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Patrick Hood-Daniel and MAKE friend James Floyd Kelly are developing a DIY laser cutter and marketing it via a Kickstarter campaign.

While laser cutters share many similarities to CNC machines and 3D printers (mainly in motors that control movement or software/electronics that define where to cut, mill, print, etc.), the one thing they don’t share is a low price. It is still quite difficult for most DIYers to afford their own laser cutter, and that’s unfortunate as a laser cutter is one of the best tools for making precision cuts and prototyping.

There are many laser cutters available today, but even the smallest models available from the Big Names in the industry can easily run $5000 or higher. While small businesses can often afford the initial cost of a laser cutter for specialty products, hobbyists and small shop owners (especially companies operating on a shoestring budget) take big risks putting out such large amounts for a single tool. For some reason, the costs of laser cutters just has not dropped to match the drop in prices of 3D printers and CNC machines.

Until now.

Check it out! You can get a kit to assemble your own laser cutter for just $1,500!

John Baichtal

My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal nerdage.net


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Comments

  1. imajeenyus says:

    Or you can buy a 40W Chinese laser cutter for less than $1000 ;-) As low as $200-$300, if you can get it through TaoBao.

  2. imajeenyus says:

    Sorry, got my dollars and pounds mixed. £200-£300 on TaoBao, if you’re lucky.

  3. Ryan says:

    I don’t understand why people keep trying this. Buildlog.net has already solved the low-price open source laser cutter problem ( http://buildlog.net/sm_laser/drawings.html )..

    That build has gone through several tested revisions, been built numerous times and also is in the 1500$ price range. It will perform a million times better because it uses higher quality linear motion and it does not include the tube on the gantry (which is an absolutely retarded idea for a cutter of this size).

    As someone who as built a laser cutter myself, this kickstarter is horrific. They buy a full set of flying-optic mirrors and then tape the tube to the gantry because they don’t want to do it properly.

    This stuff matters because laser cutters are all about extreme acceleration and speed so you can cut corners properly. I always find myself offended when kickstarter supporters refuse to spend 5 seconds with google before putting down 2000$.

    Fools and their money, I guess.

    1. Patrick says:

      Hi Ryan,

      Well, I guess there are other options available, so fortunately, the hobbyists consumer has a good number of viable choices, which is my aim in this effort.

      I started with a tube in a fixed position and found that the alignment of mirrors are a bit more challenging. Having the tube on the gantry makes this process easier and maintains the alignment.

      The linear guides and bearings are fine for this purpose and have found no problems in testing. We use this method for many of our machines.

      We are using wood for the structure and the gantry. Wood is actually a great material to use since the coefficient of expansion is less than most materials, including metals (aluminium, steel, etc.) and plastics. This use of wood will keep the mirrors aligned and calibration for a very wide range of temperatures. The coefficients can be found here: http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/linear-expansion-coefficients-d_95.html

      1. Aaron Ramsey says:

        That table does not account for humidity of course, which is a big problem for wood. While aligning the the mirrors for a fixed laser can be challenging, it really isn’t that hard. A bit of tape and a few test fires and anybody can have it done in an evening. Most of the issues with aligning mirrors stems from the super-cheap $800 chinese lasers which have a very poor adjustment system. A nicely designed system makes it very easy.

        Carrying the laser on the gantry is crazy and short-sighted.

      2. Ryan says:

        Claiming wood will move less than metal over any useful time period is silly, and I don’t feel that you have addressed the fire issue properly. It is a fact that laser cutter fires, while rare, do occur. The question you should be asking is whether the enclosure can contain the fire when a sheet of paper, fabric, plastic or wood ignites.

        A gantry mounted tube design is not something I should have to debate. Your Y acceleration will be cut to a tiny fraction of what it should be which will force painfully slow cuts or corner rounding. This is not a worthwhile trade. Even the most gruelling of alignment problems won’t take more than a few hours to solve.

        To put it bluntly, I cannot fathom why you would come up with a wood-based gantry-mounted tube design. It goes against every design requirement of a laser, and contradicts every commercial and open source laser cutter available.

  4. Cool project! If you are of the open source persuasion, you should also check out the Lasersaur http://labs.nortd.com/lasersaur/ – it is another Kickstarter-funded project, funded a while back, and almost 90% of the way done, at which point all the plans, design documents, etc., will be publicly available! More lasercutters for everyone!

  5. drendk says:

    This looks like a terrible design, if you want to build your own laser cutter go to http://buildlog.net and either use that design or be inspired by it.

    1. Are you in any way affiliated with buildlog.net? We know Ryan has some affiliation and has (fairly obvious) reasons to critique our Kickstarter, but I’m just curious how you can comment on the design without having actually used it, let alone inspected it closely.

      It’s not vaporware, it’s easy to build, and it for those without the skills or confidence to build their own, it’s a great solution. We’re continuing to post videos of it in action, and we’re even taking requests on the Kickstarter page.

      We knew we’d encounter some negativity when we clicked the GO button, but thankfully MOST of the comments and emails we’ve received have been supportive. But there will always be critics and trolls, even in the Maker Movement of all places. No matter what you do or make or try to share with the world, there will always be those who seek to tear down in order to stand on the rubble.

      There are DIY cars out there that lack airbags, trunks, and air conditioning, but they drive and the folks who put them together know best how to use them. Same things goes for this $1500 cutter. It may not look like the $7000 model, and its design may not match your ideal laser cutter, but ultimately the final question is “Does it work?” Yes, it does. And well.

  6. Howard says:

    This design has a lot of problems that could damage an expensive laser tube. Very few commercial units actually move the laser tube. You have problems with vibrations, transmitting water, and high voltage lines.
    As far as chinese laser the cheap 40 watt units in most cases are junk. I have one, it has software that is at best may work, and the actual assembly had mechanical problems. I upgrade its software and electronics and it works. But it ended up over $2000.00 and a small unit.
    I am not affiliated with any other blog but your design has some problems.
    If you think about the mass of the actual laser tube and associated equipment would make it difficult to move.
    I know that it is an interesting design and it will work just don’t run it to fast.
    I was an engineer and have made several CNC machines and with just a few changes I would say you could run this unit at a reasonable speed and not worry about damaging the laser. Move the laser tube to the back of the unit in a fixed position and move one mirror and you have system that will be reliable. The water to the tube, high voltage, and vibrations transmitted to the tube, would be my major concern as designed.
    I like your cabinet and its design and the ease of opening for a low cost unit.

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