Aug 13, 2015 | By Simon
Although it’s not necessarily the worst decision to be faced with, the decision to purchase a laser cutter or a 3D printer is becoming increasingly common now that there are more models than ever for a wide variety of designers, engineers, makers and artists. Even if a user is theoretically able to purchase both a laser cutter and a 3D printer, there isn’t always space to keep both machines.
But what if you could convert your 3D printer into a laser cutter when you needed to cut or engrave something?
This is the question that Russian entrepreneur George Fomitchev and electrical engineer Matteo Borri of Endurance asked themselves and have since developed a solution in the form of the L-CHEAPO 445-nanometer blue diode laser that can be mounted onto existing 3D printers or CNC mills.
“Laser cutting requires a significant initial investment, but opens up a lot of making possibilities — laser-cut parts are tougher than 3D printer parts,” explains the team. “With Endurance L-CHEAPO, the initial dollar investment goes from thousands to hundreds, and the module requires very little space.”
With nothing extra needed to operate the open source module - including both software and a power supply - the L-CHEAPO is an interesting accessory for anybody who is looking to expand the capabilities of their 3D printer.
When in use, the module is able to easily switch from laser to print/mill mode and relies on existing 3D printing or CNC software (such as Slic3r) to produce paths for cutting and engraving. During their testing period, the Endurance team was able to cut paper and wood up to 3/16ths of an inch, and can engrave most non-metallic materials. When not in use, the module can be removed in less than two minutes. According to Fomitchev and Borri, the company has already sold 1,000 of the $195 units since they founded the company in January of 2015.
“We 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,” said the partners in an email to 3Ders.
“All you need is to mount the laser, create a special extrusion profile on your standard software and get to work.”
While the module is no doubt an interesting accessory for expanding the capabilities of a 3D printer, it does bring up some interesting questions about laser safety. In any case, eye protection should always be used when working with lasers - so remember those safety glasses!
Find out more about ordering an L-Cheapo by heading over to Endurance.
Posted in 3D Printer Accessories
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Bill G. wrote at 5/20/2016 2:44:36 AM:
I have owned two laser engravers, both CO2. Just got a Blue light laser with a 6 watt module. I read up on the safety procedures, yes I have laser rated safety glasses. I would not let my 6 year old grandson, nor anyone use without proper training. With proper training they are as safe as a table saw.
Marc Frew. wrote at 9/26/2015 10:02:55 PM:
I love how the safety police immediately jump in and try and shit on what's an extremely interesting application of existing technologies. If you're too stupid to wear protective gear around power tools and manufacturing equipment you probably don't deserve retinas anyway. Wanna ban table saws cause they can cut fingers off too? Great concept. Might need some refinements, but the same can be said about any new tech.
JD wrote at 8/19/2015 3:47:32 PM:
Even if laser pointers of this power are available, that does not mean it is legal or wise. It takes a certain amount of technical knowledge to understand the safety issues with lasers, and many 3D printer people are not at that level. The extra hoops you need to do for the licensing serve an an extra barrier to the casual user, and also serve to emphasize how dangerous these lasers can be. Laser eye damage is deceptive. Personally I have had medical laser treatment to my retina because of diabetic retinopathy. I cannot detect any damage, unless I am viewing a small font. Then, the - in the middle of an 8 can disappear, turning it into a 0. Or the decimal place can disappear. This is normaly not detectable, because the mind knows how to fill in the missing areas, so you don't detect the missing pixels. Someone less knowledgeable is going to think, "I got zapped in the eye, and it didn't hurt me at all", and continue to do damage to themselves and others.
Tyr wrote at 8/18/2015 10:41:00 PM:
I'm not really sure what anyone here is talking about. The highest class of laser is class 4. And they are readily available to the public. Here is one http://www.biglasers.com/bx-1000mw-blue-laser-pointer Is there danger? Sure, but not "duct-taping a chainsaw to a broom handle" dangerous. People need to chill out.
Chris wrote at 8/15/2015 12:47:48 AM:
I agree with Ryan, this is a very dangerous device for unskilled persons to operate. To further complicate matters most of the cheap laser safety glasses sold on sites like ebay appear to be fake, many are just colored plastic and would do nothing to block the high power laser scatter from this device. You should pull this review down immediately!
Ryan Carlyle wrote at 8/13/2015 5:21:00 PM:
This is far more dangerous than just "wear safety glasses." It's a class VI laser, which is illegal to sell in the US and EU without proper licensing/paperwork. Standard safety glasses do absolutely nothing -- only wavelength-specific laser safety glasses with proper absorption rating are adequate for this type of laser. Even brief reflected/scattered light from this type of laser can cause skin melanomas and incredibly rapid eye damage. The demo videos show completely unacceptable amounts of laser light scatter -- which is proof the people selling it are not adequately informed/competent/responsible to sell such a product. It is absolutely absurd to strap this kind of laser to an unenclosed 3d printer built with flammable plastic parts. I'd compare it to duct-taping a chainsaw to a broom handle. Furthermore, giving the seller free press with articles like this is deeply irresponsible. This product should not be mentioned in public at all without a scathing report on the inadequate safety precautions shown. People are seriously going to get hurt.
George Fomitchev wrote at 8/13/2015 2:35:59 PM:
Would be happy to answer any questions!)