2007 Laser Cutter Contest




About: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through understanding, and strives to inspire others to lear...

Check out the 2008 Universal Laser Cutter contest here!

The winners are in and the results posted! Check them out here in the Instructables blog!

You've seen all the sweet laser cutter Instructables, and dreamed about the projects you'd build if you had one.

First you'll tattoo your laptop, then build your own army of Autonomous, Self-Assembling Robots; next you might grab a little press for your new laser-cutter-based army by etching Martha Stewart's face in an eggplant, then finally relax and recharge with some Laser cut cake.

Quit dreaming and get working, because Instructables is giving away a BrightStar LG3040 laser cutter package worth over $6000!

To enter the contest, here's what you need to do:

Important update! We have changed the rules!

It seems the contest rules were unclear and had some unintended consequences. So, we're changing the rules, and moving the deadline back so people who had previously decided not to enter can still give it shot. These are the new rules:

1. Publish an awesome Instructable on any subject anytime between April 15th and Sunday July 1st 11:59 PM PDT and add it to the Laser Cutter contest group. You may submit as many Instructables as you choose.

Entries do not have to involve lasers; any Instructable is eligible. The focus is on sharing what you're passionate about.

2. We'll judge the projects and select 10 finalists. The 10 finalists will be announced on July 6th, and we will create special ratable forum posts about each finalist and their project. We will then invite the Instructables community to help judge by rating these special forums posts. From the finalists we will select a winner with help from Squid Labs, past winners, and the forum ratings.

We decided to make these changes for two reasons. First, the concept of writing a proposal seemed to be scaring people off. We simply wanted to know what you had in mind for the laser, and "I want to build cool stuff" would have potentially sufficed. Given this potential confusion over the proposal, we're just dropping it. Second, we're not going to explicitly use the pageviews and rating of the projects to help judge. Even though we only were only going to use it an an input into judging, it can favor a project that is older rather than better. So, by creating the special forum posts, each of the finalists will start on even ground. We didn't want anyone to decide not to enter because they were only going to get their project finished and published right before the deadline.

The winner will be announced on or around Friday July 13th.

Grand prize
BrightStar LG3040 laser cutter, Instructables t-shirt, stickers and patches.

First prize (to the the nine finalists)
Laser-etched Instructables Leatherman Juice S2 and an Instructables t-shirt

20 Second prizes
Instructables t-shirts.

Wondering how to write a great Instructable that is likely to make it to the finals? Read the How to make a great Instructable Instructable, and check out the winning Instructables from our previous contests:
Use it Again! Contest Winners
Show Your Heart Valentine's Day Contest Winners
Homemade Gift Contest Winners

Contest boilerplate is here and here; substitute contest names/specifics as necessary. Here are some details specific to this contest:

You must be 18 or older to enter. If you are 13-17, you can still enter, but to win you will need to verify that you had the permission of a parent or guardian (we will have a permission slip for you). The best solution would be to have your parent join you as a collaborator on your Instructable.

Only U.S. residents can win the laser cutter. Winner is responsible for all taxes (we will remind the finalists of this to make sure they are able properly deal with the taxes). Shipping internationally would be tough, but customs and differing world regulations on lasers make it impossible for us to give you a laser cutter if you are outside the U.S. I am sorry. I hope that non-U.S. residents will still enter; you can win any of the other prizes, and I promise that we will be blind to location in judging for the finals. If international entries make the finals, we will recognize them as such, award them a Leatherman, and select alternates from among the remaining pool of submissions to submit laser cutter proposals. (We're still confirming whether we can ship to Canada, and will update as soon as we know.)

Let me also encourage groups to enter the contest using our collaboration feature. I know a laser cutter would be a perfect addition to a community hobby shop.

Have fun!

Step 1: How We Judged the Laser Cutter Contest

We judged the Laser Cutter Contest using Range Voting with help from previous contest winners and people working at Instructables/Squid Labs HQ.

Each potential judge received a ballot in the their Instructables inbox with the following instructions:

Please help us judge the Laser cutter contest!

As a previous contest winner, or someone whose opinion we trust, we'd like your input. Check out the list of finalists, review the rules, and help us choose a winner!

The judging will be totaled by Range Voting described here and here. You may vote from 0 (should not win) to 9 (should win) or "no opinion." The finalist with the highest average score will win (no opinion votes do not affect the average score). Up to two write-in candidates are accepted, but you must vote "no opinion" on an equal or greater number of finalists than your number of write-in votes to have your write-in votes count. Candidates without a quorum are eliminated; a winning candidate's total score must be at least 50% of the sum received by any candidate. This prevents candidates with few numerical votes (as opposed to "no opinion"s) from winning. In the event of a tie, each tied candidate receives one point for each voter who rates them above the arithmetic mean score for all the tied candidates. Ratings at or below the arithmetic mean receive zero points. The candidate with the most points wins.

The ballot below is meant to be viewed with your inbox at Instructables, so if you are viewing this message in your email, please log in to vote. Voting closes Friday morning July 13th.

