MakerBot Laser Cutter Upgrade - Laser-Bot.com

by jtechphotonics, published

MakerBot Laser Cutter Upgrade - Laser-Bot.com by jtechphotonics Sep 26, 2013
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A 445nm 1.7W laser upgrade to the popular MakerBot 3D printer. Turn your 3D printer into an instant laser cutter! It cuts plastic, hobby balsa wood, paper, foam board, vinyl, and engraves many more materials. Check out the details at http://laser-bot.com

Laser Cutting Solder Stencils Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Gaz_gt1olM

Laser Cutting Wood Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQkePnhR8JA


This is an upgrade to the MakerBot Thing-o-Matic 3D printer. First you must purchase the laser upgrade kit from J Tech Photonics. Then print out the holder and connector piece. It uses two M3x20 screws to attach the laser to the holder and 2 M4x25 screws to attach the laser holder to the connector pieces. The connector pieces go under the extruder assembly and use the thumb screws that are already there. So, the basic instructions are as follows:

  1. Get laser upgrade kit: http://jtechphotonics.com/?product=1-7w-445nm-laser-diode-and-2-0-amp-adjustable-driver-kit

  2. Print out the Laser Holder, and MakerBot Connector pieces.

  3. Attach the aluminum laser housing to the Laser Holder piece with two M3x20 screws and nuts.

  4. Take off the thumb screws under the extruder and place the printed connector pieces under the extruder and replace the thumb screw through the connector piece. Do this for both sides.

  5. Place the Laser Holder under the two connector pieces and use two M4x25 screws (or whatever you have around that fits) and nuts and tighten. Do this for both sides.

  6. Attach a cable to the heated build platform "motor control" pins and connect to the TTL input of the laser driver board.

  7. Attach a cable to the laser driver board output to the laser connections. Red is + and black is -.

  8. Plug in the laser board with the adapter.

  9. Modify your G Code files with the M106 "laser on" and M107 "laser off" command. Replace M03 with M106 and M05 with M107.

  10. Place something on the platform so you don't ruin it. We used an old CD case lid. It fits right on top of the aluminum build platform on the MakerBot. Or you can use some thick plywood cut to size.

  11. Focus the laser and set 0,0 coordinates.

  12. Press Build! You have a functioning laser cutter!

Remember to use the appropriate safety goggles and safety requirements. This is a project and is using high power lasers. You are responsible and liable for all damages or injury. Use caution.

Check out more details at http://laser-bot.com and our blog at http://jtechphotonics.com/?page_id=52

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Can this be used with a replicator 2?

Yes, Replicator 2 can be upgraded. We have had many people successfully upgrade this machine and their mounts are available on Thingiverse as well. Check out the instructions here:
You will need to use M126 to turn the laser on and M127 to turn it off. You will unfortunately not have PWM control due to limitations in the Sailfish firmware.

What do you mean by "you will not have PWM control? I'm new to this. I want to be able to cut and engrave stuff.

PWM = Pulse Width Modulation. Essentially it allows you to do a laser power setting between 0-255. With the Rep 2 it will be only on/off rather than #% power...

So in other words I can't do the fancy picture engraving stuff that is shown in the video (car being etched)

Correct :(. Unless you replace your motherboard which is my plan! There is currently a user working on it through the fans but I do not think he will get there without firmware modification.

anything for replicator 2x?

how could i wire it with mightyboard rev.H?

Yes, it works with Replicator 2x (REV G and H Board). The connector J11 (Fan_Cool) is controllable via G Code. Connect the + pin and - pin from the mighty board connector to the laser driver terminal H2. You turn ON the laser with M126 and turn it OFF with M127. This should work with all the firmware versions. Check out the instructions here for more details: http://jtechphotonics.com/?page_id=1702

Would this work with a Flashforge Creator X Printer?

Yes! Fellow maker ramchip has made a mount for the printer. It is here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:472126
There is a controllable EXTRA output on the mightyboard as well as an extra output that you can use to get the driver working. Just make sure your FET is there... Check out here for more details: http://jtechphotonics.com/?page_id=1713

Replicator, Duplicator and Flashforge laser mount for http://jtechphotonics.com/ laser
by RaMcHiP

Will this cut acrylic?

Yes! The 2.8W kit can cut acrylic a lot faster now. Most will cut at about 50 mm/min with about three passes. Some acrylics will be faster and some slower. Check out the blog post here for a full write-up: http://jtechphotonics.com/?p=1648
Video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NV5NWtxTdn4

I'm new to 3d printing and considering getting a Velleman K8200 3D printer as it has a good max print size and the price is right. Can i upgrade it to laser cut with this kit?

