Rustic Cyberpunk

Coffee & Cabins

DIY Laser Cutter

5 min read

For the past several months, I've slowly been collecting parts for a device that can handle CNC functions. This includes X, Y, Z axis movement, with an action head capable of handling X/Y and a platform to raise and lower the work material in the Z-axis. Aside from a few setbacks, it's coming along nicely.

I want to try manufacturing components and small parts that I'll need around my place and eventually during cabin life. And I would like to thoroughly document all of the steps and my mistakes so everything is repeatable for anyone who reads the directions.

It's unlikely that I'll be able to run to the shops to get a part to repair something in a rush when I'm far from convenient transportation and, more than likely, the part in question many not even exist to be sold. So home manufacturing becomes more than mere convenience. I've wanted to do something like this for some time, but the Timegods were not in my favor. Since cutting back on my workload for the most part, I've had more thought space to pursue this. I'm hopeful that I'll have something functioning very soon.

The overall cutting size will be roughly 950x150mm because of the need to fit the rail gantry components. I'm recycling an OpenBuilds frame for this purpose, and adding the extra rails and attachment components. I was unhappy with the acrylic components in the OpenBuilds kit and will be switching to all aluminum plates. This will significantly add to the weight and cost, but will ensure a more sturdy build.

The list of parts and exact layout has changed quite a bit in the last week alone. I assembled a rudimentary frame to visualize any potential issues with the way I'm envisioning the layout. It was a tedious, yet fruitful excercise that helped me narrow down the final arrangement. I'll have a detailed parts list at a future date, but this is what I have so far (all rails are v-slot metric):

  • 2x 2080 @ 1000mm
  • 2x 2020 @ 1000mm
  • 1x 2040 @ 1000mm
  • 2x 2040 @ 700mm
  • 2x 2040 @ 500mm
  • 4x 2020 @ 550mm
  • 4x 2020 @ 500mm
  • 4x 3-axis corner connectors
  • many 90-degree angle brackets
  • many M5 t-slot nuts
  • several M5 hex nuts
  • many M5 flat profile screws in both 8mm and 10mm lengths
  • 3x NEMA 17 stepper motors
  • 1x NEMA 23 stepper motor (pending)
  • 4x TB6505 stepper motor controllers
  • 1x Arduino Uno (for testing)
  • 2x DIN rails
  • 1x Mean Well 5V DIN rail power supply
  • 1x Mean Well 12V DIN rail power supply
  • Lots of DIN rail terminal blocks
  • Lots of wire
  • GT2 6mm timing belts
  • Some additional leftover hardware from the OpenBuilds kit

I'll be adding some other electronic components like a couple of breadboards, prototype boards, a few optocouplers (to ensure I don't burn out the Arudino on the first try). I'll also need some gantry plates, some motor mounting plates (to ensure I don't get in the way of the grantries) and some other hardware depending on the final arrangement.

All the rails are v-slot types because I wanted to double the functionality whenever possible. I can attach any additional componets, wiring, brackets or anything else needed down the line without worrying too much about placement.

Rails laid out
The rails laid out in roughly the orientation they'll be used
90 degree angle brackets
These 90-degree corner angle brackets will be doing most of the hard work of keeping the frame square
3-axis brackets
These 3-axis brackets will help hold the corerners square. They also cap off the tops of the rails, which will double as the gantry stops.
Overall frame
Overall frame now standing thanks to the corner connectors and angle brackets. That 2080 rail laying across will be the second y-axis rail eventually. It will be located somewhere in the middle of the frame so the rest of the space will go toward the electronics and other components.
TB6505 stepper motor controller
A generic TB6505 stepper motor controller
Mean Well power supply
This is a 12V power supply which I may need to upgrade in the future or connect another one in series to get up to 24V. But it's all I could manage on short notice

I want to make all of the components and build steps easily downloadable so anyone with the resources can build their own. So this assembly is a dry run that I'm sure I'll need to disassemble and assemble again several times to get the kinks out.

The entire frame will end up being 1000x700mm, which would make it no longer fit through my bedroom door (my lab area). However, since the frame is easily disassembled, I'm not too worried about that. The critical components are the two y-axis rails at 2080. I selected the larger size width deliberately because I intend to move it a bit. I don't think I'll be fitting it through many door frames, but I needs to fit into the back of a typical 4-door family car or a small SUV.

I initially planned on getting a replacement CO2 laser tube since my last 60W burned out. But I may be starting with a diode laser first. That will significantly limit the types of materials I can cut, but I want to ensure the process is well honed before moving on to more expensive purchases.

There's a lot more to do here with regard to planning. Naturally, I'll be making quite a lot of mistakes so I wouldn't be surprised if I'll need to replace many of these components in the near future.

Overall, I'd like to start experimenting with what's possible with the fewest number of easily replacable components. In keeping with my frugal philosophy, I tried to scavange components whenever possible instead of buying new. Sometimes, that wasn't possible, but I'm hoping my Patreon can help with the heavy lifting. I don't want to rely on Patreon too much so I'll still be dipping into my savings at times.

All in all, this has been a very educational process for me.