Instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars, a 16-year-old decided to build his own professional-looking machine.
If you don’t have a laser cutter, and would like one (after all, who wouldn’t?) you could buy one for thousands of dollars…. or build one yourself. 16-year-old “MichielD99” decided to do just that, and documented the entire process on Instructables.
Control is handled by an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) running the grbl CNC controller software. This, in turn, runs two stepper motors via driver boards, as well as a laser via its own separate driver. It’s noted that this configuration could even be used as a CNC router if a rotary tool and Z-axis was added.
What really sets this project apart is the beautifully-made physical structure. It’s constructed primarily from 18mm and 12mm sheets of MDF, which translates to roughly ¾” and ½” thick material. It’s been 3D-modeled, and the cutouts are available as PDF images and STL files. This means that if you want to replicate it, all you have to do is print the PDFs out, then use a bandsaw to cut out the appropriate pieces. STL makes it possible to replicate with a laser or CNC router. Some work with a Dremel tool will also be needed, though this could possibly be avoided if using a CNC router to make the cuts.
If you’re going to create one of these yourself, this engraver is a great place to start (right after you purchase a pair of safety goggles meant for your laser’s wavelength). For another take on this type of tool, check out this build using similar electronics with a frame made of aluminum extrusion.