This first article will not be the most sensational because it will lay the foundations of the project: few images and many thoughts.
My workshop is in dire need of a laser cutting machine with a suitable working space (1000 * 500 mm minimum). Indeed, I can not comfortably progress in a project knowing that I will have to pay the high price for a prototype. Not only does it slow down ideas but it also increases the budget for future customers that I want to keep small and passionate. I have asked a quote for an Epilog (which I know well) and it gets immediately to more than 10k € … Ditto for equivalents on a wattage of 40 and a working space of this size.
The remaining options are cloned Chinese machines or kits to mount, for the modest sum of 5k € (approximately).
And then I remembered that I was an engineer so I started to consider the option of building it myself by combining the Internet experiences on the subject. And I wanted it to be an open-source project and well documented. For the pleasure of the eyes and for the readers who wish to follow my steps or to be inspired by them.
And everything begins behind an article, spreadsheets, videos, text files and wiki pages.
After a lot of research and comparisons, I decided to choose this Instructables. It has the great advantage of having been realised in a framed school setting with the aim of being able to be reproduced and with a real reflection. And even if it has some flaws, it is an excellent working base.
After reading the tutorial carefully, I read all comments in search of design problems. I also thought a lot myself about it since I had some mechatronics courses.
Here is what I learned from this work :
- The control of the laser tube must be calibrated by hand with an accurate measuring tool because the Chinese pilots are not precise. Do not just plug and trust the values (and burn the device)
- Do not connect the safety switch from the cover to the controller but directly to the power supply of the laser in a circuit breaker logic
- Do not connect the emergency stop button to the controller but directly to the main power supply
in a circuit breaker logic (the best way in my opinion would be to keep the power supply of the controller and that it detects the shutdown of ’emergency)
- It would be interesting to add a gauge to adjust the focal length of the laser, a small piece that represents the focal length and which would be clipped on the element that creates the final beam to be able to make the adjustment with an immediate visual
- Add a place to put a spray of water in case of a small fire
- My plexiglass supplier does not give the smoke gray hue (which I find anyway too dark to follow the possible problems), it might be more interesting to put transparent Plexiglas for the cover with a CO2 laser protective film: point to work
- The machine control by Arduino / GRBL is not satisfactory
- A key switch is required between the power button and the power supply
- It would be nice to try to replace the MDF of support of pieces to be cut by a honeycomb (either new or recovery)
I can only advise you to register near your local Fablab to accompany you in this project. On the one hand because it’s totally in their philosophy and on the other one is because they know these machines and you will find a huge support.
So I enrolled at Plateform-C in Nantes to spend 4 hours a week (a little more if I count the time at home). There I was able to study the machines in place, chat with makers and technicians and then expand my possibilities of construction.
For me it is vital to cut the project in parts and to focus on each one (but keeping the overview in mind). A transverse task will be for me the discovery and tests of the motherboard, but I will come back to it later.
- Project study
- Making of the frame
- Assembly of the opto-mechanical parts
- Assembly of the panels
- Assembly of the electronics
Then it is important to update the shopping list provided by the original article. Especially at the level of links that are not necessarily very clear and / or up to date. Here is the list of things that were difficult to find in France and / or to decipher:
- Aluminium profiles 30×30 B-Typ rainure 8
- Bolts and nuts
- Sliding T-nut hammer / 3030 / M3-30s
- T-nut hammer head / 3030 8mm / M5
- Key switch
- 12 fans
The list will be updated according to the progress of the project because I have not bought everything as I am currently focusing on stage 1 and 2.
Note on the control motherboard
The Fablab where I go has repaired several laser cutting and they know the makers of SmoothieBoard, so I contacted them directly to discuss this project and after another study I decided to replace the Arduino and motor drivers of the initial project by a SmoothieBoard 3XC. This increases the price a little, but it is possible to get rid of the RPI and the touch screen if you are on a budget.
