CO2 Laser Cutter Project Intro

It’s been about a year since I first discovered this Instructable on one individual’s perspective on creating a CO2 laser cutter. I’ve been tinkering with the idea of creating my own, but never went much further than thought. I did create some models of the frame using Fusion 360 a while back, however.

In the past few weeks, I’ve reopened the designs and started to adapt things to my own ideas. I decided that one of the main driving factors behind sizing the machine was the ability to put large sheets in for cutting and engraving. A typical 4’x8’ sheet of MDF or other wood had to easily be inserted when cut into fourths. Essentially this criterion would be defined as a 2’x4’ working area.

Doing some research online, I found the aluminum honeycomb surfaces that I’ve often seen inside commercial CO2 lasers. There are several sizes, but I landed on one that measured 1280 x 900 mm. This is about 4’2” x 2’11”. It overshoots my initial concept in size, but I decided to go for it anyway.

The reason behind such a large machine is that the majority of the components remain the same regardless of the machine, and only the frame itself, and a few linear rails and other belts, would change in size. This would also allow for room to upgrade the machine in the future, as was the logic behind the original Instructable author’s design.

To start off the process I reviewed the BOM from the Instructable and quickly found it to be incomplete. I researched online the various subcomponents I would need and began to collect my own list of parts. I estimate about 40-50% of them match the original author’s list, however for various reasons I did alter the majority to fit my own needs.

My initial cost estimate for this project is around $1500. That will change as I go through and fine-tune the bill of materials along with associated sources and costs.

In terms of the design, up until this afternoon, I had only drafted the frame in CAD. Today I added the outline for the honeycomb platform, the three linear rails (two for the y-axis and one for the x-axis), and a supporting t-slot bridge that connects the x-axis rail to the top of the two y-axis rails.

I’ve ordered about a dozen or so of the components as of last week. These include, but are not limited to the following:

I didn’t particularly order those items first for any specific design reason, rather they weren’t overly expensive and would give me integration to do while waiting for additional parts.

I’ll be ordering some additional parts every week or so as time permits. The majority of work will be done with the CO2 laser mounts and stepper motors as I will need to design mounts to adapt those to the frame. While the original Instructable has .stl files to 3D print parts, I will be designing the majority of the parts from scratch that need to be printed. The biggest reason for this is that I enjoy that process. The second reason is that my intent is to avoid mirroring as much of the original post as I can. Throughout this process, I won’t be referring back to that article. The frame, and concept of system organization, is the primary takeaway from that design.

This evening I started cutting the proper lengths of the t-slot frame. I got through about half of the pieces and will be doing the rest over the next few days to a week.

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