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What is Mr Beam?
With the Mr Beam kit, you can build your own laser cutter and engraver.
Explore new ways to express your creativity: Cut your own designs from paper, adhesive foil (custom stickers!) or other materials with the power of light. Decorate surfaces like wood and leather and personalize your belongings with an engraving.
Our main goal is to make laser cutters easy to use, portable and enjoyable for everyone!
The kit includes all parts required to get you started. Mr Beam is run by open source software and is easy to use.
How did Mr Beam get started?
A while ago we attended a maker scene workshop where we assembled a RepRap 3D printer kit. We were inspired by the RepRap concept of printing parts to build stuff. As a first project, we started converting a hand-operated mill into a CNC milling machine.
As we explored making things ourselves, we were further inspired by self made laser cutters (like ct hacks Laserplotter, Lasersaur and Domestic Hacks) and were fascinated by the variety of possibilities. We started thinking about how we could build on the existing solutions to improve issues like small working areas and high costs. Then we decided to build our own.
Our motivation for Mr Beam, was to maximize the working area while keeping costs to a minimum. In addition, we wanted to make it portable, easy to build and simple to use. We have made great progress on Mr Beam’s development in the last few months, now we need your support to make it happen and be as awesome as we want it to be.
Where is Mr Beam at right now?
We have just finished our third prototype of both Mr. Beam Junior and Senior. These prototypes perform successfully with different materials and setups. However, we are still working through the following issues:
#01 shield Mr Beam’s custom Arduino shield is performing well on driving the laser diode and stepper motors. However, we still need to iron out some minor bugs and go through one or two additional prototypes of the board, including QA cycles.
#02 design While building the 3rd prototype our main focus was on the function of the laser cutter and experimenting with size and portability. The design of Mr Beam is light, functional and portable, but we think we can improve certain issues. We want to reduce the amount of parts, to make it even easier to assemble. Additionally we want to experiment with other materials for the frame. In general we want to make it more appealing.
#03 software The software operating Mr Beam allows the user to control the device. The web interface can already be used to select motifs and start the cutting process. We would like to add important features, for example the ability to easily position, rotate and scale the motifs.
What can Mr Beam do?
Mr Beam is able to process materials of variable thickness. Its height adjustable legs allow an easy setup for thin paper as well as for a large piece of wood.
Mr Beam cuts lighter materials like paper and foil in one pass, and thicker materials like leather and cardboard in multiple passes. As with all laser cutters, the ability to cut materials properly is determined by their thickness.
Most of the mentioned materials can be engraved in a single pass, others like wood might require several passes.
Here’s a table of our test results:
In general, the more a material absorbs the laser energy, the better the cutting or engraving result.The absorption of a material relies on it’s color - darker materials are less reflective and therefore easier to process - as well as on it’s thickness. Therefore some materials may require more passes due to their color and thickness. If a material is really hard to process you can always try covering it with thin dark paper or paint before running a first pass.
Mr Beam can not cut plywood. Neither can it cut or engrave metal or glass.
How do I use Mr Beam?
After you’ve successfully assembled the kit, just plug it in and connect Mr Beam to your home router with a standard network cable.
Next, you need a motif to work with. For a quick start (or in the unlikely case of a sudden lack of creativity) we will include a set of preloaded motifs. You can also find many more on the internet.
If you want to create your own motifs, you can use a vector graphics software like the excellent open source software Inkscape. More detailed information will be available in Mr Beam's instructions.
Now you can use your computer, tablet or smartphone to access Mr Beam’s interface by typing the address shown on its display into your browser, and then:
- Select your motif via the web interface
- Position, scale and rotate the motif as you desire.
- Place your material and hit start
If you want to experiment with your Mr Beam, you can also directly connect your computer via USB to send hand-crafted G-codes to the Arduino.
Is the Mr Beam kit hard to assemble?
No! With a few basic tools (allen key, screwdrivers, knife, glue) you’ll be able to assemble the kit within a day (depending on your skills :). No soldering is required. We will post detailed instructions before the first kits are delivered.
How does Mr Beam work?
