How to Make Laser Engraver / Cutter for less than $60

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$60 Laser Engraver / Cutter
by cgosh on June 5, 2007 Table of Contents intro: $60 Laser Engraver / Cutter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 1: First things first . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 2: Rough Description . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 3: Tools You'll Need . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 4: Materials You've Gotta Have . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 5: Make the Pantograph . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 6: Pick Your Power Supply . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2 3 4 6 8 9

step 7: Laser Stuff . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 step 8: Assemble the Laser Parts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 step 9: Ready to Solder . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 step 10: Adjust the Laser Lens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 step 11: Put the Pieces Together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 step 12: Burn Some Stuff ! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Related Instructables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Advertisements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Comments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

http://www.instructables.com/id/60-Laser-Engraver--Cutter/

intro: $60 Laser Engraver / Cutter
I drool on my keyboard when I look at those fancy laser cutter/engravers that cost $$thousands, so I figured out how to make one for $60. That's right -- 60 bucks. My design is not EXACTLY like the multi-$1,000 models, but it will let you do a lot of the same work. Figure on 'manual' rather than 'computer-operated'. This means you don't have to learn CAD, or even have a computer. It can also be used as a portable (bonus!). Did I mention it only costs $60? When I saw the cutting laser that Stephanie Maksylewich made, I knew all that was missing was some way to control where it points and burns, and a variable AC power supply to control the intensity. See the video here. I decided to mount a cutting laser on a pantograph, (and see below) used for centuries to copy, enlarge, and shrink an existing drawing. But instead of a pencil lead making the duplicate, we'll use the laser to cut or engrave. I built a variable power supply out of 10 simple electrical pieces, and a pantograph out of four yardsticks and some nuts and bolts. Remember to always treat this device with respect -- it's an industrial-strength handheld power tool, even if it looks homebrewed.

Image Notes 1. High-powered, pinpoint, low-voltage LED laser goes here. It burns a smaller size, equal size, or larger size copy of your original by tracing it with a stylus (seen here on the right). If you want to make the burned/etched copy bigger than the original, swap the laser with the stylus. 2. This spot stays steady on your work surface. 3. A stylus here traces your original drawing or text. 4. Power supply, controls, wiring not shown here, for clarity. This is not a difficult instructable, requires no special tools, no advanced skills, etc. It does require you to use safety and common sense when working with the laser. It burns stuff. Fast. 5. Yardsticks, nuts and bolts form this pantograph. This is an old-time gizmo for copying drawings, can also change the size from the original. 6. Pantograph works by maintaining a constant ratio between two moving points (laser and tracing stylus). Very easy to use. Been around for a few hundred years.

step 1: First things first
First, read through this entire instructable before buying or assembling anything. I'm using mine to prototype a new product, and I couldn't justify putting $$thousands$$ on my credit card to test my idea. Maybe you'll come up with a way to make some cash. If you can afford 60 bucks and some time, you might be in the laser engraving and cutting business next week (it takes a few days for parts to arrive in the mail). Important!! You must be over 18. This is NOT a toy. It'sa powerful industrial-strength tool. Adults only. Period. It burns holes through plastic fast. You should probably have a fire extinguisher nearby, which you probably already own if you're up for this kind of mischief. You can easily dial the power down and just etch the surface of your stuff. Get plenty of practice on materials you don't need <<before>> you etch your buddy's laptop. There's a big learning curve on the $10,000 models, but at least they come with lots of instructions. These are my instructions . . . I am not responsible for anything you (or your assigns) damage, burn or toast for any reason. Not responsible. Et cetera. Not responsible. Maybe some kind readers will enlighten all of us with their experience and knowledge in Forum or Comments sections describing some tricks of the trade for using laser cutter / engravers. (Other than, "Get a real one," please.) This does not include drawing toast pictures on bread. There's nothing difficult, no special tools, and not a whole lot of skill involved. It's actually fiendishly simple. I've put in a lot of details, so this instructable looks longer than it really is. Use common sense, and safety first. Let's engrave some stuff!

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step 2: Rough Description
You'll need a drill and drill bits if you make your own pantograph, some epoxy or silicone caulk, tape, rubber bands, ballpoint pen or pencil, toothpicks, needle nose pliers, wire cutters and stripper, etc. Nothing fancy. Build a DVD burner laser as Stephanie shows. Either use a breadboard to assemble the power supply, or you'll solder a few wires and connections with a solder pencil. If you've got shaky hands, go with the breadboard. Order the electronic parts through the mail, get a few pieces from Radio Shack, and one item on eBay.com (seller has 99+% positive feedback). Build the pantograph from yardsticks and nuts & bolts or buy one here and practice using it while you wait for the other stuff to arrive. Practice soldering a few wires together to get the hang of it. When the electronic parts arrive, solder them together and stick them on to the pantograph. Take a few minutes to learn how it all works and let the laser cutting and engraving begin! Basically, this is a solid-state, red, visible, LED laser beam shining through a small lens to focus the beam, just like focusing the sun through a magnifying glass. It has a 'focal point' -- a specific distance away from the lens where the beam is focused down to a tiny point. It's mounted on a pantograph (see photos), one of those parallelogram-looking gizmos used to copy a drawing while making it larger or smaller. Instead of copying your drawings in pencil lead, you'll use an LED laser. A fingertip switch where you hold the pantograph at the stylus turns the laser on and off instantly so you can skip around. Variable power (burning/heating ability) for the laser is controlled by a volume-control-like slider that runs a simple 3-wire voltage regulator, which is supplied by any power supply you can scavenge (or buy) that's rated from 4 Volts to 32 Volts DC at 1 Amp or better. If that was all gibberish to you, just stick with us and it will become clear. Look on any power supply and you'll find the rating. If your power supply is smaller than 1 Amp (may be called 1,000 mA), that's OK, but the power of the laser beam will be less. Many folks (especially folks who frequent this website) have SOME kind of old power supply / power brick / outlet brick laying around looking for a new home. If you're really living thin, ask your friends and neighbors. Otherwise, you can get one for around $11 from MPJA.com. My skinny $60 budget did not include the power supply, as I have lots of them around, so your cost might be $71. Before complaining too loudly, take the $5,929 you saved and buy yourself a really nice milk shake to cool down. Then let's get back to work . . .

Image Notes 1. High-powered, pinpoint, low-voltage LED laser goes here. It burns a smaller size, equal size, or larger size copy of your original by tracing it with a stylus (seen here on the right). If you want to make the burned/etched copy bigger than the original, swap the laser with the stylus. 2. This spot stays steady on your work surface. 3. A stylus here traces your original drawing or text. 4. Power supply, controls, wiring not shown here, for clarity. This is not a difficult instructable, requires no special tools, no advanced skills, etc. It does require you to use safety and common sense when working with the laser. It burns stuff. Fast. 5. Yardsticks, nuts and bolts form this pantograph. This is an old-time gizmo for copying drawings, can also change the size from the original. 6. Pantograph works by maintaining a constant ratio between two moving points (laser and tracing stylus). Very easy to use. Been around for a few hundred years.

Image Notes 1. Move the 'A' bolt and the 'B' bolt to the middle of their sticks and you get a 2to-1 drawing ratio. Put the laser on the right and the tracing stylus on the center knee, and you'll double the size of the original. Switch the laser and the stylus (that is, stylus on the left end and the laser in the middle knee) and you'll get a result that's one-half the size of the original drawing. 2. Stylus goes here to enlarge. Laser goes here to reduce. 3. Stylus goes here to reduce the size of the original drawing Laser goes here to double the size of the original drawing. 4. This is the 'B' bolt stuck in the middle of the yardsticks. 5. This bolt always remains in these holes. 6. This bolt is always in this hole and always mounted solidly to your work surface.

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Image Notes 1. Laser goes here if you want to expand your original. Stylus traces your original here if you want to reduce it. 2. Trace this original with this bolt (or replace it with a stylus, pencil, etc.) and it will be expanded dramatically on the bottom end of the right leg. 3. Notice that the distances (to the two yardstick ends) from here are the same. Call these holes 'A' 4. This bolt always stays in these holes. 5. This set of holes (call them 'B') will be bolted the same distance from the ends as the holes at 'A'. In this case, they're in the third holes from the end of each yardstick. Choose other sets of holes to alter the amount the original drawing is reduced or expanded. 6. This bolt never moves. Always at this end of the yardstick. Always mounted solidly to your work surface.

Image Notes 1. Switch the laser (or marker) here and trace with the end of the right leg to dramatically reduce your original. This spot doesn't move much at all. 2. Put your original drawing and trace it with a stylus here and it will be radically reduced at the yardstick joint to the left of here. 3. This bolt remains stuck solidly to the work surface. Doesn't move. Nope. The yardstick just spins around it a little bit. 4. This bolt never leaves these holes, unless you're feeling very experimental. 5. Same ol' same ol'. This bolt (in this configuration) is in the third hole from each end of the yardsticks. 6. Yep. This bolt is still in the same (third) hole from each end of the yardsticks.

