Here’s an inexpensive way to transform any average 3D printer to a laser cutting device. All you need is – of course – an operational 3d printer, and a special low-cost diode-based attachment.
Endurance L-Cheapo is an attachment for a CNC device such as a 3D printer or CNC mill that simply and cheaply adds the ability to cut and engrave many materials. At its heart is a 2 watt blue laser diode that can run continuously without additional cooling, plenty of power to burn through acrylic, wood and leather. 445 nanometer diode laser can be easily mounted and does not interfere with normal use of your hardware.
Initial attachment and calibration of the L-Cheapo should not take more than a few hours, after which switching from printing to engraving/cutting is a tool-free two-minute task. There is no need for a separate power supply for the L-Cheapo either, the average 3D printer’s hot end uses significantly more power than this laser draws, so it can simply draw from the same supply.
To start the work, all you need is to mount the laser, create a special extrusion profile on your standard software and start engraving. You can readily switch from laser to print/mill mode, use your existing software (Slic3r, Skeinforge, etc), and with no tools the laser can be removed in about 2 minutes. No other special software or hardware is required.
As this tool can also engrave, it is equally useful for artists interested in adding to their capabilities, or even just adding your logo or a cute little touch to your next prototype or that laptop you love. It is capable of working with leather as well, which opens up the possibility for translating all those complex intricate designs you have in mind to physical reality. The laser can also be used to ablate material, creating arbitrary 3D relief, though it should be mentioned the high temperature will blacken most materials.
The L-Cheapo can cut up to 3/16″ (5mm) plywood or acrylic. This requires multiple passes. The effective “dot size” is about 10 mils (0.25mm) at 1/8″ depth, more at 3/16″.
The manufacturer says they hope this product will allow high school shop classes, small universities and local hackerspaces to be able to work with a wider variety of materials and techniques without breaking the bank. Laser cutting requires a significant initial investment, but opens up a lot of making possibilities — laser-cut parts are tougher than 3D printed parts, at least for now.