Design: Mr Beam features a light-weight portable design. The height-adjustable legs allow even more flexible applications. Mr Beam is designed to be customizable (e.g. the two different sizes are only an example, other sizes are possible as well) and upgradable (e.g. exchange the laser diode with a different one).
Two sizes: Mr Beam comes in 2 sizes - Mr Beam Senior & Junior. The senior version has a working area that suits ANSI C / DIN A2 - equal to 4 x letter size. The junior version easily fits letter sized materials.
Mechanics: Inspired by the RepRap 3D printer machines, we used stepper motors, timing belts and bearings for mechanical and electrical parts that are available online.
Electronics & Software: The heart of the system is a Raspberry Pi, an Arduino Uno and the Mr Beam shield. All software and hardware is already, or will soon be open source. The Raspberry Pi runs Raspbian and operates the web interface that is responsible for generating g-code from the user-supplied input files (the motif). The Arduino Uno runs the amazing grbl software that takes g-code and converts it into stepper motor actions, and controls the laser diode intensity. The Mr Beam Arduino shield hosts electronic modules and parts that handle the input from Arduino/grbl. It powers the steppers as well as the laser and handles the hardware buttons.
- DIY kit
- Mr Beam Shield supports up to 1.5A laser diodes
- 200mW red (658 nm) laser diode included (upgrade to 1000mW blue (445 nm) diode by pledging an extra $50)
- 2 sizes: Junior & Senior
- Working area. Junior: 297 x 216 mm (11.7 x 8.5 in). Senior: 594 x 432 mm (23.4 x 17.0 in)
- Dimensions. Junior: 590 x 440 x 210 mm (23.3 x 17.3 x 8.3 in). Senior: 890 x 665 x 210 mm (35.1 x 26.2 x 8.3 in)
- Weight: Junior: ~3.0 kg (~6.7 lbs). Senior: ~5.0 kg (~11.0 lbs)
- Ethernet port (Raspberry Pi)
- USB port (Arduino)
- Working Voltage: 12-24V, 12V power adapter included
- Open software & hardware
All software and hardware specifications will be published after successful funding of the project.
What will I get, exactly?
Good news! Everything you need to assemble and run the Mr Beam laser cutter and engraver is included in the kit:
- Wooden frame
- Raspberry Pi B
- Arduino Uno
- Mr Beam Arduino shield
- Laser diode (~200mW) with heatsink and fan
- Plastic parts (motor & laser mounts, …)
- Axes (metal rods)
- Linear motion parts (bearings, timing belts, pulleys)
- Power supply
- All required cables, bolts and screws
- Safety glasses
If necessary, replacement parts can be easily obtained, online or from a hardware store.
What about more power for Mr Beam?
The laser diode included in the kit is already able to process a lot of different materials. Depending on material thickness and color, some materials require very low feed rate settings. This means the movement of the laser is slow and the process is time consuming. For pledging an extra of $50 we will replace the standard diode with a more powerful one. This diode has a blue 445nm beam offering more than 1000mW of power. With this upgrade you can process all materials a lot faster. Additionally, we will provide safety glasses required for this diode.
What is the Mr Beam Shield?
A big part of the project’s effort was, and still is, the development of the Mr Beam Shield. It’s an Arduino shield which provides a compact, easy to use, electronic setup for machines operating a laser. Here are some technical details about the components on the circuit board:
Laser diode driver: Similar to LED’s, laser diodes require a driver circuit to avoid self-destruction. Our driver is able to provide a maximum current of 1.5 Amps. It supports a wide range of laser diodes with forward voltages between 2 and 5.5 V. The laser intensity can be modulated via PWM. If you want to use your own driver circuit instead, you can access the modulation signal through a dedicated connector. Additionally, the shield is ready to be connected with an optional thermoelectric cooling driver.
Stepper drivers: The shield supports up to three stepper motors, each driving an independent axis. If you only need two axes you can combine two drivers to support a double motor axis (as we do with Mr Beam Senior). The stepper driver circuit is pluggable and uses Stepstick / Pololu pinouts common to many open source 3D printers. Therefore a wide range of stepper drivers with different power characteristics are available. Of course the kit ships with stepper drivers fitting Mr Beam’s motors.