Image Notes 1. Packed for travel. Three feet long, only a few inches wide.

step 3: Tools You'll Need
Tools: Drill motor, a 3/8" drill bit (for the bolts) and a 1/2" drill bit (make a hole for the 12mm metal tube that holds the laser) for drilling wood. If your drill motor only accepts bits up to 3/8", you can buy a bit that drills a 1/2" hole but fits in a 3/8" motor. A magnifying glass on a homemade stand will come in handy. Needle-nose pliers. Wire cutter (dikes), ideally that come to a small sharp point. Some screwdrivers will be needed if you'll take apart a DVD burner to get the laser out. Solder pencil (20 to 30 watt model) and electronic solder. Radio Shack sells number 64-2802, $8 for a soldering kit with everything you need in one box, even includes an oversize heat sink alligator clip. If they're out, get a similar kit at Home Depot for $14 in the hand tools section. If the tip on yours is a flat, wedge shape, file it down to a cone-shaped pointed tip. This transfers less heat (you don't need much, anyway) but makes it possible to get into tight spots. When soldering, you touch the tip to all the wires at the same time to heat them up, the wires melt the solder, and then get out quickly. To make the PC board jumper soldering work a little easier, try a Radio Shack Wire Wrap tool 276-1570and some 30-gauge Wire Wrap wire (red, white, or blue) that

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goes with it. It takes a little practice to use the tool to strip the insulation and wrap thin wire around a terminal or wire, then solder them together to the PC board trace. If you don't like the results, just take the wire off and use a fresh piece. Or, you can buy a box full of U-shaped, pre-stripped jumper wires (Radio Shack 276-173) ordinarily used for breadboard work. In fact, if you're sheepish about soldering, you could even use a breadboard (276-175) from the Shack and the pre-stripped jumpers, instead of a PC board. It'll be a little clumsy, but it should work. An alligator clip. Radio Shack 270-373, for more clips than you'll ever need for $3. Or the fat aluminum clip that comes with the solder pencil mentioned above. Or a small, bent-to-suit paper clip (co-worker's desk, $0) or similar to keep delicate electronic components from being fried alive from the heat of your newly-developed soldering skills. Also, clips of any kind to hold on to things for you while you use both hands to solder will come in handy. One hand holds the soldering pencil, the other hand feeds the solder into the joint. That doesn't leave you with much to hold the pieces you're soldering. You can wedge parts sticking out of the edge of a book to hold them. When you get tired of that, solder a clip to the end of a piece of stiff wire, and use a wood screw to screw the other end down to a block of wood. Repeat, and you've got two ''Instructables helping hands'' to hold your work. A brick or flat rock or concrete or scrap drywall or similar for a fireproof work surface (goes under the stuff you're cutting or engraving). Ceramic cookware might be OK, too. (Neighbor's backyard or mom's kitchen, $0.) Nothing shiny or reflective! Or, if you can put an air gap under your work, you might get away with a sheet of plywood sitting a few inches below your work. The laser's beam is essentially in an hourglass shape, with your workpiece situated at the tiny waist of that hourglass. The further you move away from that tiny waist, the weaker the beam gets. Never underestimate it. It is a silent, serious power tool. A dark test area so you can check for red light reflections off your work and product surfaces. 'No reflection' is good. (Become a Midnight Rambler, $0.) Though not required if you follow these directions, a Digital Multimeter can be handy for making sure you get up to, but not over 3.2 Volts to supply the laser, or for checking polarity, continuity and other things (like unexpected short circuits before they blow something up, instead of after). Get one for under $15 and use it forever, or this one, or just check on eBay under multimeter. Some also test temperature (that's not going to work for us -- these temps are WAY too high), or frequency (usually in the audio range - 20Hz to 20,000Hz) capacitance, transistor gain, have a continuity beeper, etc. You're only going to get one; might as well get the one you want. A 10 Amp range will come in handy some day. Or, just use the parts I've specified. This design should limit you to no more than 3.2 volts from the power supply, the maximum allowable voltage for many LED lasers. Any higher voltage on the LED laser lets all the smoke out from the inside and makes it stop working. ;-)

Image Notes 1. These little doodads stick over the ends of the test leads and have little grippers on the ends. That lets you clip them on to connections so you don't have to hold them. Get a pair at Radio Shack, stock 270-334 for $3.50. Very handy. 2. This Elenco M-1700 digital multimeter is a popular, inexpensive model. Shop around and you can own one for under $20. Search for 'multimeter' on froogle.com or eBay.com, then sort by price. Radio Shack 22-810 is $20, it takes them 2 days to get one to your local store. 3. You'll use the 20 Volt DC range for your measurements. Don't put the meter on any other range unless you've read the instructions and know what you're doing. If you do something wrong, you'll probably blow a fuse (inside, by the battery) and have to go to mouser.com or eBay.com to get a replacement. 4. 10 Amp range may come in handy elsewhere. Move the red lead to this hole to use 10A Range. Measure for only a few seconds on this range, then give meter a few minutes to cool down. I'm serious. 5. Black lead is always negative, common. 6. Red lead is always positive, marked V (omega sign) A, meaning Volts, Ohms, Amperes. 7. This model also measures Capacitance, the gain of transistors, and audio frequencies. You don't need any of that for this project, but maybe in the future . . . 8. Meters always have a power switch. Turn it off when you're done to save the battery. 9. If you've somehow managed to reverse the black and red leads while testing (let's say you put the - lead on the + wire), this number will have a - (minus sign) in front of it. That means you've got the polarity backwards.

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step 4: Materials You've Gotta Have
Yardsticks 4 yardsticks (Home Depot 611-269, $1.29 each) or any long, thin strips of light, stiff material you can drill through. This will be your pantograph. If you want to shave $5 off your budget, you can get 20" paint stirrers used for 5-gallon paint buckets (free) any place that sells house paint. The shorter length will limit your freedom to make large stuff easily, but will be easier for small projects. What the hay -- while you're there, get 4 of each. Or, if you're feeling flush, buy a manufactured pantograph for around $20. They're sold at woodworking and at art supply stores. Bolts, Nuts, Washers 4 pieces of 2" long, 3/8" hex-head machine-type bolts (Home Depot 661-899, $0.08 each). Get 8 nuts (Home Depot 721-842, $0.08 each) and 8 washers (Home Depot 655-570, $0.09 each) to match. Test 'em while you're there -- stuff gets mixed up in the bins. Parts from Mouser 863-LM350TG Voltage Regulator 3A 1.2-33V (mouser.com, $1.68) adjusts the laser power 532-7128DG Aavid Thermalloy (regulator) Heatsink (mouser.com, $ 0.80) keeps the voltage regulator from burning up 312-9100-500 Slide potentiometer, 500 ohm (2 shown in photo for details, but you only need one, mouser.com, $1.18) adjusts the voltage regulator for the laser power. If Mouser is out of stock, you can use any 500 ohm potentiometer. If the resistance is higher (e.g., 1000 ohms) the voltage from the power supply can get too high and fry your laser. When this resistance is at zero ohms, the output is 1.25 volts; more resistance equals more volts output. 660-CF1/4C241J 240 ohm resistor, 1/4 watt (mouser.com, $ 0.10) The color code for the 240 ohm resistor is red, yellow, brown and the 4th and 5th bands don't matter. Buy 10 and use them for other LED projects. 30BJ250-1.2K 1.2K resistor, 5% tolerance, (1,200 ohms) (not shown in photos below) (mouser.com, $ 0.22) Brown, red, red, gold color code. This resistor shunts (parallels) the potentiometer to match the resistance perfectly (350 ohms) to limit the voltage regulator to a 3.2 Volt DC maximum. Leave it out and the voltage can go higher. 441-R332B-GR Inline Fuse Holder (mouser.com, $1.23 and . . . 576-0312001.HXP 1Amp 3AG type fuse (mouser.com, $0.25 each). Get a couple, just in case. I blew my first one by accidentally shorting some clips in my first two minutes. Fuses are cheaper than parts. Shipping and handling for these parts from Mouser was under $5 for me. Lens to Focus the Laser from AixiZ Laser 635nm 5mW laser module 3.2VDC w/ adjustable lens, size 12mm by 30mm from eBay, $15.50 ($12 'Buy It Now' price, plus $3.50 S&H). All you need is the lens and the short half of the metal tube. Save the laser inside this module for another project, or use it in this project as a low-power alternate. You'll replace the 5 mW LED laser they give you in the tube with one from a DVD burner. They've got a couple of different models on eBay, so I've put a photo below from my auction and a photo of what I got. Stickers are different. The sticker I got is much cooler. I can't give you a link to the actual auction, since each one they sell has a different auction number. Copy and paste the title, 635nm 5mW laser module 3.2VDC w/ adjustable lens 635 nm in the eBay Search box. (Highlight, CTRL-C to copy, CTRL-V to paste.) Or, see eBay store for AixiZ Lasers. Seller takes checks or PayPal. PayPal will accept your credit card after you create a PayPal account. As soon as somebody buys one, they put up another auction. Or, if an eBay/PayPal purchase rubs you the wrong way, you can call AixiZ in Texas at 1-888-424-9491. Perfboard You can get a piece of perfboard (perforated board used to hold soldered items) cheap at Radio Shack. Try 276-159 for $2.29 as it has little let-me-help-you-solder-that dots on it, or 270-283 for one that's plain, but comes with an enclosure. If the holes are too small to seat the regulator's heat sink, you could cut off the offending tabs, or ream the holes out with a tiny screwdriver or an old fork tine or point of a scissors or the tip of a nail file (sister's purse, $0). Go slowly, don't break the board. Fingertip Power Switch A convenient press-to-operate pushbutton switch, microswitch Radio Shack 275-016 for $2.69 or other switch as you like, to turn the laser on and off effortlessly with your fingertip. Radio Shack or Mouser.com. You'll have to turn the laser off to move from one part of your work to another, then turn it back on easily. Unplugging the power supply from the wall over and over is not going to do the job. Do not get a switch that you must press once to turn on, then press again to turn off or you'll soon be shopping for a better switch. Pilot Lamps Some ordinary LED's (Radio Shack, pack of 20 assorted) 276-1622 for $2.59 (don't forget to always use a small resistor (200 to 300 ohms) from mouser.com at 10 for 50 cents, part no. 299-240-RC (any value from 200 to 300 ohms is OK) or get Radio Shack [http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2062343&cp 271-1321 5 for $1 and put one of them in series with ordinary LED's or you'll likely blow them up), or a 3 volt flashlight bulb in a socket or any similar indicator to tell you when the switch to the laser power is turned on. This is for added safety. Remember; when it's on, it burns holes through stuff immediately whether you're paying attention or not. No surprises. Solder Support Some wire wrap wire and wire wrap tool (optional), and/or some stranded, insulated wire Radio Shack 278-1224, electronics solder, one slightly wet folded paper towel, some newspaper to solder on so you don't accidentally wreck the dining room table, and an aloe plant in case you get clumsy with your newfound soldering skills. Aloe's not going to help much if you burn yourself with the laser, so always be careful. Practice, Patience, Pantograph . . . Patience to wait four days while your order from Mouser gets there. You'll build the pantograph and touch up your soldering skills while you wait. Markers Felt-tip marker or ballpoint pen or a pencil (roommate, $0) to test the pantograph results before you swap the marker for the laser. Packing Tape You'll need to secure one (top left end shown) end of the pantograph to your work surface so it doesn't move. Packing tape is OK if it's really secure. The sloppier things move around, the sloppier your results will be. Drill a 3/8" hole in a scrap block of wood and tape that down if you like, or substitute something you have lying around, even a heavy book (little brother's Psych 101 college textbook, $0). Also tape the wiring to the yardsticks, etc.

