Intro: 1000 Mw Laser Engraver Below $100
There are many companies that sell inexpensive laser cutters. Many of them have difficult to understand translations of instructions. When I get one of these products, I like to post an instructable to make it easier for others to set up and use their device.
This instructable will be about a 1,000 mw Laser Engraver from Gearbest. http://www.gearbest.com/3d-printers-3d-printer-kit...
The engraver is less than $100 and can engrave wood, bamboo, plastic, paper, leather, and rubber. The usable size is pretty small, an inch and a half square, but this is one that I'm learning how to use before graduating to a larger one.
Step 1: Safety
This laser engraver is 1,000 mw. That is 200 times brighter than a pocket laser. It will burn your eyes. But, the spot that it makes when engraving is also so bright that it will hurt your eyes as well.
The engraver comes with a pair of laser safety goggles. Use them at all times when the engraver is powered up. It's not worth the risk of your eyesight or the safety of those around you.
Step 2: Unboxing
In this photo, you can see everything included with the laser engraver. It really is everything that you'll need to get started. I was engraving within about 15 minutes and did not have to provide anything additional to what was in the package.
The package comes with a quick start guide User Manual (or manuel as they call it). It has the power cable and USB cables for connecting to the computer. It has the engraver unit and the laser head. It has safety goggles as well as some wood and paper samples to practice engraving.
Step 3: Install the Laser
Because this unit can be purchased with different powered lasers, they first step is to install the laser. It's very easy.
First, plug in the electrical connector. The wires can just dangle, they are not long enough to interfere with the laser or the movement of the laser.
Second, lay the unit down being careful not to damage the buttons on the front. You'll need to insert two screws in the back of the laser unit to hold it in. Unfortunately, mine only came with one screw, but it looks like it'll be fine. The metal parts that you're putting the screws into are not very thick, so don't push down too far. The unit comes with a screwdriver to do this step.
Step 4: Power Up and Focus the Laser
To power up the unit, just put your goggles on and plug it in the bottom right, just around the corner from the red button. It will go through a power up procedure and the beam will stop in the middle.
When you first power up the unit, a dim laser beam comes on. You will use this beam to focus the laser. There is a focus ring on the front of the laser that you'll turn left and right until you get the smallest dot possible.
Every time you change the thickness of the material that you're engraving, you'll have to refocus the laser. It's probably a good idea to do this with each new project. Although the laser isn't at full power for this part, you should probably have the goggles on for safety during this step.
If the dot is not bright enough to easily focus it, there is a slider in the upper right corner of the software that you can turn the brightness up. Be careful, above 5 and it can start to burn the material.
You can see in the photos how an unfocused and focused beam look. It will be very important for the quality and the speed for you to take your time and really get the beam focused well.
Step 5: Install Software, Drivers, Connect
Next, pop the USB drive into the computer. There are a couple of folders on the drive and an installation file called V.1.2.0.exe.
Run that program to install the software. When you do, a message will come up that basically says that you don't have the drivers installed and asks if you want to install them. Do that.
The default settings for the driver installation worked fine for me. It takes about 60 seconds to complete and then the software comes up.
In the top corner of the software, click "Connection" and then "Auto Connect." To make sure that it's working properly, click the up, down, left, right buttons in the software to make sure that the device responds.
Step 6: Create Your Image
Next, you want to set up the image that you'll be engraving. The most common way to do this is to drag and drop a .jpg file in the software. I tried a .gif file and it worked fine also.
There are three tabs that you can use to prepare your image, binary (black and white), gray (grayscale), and offline (engrave without a computer connected). After you load an image into the engraver's memory and disconnect the computer, you can run the job using the buttons on the machine. Press the center, white button once to see the bounding box, then press it again to start engraving.
If the image is too small, you can click the magnifying glass to make it larger. This doesn't just zoom in on the screen, it actually makes the image larger. But, it is bitmap art, so it won't look good if you zoom too much.
Step 7: Preview Box and Locate
In the software, there is a button "Carving Preview Box." If you click this, the engraver will start moving around to show you the size and location of your carving. This allows you to adjust your image or move the material around until you have everything positioned perfectly.
At the top of the toolbar, there is a tool called "Locate." When you hover this tool over your design, the engraver will move to show you where that part of the design will be. This is more precise than the preview box.
Step 8: Motor Speed and Carving Time
These two things can easily be confused.
Motor speed determines how fast the motor moves from one spot to another. Carving time determines how long the laser stays on one spot before moving to another.
I would leave motor speed alone. You might change carving time when you're using a light colored material or if you want to engrave deeper. Also, if you're engraving on a curved surface, the laser will lose focus and you might need for it to burn longer in order to engrave the entire design. This setting will leave the material exposed to the laser for a longer time and therefore it will get hotter.
Step 9: Start Carving
Now, just click the "Start" button in the software. See the video for a short example.
Leave a comment below if you have a question, a suggestion, or something to add.