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Building a laser engraver (cutter?) using existing 3d printer components

Posted by David J 
Building a laser engraver (cutter?) using existing 3d printer components
June 12, 2020 04:13AM
To start: I am a sensible person who understands the risks involved with high voltages, lasers and other hazardous things. In the past I have repaired TVs and other electronic devices both for a living and for pleasure, built three 3d printers and I have even built a sports car from scratch. I have a strong sense of self-preservation and have survived to the age of 68 without doing myself much harm, and intend to continue in the same vein!

I have been thinking about getting myself a small laser engraver/cutter to experiment with - for example, something out of the NEJE range. The smallest one looks a bit restrictive in size, and the larger ones seem ungainly and wobbly. I don't have space for a K40 laser cutter, nor am I sure I need one at the moment. Then I realised that I have a redundant Prusa i3 clone that I built ages ago currently sitting partly dismantled in my garage. This has the usual Arduino/RAMPS setup. If I replace the heated bed with something more expendable like plywood, modified the Z axis, and replaced the extruder and hot end with a laser module, then I should have the makings of an engraver/cutter.

However, I need guidance on how to start this project, e.g.
  • Which laser module would be most suitable to start with? Preferably something upgradeable.
  • What do I have to do to the RAMPS and Marlin to make it work with the laser module?
  • I also have an Arduino with a GRBL shield - would that be more useful?
  • Where can I get the appropriate safety gear to go with the laser? This is a particular issue as I wear glasses, so the usual safety glasses aren't much use - I'll probably need a visor.
I do have a reasonable understanding of safety issues - eye protection for myself and any bystanders, keeping body parts away from the beam, risks associated with smoke & fumes, etc. - but any other guidance accepted with gratitude. If everything is successful and useful then I'll probably build a proper enclosure in the future.

I'm not expecting anyone to give me all of this information in this thread - although I'll welcome anything useful - but links to articles, features and the like describing similar projects would be very useful.

Thanks in advance for any guidance,
Re: Building a laser engraver (cutter?) using existing 3d printer components
June 12, 2020 05:33AM
Hi David,

... scanning through this "Laser"-subforum will bring you a lot of information smoking smiley

Some of my old threads are exactly around of this area -- here some related infos too: [reprap.org]

The easiest way to laserengrave with 3D-printer-software+hardware ist to use the STEP-pulse, normally meant for the extruder, as pulse source for the laser, as it's "path-synchonous" and will prevent burned edges, like when using standard PWM. Here it's as simpe as moving without laser with "G0", and laser-engraving with "G1"-moves ...

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/12/2020 05:34AM by VDX.

Aufruf zum Projekt "Müll-freie Meere" - [reprap.org] -- Deutsche Facebook-Gruppe - [www.facebook.com]

Call for the project "garbage-free seas" - [reprap.org]
Re: Building a laser engraver (cutter?) using existing 3d printer components
June 12, 2020 05:36AM
Thanks Viktor!

This is what happens when I have a clever idea in the middle of the night - I type up a question and completely forget the RepRap wiki! eye rolling smiley

I will investigate... smiling smiley
Re: Building a laser engraver (cutter?) using existing 3d printer components
June 12, 2020 10:22AM
Well, I did a load of research and reading - and got rather overwhelmed! I think a lot of posts here are for people who've made a start and are experiencing some problems, not for an absolute beginner like me - beginner to lasers anyway.

Then I found this video on YouTube, which looks to be exactly what I was looking for: [youtu.be]. He's kept it simple, but doesn't neglect the safety issues such as eye protection and the problems with smoke. I wasn't happy with his idea about taking the unit outside - too much risk of onlookers getting eye damage as far as I'm concerned - but it may be that he's got a secure and/or enclosed outside area. Other than that, it should be a good starting point for me.

I'm sure the experts here will criticise some aspects of what he's done, so I'll be watching with interest! I will order one of those laser modules though, as it seems adequate for my initial needs.

I also need to order some safety glasses, but I don't know if those BangGood ones are suitable for me as I normally wear glasses - is it possible to buy suitable and SAFE filter material in flexible sheet form? If so, I can use the design I've got for a Covid-19 visor to make something appropriate for me, on the basis of "if it's easy and convenient to wear, it will get used". I also have several welding helmets, both auto-darkening and "not auto" so I could put rigid filter material in one of those if necessary.
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