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Image Notes 1. 240 ohm resistor, 1/8 watt maximum capacity. Color code is Red, Yellow, Brown, and the fourth band doesn't matter. Shown here with Red band at the bottom. 2. Voltage regulator. Legs (left to right) are VoltageAdjust, VoltageOutput, VoltageInput. Sits inside heat sink shown just above it. 3. Two potentiometers shown here for clarity, but you only need one. 4. Heat sink for the voltage regulator keeps it from getting too hot and burning itself up.

Image Notes 1. This screw-adjustable lens is a critical component. 2. The two pieces of metal tubing screw apart at this line after you peel off the label. The shorter piece will be used in our project after you remove the lowpower laser inside and a spring that presses against the lens to keep it from turning. 3. The longer tube at the rear, along with the lower-powered laser inside, will be saved for some other project. Though only one-thousandth of the power of our laser, it can still cause eye damage and a very hot light beam. Not a toy. 4. This is the photo from the seller's eBay auction, to make sure you get the correct model. 5. Put toothpick across lens and in this slot and the one across from it to adjust the lens by screwing it in or out of the tube. 6. Put toothpick across lens and in this slot and the one across from it to adjust the lens by screwing it in or out of the tube.

Image Notes 1. My (cheesy) photo of the low-power laser and lens I received from eBay vendor AixiZ. Provided here so you don't think you got the wrong one. Carefully peel off the "Danger" label and put it on your project to warn others that this is not a toy, and should be handled seriously.

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Image Notes 1. Pry the arm up slightly on the heat sink and slide the regulator under it. I've hung a resistor on a leg just to show you where it is. Have the plain back of the regulator pressing against the flat back of the heat sink. When you're done, the two pieces will be locked together for maximum transfer of heat. The heat sink is now electrically connected to the center leg of the regulator, which is also the output voltage. Don't let the heat sink touch any other electrical connections or it will cause a short, and that could trash your laser, power supply and regulator.

Image Notes 1. You'll need 4 yardsticks (or similar) and nuts and bolts to tie them together so they can move smoothly and accurately. 2. LED laser will go here 3. You'll trace your original drawing with a stylus in this hole and the resulting output (at left) will be much smaller. If you want to enlarge the output, swap the laser with the stylus. 4. This configuration will give massive enlargement or reduction of the original artwork. 5. This bolt is always mounted solidly to your work surface.

step 5: Make the Pantograph
This is the 'printer' part of the project. A pantograph lets you copy something without requiring much skill (other than a steady hand). It will enlarge or shrink from the original, so very tiny or very large projects (and ordinary ones) are easy to copy. See a pantograph demo here. You can buy a pantograph at woodworking shops and artist supply stores for around $20, or even less on eBay or through Froogle.com. If you're on a budget (or just feeling ambitious) you can make one for about $5 out of yardsticks (pick out some flat ones). If your budget is serious, get 4 paint stirrers used for 5-gallon paint buckets ($0) or get one long, thin, stiff strip of wood (father-in-law's garage, $0) and cut it into four equal-length pieces. You'll practice with a marker before you do any laser cutting, so you'll know if your choice of materials will be acceptable, too heavy, too bendy, too jerky or ???. You can stack and clamp them to drill holes in them every three inches. If you're doing it by hand without clamps like me, I found I got much cleaner, better accuracy doing them one at a time and slowly. It's more important that the holes be perfectly round, vertical and clean than it is for them to be perfectly spaced apart or away from the edge. If the holes are sloppy, your results will be sloppy. Drill a 3/8" hole in the middle every three inches (a hole at the 3" mark, the 6", 9", etc.) If you decide later that a hole every three inches doesn't work for you for some reason, just drill more holes. Get the screws, washers and nuts you got while you were picking up the yardsticks or scavenging the paint stirrers. Later, you can ream a snug fit by just working the assembled pieces back and forth, or swap bolts to find one that's slightly smaller. The bolts have a head, a flat length, and a threaded length. The bolt head rides on your work surface. The threaded end sticks up with two yardsticks between two nuts and washers. If necessary, you can substitute different length bolts to raise and lower the pantograph above your work surface. Lower is more accurate. When you finish putting the hardware and yardsticks together, put a tiny dab of nail polish (Ask. Don't just go through her purse. That's just tacky) or Wite-Out (coworker's desk, $0) on the threads to lock the nut right where you left it on the bolt, yet you can still take it apart later. Play with the pantograph for a few days with a pencil or a ballpoint or felt tip pen where the laser goes to get the feel of it. Learn to use it to enlarge or shrink your original. Practicing here will give you better results later. Get an original of any image you want to engrave or cut later or practice with. Use something simple and get the hang of enlarging or reducing it. Print some words on a computer printer in large font, copy something from a magazine, etc. and test your results. Practice. You've still got a couple of days before the electronics stuff arrives.

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Image Notes 1. Move the 'A' bolt and the 'B' bolt to the middle of their sticks and you get a 2-to-1 drawing ratio. Put the laser on the right and the tracing stylus on the center knee, and you'll double the size of the original. Switch the laser and the stylus (that is, stylus on the left end and the laser in the middle knee) and you'll get a result that's one-half the size of the original drawing. 2. Stylus goes here to enlarge. Laser goes here to reduce. 3. Stylus goes here to reduce the size of the original drawing Laser goes here to double the size of the original drawing. 4. This is the 'B' bolt stuck in the middle of the yardsticks. 5. This bolt always remains in these holes. 6. This bolt is always in this hole and always mounted solidly to your work surface.

step 6: Pick Your Power Supply
This next section on power supplies is a little lengthy. You may be able to skip over most of it, or you may have to read it carefully three times. You already know how much you know about power supplies. A wire cutter (in a pinch, there's a crude one on a pair of slip-joint pliers) will cut the wires, and a fingernail clipper will come in handy to very carefully strip insulation off the ends. A knife has been known to do both, but it's the sign of a newbie. You'll have a slider potentiometer to continuously vary the voltage from 1.2 to 3.2 volts (low laser power to high power), and a fingertip trigger switch to turn the LED laser on and off. You should unplug it from the wall when making any changes or adjustments to prevent accidents. If you want to be totally portable, or you can't scrounge an AC power supply, then use a battery holder and 4 or more AA, C, or D-size flashlight batteries with the voltage regulator. Three batteries without a regulator will produce 3.75 volts, about a half-volt too much (rechargeable batteries are 1.25 volts), and you'll probably blow up your $15 laser. Two batteries without the voltage regulator will give you reduced power. A pair of alkaline batteres will turn out 3+ Volts, nearly full power. A pair of rechargeable batteries will produce around 2.5 Volts. One flashlight battery without the regulator will create less burning power, but the focused beam is still dangerous. "D" batteries last longer than "C" batteries, and "C"s last longer than "AA" batteries. They power the laser, so batteries will go fast at high power. Better yet, scrounge an AC power supply for full, permanent laser power. See below. You can get a battery holder at Radio Shack or Mouser.com, or you may already have one. The exact part is not critical, and using batteries makes the whole thing portable -- it's only an inch or two wide. You can use anything between 4.5 and 32 volts of batteries. That's the input range on the voltage regulator, which will then pump out between 1.2 volts and 3.2 volts DC for the laser. You should avoid a common car or motorcycle battery, as those are really overkill, and actually dangerous because they give off toxic, explosive vapors. They can produce far more than enough current to easily launch your cat at least 10 feet off the ground if he's near (or causes) a short in any wiring, which could then ignite the explosive vapors. Nasty. Stick with simple batteries, and don't ever short a rechageable battery -- if you short them out they get red-hot RIGHT NOW and may burst. Alkalines just go dead if you short them out. A laptop power supply brick goes for as little as $10 on eBay or search for 'laptop power supply'. Better yet, if you've got an old 120-volt AC to low-voltage DC power supply (borrow from your brother-in-law and then forget to give it back, $0) laying around from a laptop, pair of powered speakers, the internal power supply from an old desktop PC (and you don't even have to care if you're using the 12V [yellow] or the 5V [red] line), etc., that's between 5 volts and 32 volts and is rated 1 Ampere or more (or 1A or 1,000 mA -- it's all the same) you can use that. If it's rated less than 1000 milliamps (mA) it will still work, it just won't run the laser at full power. You can replace a small one now with a bigger one later. If the power supply output is over 35 volts, it will destroy your power regulator and your laser. But if it's able to supply over 1,000 mA, it will just run cooler and easier. So, an old laptop power brick rated at 1800mA or at 2.5A and 18 Volts DC is just fine. If yours doesn't have an Amp or A or mA rating, it probably lists 'Watts' or 'VA' (Volts times Amps equals Watts). The number of watts should be at least as big as the number of volts, and both of them should be at least "5" but see the next paragraph for caveats. Your supply should output at least as many Watts as Volts. So, a 10 volt DC supply that says 10 watts (or 15 watts, or 20 watts) will be fine. But an 18 volt supply rated at 10 watts won't be big enough to run the laser at full power, and you may overheat (and damage) this power supply if you run it hard enough. You might still use it; check it often for overheating.

