Laser cutting and engraving are great options if you want to produce something other than 3D printed parts or increase the range of materials you may work with. It doesn’t need much experience and permits dealing with materials other than plastic. The fact that this technology may be easily retrofitted from a 3D printer may be its best feature. Laser diode modules can be as compact as hot end assemblies, and the motion system of the 3D printer considerably exceeds the specifications for laser cutting. 3D printer and laser engraving turning are great options. This post will examine general laser technology before moving on to the critical stages for modifying your 3D printer.

By vaporizing the material, a laser beam can remove it selectively along a predetermined route, a technique known as laser cutting. The engraving process is essentially the same, except rather than removing material, it marks the surface, changing it through oxidation.

CO2 and diode laser are the two most common laser technologies utilized for desktop manufacture. CO2 lasers are widely employed in industrial applications because they have sufficient power to cut through most materials, including some metals.

CO2 laser devices, however, are large and require expensive, fragile hardware, such as CO2 tubes, mirrors, and lenses. On the other hand, Diode lasers are made up mainly of single tiny modules and are lightweight and inexpensive. Considering the tube widths and intricate mirror system, converting a 3D printer into a CO2 laser device can be challenging. We would do better to stick with diode lasers because of this. However, remember that these lasers can only cut a limited number of materials, such as paper, cardboard, plywood, and balsa that are 3 to 5 mm thick. The laser’s wavelength prevents it from engraving or cutting explicit materials like non-transparent acrylic.

How to do it.

Although there are variations, the steps involved in turning a 3D printer into a laser machine are usually the same.

First, we must select the laser module that best meets our needs (functionality and price, for example). The next step is to determine how to modify it for the physical interface and electronics of the printer. The laser module-Despite the relatively recent discovery of powerful solid-state lasers, the market quickly met the demand for diode laser modules.

The range of laser power is always between 1 and 10 W. While some white-label lasers you find online are advertised as having 30 or 40 watts of power, that is undoubtedly not their optical output power.

Which materials may be etched, and if it can cut things like wood, will it depend on the power (and how thick)? Make sure to verify the list of materials that can be engraved and cut with a laser provided by the manufacturer.

Since the 3D printer’s Z-axis can raise or lower the module to fit the fixed distance, an adjustable focal length which you may occasionally see advertised, is not necessary for this situation.

Most laser modules can be plugged directly into the control board of the 3D printer. A 3D printer’s part-cooling fan needs a variable-power output to manage its speed, and this connection can also power and regulate the laser.

Some lasers need a specific 12 V power source. Typically, this is accomplished via a separate driver board, powered either by the printer’s PSU or an external power source. A fan port connection to the printer is also necessary for this arrangement. For proper wiring requirements, please refer to the laser manufacturer’s documentation.

The only significant hardware modification during this conversion process is possibly mounting and installing the laser module. Even though specific lasers have unique brackets, an adaption will always be needed once you connect the laser module to your 3D printer! But you might want to think about getting some new firmware before you start etching or cutting.

The practicality of a 3D printer always comes down to whether or not it makes financial sense, as well as how much a 3D printer costs. You can browse online at Snapmaker to choose a high-quality printer at the lowest cost.