I believe you can. It has a fan output on the control board which you can swap to the laser driver input to control the laser. Use the M106 command to turn it on and M107 command to turn it off. You will need to make a mechanical mount for the laser. The complete implementation instructions are located on the website here: http://jtechphotonics.com/?page_id=1016http://jtechphotonics.com/?pag...

Does this work on a solidoodle too?

I looked at this a bit more and it will be easier to upgrade the solidoodle by swapping out the fan on the control board and use it for the input to the laser driver. Use the M106 command to turn "on" the laser and the M107 command to turn "off" the laser. You will also still need to make a mechanical mount for the laser. The complete instructions are on the website at: http://jtechphotonics.com/?page_id=980http://jtechphotonics.com/?pag...

With the solidoodle 3, using the fan connector, is it solely on/off or can it engrave pictures?

It depends on your hardware/firmware combo for your machine. It should be able to have PWM control for engraving pictures, but I would check first. Hook up a fan to the board and in your Repetier control software under the "manual" tab, move the fan slider down a bit and see if the fan turns slower. You can alternatively run a quick program using M106 S125 command to see if the fan goes to half speed and then toggle it to M106 255 to see if it goes back to full speed. You can put a G0 P2000 between the two commands to pause for 2 seconds so you can tell the difference. Either way, it is best to check if you have hopes of engraving images.

I believe so. Their software still runs a basic G Code program (or you can install replicator G as shown in their FAQ page). All you need to do is jumper over the extruder motor wires (motor forward and ground wires) to the input of the laser driver. You can then either draw your laser cuts in a 3D program but only make them 2D, export to .STL and do the normal process you would with a 3D object or you can use the inkscape program and plugin on http://www.laser-bot.comwww.laser-bot.com to get the G Code output directly from your 2D drawing.

The J Tech link has an extra http:// attached at the beginning, you may want to fix that. It wouldn't work at first, then I realized what was wrong.

Thanks for finding that error! Fixed. :)

What are the materials that have been confirmed to be safe to cut. Can you do acrylic?

With the 2.8W laser kit at 1.5amps (2.2W), 3mm acrylic can cut at a feedrate of 50 mm/min with three passes. Z depth decrease 0.6mm per pass.
Other materials for cutting include paper, fabric, balsa wood, basswood, foam, etc... application page is here: http://jtechphotonics.com/?page_id=1177http://jtechphotonics.com/?pag...

Would this work with a Replicator 1 Printer?

@sengelking - Long story short, it should work. I just looked at the documentation at the http://makerbot.commakerbot.com support site and it looks like they still use a version of the heated build platform with the extra pins on the connector for motor control, which you then convert to the laser control with the M106, M107 commands. I have never used the "makerware" software, but it says you can use Replicator G as well on the Replicator 1, which can process your G Code files with the modifications for the laser control. It is worth a try with a volt meter to check the output of the pins on the heater board while you switch the output. In my replicator G software there is a button on the control panel that says "build platform belt" that you can enable/disable to switch the output on these pins. Otherwise, there is a FET output on the mightyboard that you can use. You might also need to design another mount for it to attach to the extruder, but this should not be hard.

Please don't cut vinyl with your laser! It releases chlorine gas that can not only damage your laser optics but can damage people too.

Would this work with an Afinia H-Series Printer?

I just looked at the printer manual and I don't think it can be modified very easily, if at all. It is a nice printer though! The MakerBot Thing-o-matic and RepRap printers rely on G Code files which you can modify for the laser. Also, it looks like this printer does not have any extra outputs for the laser control.

have you tried it on plywood?
would be interested to mount it onto my ultimaker... :-)

You can engrave very well on plywood but it won't cut. If you want to cut plywood you will need a much bigger laser like a 80W CO2. People are making very nice engraved pictures, art, and engraved names/logos on thicker hardwoods with the kit though.

I totally agree with the goggles. It took some time to find ones that are a reasonable price and to source them, but now they are here! http://jtechphotonics.com/?product=laser-safety-goggles-for-445nm-lasershttp://jtechphotonics.com/?pro...
Not the most stylish ones out there, but just $19.99!

It probably would be a good idea to sell safety googles in your shop as well.

Also using an "air assist" might be beneficial for cutting quality and laser lens life.

Regards a complete laser cutter noob :)