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Over half a year ago now, while trying to think up ideas for a project, I found a tutorial for a pen plotter that used the stepper motor mechanisms contained within DVD and or CD computer drives to create a CNC platform. These drives became a very common scrap part after disk drives went the way of the dinosaur in PCs, so I was sure I could find some to use for this project. Unfortunately for me, the instructions proved to be inadequate in many ways, with vital information missing, confusing grammar, and significant portions of the project being explained vaguely or not at all, simply appearing in the next step without reason. These issues frustrated me, and while I could have spent the time to fill in the blanks myself, I found that I could, and wanted to, make my own project.

Along the way, the pen plotter turned into a laser engraver and with that came many other alterations that I designed, prototyped, and implemented myself. It is because of this that I can call this project my own, and I hope that you will follow along as I show you how to build one for yourself.

Before beginning the list of supplies, there are a few prerequisites that one will need to meet in order to fully recreate my project. Firstly, a 3D printer and, ironically, a laser cutter will be needed in order to manufacture many of the required parts for this project. Secondly, and perhaps the most inconvenient, prerequisite is the software and expertise that one will need. Besides the laser cutting software used to run the finished machine, this second set of requirements is solely because of the stepper motor mechanisms themselves. As shown in the next step, these mechanisms come in many different shapes and sizes which causes many of the parts I designed for my project to become useless for any other. I will be able to guide the design process, but the actual designing will have to be done by the person completing this project. Now, with that out of the way we can get into the physical supplies.

DVD Drives: See notes section before purchase. Buy used if purchasing.

CNC Shield Expansion for Arduino Uno: This kit contains most of the electronics needed for this project. Assembly will be detailed in a later step.

20W Laser Module 5V PWM: This is the laser we will be using for the project.

12V 1A Power Adapter: This is my recommended power adapter.

2.1mm DC Power Female Jack: The exposed wires will be screwed into the CNC shield in order for the power adaptor to plug into the engraver.

Female to Female Jumper Wires: The wires will be used in groups of four in order to connect the stepper motors to the CNC shield. One end of the four wire bundle will be cut and stripped for soldering.

E6000 Craft Adhesive: This is the glue that was used in this project. It is optional if a different glue is preferred.

Sugru Moldable Glue: This is highly optional as any glue, tape, or other adhesive that can secure the jumper wires to the the frame will function fine. I recommend it because it was easy to use and worked well.

Fusion 360: This is the 3D modeling program I used for all the parts, made by me, in this project. All 3D files I link throughout this project will be in the form of an STL and a Fusion 360 Archive file for ease of use.

LightBurn Software: This is the software that will run the engraver.

GRBL: This is the software that will be loaded onto the Arduino Uno in a later step. It works with LightBurn to run the stepper motors and laser. The wiki contains a wealth of information that cannot fit in this guide.

M4 Brass Hex Pillar Spacers: These parts fit into the legs of the CNC platform and are the length the legs are designed for. Make sure to get matching screws to go into them.

Last Few Notes:

The DVD drives for this project can be bought on Amazon and other sites, but many of these drives are considered e-waste. Because of this, they can be bought for cheap in many places where e-waste can be found or sold. I say this because I recommend getting four or more of these drives to disassemble. The reason for this is explained in the next step.”

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