Build Your Own Laser Cutter
Build Your Own Laser Cutter
With our custom kit, you will have all the parts you need to assemble your own fully-functional laser cutter!
With our custom kit, you will have all the parts you need to assemble your own fully-functional laser cutter! Read more
About this project
UPDATE #20 is up! See us testing the laser on the back of an iPhone!
UPDATE #18 is up! See how to use Thermark/Cermark Laser Metal Marking spray with the BYOLC!
Update #17 is up! Midpoint Appeal! We've only got about 15 days left!
UPDATE #16 is up! See how to go from CAD to a finished product with the laser cutter.
UPDATE #15 is up! International orders are being accepted!
UPDATE 14 is up! In this video, we test how well the laser does with vector engraving on glass. What do you think?
UPDATES 12 and 13 are up! #12 is a quick demo of the machine cutting craft felt. It leaves a really nice seared edge to the object with no burn marks. In #13, we are experimenting with raster engraving on glass.
UPDATE 11 is up! Check out the quick video of us marking keys for identification.
UPDATE 10 is up! A demonstration of the machine's speed capabilities and some explanations that address some concerns we have received...
UPDATES 4 to 9 are up! More video, and we're not done! We'll also be uploading some videos soon that show more of the process from PC to cutting. Got a video request? Let us know, and maybe you'll see it here!
UPDATE 3 is out! A short video showing the laser cutter tracing a path in cardboard. More videos are coming, so stay tuned!
UPDATE 2 is out! Be sure to read it if you have questions about the USB support that we've added. The BYOLC will now work with either a parallel port or a USB port, but backers will need to specify which option they prefer. The USB port option adds $75.00 to the cost of the laser cutter.
CNC machines and 3D printers are fast becoming standard maker tools in any DIYer's workshop, but one tool continues to elude many of us -- the laser cutter.
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.
This is the Build Your Own Laser Cutter (BYOLC).
One of the keys to providing a low-cost laser cutter is to design the device from less expensive material (but without putting the device or an operator at risk). Another option for reducing the price of a laser cutter is to eliminate the assembly of the device and push that task out to the owner. Finally, one last cost-cutting method (and one of the benefits of Kickstarter) is to reduce the cost by increasing sales volume.
What we are doing to reduce the price of the Build Your Own Laser Cutter:
1. The Build Your Own Laser Cutter does not have an aluminum or steel shell. Its body is cut out and made from MDO (Medium Density Overlay) and plexiglass, both of which will not allow the laser's 10600nm (nanometer) wavelength to pass. The MDO also has a lower coefficient of expansion than aluminum or steel, so the laser will keep alignment over an extreme range of temperatures.
2. The kit is shipped unassembled -- instructions for its assembly will be provided for putting it all together as well as calibrating the laser for safe and accurate cuts. While we're designing this kit for the DIYer, we recognize that there will be a wide variety of skill levels and comfort levels associated with the building of the BYOLC and our instructions will be super-simple to follow.
3. We know how many we can produce in a given time and at what price. We will only begin manufacturing and shipping of the parts if the Kickstarter project receives full funding -- this allows us to negotiate with our suppliers to get the best and lowest price possible for a run of a specific number of units.
The Technical Specs
The machine has an actual cutting area of 20.5" x 24.5" (52cm x 62cm). The outer dimensions of the assembled unit are 37" x 34" x 11.25" (94cm x 86.5cm x 28.5cm).
The laser tube and power supply (for the laser tube) are rated for 40 watts. The stepping motors are 100 oz-in torque and are coupled with 3.0 amp drivers. The power supply dedicated to the motors and drivers is rated at 36 volts and 8.8 amps. For those cutters where the computer is installed, the motherboard is a Mini-ITX with an integrated Atom processor. Linux is installed with LinuxCNC (EMC) as the control software. If Windows is desired, you can install it (for Windows 32-Bit) once you receive the machine. In this case, we recommend using Mach3 as the control software.
The laser tube is a consumable and is rated for 1000 hours of service. Each tube comes with 100 days of warranty and the warranty on each tube begins the day the machine is delivered to backers. Additional tubes for the BYOLC can be ordered from http://buildyourcnc.com/blackToothLaserCutterAndEngraver.aspx
Ventilation support will be integrated into the unit. This consists of a 105 CFM fan that is fastened within the unit. Backers will need to purchase an inexpensive 4" hose that can be found at home improvement stores. We will not be offering this in our kit since we don't know how the user will want to run the hose outdoors. If further ventilation is desired (higher cfm), the user can add another fan somewhere along the 4" hose line. If polymers are being cut, the fumes are toxic and should be vented outdoors. Some woods will also have constituents that can produce toxins when heated and burned, so ventilation should be used for these materials as well. Whatever material the user desires to cut, they will need to read the Material Safety Data Sheet for that particular material prior to cutting. The MSDS can be acquired from the suppliers of these materials.
What we are wanting to accomplish with this Kickstarter project is simple:
A. Raise funds to produce 300 unassembled laser cutters and 50 pre-assembled units.
B. Provide an easy-to-assemble laser cutter that is also completely SAFE to operate if the assembly instructions and operating instructions are followed correctly.
C. Provide owners of the Build Your Own Laser Cutter with an inexpensive, easy to maintain, and easy to upgrade unit that is capable of performing the same tasks as the commercially available laser cutters but at a much lower price.