The advantage of the SmoothieBoard is that I have RobotSeed support on the project and the community is active, the tutorials are very detailed and then the motherboard was developed only to do that and with a very correct processor.
So much for this first article. As long as the project is not finished, the articles of the series are evolutionary and they will take into account your remarks and suggestions if it lends itself to it. Of course, it would be a pleasure for me to read your feedback and comments. You can contact me here, by mail or by carrier pigeon.
Do not hesitate to tell me if you would like a similar machine, it is possible that I decide to help you to do it or to build one for you depending of how comfortable I am in this production.
All the articles regarding this series are here : DIY Lasercutter
I too found the Instructables article and I am researching DIY Lasercutters and would love to try to make one myself.
I would love to see what you come up with for your project.
Thanks for your comment ! I hope those articles could help you then =) Do not hesitate to put a comment if smg is unclear. To be honest, everything is taking me a lot of time (writing the article too) so I focus on the French one and the translation I made for the English one is kinda… awkward sometimes. So maybe some things could be hard to understand and I’ll be glad to clarify them !
thanks for sharing your project with us. Do you have any timeline?
I am thinking about building this kind of laser with 1000×600 working dimensions or buying the 700x500mm one on Amazon/Ebay for about 1700€.
Important is the used technology, in this case the system controls where you are referring to smoothboard – which is not available anymore – please check your link.
Why do you think is machine machine control by Arduino / GRBL not satisfactory?
If somebody is from Germany/Austria/Switzerland we could share suppliers.
PS: If you enter a wrong captcha and go back your the whole written text is gone ^^
It is a pleasure ! Currently I am working full time (after my job) on the project, the hardware is pretty done, and I will have to program the interface and run some tests. I cannot really give you a timeline… But I wish this to be finished by the end of the month. And I will do my best to update the articles this weekend too, so you will have a better idea of what was done.
But by all mean, please do not follow the original Instructables… It is so full of nonsense, errors and missing bits… I spend most of my time correcting it and it would have been easier in fact to make a brand new one ! And I also advise you to wait until the end of the hardware assembly to make this one too, because I have to modify things from previous articles (mounting order for instance…).
The Smoothieboard is globally more robust and it comes with all the needed drivers for the motors. The link is working properly, but I use an old version, if you want a new one you can search for Smoothieboard 3X on Google or wait for their http://robotseed.com/index.php?id_product=11&controller=product&id_lang=2
I am very sorry for the Captcha thing… It is the WordPress magic… (I systematically copy all my comments everywhere before posting a thing).
Thanks for your comment !
If you need any help for feedback or ideas, I am happy to help.
What laser tube power do you intend to install? I am thinking of putting more power into it so we’ll be able to just thicker material or do better metal engraving.
So I won’t follow the Instructables workbook haha
No issue with the WordPress.I have also some WordPress installations and there are flaws all over but nevertheless it is a super cheap and easy way to be online 🙂
I would be very glad to have feedback indeed ! I think you can do that here on the blog. Especially once I put all the work I’ve done these past weeks. The aim for me is to build this version while designing the V2. Probably I’ll sell this one on Leboncoin and build the V2 after. So everything that could improve the current version would be gladly received =)
I installed the 40W tube, but on my V2 you would be able to put the 60W without much trouble (power is proportional to length/diameter of the tube). It would be possible with this version but… it would be a very tight fit.
No… for your own sake >< Exactly ! And it is actually not that bad, just some minor flaws... Feel free to put your website's link if you have some DIY things, I do not mind this kind of ad ! I'll contact you by telegram and mail (if telegram is not working). All the best, Bastien
thanks for sharing this amazing project.
Can I use a fibre laser instead of co2 laser?
And can you tell me how many watts of co2/fibre laser is required to cut metal sheet?
Did you use the same laser, laser head and mirrors as provided in the original Instructables?
It’s a pleasure 🙂 And thank you for your interest in my articles !
