Building a DIY CNC laser cutter isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’ve decided to take it on as a project, realize it’ll probably save you neither time nor money to build your own. Yes, you can build a “mini” version using old computer parts, but the reality is that duplicating the functionality you get from a...
CNC Laser Cutters For Quality Engraving...
Laser cutting combines smooth, clean edges, fast speed, and extreme accuracy with the ability to repeat the cut over and over. A superior alternative to other methods of cutting technology, laser cutting has been proven to be the most cost-effective and preferred cutting method for use in many types of applications. Laser cutting requires...
Building a DIY CNC laser cutter isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’ve decided to take it on as a project, realize it’ll probably save you neither time nor money to build your own. Yes, you can build a “mini” version using old computer parts, but the reality is that duplicating the functionality you get from a professional unit is not likely to come much cheaper than a low-end Chinese import.
Fast, Cheap, Not Very Accurate, But Easy
If you’re the sort of person who just wants to point, click, and burn things, yes, you can probably do it in not much more than a week or two.
Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, comparatively powerful laser diodes are dead cheap. The personal computing revolution has also made fairly precise linear movements (in the form of discarded scanners) readily available.
Some basic woodworking and a bit of metal stock combined with rudimentary digital electronics later, and you can put yourself together a fairly functional unit capable of cutting paper… the “Mad Max” laser cutter, if you will. By the way if the process of doing this isn’t fun i.e. you’re just building your own laser cutter to save money, then don’t do it. You can buy a quality laser cutter (way better than
DIY) by going to a USA CO2 laser cutter retailer here.
These units, like anything that could be considered as the post-apocalyptic answer to modern materials processing systems, do have a few drawbacks. For one thing, safety interlocks.
Specifically, there aren’t any.
The high power laser diodes that there are capable of doing significant damage to your eyes, and these systems won’t do a thing to stop it.
There’s a running joke in the laser world, “do not look into laser with remaining eye.” It could very well apply to the lasers used here.
Certain high power laser diodes available on the used and surplus market aren’t just capable of causing you serious harm if you stare down the beam. Some of them will cause permanent eye damage if you so much as look at the (invisible!) spot they make when pointed at a white or reflective surface.
How is this possible?
Unlike CO2 lasers, whose beams are stopped by the surface of the cornea, small cheap diode lasers operate in the near infrared range. The light waves here are focused by the eye just as well as regular visible light. This means they can be focused to a point — a very small point — on the retina of your eye.
As it happens, focusing a very bright light to a very small point is precisely how laser cutters and engravers remove material.
While the light radiating from a spot on a piece of paper or the wall is much less powerful than the direct beam needed to burn or engrave, your retina also has a vastly lower damage threshold than a piece of paper, too.
Therefore, if you venture down the DIY CNC laser cutter path, your first and certainly your best investment ought to be a pair of high quality, professional grade laser safety goggles.
Not just any pair, either. Make sure they’re designed for the type and wavelength of the laser you’re planning to use. Safety goggles meant to protect you from a 532nm-wavelength argon laser will do nothing against a 1064nm diode laser, even if they still make you look cool.
Yes, safety goggles can be more expensive than the (cheap, used) laser itself. On the other hand, laser diodes are replaceable if they break because you bought the cheap one. If you damage your eyes — which has happened to too many laser hobbyists — you’ll be seeing the consequences for the rest of your life.
Building a Real Laser Cutter
Great, persistence and determination in the face of obstacles and scary warnings is key to successfully executing a complex DIY project like a laser cutter.
Unfortunately, it’s also too complex to even begin to describe in the space of a short article.
In a nutshell, you’ll need to have or arrange yourself access to basic materials processing facilities. Not just a good drill, saw, and the like, but, ironically enough, having access to a laser cutter will come in very handy.
You’ll also need a basic understanding of digital electronics, and some experience with the fine art of getting printed circuit boards made.
Lastly, you’ll need $1k in spare cash to devote to the project… however much you think, and then a good 30% extra.
Where do you find plans?