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If you've got a weird power supply that has an AC output, or rates the output with a ~ (tilde) symbol, don't use it. The squiggly tilde means it's AC, not DC. A tilde on the 120 volt AC input rating is OK. If you can make up a connector to attach to the end of the power supply's cable (take it with you to Radio Shack) you don't need to destroy the plug on the end if you don't want to -- you could still use it for your laptop, etc. You'll need to get the wires (polarity) straight. If you don't have a multimeter, skip the next paragraph. Set your multimeter to the 20 Volt DC range (or the 200 VDC setting if your power supply is over 20 volts). The red + meter lead, when connected to the positive wire on your power supply (and the black - lead to the negative wire), will give a normal voltage reading on the meter. If the wires are reversed, there will be a - (minus sign) in front of the number on the meter. Do not change anything on the meter while it's connected (20VDC to 200VDC and back is OK). Do not use any other range on the meter until you've read the manual and understand how to use it. If you blow your meter up, don't despair; you probably just blew a fuse inside. Replace the fuse EXACTLY with one from eBay or Radio Shack -- this is a safety issue. If you don't have a meter, look at the power supply label, or the case next to the hole where the power supply (used to) plug into the old laptop or whatever. There's typically a 'circle and tip' drawing of some kind linked to plus and minus signs to signify whether the outside conductor (circle) or inside hole (tip) is which lead. If your plug has some weird 3-hole arrangement, study it carefully. If you cut the plug off the end of the wire, you'll notice there are two separate wires side-by-side, (like a lamp or extension cord has) or a single round wire (like a satellite or TV cable has, only thinner) between the brick and the end in your hand. If there are two wires, one of them is marked with a stripe or a ridge or lettering or something. That one is usually positive (+) and the unmarked wire is usually negative (-)Usually. If there are two wires and a braid inside, use either wire as long as the ratings show them to be adequate. More voltage in does not equal more voltage out of the regulator. If there's only one round wire, you'll find a second wire hidden inside the first. The outside braid wire is usually negative, and the inside wire is usually positive. Usually. Usually, the positive wire is the one that's marked in some way, and the positive lead on the plug is the one inside. This makes the negative wire unmarked and on the outside (perimeter) of the plug. Usually. You can always test the polarity of any low DC voltage with an inexpensive LED connected to a 200 to 500 ohm resistor (the slider you bought is 500 ohms). The LED's short leg is negative, next to the edge of the plastic that's flattened. If it's backward, nothing happens. Resistor can go on either leg. If it lights, you can determine the polarity of the wires. If you still can't figure it out, maybe you should spring a few bucks for the meter, or borrow one. Enough, already. Let's move on.

Image Notes 1. This one is perfect. 5 Volts DC at 1 Amp is what this supply provides as an output voltage and current. If it said 2 Amps, it would only be working half as hard. If it said 10 Volts, it would still be OK, but 32 volts output is the maximum for this project. 2. The metal jacket surrounding the plug is the negative terminal (think 'negative ground in a car'). The hole inside the end (the tip) is the positive terminal. Unfortunately, if you choose to cut the plug off, you can't tell which wire went where without a multimeter. See text above to determine positive and negative wires. 3. Input is 120 Volts AC at 0.125mA, 60 cycles per second is how often the polarity changes. 16VA means 16 Watts. All these ratings are how much power the brick pulls from the AC wall socket. 4. I used this supply. Meets minimum requirements. 5 Volts at 1 Amp.

Image Notes 1. These ratings say the same thing as the box below. This one says +5V, signifying DC (AC doesn't have + and - leads). The symbols below signifying DC are the horizontal bar over 3 dashes. This describes that one wire is higher in voltage than the ground (dashed line) wire, so it's DC. 2. AC Input: works on anything from 100 Volts AC to 240 Volts AC (~ sign) and draws four-tenths of one amp from the wall socket. The first DC output is 5 Volts DC at 1 Amp. The second available output is 12 Volts DC at 1 Amp. Either will work fine, but the 12 Volt side won't have to work as hard; multiply V times A, and the first is 5 Watts. The second is capable of supplying 12 Watts (12 Volts times 1 Amp). The power supply will run cooler with the 12 Volt line, but the voltage regulator will have to remove more volts to get down to 3.2, so that will run hotter. Use the 5 Volt line if you have this dilemma. 3. I used the wire in the cord and trashed the rest. 4. As viewed from the end while you look at it.

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step 7: Laser Stuff
When your laser stuff arrives, read every word in the next section all the way to the end. Out loud. Twice. Don't cheat -- I'm watching you. This laser will immediately BURN AND CUT anything you put in front of it faster than a hot knife through soft butter. And, a laser is a light beam, so it will REFLECT OFF OF ANYTHING SHINY OR REFLECTIVE AND THEN BURN WHATEVER ELSE IS NOW IN ITS WAY. You're not going to cut shiny foil or anything else that reflects light unless you want a quick trip to the Emergency Room. Treat this with the respect you would give any powerful tool. If it hits your eye, well, you're gonna need that spare you've been ignoring all these years after all. Keep kids away. This is not a toy, it's an industrial-strength cutting tool that doesn't care one whit what you 'planned' on doing or not doing. Please don't post comments about something that accidentally got burned unless you really think it will help others avoid the same mistake. Don't do anything stupid. No drinking. No horseplay. If your friends want to watch and they get a little nutty, just turn it off and wait for them to settle down. If your buddy wants to try it, well, it's his laptop, right? Don't be afraid to sound a little paternal and give directions and caution to everyone around you. Better safe than sorry. Pull the power supply from the wall before you make any adjustments or changes, then check your work before plugging it back in again. Unplug it when you're done, or if you walk away. Now, go back and read that again. Out loud. Fortunately, there is a focusing lens that concentrates the full power just in front of the laser. As you move further from this focusing spot, the power spreads out, but it's still hot. That doesn't mean you can get careless, it just means you may get a second chance. Don't depend on it. Be 100% safe at all times. For testing and variability of the actual strength of the laser beam, the output voltage of the regulator is adjusted by sliding the the volume-control-slider-like potentiometer. The lens screws in an out to adjust the focusing distance to concentrate the entire beam width down to a pinpoint right at the surface of the material to be etched or burned. Changing the voltage with the slider alters the strength (brightness) and cutting power of the beam itself, but does not change the focusing distance. Let's put some stuff together.

Image Notes 1. This was my DVD burner laser. You can see three legs on the right side of this box. 2. This one was the CD burner. See three legs at the bottom of this box. 3. Right-angle mirror shoots the beam upward (into my table). 4. There's a little reflector jobbie in here to coordinate the beams.

step 8: Assemble the Laser Parts
Study the schematic wiring diagram carefully. Print it out if you can. Download it and expand it if you wish. Slip the small heat sink over the voltage regulator (see photo). You'll have to pry it open a little with your fingers. Don't bend it too far or it won't be snug on the regulator, required for good heat transfer. The two will snap into place. You could still damage it if you overheat it, but now it's less likely. Unscrew the Lens Assembly Carefully peel off the 'Danger/Laser' label on the AixiZ lens/laser assembly you got from eBay and stick it on your pantograph to alert others that this is not a toy. Or, stick it to a piece of plastic food wrap and then you can tape it anywhere, or even copy it with your new Laser Cutter / Engraver. Unscrew the tube with two pairs of pliers (borrowed from the landlord, $0). Unscrew and remove the black lens housing and the spring inside. You should now have a long tube sitting on the table, a lens and a spring in one hand, and a short tube with a tiny laser in it. Tear the wires, tiny PC board and white silicone off the back of the short tube. You'll see the back of the tiny laser. Set the tube up on its end with the laser on the bottom, sitting on the slightly open jaws of the pliers. The tiny laser was press-fit into the tube. Use a small hammer and a nail set (or a rock and a nail -- I told you there weren't any special tools) to gently pop it back out. It won't take much force, but this tiny laser is not going to be used on any other project.

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You'll put your new laser (scavenged from a DVD burner) in this hole and secure it with epoxy or with a hot-melt glue gun. It must be centered in the hole. Just look down the tube to see it -- a hands-free magnifying glass comes in handy here.

Image Notes 1. Pry the arm up slightly on the heat sink and slide the regulator under it. I've hung a resistor on a leg just to show you where it is. Have the plain back of the regulator pressing against the flat back of the heat sink. When you're done, the two pieces will be locked together for maximum transfer of heat. The heat sink is now electrically connected to the center leg of the regulator, which is also the output voltage. Don't let the heat sink touch any other electrical connections or it will cause a short, and that could trash your laser, power supply and regulator.