Power for everything: A power supply of the stepper motors, the laser and the Arduino is combined into one supply circuit on the shield. There is an additional 5V power outlet for the Raspberry Pi.
Switchable power outlets: For purposes like running cooling fans, lights or exhaust ventilation there are two switchable power outlets with a maximum current of 1A each.
Analog inputs: For temperature control, auto focus devices or other nifty things, the shield provides two connectors for sensing hardware.
Serial interface: For communication purposes we exposed the serial interface and added a logic level converter. This allows a direct connection with a Raspberry Pi without worrying about voltage levels.
Many little helpers: Everything connected has its own pinouts. You can easily plug in the operating buttons (Reset, Hold, Resume, Abort), motors and end stop switches.
Examples of other applications for the Mr Beam Shield:
- 3D scanner
- DIY projector
- Laser show equipment
- Laser sintering 3D printers
What do you get for your money?
We'll put together a kit for you, of course. We are aiming to reach our fundraising goal in June, and once improvements have been made, we will assemble the kits over the summer. Shipping is scheduled for September, so all going well you can expect to receive your kit in October!
What will we do with your money?
We've come far and have built working prototypes, but they’re still prototypes. We want to improve what we have made and make Mr Beam even better. So we will use your money to:
- refine and finalize the Mr Beam Shield and do a small batch production
- improve the product design in relation to ease of use and the amount and assembly of parts
- improve and extend the software stack to provide an easy and fun user experience
- write up proper instructions and documentation
$70 000 | Thank you, backers! This one is yours!
Mr Beam loves colors: Choose your favorite color and we will add some color highlights to the parts. Color options: red, white, blue. Does apply to Mr Beam Junior and above.
$90 000 | Awesome! You got this as well!
Quickstarter kit: Some materials to start immediately. Every Mr Beam kit comes with an assorted set of materials. You’ll get some colored paper, cardboard, foam rubber and more! Does apply to Mr Beam Junior and above.
$120 000 | Congrats! Mr Beam is wireless now!
Wifi dongle! Mr Beam goes wireless. All Mr Beam Junior & Senior rewards will be upgraded with a wifi dongle. The ethernet cable between your router and Mr Beam is not necessary anymore. The only wire you need to plug in is the power adapter. Does apply to Mr Beam Junior and above.
$150 000 | Done. You are marvellous!
Anti-reflection coated glass lens. Instead of an plastic lens, the laser is focused by an high quality anti reflection coated glass lens. In short: up to 10% more power without changing anything else. Applies to hacker's pledge and above.
Long time promised, now we have revised our shipping fees. While more details can be found in our update #8, here is a quick overview:
- US: $0 (free!)
- Germany: $20
- Rest of EU: $30
- Non-EU: $70
- Rest of the World: $70
Please add the appropriate amount to your pledge. See the Kickstarter Backers' FAQ how to adjust your pledge.
The laser cutting or engraving process is basically burning material. Every combustion process produces fumes. Depending on the material you are processing the fumes are potentially harmful and/or toxic. To use Mr Beam responsibly, take extra care of appropriate ventilation and wear a respiratory protection mask. Again, you should consider a housing which filters emerging fumes through an exhaust system. Put Mr Beam always on a flame resistant subsurface. Place a fire blanket or fire extinguisher within reach.
Be responsible regarding other people who do not have special knowledge about laser light. Always operate lasers with maximum attention and care.
Thank you for your support!
Risks and challenges
Supply chain & logistics
We have lined up the supply chain for all our components and derived a schedule with time to spare. However, due to the number of different suppliers there remains the risk of a schedule disruption if one of them fails to deliver in time.
Custom hardware is custom!
Especially regarding the Mr Beam Shield we are relying on 3rd-party suppliers. We already faced the discontinuation of a microchip we used. That forced us to do a redesign of the board including time consuming process of prototyping and testing our changes. Unforeseen challenges like that might cause delays.
It would not be a real Kickstarter project if time is not a risk. We built three functional prototypes already. The development of the Mr Beam hardware is very advanced. We are confident we have identified all the tripping points and possible issues, but we can’t be entirely sure.
- (32 days)