Nortd Labs is in the Bay Area for the Maker Faire this weekend. They are the creators of the Lasersaur, which is an open source laser cutter. They've been working on this design for the last year and have kits out to their initial builders now. They'll be incorporating feedback as they publish all of their designs. They came by Ace Monster Toys to talk about the project last night.
One of the dirty secrets of the hackerspace/maker movement is our laser cutters. They are all pretty much from China because the nice, American made, laser cutters like Epilog's, all cost at least five times as much as the cheapest, so-so, Chinese cutters. Since most hackerspaces are pretty poor, everyone winds up buying the Chinese ones. The problem with these is that, well, they're pretty much crap. I mean, if you get really lucky, it will all be working with no boards hanging loose, wires dangling, etc. when you get it off of the container ship. Even then, people wind up using crap programs to control the laser cutter that require you to run under Windows with really cheesy software or drivers without a full range of control. Nice things cost money and this is what you get for cheap.
Enter the Lasersaur. It is built with an extruded aluminum t-slot frame, arduino based electronics, and the specs are completely open. You can see the current build of materials of what you'll need for it. Nortd is still working on a lot of the control software but people will be able to easily write customer software and add custom hardware to the design.
For hackerspaces that are happy to hack on things, this has a lot of potential. If the design had been further along, we would have probably gone this way at Ace Monster Toys. (As it is, our 80 watt 800 lb. Chinese laser cutter will be here in a week.)
I took video with a higher end webcam of the talk last night. It is an hour and eight minutes long and is a pretty casual conversation with a lot of off-camera questions from members of Ace Monster Toys. If you're interested in the Lasersaur, you may find it worth watching. I took it mainly so members of AMT that couldn't make it could see the presentation!