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      To supplement my CNC router (Ox) I wanted to add a laser diode.

      After some time messing around, I decided instead to build a minimalist dedicated laser cutter/engraver.

      I've gone for a 5.6W laser diode from Endurance Lasers - from reputation and recommendation.

      I spent days looking at all the offerings from China, but I couldn't find my specs at a price I could afford.

      I wanted: >5W, PWM control, continuous running, light weight (as I am cantilevering my x-axis, less weight is more good!).

      And nothing on Aliexpress in my price point fitted those requirements.

      PWM with diode lasers is particularly difficult from China - they all say they are PWM, but unless you're spending $800 or want something only <1W, they are just offering TTL on/off.

      The other thing was looking at reviews and specs for diode lasers, Chinese rated 5.5W are actually only delivering the same power as a 2-3W diode in Europe/US. They also push the diode specs, resulting in overheating and shorter life.

      My cutting needs aren't great - I'm going to be cutting foam board, cardboard and paper, if I can cut balsa and some thin MDF I will be ecstatic. If I can cut the 2mm acrylic I use to make lamps, clocks, etc., even better. And the ability to raster-engrave will be welcome.

      After discussing with various hobbyists and manufacturers I was heading to 10W - in Chinese diodes. I asked for a few quotes, but one manufacturer told me it was overkill and unnecessary expense for what I wanted - I love it when a vendor tells you to spend less money :)

      So, George of Endurance Lasers got my order and it is in transit from Smolensk as I write.

      As I'm a dab hand with the electronics I thought it would be cool to build a unit from scratch. This not only gives me a better grounding in laser diodes (something I knew nothing about 2 weeks ago), but would help if I needed to make running repairs or mods down the line.

      I had looked at the ACRO as the basis for my machine, but after the Ox, I was keen to look at a different way of doing things than the traditional dual x-axis gantry, beefy y-axis gantry.

      I have been looking at some of these cheap pressed-steel/extrusion 3D printers that just have an arm on a Z-axis. I thought I could do a similar thing, only on its side. Minimising the size also appeals as theres not a lot of space left in my playroom.

      So, a 2-axis system using a cantilevered X-axis.

      For this I worked out I can get away with only two NEMA17 steppers, a much smaller Arduino-based 2-axis GRBL Shield running Synthetos G2Core (instead of a 4-axis TinyG, a 5-axis Smoothieboard) - truly minimal.

      My total length of V-slot is 654mm (26") of 2040 and 600mm (23.5") of 2020 for an A2-sized cutter with a working area of greater than 420 x 594 mm (16.5" x 23.25" ). With a set of custom laser-cut acrylic plates (less than $20, all up) a couple of metres of toothed belt and some wire, the whole thing is going to be CHEAP!

      So far it's just in the planning - I've got all the hardware together that I had on hand - v-slot extrusion, wheels, motors, Arduino Due, GRBL shield with Polulu-type DRV8825 drivers, I've sent the plates off to be cut and ordered the mini-v gantry set to mount the Laser diode to, I've weighed my extrusion, my NEMA17s, and estimated the weight of the plates, did a hack balancing job and designed into the plates the ability to extend out feet to allow for future add-ons - like a camera or additional cooling.

      Once the plates are back from the cutters and I have completed the initial assembly, I will put the BOM, the files, up for view.
      1. Special Notes

        Can be scaled to any size to suit your material, subject to maximum available extrusion and balance for cantilevered X-axis.

        However, if you were looking at A4 and smaller, it'd be cheaper to buy a cheap 3D printer and use that.
      Michael Newham likes this.
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  • Build Details

    Build License:
    • CC - Attribution NonCommercial - Share Alike - CC BY NC SA

    Reason for this Build

    To try and build the most minimalist laser cutter possible, in the same vein as the minimalist sub-$200 Chinese stamped-steel 3D printers

    Inspired by

    Cheap pressed-steel 3D printer
  • Attached Files:

  • Parts list

    Qty Part Name Part Link Comments
    1 600mm 2020 v-slot Link X-axis
    1 654mm 2040 v-slot Link Y-axis
    1 mini v-slot gantry set Link X-axis gantry
    1 acrylic plate set Link Y-axis gantry, laser and motor mounts, idler pulley, chassis stand, controller mount
    2 NEMA17 stepper Link Y-axis, X-axis
    1 2000mm Gates GT2-3MM toothed timing belt Link 700mm for Y-Axis, 1250mm for X-Axis
    3 Gates GT2-3MM 20 tooth sprockets Link 1 for Y-axis, 1 for X-axis and one as an idler at the end of the cantilevered X-axis.
    1 Arduino Due + GRBL shield with 2x DRV8825 drivers Link Motion-control board
    0 various screws, nuts, washers, etc. Link to stick it together with
    4 delrin v-wheel sets Link Y-Axis gantry
    1 24V switch-mode power supply Link For GRBL shield/Steppers
    1 6A 12V switch-mode power supply Link For laser diode
    2 500mm 2020 aluminium extrusion Link stabilisers - not v-slot.
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