Stefan Hechenberger edited this page Jun 3, 2016 · 7 revisions

How to get a Lasersaur

Home | Intro | Build Guide | Software

Welcome to the Lasersaur project!

If you want to build your own laser cutter, understand it from ground up, and want to maintain such a system yourself you have come to the right place. This project is about empowering you with knowledge, robotics, and things that make things. We think of it as both open source hardware and the infrastructure that enables more open source hardware. Most importantly it is also a place to exchange ideas about personal fabrication and promoting technology that is open and shared.

Please be aware that operating a self-built laser cutter can be dangerous and requires full awareness of the risks involved. NORTD Labs does not warrant for any contents of the manual and does not assume any risks whatsoever with regard to the contents of this manual or the machine assembled by you. NORTD Labs further does not warrant for and does not assume any risks whatsoever with regard to any parts of the machine contained in this manual which are provided by third parties. You need to have the necessary experience in handling high-voltage electrical devices and class 4 laser beams to build the machine described in this manual. Otherwise you should seek professional advice for building the machine.

Still excited? This is how you go after building your own Lasersaur:

  1. Understand the Prerequisites
  2. Understand the Risks
  3. Order Parts
  4. Assemble the System
  5. Run and Maintain

Understand Prerequisites

You need some simple tools and some basic understanding of mechanical and electrical systems as well as some understanding of basic software development. We tried our best not to require any advanced tools or advanced craftsmanship to complete the build. For the most part the system is assembled by mounting and connecting parts with socket cap screws and angle brackets. The control board requires some through-hole soldering and running wires to sensors, motors, and the laser.

Understand Risks

The primary risks come from operating a CO2 laser tube. Please operate your first system with a laser source within your level of expertise, even if this is a laser pointer. From there work yourself up until you can safely run a high-powered system.

CO2 lasers involve high-energy infrared beams that may be reflected or scattered and can cause fire on many materials. Most importantly lasers may cause permanent damage to the eye. The best way to manage these kinds of risk is wearing protection glasses certified for CO2 wavelength and having proper fire extinguishers available at all times (see Accessories).

The second danger is high-voltage power. Depending on the tube, the laser power supply delivers 25000-40000 volts. At 50mA this makes them potentially lethal. One might be able to survive such a shock but depending on physical condition, length of shock, and the fact the power supply may actually supply more amps temporarily makes this power source very dangerous. Also note electricity at these voltages jumps through the air for several inches and be aware that the power supplies stay charged after disconnecting them from the outlet for quite some time.

Most countries have specific regulation for laser radiation that is typically dependent on the class of laser. Any laser that is suitable for cutting is class 4. Only after proper encasement and applying specifically regulated safety measures will a laser cutter be class 1.

Ordering Parts

Sourcing all components is straight forward if you are located in North America or Europe. We provide specific lists with suggested suppliers for both areas. However, if you are looking to cut down on the cost rather then time, we suggest you use our list as a guide to source the materials cheaper locally or online. In other parts of the world we have less experience, and it might take some extra work to get all the parts. Builders in the community have sourced the BOM all over the world. Most suppliers ship worldwide and alternatives can be found quite easily in our experience.

The budget you need to allocate if using our suggested suppliers is around USD 7000 for the 100W system (same for EUR as sourcing in Europe is a bit more expensive). Please refer to the part lists for exact numbers. These lists are optimized for hassle-free ordering rather then cheapest option. There is plenty of opportunities to push the costs further down. For example, cutting the case panels yourself and sourcing the polycarbonate sheets locally would save you up to USD 800. Many standardized parts can also be sourced cheaper, like ball bearings, fasteners, and tubing.

Assemble the System

We have a comprehensive step-by-step build guide. It makes for a fun assembly process not unlike Lego on steroids. To back this guide up we also provide the complete CAD model. Along with the BOM it is the ultimate resource to answer any build questions that may arise.

Not everybody is fluent in navigating CAD models. For this case the mailing list represents a valuable resource to get build questions answered. Simple questions usually get answered within the day.

Assembly does not include any difficult steps, like drilling precision holes or cutting pieces to size. On average, it should take about a week to put a Lasersaur together and we have seen people do it in substantially less time (the best time is at 3 days).

Run and Maintain

Soon after assembly you will be cutting and engraving away. At this point you can easily service and maintain the system yourself. All the information is available to you in the Lasersaur manual and the mailing list. No need to call in support to fix failures and wait for service personnel to show up days and weeks later.

You can depend on the rich knowledge of the Lasersaur community and not have to worry too much about a service company trying to sell you expensive replacement parts and servicing contracts. Ask your peers to get honest answers.