I've been hoping to get a laser cutter for a while but the cost was prohibitive. I had always been considering building one myself; however, I didn't have the knowledge or confidence to start a build alone. After discovering buildlog.net, I decided to finally give it a go.
Planning was the first major step and took a few weeks. I read everything I could about the electronics and build. From there I cross referenced the bill of materials with the drawings and put together my own list. I printed out some of the more important drawings and made sure I understood every aspect of the machine. I live in Canada so messing up an order would cost time and money in shipping.
I ended up with a fairly precise list of stuff to buy (See an old version here: http://img209.imageshack.us/img209/584/partslist.png
). It is always a battle, but in the end I managed to fit some bells and whistles into 2600$ including shipping and a margin of safety (the first thing you learn about diy is it always costs more than you expect). I didn't expect to stick to the list 100% (and I didn't) but it is fairly close for the major components. If you are in the USA and have some self control you could fit this into 2000$.
I am doing the buildlog.net original open source laser but I will be making a few modifications which will be fairly obvious and are mostly cosmetic in nature.
I started by ordering only the mechanical parts, then the electrical (stepper drivers) parts and finally the laser. I didn't want to buy everything at once only to fail at the first step.
It was like christmas for a few days as everything arrived. By coincidence my buildlog.net, mcmaster and misumi orders all arrived on the same day in some 7 giant boxes. You can only imagine how happy I was for that perfect moment.
Anyways... Onto the build, I'm planning on doing a fairly comprehensive log so that it can also double as assembly instructions and hopefully encourage more people to attempt building a laser cutter.
The first order of business was cutting down on the parts scattered all over the floor. With thousands of screws, bearings, extrusions, acrylic pieces, etc laying around I really needed to start partitioning the parts off to keep things under control. The Z axis carriages seemed like a reasonable place to start since they could be set aside after assembly and are fairly simple.
Here is the Z-axis kit, plus my own allen keys. I was expecting to have to tap the pieces, but Bart had already done it
To get the bearings onto the screws I needed to apply some force. I slipped the rubber grips onto my vice and used a block of aluminium with hole drilled in it to force the bearings onto the screws.
Here is what the screws should look like, but check the drawings to be sure. It goes split-lock, washer, bearing, nut, washer, acrylic, washer, nut. You want 6 of these.
Three bearings a carriage, with a 4-40 screw in the side for adjustment. The hole has already been tapped so it just screws right in.
And done, nice and easy. Believe it or not almost the entire build is at this level of difficulty. Bart has already done all the hard parts by designing and cutting the parts for us!
Now I'm going to have to give up my secret. It pains me to give it up so soon but I really
want an up-to-date image on the main page. I actually started this build a while ago. Nothing irks me more than following a build log that takes months to complete so this way I can keep things going at a nice pace. The following picture is about a week old but it is quite pretty so I'll use it as the official image.
Just remember, I may be about to do some really stupid things and mangle my build on camera. No matter how badly you want to warn me the mistakes have already been made.