How use $60 to make a laser cutter

Hello, I am Antonio, a college student from China. A long time ago, I saw a mini laser cutter project on kickstarter, I want it very much. But it was too expensive, it needs to $199. That was $199! Although I very want one, but I still give up. Then I thought, it’s really cost $199? How about i made it by myself ,how much money i will cost? So I began to try to make my own mini laser cutter. I believe everyone is knew the software part, what’s better than the arduino + GRBL + GRBL controller? So I focused on the hardware part. First is step motor, and I chose the printer stepper motor. Its interval Angle is 7.5 degrees, use with easydriver can obtain higher precision. The important thing is that it only need $1 and u can get it.I see most of the diy laser cutter using cd-rom screw. It’s too short, generally not more than 100 mm, so I gave up using the cd-rom screw. I found some screw in china shopping website, it’s a 120 mm screw, the price is $2 each, using the plastic slide block.I use a 2 mm 3 mm coupling cost $1 each.Transmission part I considered to use the most simple axle sleeve and the plain shaft, but it certainly is not the most perfect choice. Although it is very cheap but I was not able to make the machine stable, so I give up this choice. In the end I chose the plain shaft and linear bearings, although it is very expensive, but can make the machine running stable, why don’t I use these?My machine use a total of two 6 mm plain shaft, two 4 mm plain shaft, four lm6uu linear bearings, four lm4uu linear bearings, I bought it cost about $12. Then there is circuit part, I use the arduino micro + easydriver + a relay to build the control circuit. Customize the circuit, it cost $15. The last is the laser pointer, I have already bought 250 mw and 100 mw 650 nm red module 405 nm purple module, I’m curious which is useful more. Two laser total cost my $15. By the way 405 nm laser can be used to make circuit boards, etched circuit. So this machine is not just a toy, it can help you to make circuit, this feature is still in the experimental.Now the most important question is coming, my shell. The material of shell is 6 mm wood, I use the rhino to designed it and it had been send to manufacturers to make it, cost about $15. Here are some rendering.yesterday i will update the install pic. Ok, let’s do a statistics. Stepper motor $2 (two), screw $4 (two), coupling $2 (two), linear bearings at $12 (total), circuit $15 (total), laser $15 (two actually only need one), shell $15 (a). So the total price is $65 does not include the freight, it is much cheaper! What’s more, if i use the cd-rom it will be cheaper more! Maybe you will ask, why i search parts on eBay much expensive than your price. Don’t forget, I am in China.

Here is my blog http://zhu-t.com

I doubt that 250 mW of any wavelength of laser is going to cut much; maybe thin black construction paper (and slowly at that).

If such a machine were practical, you would see these popping up all over ebay drop-shipped from shenzhen; you don't, so that should tell you something (and that would be even with higher wattage IR LED lasers available fairly cheaply).

If you really wanted to do this with a diode laser, you would likely want to go with the IR LED laser of a minimum of 1 watt; even that would only cut the thinnest of materials and very slowly.

In practice, you need a laser that can dump a lot of energy into a small spot, which is why for low cost, CO2 laser tubes in the 40-60 watt range is the lasing device of choice for laser cutters. Unfortunately, while the tubes are cheap, the costs for the power supply, special mirrors and lenses, etc - all add up to a large price. Still, one could build such a cutter for under $3k USD (which is a fraction of what a "professional" laser cutter of the same wattage would cost).

Professional cutters typically use air-cooled RF/microwave pumped CO2 lasers; in theory, such a laser should be possible to homebrew, but it would be a dangerous affair (homebrew CO2 lasers are already something fairly dangerous, mixing high-voltage power supplies with a laser source that can instantly blind you - adding in a microwave source as an amateur doesn't sound like something you want to take lightly).

Believe me, I would love to see a sub-$100 laser cutter that used a diode laser, could cut at least 4mm acrylic, and did it at a reasonable speed - but I just don't think the tech is there for that just yet...

@cr0sh I assume he means it's for etching rather than cutting. Which I have seem on eBay for ~$100, I've also seen quite a few 40W CO2's for ~$450 no idea how good they are though...

Trevor_M: @cr0sh I assume he means it's for etching rather than cutting. Which I have seem on eBay for ~$100, I've also seen quite a few 40W CO2's for ~$450 no idea how good they are though...

I would hope he only means for etching. I have seen some low-cost laser diode base cutters on instructables that could go thru thin craft foam, as well as thin plastics and paper - also etching. But they couldn't do anything that could be used for structural parts (such as a laser-cut tabbed enclosure or similar).