Instructables Laser Cutter Contest Voting

Please cast a vote for up to 15 finalists. Only votes cast by those invited by the Instructables team are eligible.

A vote of "9" indicates that the finalist should win. A vote of "0" indicates that the finalist should not win. A vote of "no opinion" does not affect a finalist's standing.

You may vote for at most two write-in candidates. If you choose to vote for write-in candidates, you must have the same number, or greater, of "no opinion" votes.

The actual ballot contained the 15 finalists in alphabetical order with a drop-down box that defaulted to "no opinion" but could be set to 0-9. There were two spots for write-in candidates and corresponding drop-down boxes.

Voters were required to submit their Instructables username and email address to authenticate their vote.

Of the people asked to help judge, 49 responded.

To incorporate the results of the finalists' forum ratings, 5 more (10% additional) votes were awarded based on the ratings. Only taking into account positive votes (negatives were thrown out), and removing fraudulent votes, the ratings were normalized onto a 0-9 scale with the highest rating equal to a vote of 9. Those results were as follows:

crabfu for Steam Turbine Tank - 5
dave spencer for erupting Volcano Birthday Cake - 3
Honus for How to make a Green Lantern ring- including a glowing version! - 5
jabroutin for personal powerPlant - 7
jeffkobi for Retro Hi-Fi Project - 3
Kasey for Compubeaver --> How to case-mod a beaver - in 29 easy steps! - 5
lkrasnow for Precision Puzzlemaking Primer -- Volume 1 - 5
mikejedw for Pringles Wind Turbine (Pleech) - Version One - 9
mydian_nightshade for Furniture grade cocktail arcade cabinet - 1
mzed for Low-cost Spherical Speaker Array - 1
nemomatic for Giant Squid kinetic sculpture from found materials - 3
orthonormal_basis_of_evil for EMP shopping cart locker - 5
Stuart.Mcfarlan for How to Make a Three Axis CNC Machine (Cheaply and Easily) - 9
talbotron22 for DIY Kitty Crack: ultra-potent catnip extract - 5
turkey tek for Interactive Multitouch Display - 5

So, for example, Stuart.Mcfarlan received five votes each with a ranking of 9. This was in addition to the judges' votes awarded to Stuart.Mcfarlan.

The judges' and forum topic rating votes were totaled yielding the following results, which determined the winner:

Finalist - Average vote - Number of votes (5 forum votes plus all non-"no opinion" votes) - Sum of votes - Standard deviation

Stuart.Mcfarlan for How to Make a Three Axis CNC Machine (Cheaply and Easily) - 7.3 - 52 - 379 - 2.0
crabfu for Steam Turbine Tank - 6.6 - 53 - 350 - 1.9
lkrasnow for Precision Puzzlemaking Primer -- Volume 1 - 6.0 - 47 - 284 - 2.2
turkey tek for Interactive Multitouch Display - 6.0 - 52 - 313 - 2.4
mikejedw for Pringles Wind Turbine (Pleech) - Version One - 5.9 - 50 - 295 - 2.5
jabroutin for personal powerPlant - 5.8 - 48 - 280 - 1.9
Honus for How to make a Green Lantern ring- including a glowing version! - 5.7 - 51 - 293 - 2.0
orthonormal_basis_of_evil for EMP shopping cart locker - 5.6 - 50 - 278 - 2.7
talbotron22 for DIY Kitty Crack: ultra-potent catnip extract - 5.4 - 51 - 275 - 2.5
jeffkobi for Retro Hi-Fi Project - 5.1 - 53 - 271 - 2.2
Kasey for Compubeaver --> How to case-mod a beaver - in 29 easy steps! - 5.1 - 48 - 244 - 2.3
mydian_nightshade forFurniture grade cocktail arcade cabinet - 5.0 - 50 - 252 - 2.4
nemomatic for Giant Squid kinetic sculpture from found materials - 4.9 - 50 - 244 - 2.5
dave spencer for erupting Volcano Birthday Cake - 4.6 - 52 - 238 - 2.4
mzed for Low-cost Spherical Speaker Array - 3.9 - 50 - 194 - 2.5

Four write-in candidates received votes, but none of them received a quorum, and they were each eliminated. They are:

Breath powered USB charger by jmengel
Make rope out of dead plants -- with no tools a collaboration led by phyzome
The One, The Only COTTON CANDY MACHINE! by T3h_Muffinator
Use a Vacuum cleaner to build your own Skateboard by gregorylavoie

Interestingly, the ranking of the top four finalists was unaffected by the additional 5 votes awarded from the forums. Also, considering that the actual winner was tied in the forums, had the forums accounted for 99% of the vote rather than 10%, with the judges doing little more than breaking the tie, Stuart.Mcfarlan would still have won. While there was some overlap between those asked to judge and those casting ratings in the forums, it was minimal, and the ratings in the forums were from a large cross-section of the Instructables community.

