Dicecreator's Blog
Handmade dice, for the gamer and collector.

Ghetto Hi-Tech.

Well, In the end I got anxious, and decided to finish the  secret project with whatever I had at hand. That means 50% of this is cianoacrylate.

Before entering on the machine itself, I will say that I’m planning to decently build it over a span of two or three weeks, I’m just expecting for a kind soul from a computer repair shop, who will provide me with broken internal DVD* players when avaliable.

That said, I humbly present you the:

Nano Laser Engraver

As the tittle suggests, the build is very basic…in fact, the only way I can think to make it more basic, was to remove the control chips from the DVD player’s boards. But I wanted the machine to work properly, and to do that, I preferred to buy the control circuitry and take care of the other hardware and software, than to spend three weeks designing(copying)/making/testing/troubleshooting the boards.

Given that I want to make dice, and they rarely get bigger than 25mm (1 inch) I remembered that DVD players, use a stepper motor coupled to a worm screw in a stand alone package. If only I could get hold of two units!.

The two motors I used in here, came from my stock of pieces that I have gathered over the years. As a result, the motor I used for the Y axis (the one with the butterfly nut on top ), is damaged, and gets stuck from time to time. This, makes impossible to do correct images now, but it allows me to do some tests on cutting speed, laser focusing and such.

If you look closely at the image you will se the main parts:

  • Butterfly nut as “High Tech Heat sink”: This motor is damaged, and has some hard spots along the way. To slightly overcome that, I used twice the rated current on the motor, so it gets hot. It will survive until the new machine is built, tough.
  • Adhesive paper tape as “Master Height Gauge”: They say you always have to have a tape roll at hand ^^.
  • Scissors and Tweezers as “Precision Laser Focusing tools”: Using the springiness of the laser support, I adjusted the laser focus with variable weights. Believe me, the hot spot of this laser is TINY!
  • Laser: 250mW of laser power. Not much really, It can barely cut a black sheet of cardboard and can only engrave black dice, any other color just reflects enough light as to not work at all.
  • Stepper control boards: Only one seen, the other sits behind the laser support due to short cables coming from it’s motor.
  • Stepper motor and wormscrew.

Okay, so the machine stays in one piece, but, does it work?

Well, more or less, it does.

There you have a pair of tests. The vertical axis belongs to the damaged motor. The die with the shop’s symbol suffered from that, and I corrected by hand the laser position where I could. It all started on the line crossing the “U”, where the motor missed some steps, and all the following lines just where drawn lower than where they should. On the “named” die, I was doing a full 14mm circle, but the Y axis stopped at one thrid of the top.  I corrected that by hand (moving the laser to match the end of the etched circle) and left the machine to work on the text.

By then, I did not expect much from the machine, seeing what did with the other die. Surprisingly, the letters came almost right. Again, at the top, the Y motor got stuck, and the “LO” part just got drawn increasingly high.

Looking at the other letters, it’s amazing how readable they are, considering that the machine has not the smoothest guides on both axis. each lowercase letter is only 1,5mm in height!

Final thoughts:

Considering how fast I assembled the “thing”, I am very happy with it, including the defective motor (wich ruined the engravings). Thanks to the quick build, I got to learn how hard is to focus this laser. Since it’s only 1/4W, the sweet spot of focus can only vary about +/-0,1mm, so I do not have much room to play. Now that I know it (before building a good and durable machine) I will design things differently than what I had in mind

I will leave the machine prepared  for a 1W solid state laser, but that will have to wait, since it is 340$.

*Also, apart from old DVD players, I wonder if broken Bluray players do have better step motors in them, should someone have access to one, I’d like to know how many steps do they have.

Let me know what do you think! ^^


9 Responses to “Ghetto Hi-Tech.”

  1. TRIPLE WOW!!!!! Amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are my hero!!!! As techgguy and for dice creator!!!!! Amazing!!!!! Great dice carving!!! Thank you for engrave my name in a dice!!! It’s the next step in your shop!!!

  2. Hey There!

    I’m working on a *very* similar project, involving a fiber-coupled 1W IR laser diode($100 on Ebay!) driven by a custom board, going to be used as a stencil cutter.

    Right now, my materials are being fed through an old inkjet printer, replacing the ink cartridge with a laser. I’ll keep you posted with the build, if you’re interested, and would be glad to help you out with your project.

    I have quite a few DVD burner laser diodes(too weak for my purposes) laying around and more steppers(various sizes & shapes) than I know what to do with.

    Drop me a line via email, twitter, etc and let’s chat.


    Ian Daniher

  3. DAMN i am impressed. i honestly didnt think a dvd laser would be powerful enough to do anything like that. i’d love to see ian’s stencil cutter also.

    • I’m sorry to have confused you. The laser is a standalone 260mW unit, purchased separately. The only thing I used from the DVD’s are the stepper motors and the metal guides. Altough a DVD laser might do something similar, I think it would take at least double time to do it than this one. (The “named” face took an hour to make, and the shop’s symbol, almost 40 minutes).

  4. Only for curiosity… what kind of protection are you wearing when testing the laser?

    • An old model I had from my previous job as electronics technician. Altough they are a bit old and trashed (they already where when I asked to keep them on my job!) so I might end buying new ones, just in case I finally buy a 1W laser ^^

  5. […] some are specialists, and then there is Abraham Neddermann, owner and operator of Dicecreator. He makes dice, just dice, and only dice. But saying he makes dice doesn’t really do justice […]

  6. I’m in the process of building something similar now. The mechanicals will be two DVD burner rotated and on top of each other for the x y table and the diode from one of them. Not sure what driver board to use and i’ll probably use ECM2 for the software. I would love to know if your motors are bipolar or unipolar, where you got your card and what software you are using.

    • Hi ^^

      All DVD motors are bipolar, and altough I used this companies hardware: http://www.interinar.com/bsd-013g.html if you are a bit electronics skilled, I’d recommend you this, and build the parallel interface yourself:

      waaaaaaaaaay cheaper, smaller, and better capabilities. You don’t need microstepping and self functioning board. Also, altough You can use the parallel port directly, i recommend you to isolate it, if you go the second route.

      As for the CNC software, the translator software is Kcam4, from kellyware. It suits my needs perfectly.
      Design software, I’m using DoubleCAD XT, wich has a free version for students. Also, works like a charm. You need to save your files in DXF instead of it’s native format, as to allow Kcam4 to read the file, but that’s it.

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