DIY Laser engraving machine

September 2, 2020
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DSC_3550_preview_featuredThe 3D printed photon printer, a micro laser engraver by Stephen Brockett, is the result of a weekend project that just kept on going, with both the fun and reward magnified at the end by seeing that it had such potential and immediate functionality.

Brockett, an engineer in New Zealand, is always working to expand his skill set, so took this project as an opportunity to broaden his design experience, as well as bringing safety to a design that typically does not include much in that area.

The project is special not only because it is an entry in the Light It Up contest (functioning technically as a specialized form of light-emitting diode due to the laser), but also because it’s made out of recycled DVD drives and cost a total of $20 to make.

“Optical media drives are actually pretty amazing, they have linear rails, stepper motors, lead screws and even end stops inside them, ” said Brockett. “They’re pretty much an entire axis of a CNC machine ready to go! I even used the laser from one of the drives for this project.”

With 3D printing, he was able to position the components accurately, customize parts more easily, and build the machine easily, with minimal pieces. You don’t need machining tools, and because the parts have one large flat surface, 3D printing is even easier.

DSC_3588_preview_featuredFamiliar with SOLIDWORKS, Brockett used the program because he has experienced it as good avenue for customization and accuracy. In this case, he knew it would allow him to fit everything together succinctly, along with allowing for customized mounts to fit the oddly-shaped ‘internals’ of the DVD drive.

“I’ve seen a few micro laser engravers around but I felt that they were all a little rough around the edges and didn’t have any safety features built into them, ” said Brockett. “I decided it would be a good project for me to broaden my design skills. I set about designing a more professional looking engraver that incorporated features like coarse and fine laser adjust while addressing the safety concerns of other DIY engravers I’d seen.”

In getting started, this was the list of items Brockett gathered together:

  • Safety glasses
  • Two linear axes with everything stripped off the sled
  • One red laser diode from the sled (keep both in case you break one)
  • Four magnets from the lens assembly on the sled
  • Two springs
  • One metal rectangle cut from drive case (100 x 80 mm)

To modify the DVD axes, Brockett recommends unscrewing the hub ends to expose the circuit board. After that, you will need to solder wires to the two terminals on the far right, as they connect to the end stop micro switch. Afterward, reassemble, and then solder four wires to the stepper motor.

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