Image Notes 1. This screw-adjustable lens is a critical component. 2. The two pieces of metal tubing screw apart at this line after you peel off the label. The shorter piece will be used in our project after you remove the lowpower laser inside and a spring that presses against the lens to keep it from turning. 3. The longer tube at the rear, along with the lower-powered laser inside, will be saved for some other project. Though only one-thousandth of the power of our laser, it can still cause eye damage and a very hot light beam. Not a toy. 4. This is the photo from the seller's eBay auction, to make sure you get the correct model. 5. Put toothpick across lens and in this slot and the one across from it to adjust the lens by screwing it in or out of the tube. 6. Put toothpick across lens and in this slot and the one across from it to adjust the lens by screwing it in or out of the tube.

Image Notes 1. There are four solder pads, two positive and two negative. You'll see a tiny black box at the top. Ideally, you should avoid overheating this box, so you may solder to the pads at the bottom, even though this drawing shows them at the top. 2. The 1,2,3, numbers are on the pins found on the slide potentiometer. 3. The wires in green carry full current, should be 24 or 22 gauge wire, NOT the 30 gauge used with the wire wrap tool. 4. Push to turn laser on, release to automatically turn laser off. 5. Add cheap LED's from Mouser or Radio Shack. There are lots of colors, sizes, etc. You only need one 1K resistor for the whole lot. You can use 30 gauge Wire Wrap wire to connect them. 6. Do not skimp. Get a fuse.

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step 9: Ready to Solder
At this point, you should still be reading all the way through before you begin anything, right? A hot-melt glue gun will come in handy for semi-permanent mounting of the slide potentiometer, wiring, etc. Just tack tiny dots until you decide on permanent design. If you change your mind, cut the glue with a knife, peel with a fingernail. or run the glue gun tip over it to re-melt it. This page is a quick & dirty instructable teaching you how to solder wire. If you're convinced you're a soldering guru, you might skip it, or read it and maybe learn something valuable. There are about 12 solder joints formed on 8 components. Take your time, do it right. You can mount the voltage regulator and resistor components on a piece of perfboard 276-159 from Radio Shack. You might hot melt glue the potentiometer to the board for convenience. Solder by following the steps (listed once briefly, then again with detail). If your tip doesn't seem to be hot enough, use a pair of pliers (do not use your fingers -- it's about 700 degrees Fahrenheit) to gently tighten the tip (i.e., screw it down). Sometimes they come loose. Twist too hard, and you'll crack or break the plastic handle. The smoky fumes given off during soldering are not good for you to breathe, so avoid inhaling them. They won't make you dizzy or anything like that, but they're not good for you. 0. You may wish to use a Wire Wrap tool 276-1570 and Wire Wrap wire (red, white, or blue) from Radio Shack to make all the low-current connections (those not marked in Green) and solder them afterward. This includes all resistors and the cheap LED's. The center and right legs on the regulator need heavier wire, along with both wires to the LED laser. Use 24 or gauge or similar to the wire found in the Power Supply Brick wiring, perhaps from yet another abandoned power supply. 1. Put the alligator clip on the leg of the voltage regulator, close to the joint you'll make, between the joint and the black body of the regulator. 2. Add a tiny amount of solder to the hot tip to tin it. 3. Clean and roll the tip on the wet towel to wipe off the excess solder and burnt rosin and gunk. 4. Wait 15 seconds for the tip to come back up to temperature. 5. Hold hot tip against both the wires and leg simultaneously for 4 to 10 seconds. No longer. Have the solder pressed against the wires, not the tip. 6. When the wires are hot enough, the heated wire melts the solder. You should not use the pencil tip to melt the solder. This causes an infamous 'cold solder joint' that will fail later. Details: 1. Put the alligator clip on the leg of the voltage regulator, close to the joint you'll make, between the joint and the black body of the regulator. The tiny Radio Shack alligator clips listed are best. If you've opted for the cheapo-cheapo route, bend a paper clip so it clamps on the leg of the regulator somehow. When you get tired of that, go to Radio Shack and get proper clips. If they're out of the ones I've listed, get any small ones they have (take off any colorful rubber boots). Technically speaking, if your soldering skills are really up to snuff, you probably won't need the clip at all, because you'll finish the joint quickly, before the body of the regulator gets very hot. If you're a newbie, clips are cheaper than parts. Place the body of the part physically lower than the upcoming solder joint -- heat rises. 2. Add a tiny amount of solder to the hot tip to tin it. You don't need a lot of solder. Just enough to liquify anything on the tip so you can wipe it spotlessly shiny in step 3. 3. Clean and roll the tip on the wet towel to wipe off the excess solder and burnt rosin and gunk. Use a paper towel or napkin, folded down to about a 2 inch square, then get it wet and squeeze the water out. Any time you like, wipe and twist the tip of the pencil on it to clean off any old solder or burned rosin (liquid rosin inside the hollow solder helps it clean the wires). Don't get cheap about a half-cent's worth of solder; clean the tip off. Throw the dead blobs away when they cool; do NOT try to reuse them. Solder has lead in it, so behave accordingly. Wiping or using the pencil cools it briefly; give it a moment to heat up again. Never touch the non-handle part of the pencil (you can feel the heat rising off of it). It will burn you. Bad. Be careful where you set it when you're not holding it. Make sure pets and people don't drag the cord as they walk by. Don't do it on mom's nice dining room table. Put newspaper down on the floor. And don't talk with your mouth full. And stop tracking dirt across my nice clean floor! . . . Sorry, flashed back to too many projects made on mom's dining room table. 4. Wait 15 seconds for the tip to come back up to temperature. Don't rush it. Holding the tip above the handle will move the heat to the tip better. 5. Hold hot tip on the wires for about 4 to 10 seconds. No longer. You should have the solder pressed gently against both wires the whole time with your other hand. This is where those extra clamps come in handy, or anything to hold your work down (tape, a friend, alligator clips mounted to anything, etc.). As soon as the solder starts melting on the wires, feed in just enough to form a thin layer on the wires (not too much, not a bubble of solder, but a layer is good) and pull away the solder and the pencil. Don't touch it or blow on it, just leave it alone and still for 10 seconds. If the solder joint looks the same color as the solder in your hand, you're all set. If it looks gray, grainy or dull, you've got a bad connection, called a cold solder joint. If you fail to get a good solder joint, move on to something else completely different and come back in a few minutes when this spot has cooled completely and start over. Basically, you're protecting the component from any heat damage by moving around rather than concentrating on a small area. 6. Touch the solder to the wires so the heated wire melts the solder. You should not use the pencil tip to melt the solder. That's it. Don't solder multiple leads on a single item (like the 3-legged voltage regulator) all in one pass. Do one, give it two minutes to cool, then do another. Since you put on the wrap-around heat sink you got for the voltage regulator, that will help, too. Use the alligator clip, too. Your tip is ready when it's recently tinned, free of excess solder and gunk, and fully heated (5 minutes is fine). Don't forget to unplug it when you're done; it will remain hot for 5 minutes afterward. If you find you simply MUST cut some plastic with the hot solder pencil for a project, don't use the very tip; save that for soldering only. Melt plastic just above the tinned part of the tip. If it doesn't seem to be heating up, tighten the tip gently into the pencil with a pair of pliers. Heat rises. So, position the black body of the voltage regulator (or anything else valuable) below your solder joint when you apply heat. Solder one lead, wait two minutes; move the clip and do the next lead. Repeat. Ideally, you'll have a tiny alligator clip clamped on the wire lead, between your prospective solder joint and the black body of the voltage regulator. The clip will get hot instead of the regulator. Since you'll be excited, you'll forget that the clip is hot and grab it. Go get the aloe plant. Soldering uses the heat of the pencil to raise the temperature of the wires so they are hot enough to melt solder, but ideally not so hot that the component gets fried. Then, you touch the end of the solder against the wires and it melts and flows all around everything like an animation you once saw in a bad sci-fi movie. You do NOT use the pencil to melt the solder. If you just heat the solder with the pencil tip and sort of mash it on to the wires, (reminiscent of trying to stuff clay in your brother's ear), it

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won't work. If you get a wire too hot, anything that's attached to it (insulation, printed circuit board traces, voltage regulators, friend's fingers) will get crisped. You can apply too little heat (1 to 3 seconds), just enough heat (around 4 to 8 seconds), and too much heat (over 10 seconds). So you've got about 5 seconds to do your work (between the 4and 8-second marks). If you screw something up, just move away from that spot for a minute to let everything cool, then try again. No harm, no foul. Take it easy. If two things get stuck together that shouldn't be or you've got too much solder on something, hold the work up above the pencil tip (again, just for a few seconds) and gravity will draw the solder down out of the wires and back into the pencil, then clean off the tip on the wet paper towel. Tin the tip with fresh solder and clean it again. Watch for dripping solder that is trying to land on you. It's still hot. Practice on lots of spare wire and leftovers from that old radio you've been dying to take apart until you feel confident. Clips of any kind hold things down while you hold the pencil in one hand and the solder in the other. Wrap wire around the regulator leads to start out with a good physical connection. If you're having trouble, 'tin' anything you're working with first by putting a little solder on it before connecting it to something else (but this makes wire too stiff to bend - just use a tiny amount of solder to tin wire, or just tin the very end tip of the wire). Any time you find something that just won't accept solder or 'tin' easily, it's probably dirty or oily. Wipe, clean, file, sand, or steel wool to a fresh surface, then wipe with a damp paper towel. So, the drill is this: Put a clip on the lead right next to the regulator and put the black body of it physically lower than the upcoming solder joint. Ideally, find something to hold everything in place so you don't have to (see instructables). Wipe the hot pencil on a folded, dampened paper towel to clean it off. Touch a tiny bit of solder to the tip to tin it and wipe it back off again. It's OK to have just the tiniest amount of solder on the tip to help conduct heat to the wires (like butter in a frying pan) but add just a little more if you like. Tin the wire if you like. Wrap the resistor wire (or the wire connected to the tied-together ends of the potentiometer) around the regulator lead (needle-nose pliers were just made for this). Apply heat about 4-8 seconds to both the wire and the lead. Touch solder to the wire and to the leg of the regulator at the same time, but not to the pencil. Solder flows all around both wires. Remove solder and pencil. Let solder joint cool by itself for one minute. Move the clip to the next wire. Get aloe plant because you grabbed the clip too soon. Repeat with next connection. If you look closely at the back of your laser, you'll see one or two tiny rectangular components. One of them is a protection device that shorts out (eliminates) static electricity jolts that you might accidentally give off while handling the laser PC board. The laser needs around 3 or 4 volts of electricity, not the 10,000 to 20,000 volts that a static shock contains.

