assist would probably allow an increase in raster speed, for example.)

As with most laser cutting of acrylic, leave the protective covering on the back of the acrylic for cleaner edges.

Step 3: Using the Lead Bender

Place the component on the bender with the body in the pocket.  Press the leads down into the small notches (but don't curl them around under).  The spacing should be just right for holes on 0.4” and 0.5” spacing.

Step 4: Variations

This part looks really nice in fluorescent acrylic!  (Available from places like

1/8W (and some modern 1/4W) resistors have smaller bodies; likewise, 1/2W and higher larger bodies.  Add additional pocket sizes for these.  You could also flip the unit over and use the other side.  If the acrylic is thick enough, you can even use the same notches for pockets on both sides.  (If you try this, one approach is to prepare two files—one just for engraving the front, and the other for engraving and also cutting the back.  You'll need to think carefully about an alignment jig.)

Instead of creating a pocket, you can cut the component body rectangle all the way through.  Unfortunately, this leaves very little acrylic on either side.  It works, but it is very easy to break off the end.