Judging a contest such as this is difficult, but I am pleased with the results and hope that the openness of this process will help us improve future contests.



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    197 Discussions


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Im starting to get worried about the types of people entering this contest, Some of them seem to believe that they can cut anything and everything they want. There are certain things that you just dont cut with a laser cutter, As they produce fumes that are highly carcenogenic and even the filters cant stop. Someones gunna kill themselves..

    7 replies

    Well if you think about it, you wouldn't melt plastic with a soldering iron because the fumes would get to you. Same with other toxic materials.

    So i'd say you'd be able to cut things like wood or glass with a laser, but it's up to you to find out if things will let off fumes given the method you're using to cut.
    You may think it's fine now, but you don't want cancer 10 years down the track.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    You make a good point here. The prize laser is a CO2 laser that is primarily designed to work with materials specifically designed for laser engraving or cutting. These machines are most commonly used in the trophy and engraving businesses as well as some fabrication businesses. Everyone should be aware that you just can't grab ANYTHING and stick it in the machine and blast away. Not only will some types of plastic produce dangerous fumes, some will produce fumes that will eat the coatings off the lens and mirrors (NOT covered by warranty!). These machines WILL work great when engraving anodized aluminum, acrylic plastic, engraving plastics as found at http://www.rowmark.com/laser/Laser_Engravable_Materials.asp. Additionally, the machines will cut paper, cardboard, cloth, balsa wood, 1/8" or maybe 1/4" plyood, acrylic plastic, leather etc. NOT any kind of metal. Plastics like ABS and PVC should not be cut as they will produce very bad gases. Naturally things like foamcore won't work since the paper surface will cut fine but the foam innards will melt. While people can obviously put just about any kind of material into a laser engraver/cutter materials that are not specifically designed for lasering can damage the machine and/or your health. If you have no experience with these kinds of machines, you might do well to get copies of trophy and engraving magazines such as Recognition Review, A
    &E or Engraver's Journal and learn a bit about what laser engravers are designed to do before skydiving without a parachute. Please feel free to ask any quesitons about these machines.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, this is Ian from Twice Framing in Detroit. Are you one of the guys who brought me the Brightstar laser our company uses? Still loving the machine, been making clocks and plex end tables on my off hours with it.....(better than those damned epilog machines) If so, small world, eh?


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    but what if you "engraved some aluminum flashing then it would be thinner and easier to cut would it not? what i'm saying is that it doesnt have to cut as long as it makes it easier to cut


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I should have also included a link to LaserBits - www.laserbits.com - they have lots of cool stuff you can laser and they have a good tech tips section to help you with basic settings. We supply with the machine manual a sheet of basic settings for many materials but when engraving any material, it's a bit of trial and error the first few times until you work out the best power/speed combination. Check out LaserBits to get ideas of some things you can do with laser engravers.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Seems there are a lot of questions around this topic, so I just wanted to bring this thread to the top again.

    let me explain it to onion ring. the reason its not international is because there are laws that require different permits and stuff. so the fact that your dumb, and gonna call americans capitalist pigs, just means that you dont know what your talking about.


    11 years ago on Step 1

    Wow I'm not a numbers guy but I'm glad you posted it!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    what is the deal for contestants from your 51st state - canada? i see you've not even given a thought to mexicans as usual, you capitalist american pigs! i saw at least one good entry from mexico. if someone wants to make a couple day drive from mexico to pick up the laser cutter, why disallow them? really, anyone international that can show up in person (or have an agent show up) should be able to claim the prize. or anyone that will pay the $800 or so it would cost to ship this anywhere by fedex. really, export/import with fedex is not so hard.

    3 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Its not just the drive/shipping, but actually getting it through customs might be hard...


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    "you capitalist american pigs" -hmmm thats not very nice, and by the way America is spelled with a CAPITAL A


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    As I stated here: I'm not going to check anyone's citizenship; I just going to have the laser cutter delivered to the US address the winner specifies.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Hey I love this contest and I recently uploaded my instructable, the LED picnic blanket, but the site says July 2!!! Oh no, it was JULY 1!!! Before 11:59 PDT. Please tell me it is all going to be okay!

    2 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    i don't think the instructables webserver clock is on PDT, the admins will check your actual submission time.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    What will you do with the grand prize if the winner is ineligible or can not accept it? Will you give an alternate prize or cash?

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I think that a good alternative would be to donate the LASER cutter to a school. In return a LASER-engraved plate would be appreciated ! Ciao


    11 years ago on Introduction

    looking through all of the entries, it looks like there are some very original ideas and then there are those ideas that someone else out there is already doing and people are just laying out how to make it. they are both termed as "instructables" because someone is telling you how to construct both of these types of things. i don't know what it is, but i can't help but to separate these two categories. there's something about awarding the explanation of an existing idea that seems strange to me. it's pretty cool to make your own products that you've seen, but i think coming up those original ideas is more inspiring and more deserving of a laser-prize. i don't know, maybe that's just me. props to those originals!!