Those 40W CO2 systems aren't that bad - if you are willing to put the work into them to get them set up and running right, from what I understand. There's a company in Las Vegas (Full Spectrum Lasers) that used to import and sell such a machine for a markup; they now sell their own custom version (which is still sourced from China, but assembled in the US IIRC). Their product is more expensive than the Ebay one, but the bed is larger, and you know you are getting a working product (whereas the Ebay ones could be hit-or-miss - but most people I have read who have one seem happy with their purchases).

Between the Ebay cutters and Full Spectrum lies the Blacktooth Laser Cutter kit:

https://www.buildyourcnc.com/blacktoothlasercutterandengraver.aspx

I've been wanting to buy one of those - but what has always held me back is whether I would use it enough to make the tube last (CO2 laser cutters need to be used a lot to get maximum life from the tubes - strange, I know, but it is due to the way the laser tube is designed to work, they have a shelf-life, in other words). It's definitely on my list.

Last and most expensive are the commercial laser cutters; I am biased toward Universal Laser Systems cutters, mainly because that's what I know how to use (from my local TechShop). They are almost literally plug-n-play systems. You can almost treat them like a printer; they are that simple to use (the Ebay, Blacktooth, and Full Spectrum systems aren't anywhere near as easy - it's mainly because of the software than ULS provides). Then again, I can't even begin to think about affording one of those systems.

cr0sh:
I would hope he only means for etching. I have seen some low-cost laser diode base cutters on instructables that could go thru thin craft foam, as well as thin plastics and paper - also etching. But they couldn’t do anything that could be used for structural parts (such as a laser-cut tabbed enclosure or similar).

Those 40W CO2 systems aren’t that bad - if you are willing to put the work into them to get them set up and running right, from what I understand. There’s a company in Las Vegas (Full Spectrum Lasers) that used to import and sell such a machine for a markup; they now sell their own custom version (which is still sourced from China, but assembled in the US IIRC). Their product is more expensive than the Ebay one, but the bed is larger, and you know you are getting a working product (whereas the Ebay ones could be hit-or-miss - but most people I have read who have one seem happy with their purchases).

Between the Ebay cutters and Full Spectrum lies the Blacktooth Laser Cutter kit:

https://www.buildyourcnc.com/blacktoothlasercutterandengraver.aspx

I’ve been wanting to buy one of those - but what has always held me back is whether I would use it enough to make the tube last (CO2 laser cutters need to be used a lot to get maximum life from the tubes - strange, I know, but it is due to the way the laser tube is designed to work, they have a shelf-life, in other words). It’s definitely on my list.

Last and most expensive are the commercial laser cutters; I am biased toward Universal Laser Systems cutters, mainly because that’s what I know how to use (from my local TechShop). They are almost literally plug-n-play systems. You can almost treat them like a printer; they are that simple to use (the Ebay, Blacktooth, and Full Spectrum systems aren’t anywhere near as easy - it’s mainly because of the software than ULS provides). Then again, I can’t even begin to think about affording one of those systems.

I’m sorry, I a few days before my account is locked, so I can not reply quickly. Yeah, I meant i want to etched circuit board with 445nm laser tube,But this is too slow. seem like its not a good idea…My machine has already completed, I think it is very cute, although there is no practical effect,but i love it .Here are some picture of the machine.

It certainly looks nice. I would try switching out that blue laser diode for an infrared one, perhaps up to a watt or two of output (won't be cheap, though). You still won't be able to cut much, but it will probably work better, as most stuff absorbs IR light better than other wavelengths. You might also look into using a lens to focus the laser (use a module without a collumnating lens) to a point. IR lenses are made from Zinc Selenide; ordinary glass or plastic won't pass IR. Then, you might (if you don't already have one) use a Z-axis to move the point "up and down" to "saw" thru the material - or perhaps make a certain number of passes for "cutting", lower the Z-axis, make more passes, etc - until all the way thru; it might allow you to "cut" thicker materials, up to a point.

use a green laser pointer ,, or a purple ,, they wil burn , i have a pointer 300 mw green ,and this burns skin ,, LOL at distance of 1 meter ,, :grin:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=327xQop_vlY

I raise money in china,try to publish a laser cutter kit called T!MBER.Then adjusted the circuit and make pcb, and make a shell for the control circuit.Well, there are ten people buy a T! BMER.I use a potentiometer to adjust the light intensity, so they can easily to focus with out the protective glasses.Here is the shell of control circuit.

Infra red is used in laser cutters because CO2 lasers are efficient and cheap, not because far IR is best for cutting (although its good for organics, its poor for metals). If you go for a diode then IR means near IR anyway, not far IR, so its not the same and efficiency is more important I suspect.

CO2 lasers are poor at deep cutting due to CO2 in the slot absorbing the beam before it can reach the material - not an issue with visible light.