I designed this because I thought it would be a lot of fun to have around, and who doesn’t want a laser!? It is built from old Monoprice Maker Select parts, which was the constraint on size. But it is meant to be completely scalable. If you wanted to make it 4’ by 4’ then if you change the size of the bearings and adjust holes that should be entirely plausible (it would lack strength though using unsupported rods but you get my point). The laser engraving unit is 2.5 watts and works really well as an engraver. With enough passes it will cut balsa wood, just not incredibly effectively as it took me about 25 passes to go through 6mm balsa wood. So lets jump into it!
Video Link: https://youtu.be/cbvsgfQPY7Y
Video Link to the Update: https://youtu.be/W83B7WeUT2Q
Feel free to subscribe and let me know what you think of the laser. Planning some follow up videos if it is popular enough. I will be doing a few more videos on this unit as it has been pretty popular already. Plasma/router are in the works. Hoping to cut my teeth on build logs with this one to kind of practice and get it down.
Some ingenuity…seriously. I built this with parts on hand so you may have to make some things work on your own with your own parts and ones you can order. If it is successful enough I plan to build a second iteration built entirely from parts purchased so I can do a complete BOM.
Ramps board - https://amzn.to/2H92xGp
Cheap power supply - https://amzn.to/2KdSWfD
Laser module - https://amzn.to/2EZ1BP1
Laser module power cable - https://amzn.to/2F2NkRl
Laser rated safety glasses! This is a big one. This unit is not designed with your safety in mind, just meant to engrave
https://amzn.to/2EYulrk <--Cheap Ones!, https://amzn.to/2qHp5UF <--Expensive Ones
8mm linear rails
8mm bearings and 2 bearing blocks https://amzn.to/2HefTkX https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2306349 this should work as a bearing block but have not tested
2 limit switches - https://amzn.to/2JYyxLg Should be correct size limits
Cable carrier - https://amzn.to/2HdK2Rn Two of these, checked sizes and they are right
8 608 bearings - https://amzn.to/2HfgIpv
34mm tall Nema17 motors with pulleys
Various M6 bolts and nuts
Various m4 bolts
Various m3 bolts - https://amzn.to/2JXD7JR Great for those 3d printer projects that require m3 bolts and nuts you never have on hand
Zip ties -
GT2 belt - https://amzn.to/2JZRH3v
80/20 1.5 series
This BOM is terrible. I know that. I will be doing what I can to work this up into a nice list that will actually help and attach that. But for now I don’t have that. Expect an Excel sheet someday.
*BOM Note: I ask that you do not donate to me if you interested in supporting future designs. No need. I provided Amazon affiliate links. You may use those in this project, I get a kick back from those and it costs you nothing if you were going to build the project anyway. That money goes straight into building more projects and my YouTube channel (which is mediocre at best but still fun for me). If you want to support me even if you don't build this just use the affiliate links to purchase something that you were going to get off Amazon anyway! Go from one of my linked pages (without adding to your cart) to what you actually wanted to buy, add it to your cart, checkout and you're done!
This is less fun. At least for me. I love the mechanical aspects of every project I do. The electrical is where I struggle a lot.
I used Marlin for this build. It took some doing and compiling many times before it worked properly. There are other versions of marlin that people have made for this but I just used standard marlin and set it up for corexy and modified what I needed until it worked. Just to make it easier I will post my code. But I brute force everything, so it may not be exactly right. If you use the LCD, you’ll still have 3d printer stuff, I plan to play with screens and get all of it right in the future….some day.
Youll want to use pronterface to control your laser from the computer so that you can understand how the commands work by typing them in manually. This in my opinion is a minimum for safety. You can write some little files and keep them on an SD card down the road but use computer interface to start with until you understand everything.
M106 S255 turns the laser on full intensity. So keep away from the laser while this is going on
M106 S20 works great for focusing the laser. Always double check that your material is not burning by using a sheet of paper and seeing if it burns.
M107 turns the laser off.
G Code Generation
For code generation check out Inkscape. You’ll have to install a couple plugins for laser but i have to say, they work excellent. This is probably one of the most popular laser G code generators so I highly suggest using it and learning it. Works well and doesn't take much to learn anyway.
https://jtechphotonics.com/?page_id=2012 outline engraving, which is super fast and easy
https://github.com/305engineering/Inkscape raster engraving which takes a really long time
Right off the bat, I'm sorry if I leave something out that you feel needs to be stated. Going off memory because I didn't write anything down while putting it together.
Step 1: Lay everything out and get organized. The system is meant to be assembled almost completed from the top down. Lets start off by inserting nuts into t nuts. I had a few that were a little loose. Doesn't really matter but a dab of super glue will hold them in and make assembly just a touch easier. Install the nuts in the corner pulley blocks as well. You should have to install a total of 4 nuts. Ensure that these are glued in even if they are tight!
Step 2: Slide the bearing onto the X axis rods. Install the holders on the 8020 without tightening them down. Set the rods on the 8020 sections of the frame and get the spacing correct. You'll need some room at the ends for the motors, so grab that piece and use it to judge your spacing and use the pulley blocks on the other end. Once you have it correct, tighten the rods in place. I used the pulley blocks as my initial set point, and then tightened that block in place with the rod flush. I then set the motor at the other end based on where I put the rod. This gave me the largest work area possible.
