Arnav Vaid and his friends designed the LaserEtch wood etcher using an Intel Galileo, some PVC pipe and stepper motors.

Arnav Vaid and his friends designed the LaserEtch wood etcher using an Intel Galileo, some PVC pipe and stepper motors.

A laser etcher can be utilized for any number of projects including jewelry design, marking electronics, creating art, or simply plastering your name on everything. While some choose to buy their own etchers, others, like inventor Arnav Vaid, opt to build their own, which surprisingly can be done for relatively cheap.

Arnav and several of his friends (Saul Fuhrmann, Prateek Joshi, and Srinand Balaji) designed LaserEtch — a tool that can burn any digital image onto wood — using parts that can be had for less than $200. The build is pretty straight-forward and makes use of a PVC frame outfitted with a pair of stepper-motors, which moves the piece of wood being etched based on a grey-scale digital image, which is processed by an Intel Galileo board.

Stepper-motors move the wood based on the image, which allows for curves and other angles to be burned into the wood.

Stepper-motors move the wood based on the image, which allows for curves and other angles to be accurately burned-in.

Once the image has been processed (using Wolfram Mathematica and GAMS), the board then provides the stepper-motors with instructions on where to move the wood. To account for the varying shades of the grey-scale image, the laser adjusts its intensity using PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) based upon the power needed.

Sure, the LaserEtch is not as accurate as machines that cost in excess of $1,000, nor does it have the finest of resolutions, but it isn’t meant to compete with or be a replacement for top-tier etchers. Rather, it can provide basic etching at a fraction of the cost using parts commonly found in most maker’s garages. For a complete rundown on the LaserEtch and a list of all parts needed to build your own head here.