Unfortunately, there aren’t any worth while “how to build a laser cutter” plans worth following. However, there are some very well documented plasma and CNC laser cutter projects that others have completed, like this one: http://www.buildlog.net/cnc_laser/index.php
Laser cutting combines smooth, clean edges, fast speed, and extreme accuracy with the ability to repeat the cut over and over. A superior alternative to other methods of cutting technology, laser cutting has been proven to be the most cost-effective and preferred cutting method for use in many types of applications. Laser cutting requires minimal time to set up and little tooling, making it desirable for artwork and other projects. A large work table measuring 50″ X 100″ will enable the cutting of everything from small single application type projects, to materials up to full sheet size.
* How Does Laser Cutting Work?
Laser cutting involves a thermal cutting method, however, the area affected by the heat is small and very easy to manage and minimize while cutting, due to an extremely focused laser beam. Very tiny amounts of material are removed at a time to allow for close and intricate cuts to be made. Laser cutting allows the user to control several variables involved in the cutting process, which enables this method to be used on a large variety of materials, unlike many other cutting methods. The laser involved is capable of etching designs and images, cutting profiles, and even doing three dimensional photographs.
To produce shapes with sheet metal using laser cutting, as intense laser beam is used. With CNC laser cutting, a high density light beam. When this light beam energy is sharply focused through a very tiny hole in a nozzle, when it comes into contact with surface of the sheet metal, that piece then becomes vaporized.
No physical tooling is needed with this process, making CNC laser cutting an inexpensive option for short runs and prototypes. Parts that are cut using the laser typically will remain flat, with minimal heat distortion, with generally less than 10% of the total thickness of the material being cut. Another advantage to using CNC laser cutting is that the process creates a minimal number of burrs on the material.
* What Can CNC Laser Cutting Produce?
– Two dimensional cutouts, including shaped cutouts
* What Types Of Materials Can A CNC Laser Cutter Work On ?
– Stainless Steel
– Spring steel
– Plain steel
– Acrylic , with results yielding a desirable, almost polished looking edge
– Aluminum, but only using a more expensive laser that is more powerful
– ABS plastic
– Carbon composite
**Materials such as plastics should be used with caution when laser cutting due to potentially harmful or toxic fumes. Copper alloys also present a problem when attempting to laser cut, because they can absorb heat and reflect the light from the laser.
* Pointers For Use In Projects
When using a CNC laser cutter, you should take your design into consideration. Some things to think about include:
– Works best when there are minimal holes and cutouts in the design
– Rounded corners are preferable choices when using the laser cutter
– Milling or punching may produce smoother results than laser cutting
– On thinner materials, will produce better quality edges
– Although edge burrs are minimal, consider smoothing the burrs for a better edge
– Warping may occur on pieces in which a lot of material has been taken away, especially when using flimsy materials
– Inside corners may be sharp and be slightly rounded
* Application Of The CNC Laser Cutter
The CNC laser cutter can be used for such tasks as light metal machining, leather cutting, fabric cutting, wood machining, decorative raster imaging on wood/ metal/ plastic, polished edge acrylic fabrication, and plastic parts fabrication .Laser cutting can be used in vector cutting, sheet metal fabrication, displays, control panels, polished edge acrylic, raster engraving, name plates, sign making, and much more.
*Various Options In CNC Lasers
A full range of table sizes are available, including 50 x 60 and 80 x 240 models, as well as a full range of lasers with wattages ranging from 100 watts to 600 watts. Fume extraction systems, capacitive height heads used in metal cutting, and vision systems for part orientation can also be purchased.
*CNC Plasma Cutter, CNC Laser Cutter Kit, CNC Router, and CNC Laser Cutter For Sale
A CNC plasma cutter, CNC router, and CNC laser cutter kit are also available, but keep in mind that do it yourself projects can be time consuming and it is best to try the ready made product out first to see if you like it before building your own.
In order to find a CNC laser cutter for sale, wesbites such as SaleCNC.com carry various types of CNC products, including the CNC router and CNC plasma. For those who are handy and want to save a little money, the CNC laser cutting kit and instructions can also be found online. Used CNC machines are also available through online auctions such as mmi-auction.com and Ebay, and through sites that sell these machines in used condition, such as machinetools.com.