Image Notes 1. There are four solder pads, two positive and two negative. You'll see a tiny black box at the top. Ideally, you should avoid overheating this box, so you may solder to the pads at the bottom, even though this drawing shows them at the top. 2. The 1,2,3, numbers are on the pins found on the slide potentiometer. 3. The wires in green carry full current, should be 24 or 22 gauge wire, NOT the 30 gauge used with the wire wrap tool. 4. Push to turn laser on, release to automatically turn laser off. 5. Add cheap LED's from Mouser or Radio Shack. There are lots of colors, sizes, etc. You only need one 1K resistor for the whole lot. You can use 30 gauge Wire Wrap wire to connect them. 6. Do not skimp. Get a fuse.

http://www.instructables.com/id/60-Laser-Engraver--Cutter/

Image Notes 1. Put the voltage regulator LM350TG in these holes. Topmost hole in this photo is the rightmost leg on the regulator (as viewed from the front label side). 2. One end of the 240 ohm resistor (red, yellow, brown) goes in this hole. 3. One lead of the 1.2K (1200 ohm) resistor (brown, black, red) solders to this hole. 4. The other end of the 1200 ohm (1.2K) resistor solders here. Stand the resistor on one end to get it to fit if you didn't get the 1/8th watt size (you'll also have to bend one side of the heat sink). 5. Before using any PC board, buff it with a steel wool pad or a sponge and kitchen cleanser to get off any oily residue, then rinse under running water and dry. If you can't get solder to stick to the copper traces, you probably skipped this step. Not fun. 6. This hole connects to terminal 1 on the slide potentiometer, which is also connected to the negative side of the power supply. 7. These three holes hole the negative leads on three indicator LED's.Use wire wrap wire around one of the legs to jumper for more LED's, if you wish. These are the 'Power ON' indicator LED's. Use as many LED's as you wish, all connected in parallel. 8. The fuse holder specified comes with a single piece of wire. Cut it near one end, strip the wires, and put one wire in this hole. Fuses are cheaper than parts. 9. The positive wire from the power supply, and also one end of the fuse holder go in these two holes. The holder specified comes with a single piece of wire. Cut it near one end, strip the wires, and put one wire here. Other end goes to center leg on the voltage regulator. 10. Expand this hole and let the leg from the heat sink fit here. The other leg on the heat sink gets bent up out of the way to avoid the 1.2K resistor at the bottom of this drawing. 11. The other end of the 240 ohm resistor (red, yellow, brown) goes in this hole. 12. Remember when working with PC boards that the view of everything from the bottom side is the opposite of the view from the top! Take your time, check your work. Carpenters are taught, "Measure twice, cut once." 13. This board is only one half of what's in the package. Snap off the other half and use it for another project. 14. A 22 or 24 gauge piece of hookup wire connects this hole to one side of the Thumb Trigger Switch which carries positive, regulated voltage to the laser. 15. One end of 220 ohm resistor (red, red, yellow) goes in this hole. Supplies ground lead to the 'Power ON' indicator LED's. 16. You can make jumpers out of the 30 gauge Wire Wrap wire. Wrap it around the 'legs' sticking through the PC board, then solder all three (wire, leg, copper pad) together. 17. This pad is where all the negative jumpers and wires meet up. Return wire from the laser, jumper to the 1.2K resistor, negative power supply lead, jumper to the top pin on the potentiometer. 18. 240 ohm resistor sits above here 19. 1.2K resistor sits above here, standing up on one of its ends if necessary. 20. Jumper wire goes between this hole and two pins on lower end of potentiometer. 30 gauge Wire Wrap wire is OK if you wish. 21. This trace carries the negative -- side of the 'Power On' LED series. Short legs of the LED's can connect to any hole on this trace. 22. Slide potentiometer - one leg fits inside this hole, connects to the other let right

http://www.instructables.com/id/60-Laser-Engraver--Cutter/

next to it and the PC board trace in the lower left corner of this photo. 23. The other end of the 220 ohm resistor goes here. 24. A ground wire connects here, the other end goes to the large pad of negative wires at the top of this photo. 25. The long, positive legs on the indicator LED's go in these holes, bend over and all solder together. Add a jumper wire to the blank copper pad to the left, just above the voltage regulator. 26. I put more indicator LED's short, negative leads in these holes, then ran a jumper wire to one of the negative leads 3 pads lower. 27. This hole gets a jumper wire to the long, positive leg on an indicator LED, directly to the right, to the 9 pads they use. You can use fewer LED's than I did (6). 28. A wire here goes to the trigger switch, to provide current only when the switch is closed (and the burn laser is on). This lead provides positive power to the indicator LED's. 29. Jumper wire goes from here to meet up with all the negative wires at top right. 30. A 220 ohm resistor sits above this spot. It provides limited current for the indicator LED's a little higher than this spot.

step 10: Adjust the Laser Lens
You should now have a working pantograph. You should also have all the electronic components soldered together. You should also have collected a DVD burner laser as described by Stephanie Maksylewich Make a simple gripper to hold the laser on the end of the pantograph. Use a scrap piece of thin wood like one of the paint stirrers or the cut off end of a yardstick. Drill a 1/2" hole in it to hold the laser tube. Since the tube diameter is 12mm, which is slightly less than 1/2", you'll wrap some cellophane tape or packing tape around the tube to make it press fit into the hole in the wood. Drill a 3/8" hole in the gripper and bolt it to the pantograph, then press the laser into the first hole. You can move this gripper to the other location on the pantograph to switch from reducing to enlarging your original image. The inch or so that the laser is moved away from the 'ideal' position won't be enough to affect your finished product, so long as it doesn't rotate around the bolt. Just tape the gripper to one of the yardsticks to keep it stable. Or, you could just drill a 1/2" hole in the end of the yardstick and use that. Experiment and see which you prefer for your purposes by testing with a ballpoint pen or felt tip marker placed where the laser would be. Insert the black spring and screw the lens back halfway in to the end of the laser tube with the slots on the outside. You'll use a toothpick (NOT your fingers or you might get burned) across the two indents in the end to adjust the lens for maximum effect at the correct distance. Get your fireproof work surface ready and put a piece of paper or other target on it. Point the laser at the target so you can see the diameter of the beam. This target will get burned, so use paper or something other than the wall in the dining room. Remember that anything underneath the paper or target will get burned at the same time. See if you can put an air gap of at least one foot behind the target. Turn the power on, and adjust the volume-control-like slider to set the power down as low as you can while still seeing it clearly. Turn the power back off. Use the toothpick across the slots on the side of the lens to adjust the lens. Remember; if you need to change anything, always turn the laser off and then make your changes. Continue to power on, test for distance, power off, adjust lens, repeat. Technically, the closer you can get the laser to your work, the more accuracy you'll obtain. Focus just right, and the paper will burn. Just like crisping ants with a magnifying glass on a sunny day. (No ants were harmed in the making of this instructable.) Set the focusing distance at about one inch. This will be the distance that the pantograph will hold the laser above your work. Adjust your true working distance with the length of the bolts holding the pantograph above your working surface and/or adjusting the laser tube in its hole, or where the gripper sits in the stack of yardsticks. You'll need some gap to be able to see the original image you're copying with the pantograph stylus unless you made your pantograph out of clear plastic or your stylus is at the very end of the pantograph. If you find later that you need more clearance (e.g., my fingers are too big, I can't see what I'm doing, I didn't practice enough, uneven work surface, etc.) just replace the bolts with longer ones and refocus or move the lens in the gripper.

Image Notes 1. This screw-adjustable lens is a critical component. 2. The two pieces of metal tubing screw apart at this line after you peel off the label. The shorter piece will be used in our project after you remove the low-power laser inside and a spring that presses against the lens to keep it from turning. 3. The longer tube at the rear, along with the lower-powered laser inside, will be saved for some other project. Though only one-thousandth of the power of our laser, it can still cause eye damage and a very hot light beam. Not a toy. 4. This is the photo from the seller's eBay auction, to make sure you get the correct model. 5. Put toothpick across lens and in this slot and the one across from it to adjust the lens by screwing it in or out of the tube. 6. Put toothpick across lens and in this slot and the one across from it to adjust the lens by screwing it in or out of the tube.

http://www.instructables.com/id/60-Laser-Engraver--Cutter/

step 11: Put the Pieces Together
You now have the pieces you'll assemble for the finished project. When you're satisfied, you may wish to press the laser through a piece of plastic food wrap, then put it inside the gripper hole and run a small bead of silicone goop around the tube where it meets the gripper. This will let you push the lens and tube into the wood, but prevent it from going in too far. The plastic food wrap peels off the bottom of the silicone so it doesn't stick to the gripper. Mount the completed wiring, power supply, voltage regulator, (or batteries), and trigger switch with silicone or hot-melt glue. Put as little stress as you can on the pantograph, since anything that restricts its movement will show up in your finished work. Practice before you invite all your friends over to show them. If someone wants to give it a try, unplug the power supply, substitute a marker for the laser and see how they do on a trial run. If they get the hang of it, give them the safety speech and explain how the power and trigger switch work and see how it goes. If the party gets out of hand, pull the power supply out of the wall.

