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Belated Father’s Day Gift: Desktop LazerBlade

Mon, 06/16/2014 - 1:36pm
Melissa Fassbender, Associate Editor, @melfass

With backgrounds in engineering, electronics, and design, the team at Darkly Labs has a passion for building things, but they have often found themselves at a loss when it comes to the right tools.

“Laser cutting and engraving was one of those needs that often came up in many of our projects, but had always been out of reach,” explains Domenic Di Giorgio, LazerBlade designer at Darkly Labs. “Working primarily on hobby projects made it difficult to justify the cost of a CO² laser setup.”

The team decided to develop their own system, and nearly a year later, the LazerBlade, a laser cutter/engraver, is seeking funding on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter.com.

The LazerBlade kits feature:

  • A 2 W laser diode.
  • Step-by-step illustrated assembly instructions.
  • A special anodized aluminum focus tool.
  • One pair of safety goggles.
  • 110 to 240 VAC mains / 12 V, 2 ADC power adaptor.
  • A USB cable.
  • A software bundle (Cut2D-Laser and PicLaser-Lite).

“Kickstarter was the logical platform for us to have the project crowd funded. They have a great community willing to embrace new technologies and products,” says Di Giorgio. “We had taken the LazerBlade as far as we could without further funding. Prototypes were working well and the more people we showed the machine to, the more interest we received. It indicated we were on the right track.”

While on the right track, the project’s biggest engineering challenge was keeping costs down while meeting high levels of performance. “We wanted to make the LazerBlade as versatile as possible,” explains Di Giorgio. “We needed to keep the machine’s resolution high enough for most hobbyist, and the laser powerful enough to do its job without taking an unacceptable amount of time.”

The LazerBlade was designed in SolidWorks, and has undergone many revisions, combining off-the-shelf components with a custom designed main board and laser driver.

“We try to follow the same prototyping process at every level: discuss, design, test, and improve,” says Di Giorgio. “We try to simplify the design as much as possible and reduce the overall number of parts to simplify construction and reliability.”

Many of LazerBlade’s components are 3D-printed. “A lot of development went into how these parts are fabricated to maximize strength and accuracy with the 3Dd printing process,” adds Di Giorgio.

The team is especially proud of the laser unit that houses the laser diode and cooling components. The guard is simple, but it solves three important issues: It assists in directing airflow for cooling; protects the user’s eyes from the laser; and helps disperse fumes away from the laser lens.

The LazerBlade is controlled by an Arduino running a G-Code interpreter called GRBL, which the team has modified for the product’s specific requirements. After plugging into a USB port on the user’s computer, the cutting files, which can be created in various open-source programs or with the software bundle, are streamed to the device for engraving.

The company believes that the biggest impact will come from expanding the average hobbyist’s toolset, allowing them to work on projects that may have previously been out of reach. “They will be able to create cuts and engravings with an accuracy and repeatability previously only achievable with higher cost CNC laser machines,” adds Di Giorgio.

“I’m excited to see the next level of 3D printing technology start to enter the maker-sphere, especially with respect to printing in metals,” he says. “I think this will lead to a whole new world of design possibilities not available with traditional manufacturing technologies.”

The team hopes to finalize the design and to enter production as soon as possible. A number of safety features will be implemented to further advance the design, making it as safe as possible for its users.

Once in production and after fulfilling the Kickstarter pledges, the company plans to market the LazerBlade to the general public and possibly review where it is manufactured to assist in supply.

To support the LazerBlade, visit www.kickstarter.com.

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