The MicroSlice is a Build-It-Yourself kit, uses Open Source Software, and can be easily assembled at home by just about anyone.
What is the MicroSlice?
The MicroSlice is a mini laser cutter & engraver. It is controlled using an Arduino UNO. It uses Open Source software and is able to cut paper, and engrave wood & plastics.
The MicroSlice comes as a kit, which takes around 15 hours to build. All the parts are included in the full kits, everything from the Arduino UNO R3, to the laser diode, and all the cables, to the bolts & screws.
How did the MicroSlice come about?
I launched my first Kickstarter project back in July called the LittleBox. I didn't hit the funding target but even though the project wasn't successful I was so excited by the idea of being able to make my own LittleBox PC parts at home that I went out and bought myself a laser cutter.
Naturally I wanted to make something using my new toy, and being an avid follower, and a growing participant at Instructables, I was pressed into action by the launch of the 2013 Radioshack Microcontroller Contest.
My design brief for the contest was simple; test my own design skills, test my new laser cutter's capabilities, and win the contest.
I started thinking, about chickens, and eggs, contemplating the centuries old conundrum of the timeless question, about the unsolved problem of which came first; the chicken or the egg. When my mind shifted to my laser cutter, wondering, as you do; would, could I create a paradox as timeless as the chicken and the egg by making a laser cutter, with my laser cutter. Could I plant a seed that in 1000 years from now people would ask; what came first, the laser cutter cut with a laser cutter or the laser cutter cut from a laser cut laser cutter?
No. Probably not, but that's a pretty good idea though. And so I began on my design path towards what you see before you; The MicroSlice Mini Laser Cutter & Engraver.
Oh, I won the competition too!
You can read about how the MicroSlice has been designed and you can see what's involved when building your kit over at the Instructables website | http://www.instructables.com/id/MicroSlice-A-tiny-Arduino-laser-cutter/
What are the features of the MicroSlice?
- The MicroSlice has a work area of 50mm x 50mm (2" x 2").
- Cuts paper and engraves leather, chocolate, wood & plastic.
- Make Simple PCB Circuits.
- Open Hardware.
- Uses the Arduino UNO R3.
- All the software used by the MicroSlice, including the graphics program, is Open Source, and free to use for personal use!
- There is a 100mw Red Laser Diode, like you'd find inside a DVD-RW drive, which does the cutting & engraving (200mw Laser in the Powered-Up Kit).
- It comes as a kit to build at home, at a Hackspace, or with your local Maker group.
- There are 97 Laser-Cut parts in the kit!
- It will work with a Raspberry Pi.
How does the MicroSlice work?
The MicroSlice works in exactly the same way as larger professional laser cutters. There are two stepper motors which move the X & Y Axis, a fan for ventilation, and there's even a honeycomb cutting table, just like the pro machines!
Rewards for your Pledges!
£1 or more | Your Adoring Support!
Your name will be listed on the forthcoming MicroSlice Wiki as a supporter of the project.
£25 | A Plywood Laser-Cut Set
97 x Laser-cut Plywood Parts & 20 Microbarb Brass Inserts, you'll be able to get all the other components at your leisure.
£30 | An Acrylic Laser-Cut Set
97 x Laser-cut Acrylic Parts & 20 Microbarb Brass Inserts, you'll be able to get all the other components at your leisure.
£199 | A Full MicroSlice Kit
97 x Laser-cut parts (Acrylic or Plywood) | 1 x Arduino UNO R3 | 1 x X Axis Motor | 1 x Y Axis Motor | 1 x Dual Relay | 2 x Easydrivers | 2 x 5v LDOs | 2 x Heat-Sinks | 1 x 45x45x10 Fan (12v) | 4 x Stop Switches | 9 x Magnets | 4 x Rubber Feet | 5 x Thumb Screws | 1 x Laser Assembly (100mw) | 4 x 4mm Aluminium Tubes | 3 x 3mm Ground Steel Rods | 20 x M3 Microbarb Brass Inserts | 1 x Bag of Screws, Nuts & Bolts | 1 x Bag of Wires & Connectors | 1 x 12v 1A PSU | 1 x Pair Of Safety Glasses.
£249 | A Full Powered-Up MicroSlice Kit
Everything you get in a standard kit but with a higher power 200mw Laser Diode, a copper diode mount for better thermal transmission, and a 3 element glass lens. You'll also have the extra choice of transparent and fluorescent acrylics.
£349 | A Hand built Powered-Up MicroSlice
A Powered-Up MicroSlice hand built to the highest possible standard at the LittleBox Company workshop. We will communicate directly with you to help choose your colour, or colour combination for your MicroSlice. It will be configured, tested, and then boxed up before being couriered to you.
What Acrylic colours are available?
Clear, White, Black, Green, Blue, Red, Yellow, Orange, Purple and Pink.
Extra colours for the Powered-Up MicroSlice kits are;
Fluorescent Acid Green, Fluorescent Hellios Yellow, Fluorescent Lava Orange, Fluorescent Mars Red, Fluorescent Neptune Blue, Transparent Amber, Transparent Blue, Transparent Green, Transparent Grey and Transparent Red.
What tools are needed to build a MicroSlice?
- A soldering Iron.
- Hobby Knife.
- Needle Files.
- Screw Drivers.
- Needle-Nose Pliers.
- Multimeter (Optional).
The MicroSlice in action!
Engraving a Pencil | Normal Speed.