Image Notes 1. Indicator LED's

Image Notes 1. Cut and strip the wires to leave enough slack to place the ends wherever you want. This model is kind of clunky (too large) but the 3AG type fuse it holds is easy to find.

Image Notes 1. Pin 2 is the slider, so both ends are the same thing. Pins 1 and 3 are at each end of the resistor section, so they are interchangeable with each other.

Image Notes 1. Indicator LED's show when power is applied to laser. 2. Potentiometer slide varies voltage applied to laser. 3. My fuse holder's wire is too large. If you can come up with a better solution, more power to ya. 4. This corner of the heat sink gets pried up to avoid a resistor. 5. These wires go the the trigger switch. 6. Negative wire from power supply. 7. Positive wire from power supply.

http://www.instructables.com/id/60-Laser-Engraver--Cutter/

Image Notes 1. Completed PC board power regulator 2. Jumper wire 3. Negative wires 4. Fuse holder wire connects to VoltageIn leg on regulator. 5. Wire to trigger switch. VoltageOut from regulator. 6. Three LED's have their short leg / flat edge connected here. A jumper wire goes to the short leg on three more above. 7. These traces are where the long, positive legs go on six indicator LED's, three above here, and three below. 8. This wire connects to the other side of the trigger switch to provide positive voltage to the indicator LED's, showing when the laser is powered. 9. Positive wire from power supply, one of the wires to the fuse. 10. These two pins on the potentiometer tie together and to a jumper that goes to the left. 11. This pin on the potentiometer goes to the negative leads through a jumper wire. 12. Hot melt glue. 13. The resistors are all inside this box. 14. Center pin on voltage regulator.

step 12: Burn Some Stuff !
Use good judgement with this project. No flammable stuff nearby, no tricks or horseplay. A fire extinguisher or maybe a towel nearby to throw over any flaming surprise is a good idea in case things get burning a little out of hand. You might consider disabling it (put the fuse in your pocket) when you're not using it so your little brother or your nosey roommate doesn't try it out when you're gone. Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate. There are instructables showing how to make a ventilation system. Or, work in the garage with a door open. Work in front of an open window with a fan blowing outward. Do something. Don't just breathe that junk. Put something under your work that won't burn, or you don't care about. A sheet of plywood is disposable, but cheap sheetrock drywall is meant to hold flames down (the white side, not the paper side). Have somebody at Home Depot show you how to easily score drywall and snap it into small pieces rather than try to cut it. Makes it easier to get it home, too. Consider putting a shield between you and the business end of things (that would be the laser beam). If you've practiced with the pantograph, you'll have enough confidence to trust your results without studying them while you're cutting. Stuff gets hot. Don't grab things without hovering over them first to test for heat. Develop good habits. They are what will save you when you have a brain fart late some night. Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate. Didn't I just say that?

http://www.instructables.com/id/60-Laser-Engraver--Cutter/

Don't burn anything that might reflect the beam off at some weird angle. If you'll burn through something, make sure there isn't a reflective layer inside it. This instructable is over. Make your own and share with us. Have fun. I am. P.S. Many thanks to Stephanie Maksylewich, who came up with the idea that got me thinking . . .

Image Notes 1. My DVD burner laser attached with hot-melt glue to the lens tube from Aixiz. The copper trace at top right was cut off afterward.

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Comments
50 comments Add Comment view all 72 comments

Briguy9 says:

Jul 16, 2009. 7:20 PM REPLY ah, the pantograph, a century-old invention. changing something like this that's tried and true would be like trying to reinvent the wheel, right?

matroska says:
Wow! This instructable was the missing part for my laser etcher project!

May 28, 2009. 11:15 AM REPLY

I was too planing to build a DIY laser etcher machine, only mine would be computer controlled. However I knew nuts about lasers, and I really wasen't sure a DVD burner diode could do the job. I even had no clue about how to supply it. Well, now it's solved! I have an old PC power supply, with many output ratings, varying from 1A to 15A (!), and from 3.5V to 12V, however I wouldn't know how to use it. I also have an old laptop adapter, rated around 17V I think, I forgot the amperage. I do have a question... how it is possible to supply, say the 12V you mentioned, if the diode will burn out at more than 3,25V? Other than this, thank you, you are a true genious and my cheap DIY will be done with your help :)

http://www.instructables.com/id/60-Laser-Engraver--Cutter/

MaddMann says:

May 21, 2009. 11:44 AM REPLY I don't know enough about it to say whether or not it will burn anything, but I'm going to give it a try anyway; the diode burns DVD's why not paper, wood, etc? Increasing its intensity with a magnifying/focusing lens can only help. If it does work I'm thinking I'll build a CNC from one of the Instructables and slap this laser into it - set it and go! I'm also thinking that some protective laser safety goggles formed around the base of the laser would greatly increase the safety of this. Nice instructable, by the way!

cuchulain92 says:
Has anyone considered focusing the beams from multiple emitters to a single point?

Apr 23, 2009. 2:57 PM REPLY

Timextoxlive says:

Dec 19, 2007. 4:40 PM REPLY this wouldnt work. Ive made class 3b lasers (a little stronger output than the DVD burner diode). It will SLOWLY cut electrical tape, or light black matches. but as far a burning anything that isnt thin and black, no chance in hell. sorry man, good idea, but the diode just isnt powerful enough.

covey12 says:
ive used dvd lasers to burn everything from balloons to balsa wood

Apr 17, 2009. 11:25 AM REPLY

Rayl12 says:
Just out of interest guys, have any of you seen the Reprap http://reprap.org/bin/view/Main/MakeYourOwnRepRap

Mar 6, 2009. 7:33 PM REPLY

Noodle god says:
How many mw's is this?

Jan 31, 2009. 10:34 PM REPLY

bombmaker2 says:
I'm going to build this but hook up a joystick controlled table

Jan 6, 2009. 2:14 PM REPLY

drcrash says:
As labeled in the picture, the pantograph can't work. The cutter can only move in an arc, not trace out arbitrary shapes. (A picture of the whole system---fully assembled, properly labeled, and working---would be a good thing.)

Jul 2, 2007. 2:11 AM REPLY

dchall8 says:

Jul 2, 2007. 11:22 AM REPLY I would like to see the entire assembly, too. But what are you saying about a pantograph not working to trace arbitrary shapes? The pantograph I had as a kid seemed to trace out anything I put under it.

drcrash says:

Jul 2, 2007. 11:34 AM REPLY Pantographs certainly do work; they're great. They work in 3D too, if you have one that doesn't flex out of a plane, and attach it to the table (or stand or whatever) with a universal joint. (That's where the great potential of pantographs lies. The Sears Crafstman Deluxe Router Pantograph will do 3D shallow reliefs, but that's just scratching the surface, so to speak. In the 19th century people used 3D pantographs and synchronized turntables to scale sculptures up and down, in the round. Cool.) The picture says that the cutter is attached at the opposite end of the same lever from the pivot that mounts to the table. That is wrong. If you do it that way, the cutter will always be the same distance from the pivot---it can only move in a circle, not toward or away from the pivot. For a pantograph to work, you have to mount the cutter on one of the other levers, in a straight line between the main pivot and the probe. (Or to scale things up, with the probe between the cutter and the main pivot, but also in a straight line.) It'd be good if the instructable had a (correct) explanation of how a pantograph works, or at least a link to one. (There are several on the web. One has a Java applet that lets you play with a virtual pantograph in your browser.)

dchall8 says:
I see. You were pointing out that the pictures were labeled incorrectly.

Jul 2, 2007. 3:28 PM REPLY

drcrash says:

Jul 2, 2007. 5:32 PM REPLY Right. But I have my doubts that a pantograph will work with a laser. My impression is that you need to move the beam very precisely and at a very precise rate. If the beam is bouncing around significantly, moving at variable rates and so on, it'll cut through in some places, and just wobble back and forth making shallow cuts in others. Generally, you need precision movement comparable to the size of your cutter. Laser beams are very small and sharp. (Or if they're not, they require boatloads of power to actually cut anything.) I find it hard to imagine getting the necessary precision from levers made out of yardsticks, or enough power to cut a wide swath from a DVD burner laser.

http://www.instructables.com/id/60-Laser-Engraver--Cutter/

reginaron says:
Hi there. Im looking for type of laser that will cut through frozen (mostly pasteries) food. Knives are too slow and messy. Know of any links.. thanx rr

Oct 5, 2007. 9:27 AM REPLY

ReCreate says:
i think since it is ice it will reflect and burn your eye out

Dec 13, 2008. 5:33 PM REPLY

jongscx says:
if it's frozen, try a band saw

Nov 25, 2008. 11:00 AM REPLY

drcrash says:
And the picture is STILL wrong.

Aug 1, 2007. 2:41 PM REPLY

LasVegas says:
I'd also like to see the completed project and examples.

Jul 2, 2007. 2:22 AM REPLY

John Smith says:
Me too.

Jul 9, 2007. 6:05 PM REPLY

dudemonkeys says:
can this cut .002" steel shim stock?

Oct 1, 2008. 5:14 PM REPLY

jongscx says:

Nov 25, 2008. 10:58 AM REPLY all the "can it cut" questions are really juts dependent on the laser... careful when doing it though, b/c the steel sheet might be reflective enough to bounce the laser back to you...

alex-sharetskiy says:
awesome project, but you can't really have a computer engrave/cut stiff for you, costing only $60 it's pretty good!

