Adding a LASER to my CNC

This week I had someone ask me if I could put a picture on a piece of wood for them. I’ve been doing laser scribing with 1” wooden medallions for a while, but not on anything larger, so I took this as a challenge. My CNC machine came with a 2.5W laser sufficient to burn wood, but I’d not even taken it out of the box yet.

When I unboxed the laser, I noticed there really wasn’t any place to mount it on the machine. Too bad, since it wouldn’t have been that difficult for the manufacturer to do.

Spindle

The only real mounting option provided was to pull the spindle motor out and replace it with the laser whenever I wanted to make the switch, but that just didn’t sound right. Instead, I thought I’d ‘side mount’ the laser on the spindle. It wouldn’t be a problem for the software that drives the machine, since it is all relative movement from the starting point. The biggest concern would be collision between the moving parts, and anything being worked on.

After taking some precise measurements, I made a model of the spindle and its housing. It was then just a matter of subtracting that design from a laser mount design to come up with the following mount:

Side-mount design

This design snaps onto the spindle motor mount and should allow for enough support for the laser to do its thing, without too much vibration. Here is a picture of the whole assembly in place:

Finished initial design

Since I have the basic snap-on solution figured out, I’ll also try a front mount version to see if it is more usable. I’ll also try adding a bolt and wingnut clamping system, to make it more stable.

Next, I’ll tackle a vacuum system for the CNC machine, to help control the dust level. But first I need to figure out this whole lasing process, since focusing the laser is critical to the amount of detail I can burn.

Note: Lasers are dangerous and can easily cause eye damage, so be sure to use effective eye protection.

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