I would recommend to get inspired by this Instructables and make a new machine for the fiber laser. The technologies are slightly different and the characteristics of my machine could not work. But feel free to ask questions about this project if you need help (by mail).
I found this table for the power needed to cut metal -> HERE. So I think CO2 laser is out of question for metal.
But I would advise you to go to a plasma cutting table (CNC + plasma cutter), I found this LINK that talk about a DIY project.
And yes I bought all the mirrors/lens/tube of the original Instructables.
have you ever worked on dot peen marking machines?
and which board will be best for both dot peen and laser marking.
I’ve just checked that on Youtube, sounds cool ! But I never worked on these before.
Best would be to directly go on a smoothieboard forum to check this out ! I advise this one -> https://forum.makerforums.info/c/controllers/smoothie/
I am having trouble setting up the smoothie board and software.
can you provide the config and firmware file?
Sure ! Are you making this machine ? Because the config file is especially made for this machine and this wiring =)
Yes, I am making this machine.
I need the config file cause the motor is not able to run smooth and are not giving proper torque.
I am using NEMA17 motors
Great ! Tell me how it goes =)
I’ve just lasercut cardboard and PMMA !! So happy =)
I’ll add the config file to the end of this post. For the motor problems, I had to buy already crimped cables to connect to the board, because I was not able to crimp properly and I lost a lot of torque and stability because of that…
Maybe you could start there ?
Ok I cannot upload the config file for security reason. Just contact me via the contact form and I’ll send it to your email
I have submitted the contact form.
Hi bastien, I am just starting this project (i have most of the frame finished currently), and was wondering if it would be able to run off of a 110v outlet rather than a 220. The price of installation of a 220 would cost more than the machine as a whole so yeah.
I am sure that you can find all the 12V and 5V power supply in 110V mode (on AliExpress especially). I think that you can also fin the laser driver in 110V too (normally they put a little switch inside of the driver to go from 110V to 220V, but the best would be to directly contact the re-seller).
I am currently making an article explaining how the current built failed due to the original design of the inspiration. He cheated from beginning to the end and the machine simply cannot work properly. If you did not built the XY axis, please stop and design it from scratch. His design is currently not rigid at all, and it is impossible to have proper straight lines when cutting. Plus, he bought 2 axis mirrors instead of 3 axis mirrors which make the calibration a nightmare. And to finish, all the parts that holds the mirrors should not be in plastic because it wobbles way too much and you end up loosing the focus mid-cut.
I am currently dismantling the whole machine to build it anew from scratch with my own design.
Thx for the help! Those comments are dually noted. I was also wondering whether or not it is necessary to put the electronics on a metal plate? Is there a cooling advantage to that?
It’s a pleasure =)
I put the electronics on a metal plate mainly in case there are some electricity leaks. Everything is grounded so it should be safe and normally there would be no interferences (as I use 220/12/5V simultaneously).
I use a radiator/cooling grid from an old heat pump/air conditioner instead of honeycomb table. Workd fine and smoke can pass. Don´t know how it will work with high laser power, but for me (12w) it´s ok.
Thanks for the tip ! I will have to try 🙂
Can anyone help me with this:
I have an old GCC Mercury 12w laser engraving machine. It works only with an old graphic program on a win 98 machine. It works ok. Design in inkscape – save as .eps and save on usb stick and load it to the PC ………
but I would really like to upgrade this thing. The hardware and the case is really good, but I would like to replace the electronics (controller, power supply, …..). The motors are ac servo motors and I would like to keep them
Now I wonder how to run them. I guess I need some servo drivers. Can someone give me any suggestions for what to look for?
Thanks for your comment ! I am not a specialist of the technology you use. I purposefully used “mainstream” components and an easy board to be able to focus more on the machine itself.
Maybe the best move would be to contact directly Mercury ?
I am in last year of engineering and have took this project idea so I wanted some help, if possible can you contact me on this mail please.
Thanks for your interest in these articles 🙂
I will contact you today.