Jul 31, 2008. 8:15 AM REPLY

i m legend says:
ur "laser cutter" succcckkkkksssss! try a small converging lens fixed at a distance of 0.00012cm from your laser cutter

Jul 11, 2008. 5:32 AM REPLY

pawnmanrdp says:
Try a turbo carver very small runs on air uses dental burs, www.turbocarver.com/

Nov 23, 2007. 3:32 PM REPLY

reginaron says:
Hi. I had a pantograph device, when i was younger,it didnt work as detailed as id hoped.

Oct 29, 2007. 2:57 PM REPLY

thydzik says:
Any examples of engraved objects?

Aug 29, 2007. 11:27 PM REPLY

http://www.instructables.com/id/60-Laser-Engraver--Cutter/

drcrash says:
Not likely, I'm guessing. I don't think this actually works.

Sep 8, 2007. 4:45 PM REPLY

The laser isn't powerful enough to cut much of anything, and the pantograph isn't precise enough to guide it well enough. (See older comments below.)

andy60 says:
kwl, i must try this sometime

Aug 27, 2007. 1:51 AM REPLY

Rybin says:
so what would it take for me to make a hand-held laser cutter that can penetrate say... 1/8" corrugated steel? just curious...

Aug 24, 2007. 5:03 PM REPLY

staggerwing88 says:

Aug 2, 2007. 12:20 AM REPLY I'm looking for a pantograph solution to etch satin finished aluminum plate. Can/should such material be made more laser-safe by directly masking onto it? Any input on a dremel router version it would also be useful.-Staggerwing88

dchall8 says:

Jul 2, 2007. 11:08 AM REPLY Okay this is good. Now if you will get together with this guy, miniaturize the 3-axis CNC machine, then they won't have to have a laser cutter contest.

oskay says:

Jul 3, 2007. 9:46 PM REPLY There's a very, very big difference between the power of these lasers and the power of the laser in a laser cutter. Wait ten years for high-power semiconductor laser prices to fall, and then you're on. ;)

ARVash says:
Meh, enough time and it'll cut through anything non-reflective :P. Time is the key here ;p

Jul 9, 2007. 8:04 PM REPLY

oskay says:

Jul 9, 2007. 8:37 PM REPLY If you spend some time playing with lasers, you'll see exactly how *not true* that is. For example, if you shine a laser pointer at a sheet of aluminum foil, you'll never cut through it. Things get very different (i.e., dangerous) once you get up to about 1 W of optical power, and more so if you focus the beam. In this particular case, with the pantograph design, lower power is a *very good* idea.

daenris says:
Not a good counterexample, as aluminum foil is pretty reflective :)

Jul 23, 2007. 11:25 AM REPLY

oskay says:
How right you are-- doh!

Jul 23, 2007. 1:39 PM REPLY

Perhaps anodized aluminum is a better example. Actually, your hand is a pretty good example too; you can point a (regular) laser pointer at your hand all day and it won't cause damage. (The same may not be true for your retinas!)

madgyver says:

Jul 11, 2007. 2:39 PM REPLY What's been said about the laser and its output so far is quite right. The Laser will not be able to "cut" anything thicker then 0.25mm. Here you can see mine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXfRSjHgtxs But it shoud be nice or engraving stuff, if you move and hold it precise of course.

drcrash says:
Would a DVD laser cut foam? (Like pink or blue extruded polystyrene insulation foam?)

Jul 14, 2007. 8:39 AM REPLY

That could actually be very useful; if you can cut a shape in foam, you can easily mold and cast it, or put a hard surface on it and vacuum form over it. Foam is a bunch of thin-walled bubbles, so cutting through it is like cutting through a bunch of very thin layers of plastic separated by air. I don't know whether to expect that to work, though. I don't know if the frequencies put out by DVD lasers are absorbed well by the plastics that foams are made out of. (And maybe not---I guess they're designed to pass through the polycarbonate plastic that DVD's are made out of. Unless polystyrene has an absorption peak there, where polycarbonate apparently doesn't, the laser beam may just go through a bunch of layers without cutting any of them.) I notice that on your YouTube video, you're engraving a dark-colored plastic. Does it work with light-colored plastic, or does to much of the beam pass

http://www.instructables.com/id/60-Laser-Engraver--Cutter/

through or reflect off?

madgyver says:

Jul 18, 2007. 7:47 AM REPLY The Laser will cut foam, but it will also take a lot of time. Doing it with a knive is faster und more precise. The laser melts and then burns ist away. Real laser engravers use lasers, so powerfull they actually vaporise material away, yielding a nice and clean cut. Indeed those laser only work on dark plastics and dark woods.

mycroftxxx says:

Jul 3, 2007. 4:54 PM REPLY I concur. If we can mix the idea behind this instructable with the $500 CNC machine, that pretty-much removes the need to award anyone a multi-thousand dollar laser engraver. Next, if someone mixes the combined project with some of the principles behind the Candyfab, and can figure out the power range for melting either sugar or Shapelock plastic, we have a cheap rapid prototyper with reasonable resolution.

ELF says:
Indeed! I've been playing around with the idea for some time :)

Jul 8, 2007. 1:22 AM REPLY

www.zcorp.com uses printer heads to glue together powder, a very nice well-working concept, but it's hard to get the binder to not get stuck in the printer jets, and programming the printer is kind of not so damn easy... Material costs are also kind of high, because you need the powder AND the special kind of binder. You can build any structure though, because the loose powder supports the model while it's hardening. Anyway... My girlfriend wanted some of those synthetic nails... And she explained to me that there were some different techniques, like gel and stuff, but the one she chose, involved some very very fine plastic powder that was melted with a lamp and then applied into a small form placed under her fingernail... Now... imagine taking the powder, melting at "relatively" low temperature, with a very small grain size, allowing some fairly high resolution printing, and propably very cheap (As far as I understood, the lady who did my girlfriend's nails bought several kg home for nearly no money) and combining it with this laser "engraver" and a plotter, like the CNC project here on intructables.com... Just a thought. Some people already made a commercial version that uses a very hot lamp instead... Might be a better solution

SacTownSue says:

Jul 16, 2007. 12:16 PM REPLY That sounds like embossing enamel or ultra thick embossing enamel (UTEE). Used in stamping, as in rubber stamping and embossing cards. Craft store stuff. All you need is slow drying ink, embossing powder and the heat from a light bulb, toaster, heat gun. Probably not good for fine detail in model building because it will all melt from the heat. Works on cards because the powder only sticks to the wet ink. Knock off the excess and heat.

drcrash says:

Jul 4, 2007. 4:08 PM REPLY I suspect that the $600 CNC machine is not accurate enough to use a cutting laser well. (Precise enough, but maybe not accurate enough.) I'd think that inaccuracies would make the laser wobble too much to cut cleanly through things. I could be wrong, though, and if so, I'd be delighted. Does anybody know?

oskay says:

Jul 3, 2007. 9:45 PM REPLY Funny you should bring up CandyFab in this context-- I was just looking at the article in Make today, thinking about trying it out with sugar. =) While it does sound like a good idea, the basic problem is that sugar is *clear* and doesn't absorb in the visible very well. I haven't tried this one (yet) but my tests with a 100 mW green laser were very, very disappointing....

_soapy_ says:

Jul 6, 2007. 5:36 PM REPLY Try adding a little green food dye to your sugar then. Or switch to an IR laser, as you will get far more percentage absorption.

madgyver says:

Jul 18, 2007. 7:51 AM REPLY That doesnt work, sugar is to reflective. If you have access to lasers with several Watts, that another story. But Lasers from optical drives definatley wont do.

_soapy_ says:

Jul 27, 2007. 6:05 PM REPLY Have you tried IR lasers on sugar? It should work, it's full of carbon-carbon and carbon-hydrogen bonds, as well as water, which all absorb IR well. Add the green food dye, and you will get huge absorption from a green laser.

madgyver says:

Jul 28, 2007. 5:24 AM REPLY Yes I have. Sugar ist just to reflective. The small little edges of the crystal reflect the beam before it has any chance to go deep into the material. The dye might help, I haven't tried that, but green isn't a good idea for a green laser. The dye looks green because it does everything BUT green.

http://www.instructables.com/id/60-Laser-Engraver--Cutter/

_soapy_ says:

Jul 28, 2007. 1:25 PM REPLY Good point, check the dye by holding a green light behind the dye and finding one that blocks it well, rather than just picking green out. If it transmits green, you don't want it, you want it to absorb green. My bad.

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Description: How to Make Laser Engraver / Cutter for less than $60 I drool on my keyboard when I look at those fancy laser cutter/engravers that cost $$thousands, so I figured out how to make one for $60. That's right -- 60 bucks. My design is not EXACTLY like the multi-$1,000 models, but it will let you do a lot of the same work. Figure on 'manual' rather than 'computer-operated'. This means you don't have to learn CAD, or even have a computer. It can also be used as a portable (bonus!). Did I mention it only costs $60? When I saw the cutting laser that Stephanie Maksylewich made, I knew all that was missing was some way to control where it points and burns, and a variable AC power supply to control the intensity. See the video here. I decided to mount a cutting laser on a pantograph, (and see below) used for centuries to copy, enlarge, and shrink an existing drawing. But instead of a pencil lead making the duplicate, we'll use the laser to cut or engrave. I built a variable power supply out of 10 simple electrical pieces, and a pantograph out of four yardsticks and some nuts and bolts. Remember to always treat this device with respect -- it's an industrial-strength handheld power tool, even if it looks homebrewed.