Step 3: Push the y axis rods into the holding blocks one side at time. Make sure you installed the bearings before you do both sides! You may find they are a tight fit. You have two options, a piece of sand paper in a drill until it fits, which works really well but very slowly, or you can drill it out. Once the rods are installed into the y axis holders, glue the nuts into these blocks as well. Install in place. Heat up the tiny m2x10 screws that are used for the limit switch and thread them into the block gently using pliers so you don't burn yourself.
Step 4: Install the laser on the y axis carriage piece. Zip tie in place on the 4 bearings.
Step 5: Assemble the carriage pulleys. This is the most complicated pulley system so once you get this you will know how to do the corners. I made a small spacer for inside the bearings, this keeps the bearing from tilting. There are also some spacers. The short one goes on top, the other two are the same size and go at the bottom and in the middle. You must install the spacers or you will tear up the rod holder on the carriage. Thread it in firmly but don't overdue it.
Step5: Lets go back to the frame now. Install a total of 6 t nuts on the side of the frame that has the cable carrier. 2 for cable carrier supports, 3 for the motor and 1 for future upgrades. I have nothing planned but you don't want to take the frame apart if you come up with something. Install 4 on the inside for the corner brackets. Do the same on the other side except install 4 in both sides. For the front and back pieces install 4 on the inside tracks and 4 in the tops. The tops can be accessed so no need for extra nuts. Install the inside corner brackets.
Step6; Install the motors into their mounts and then install those on the frame using the t nuts that you already installed. The short motor mount goes on the side of the cable carrier. It will matter just based on where I put the lower and higher belt locations on the laser carriage.
Step7; Install the corner pulleys. Now that you did the pulleys for the moving carriage this should be a piece of cake to figure out.
Step8: Ensure everything is tight. I found that my inside pieces had actually loosened up. Make sure that they are tight.
Step9: Route the belt and make sure that everything is tight and parallel. Do your best to ensure that the belt is parallel to the rail. This will help you get the best results possible.
Step10; Install the cable carrier. I used SHCS but you should ideally use FHCS. Use the updated small spacer plate for the moving carriage to the laser. It will ensure you have the right spacing. Make sure you mount the cable carrier to one of the supports on the side but not the other one. The other one should be at the same level but is just meant to keep it off the ground and nice and straight while it moves back and forth.
Thats it. The directions may be a little too simple but I think most of you will be able to figure it out. Check out the tips section before commenting. There may be something you missed there.
The bearings have little housings on them. They can come apart somewhat easy under stress. Use some super glue, sparingly mind you, and put it around the inside edge that metal contacts. Wipe the seam to spread it around when the two halves are pushed together as well. Tada, you have a robust little pully.
Attaching Components to the Extrusion
Anything that has a t nut should but slide into place where possible. What I mean by this is to put the bolt in the hole and thread the t nut on slightly and slide it into the aluminum extrusion.
If you buy the real thing it will quickly out pace the total cost of everything else in this project…seriously. I have to order some for a customer in an industrial application and they are incredibly expensive. These are just simple profiles that have a captured nut groove in them to save money. Sometimes, based on the printer, the nut may not fit perfectly and fall out. If this bothers you use a dab of super glue on the printer part walls. These have worked wonderfully to be honest.
Attach the laser module before attaching the cable track. Ask me how I know this tip.
Installing the Limits
The limits utilize an M2 fastener that is roughly 8-10mm long. Due to the size it will fall out of your hands 10 times while trying to install and frustrate you. Despite the challenge this will present, you should attempt to head the fastener to make threading into the plastic easier. You are less likely to strip it out, requiring a reprinted a part.
Cable Carrier Wire Install
Don’t get too frustrated here. It is a challenge to get everything run through the carrier but it is well worth it to have the carrier to begin with. It took me quite a while to get the pig tails in the first one. Then I taped the end and it went so much smoother for the x axis carrier. This will protect your cable and ensure it flows properly.
Before connecting anything you need to ensure that you route the laser wire through both cable tracks. You will need to run the limit switch wire for the Y axis through the cable track that you decide travels on the outside of the machine. You may need to remove a few links to make it work.
Connect the limit switches to the ramps board using the X- (for minimum) and Y-.
Connect the laser to the D9 screw terminals using the correct polarity.
Connect the PSU to the ramps board at the proper terminals.
Future Planned Upgrades
The x axis carriage has a small height difference that messes with the cable carrier and doesn’t allow the laser to go all the way to the homing switch. I used two M6 washers stacked on top of each other because I was in a hurry. First upgrade will be to make a small plate to print and go there to flatten everything out. Should have done it right the first time.
Brackets to bolt down to a sheet of MDF or attach to 80/20 legs. My thinking here is that if I attached to 80/20 legs I could make MDF fixture plates for little signs if they sell. Brackets to bolt down to MDF would be great for when I attach locating fixtures to a piece of wood…I’ve bumped the laser too many times already and had to readjust the fixtures.
- A method of top focusing the laser is mildly in the works. I am thinking a gear driven by an m6 bolt would do the trick. Just have to get the gears right, you’ll notice the holes are already there. The gear did not print properly….because I designed it wrong.
A great first project is a little sign for you desk. I got so into making little signs that I put them on my Etsy store. After you have made your first one and want to make more, make a little fixture from balsa wood. You can cut it on your laser even, which is the point. Just make an L and this will allow you to locate your parts perfectly every time.
Remember that if you want to, you can do anything. You don’t need to be an engineer to do this stuff. You just need the drive and a little googlefu. Good luck on this project! You will likely need it with my subpar directions and steps.