Show you care by engraving on cork | 64 x Normal Speed.
Acrylic paint has been sprayed on to the back of a piece of clear Perspex. The laser then engraves a reversed pattern of the MicroSlice logo | 64 x Normal Speed.
It is now possible to make PCB Circuits using the Powered-Up Kits. Details about how to do this are in Project Update 8.
Engraving on a sample of leather | 16x Normal Speed
What will I do with your money?
I have been selling the 97 laser-cut MicroSlice parts since I posted the project to Instructables at the end of October. They have sold very well, but I have many people put off by the thought of having to source all the other parts themselves. What I would like to be able to do is to sell complete kits, with all the parts needed.
To be able to do that, and at a good price, I need to buy the components in bulk, and of course I need to find the monies to make that happen. By putting the MicroSlice on to Kickstarter, and with your help, I hope that I'll be given the chance to do that.
January - February | Kickstarter Funding Period.
I'll post updates to keep everyone informed of the projects progress as we head towards our funding goals.
March - Weeks 1 & 2 | Modifications To The Design & Parts Confirmed.
Kickstater releases the funds two weeks after the funding period has ended. During this time any alterations to the designs for stretch goals or to incorporate any backer's ideas will be made.
March - Weeks 2 & 3 | Components Ordered & Production of Laser-Cut Parts Begins.
When the funds have been received the parts for the MicroSlice can be ordered and the laser-cutting production line can be started. Assembly of the five Hand Built MicroSlice kits starts with the first sets off the line.
April - Weeks 1 & 2 | First batch of kits packaged, checked and posted.
The Hand Built MicroSlice sets and the Early Bird backer kits are checked, packaged, and posted.
April - Weeks 3 & 4 | Remainder of the backers rewards are dispatched.
All remaing MicroSlice full kits and laser-cut sets are checked, packed, and posted out to backers.
£35,000 | UNLOCKED
We'll add an assorted pack of coloured paper and other bits & bobs sized just right for use in your MicroSlice to pledges over £149.
£45,000 | UNLOCKED
The MicroSlice's design will be altered to add Start, Pause, and Abort buttons at the front. Extra switches will be included with all pledges over £149. You'll be able to pause, reset, and stop & start jobs on the MicroSlice without having to touch a computer!
£55,000 | UNLOCKED
To the Standard 100mw Kits we'll upgrade the Acrylic Lens to a 3 Element Glass lens and a new Chromed Brass 12mm x 40mm module so you'll be able to fit the diode driver inside the module case.
The Powered-Up Kits will be powered up to a 250mw diode which can run at 300mw for short periods (5 minutes or less before a similar timed cool-down). We'll also press-fit the diode into a new Chrome-Coated Brass Mount so there's no risk of damaging the diode when you build your kit. But that's not all; to turbo-charge your MicroSlice we'll upgrade the driver to a higher rated version capable of powering diodes up to a massive 2000mw. Perfect it you want to add to your MicroSlice later on.
£65,000 | UNLOCKED
The Standard 100mw Diode will be replaced with a Powered-Up 200mw Diode, we'll also press-fit it into the mount so there's no risk of damage to the diode during your build.
The Powered-Up kit will be supplied with an extra 200mw Diode, a 12mm x 40mm Chromed Brass Module, and a standard driver. Double the fun.
£77,500 | UNLOCKED
To help you correctly configure the MicroSlice's Powered-Up diode, and to make sure you don't over-cook it we will add a Laser Diode Test Load Kit to all Powered-Up MicroSlice rewards.
The Load Test Kit includes 10 x IN5404 Diodes + 1Ω 5W Ceramic Cement Wirewound Resistor and of course a set of instructions.
The MicroSlice kits are supplied with a red laser diode. The ability of the beam to cut and engrave is limited in part by the colour of the cutting surfaces. For example; white will reflect a lot of the laser's energy away from the cutting surface making it difficult to cut, as will red. Using a higher powered laser diode will help, and you could also adapt your MicroSlice to operate a variety of wavelengths by using different laser diodes, Blue Ray being a good example of this.
Overcoming the Limitations using Black-Masking
To help overcome these limitations I have tested a method using a black sheet of paper laid over the top of the cutting surface. Black Masking works very well on any colour.
64x Normal speed.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
As with any project there are many factors which can effect the final delivery schedule. By doing the laser-cutting in-house we can efficiently manage the production of the laser-cut parts, giving us control over the major time sensitive component. This helps to ensure that the MicroSlice delivery times are realistic and that we can remain within our projected time scales.
There are many different components to the MicroSlice and before any parts are Laser-Cut, and before sending out your kit all the components will be checked to make sure they match the design specifications.
All the electronic components and hardware parts are ordered immediately once the funds have been received. This allows up to six weeks for the parts to arrive and to manage any stock issues which arise.
The MicroSlice will engrave onto darker wood and plastics. To engrave lighter colours you will need to use a process called Black-masking. Black-Masking involves laying a sheet of black paper over the surface to be engraved. The engraving process is run once, the black paper is removed, and then the process is ran again.
The last video on the project page demonstrates Black-masking.
The MicroSlice will leave no marks on metal or glass.
Combined with the 3 element glass lens there is a power increase of approximately 130%. You'll be able to cut faster, deep, and if you de-focus the lens you'll be able to make wider tracks. There is also the copper mount which gives better cooling help to increase the longevity of the laser diode. You also get a much larger choice of florescent or transparent acrylics.