How will we do this, and what do you, as a potential backer, need to know about the laser cutter and our capabilities to deliver? Please keep reading.
Note: For the Kickstarter, we're calling this the BYOLC (Build Your Own Laser Cutter). But Patrick, the designer, uses a series of codenames for his prototypes and the products he sells at buildyourcnc.com that consist of a color and a random word. As the BYOLC was being developed, we referred to it as blackTooth. That's the name you'll see used in these videos. (And just in case you're interested, buildyourcnc.com also has the whiteAnt 3D printer, the blueChick CNC machines, and the redFrog Pick-and-Place machine, among others.)
(We have since determined that the cell phone camera technique is not the best way of aligning the mirrors. Instructions for the proper aligning technique will be provided with the purchase of your unassembled kit.)
Risks and challenges
Note: If complete funding is achieved, we expect our components to arrive from our suppliers in mid-December. This is when we will begin production and shipment of the kits. All backers at the Platinum Supporter and Platinum Plus Supporter levels can expect to receive their unassembled kits from late December 2012 through April 2013.
This is not a vapor-product. It exists and has been tested and used extensively. The major work to be done is simply in having all parts cut and drilled for proper assembly and then packaging these parts with the electronics, laser tube, and other hardware that will allow backers to put it all together in their own workshops.
One question we have debated is where we can ship the BYOLC. We struggled with this decision, and looked at similar Kickstarter projects that have had issues with international shipping and made a hard decision. For the time being, this project is limited to continental USA backers only. Due to the high costs of international shipping for this kind of item, we will be unable to ship outside the continental USA. We know that many backers might be willing to cover the cost of international shipping, and we are looking into how to make that happen, but for now... our decision is firm.
We know that backing any Kickstarter project has risks, and we are also aware of a number of DIY products that have not delivered on time (or at all). We know that there's a huge difference between asking backers for $25 and asking them for $1000 -- it's a lot of money, and we suspect that you're nervous about that level of commitment.
Here are our promises to you regarding the project:
1. Up-front answers to your questions during fund raising. We will monitor the Feedback/Comments sections and respond to your questions as fast as possible -- we know that your decision to back or not will hinge on getting the answers you need.
2. Transparency during the manufacturing/shipping/packaging process. We will provide twice-a-month updates (one update every other week on average) at a MINIMUM. Our hope is to provide a weekly update, but we hope you'll understand that some weeks we may either have nothing new to report or be so busy we cannot interrupt a workflow. Rest assured, twice-a-month updates will give you information on the status of our project, answer questions from the comments area that we feel might get lost in the crowd, and basically keep you up-to-date on the status of the project.
3. Give you IMMEDIATE email(s) relating to any delays or problems. We hope these won't occur, but this wouldn't be a Kickstarter project without some hiccups. That said, if we discover any major problems that affect due dates, we won't sit on that news to "wait and see." All backers will get the fastest email updates possible if it affects your kit and/or its delivery time.
4. We've tried to learn from those who have come before us with their Kickstarter projects. That's why our delivery dates might be (at first glance) a little disappointing. What we're hoping for is an earlier delivery date for your kits, but we've built in some breathing room and some "one of the boxes got shipped to Kalamazoo" type incidents. If everything goes smoothly, kits will go out earlier. Ideally, we're hoping for a real delivery date somewhere between the date full funding is received and the delivery date we're listing with the rewards.
5. Finally, we're DIYers just like you. We know just how awesome it will be to have a laser cutter in the workshop. We're designing this laser cutter to be easy to build and easy to use, but as with any tool, we know that sometimes things can break... fizzle... pop. That's why we're also going to keep you informed on a side project that will make parts and accessories available for fixing or updating/upgrading your laser cutter down the road. We'll have more details about this, including possibly a Laser Tube Replacement Plan that will go on sale for backers at a later date. Again... stay tuned.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Can the price be reduced at all if I'm willing to print some of the parts myself using a 3D printer?
The parts we've developed to for the BYOLC are too large to print with most 3D printers.
The 40W CO2 laser can cut and engrave many materials including woods, some plastics, fabric, and making in glass. We are constantly testing various materials. Metals are a no-go for CO2 lasers in general from what I have researched. Our tests confirm this. However, if the metals are coated, many of these coatings can be etched to the metal surface.
The thicknesses of all of the materials tested that the machine can cut is 1/4" at a slow feedrate (5 IPM- inches per minute). We tested birch plywood at 1/4" at this speed with successful cutting. 1/16" bass wood cuts at 20 IPM. Plexiglass shares the same cutting and speed characteristics.
All of the kit come with hardware, structure, mechanical parts, laser tube, laser optics and mirrors and assemblies, power supplies for the laser and a separate power supply for the CNC motion, stepping motors, stepping motor drivers, breakout board to connect to the drivers (or a USB board for plugging in the USB - still being considered and tested - see update on top), water pump for laser cooling, air pump for nozzle air assist, tubes for water lines and air line, wires to connect the electronics, tube fittings.
The PLUS option (option with computer system) includes all above and a mini-itx board with integrated Atom processor, 64 gigabyte solid state drive, or standard 500 gigabyte hard drive, 2 gigabyes of memory for motherboard, DC-DC converter and AC adapter for powering the computer system.
Sure, if you live in the Houston region, feel free to pick it up so you don't need to pay for the shipping charge. If you live outside the Houston area, it's up to you. We will pack these machines very well, so you will not need to worry about anything breaking on the way. :)
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