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6 Cool Laser Cutter Projects That Are Actually Useful

Picture of Mika Yeap
by Mika Yeap
Jul 12, 2018

Laser cutting is a common industrial process that has found its way into the hands of consumers. But most cutters only operate in two dimensions, which can be a bit boring unless you consider these unique functional designs.

Laser Cutting 101

A laser-cut robot at a Maker Faire
A laser-cut robot at a Maker Faire Source: Pinterest

Lasers have been a common tool in industrial manufacturing for a while. A laser works by amplifying light — emitted by a substance through stimulation — to such a degree that the resulting beam is powerful enough to cut very hard materials accurately and consistently.

Laser cutting is capable of producing some pretty useful things, some of which would be difficult to produce through other processes. Good thing we’ve created this list of nifty laser cutter projects for you to cut with your all-powerful robotic lightsaber. Note that, since laser cutting files are less common than 3D printing designs, as the machines themselves are, this list is slightly less lengthy than some of our previous ones.

Read more about the workings of a laser here.

1. A Full-Sized Desk

An assembled laser-cut desk
An assembled laser-cut desk Source: Brubacker / Thingiverse

Let’s start with the basics: Everyone needs a work bench, and it’s not exactly easy to solder and assemble things on the floor next to the wall socket. If you find yourself in need of a solid desk to work on, you just might be able to get one made using your home laser cutter and some boards. Just download the files from Thingiverse to get started.

The final laser cutter project has overhead lighting (with LED strips installed) and even a shelf. The best part? It’s a flat-pack design that requires only a hammer and a file to assemble. You don’t need any screws or glue. Even if you don’t actually need a desk, it would be interesting to make this simply to explore its ease of assembly.

2. TJBot: A Robot that Thinks

A live and healthy TJBot
A live and healthy TJBot Source: Adafruit

The folks at IBM are working on a bunch of things that are a tad more advanced than laser cutting. One of those things is a machine-learning toolkit for anyone to use: Watson Services. To help users get started with the platform, Maryam Ashoori at IBM Research designed TJBot.

The laser-cut version looks neat, and it’s a perfect all-rounder project for an empty weekend. A true maker can’t complain, either, because you’ll also get to tinker with some elctronics.

As you can imagine, laser cutting is just the beginning of the magic. The boxy wooden features of this robot house a Raspberry Pi directly connected to Watson Services. IBM offers pre-mixed, working chunks of code they call “recipes” for you to install onto your TJBot, which use their mainstream machine-learning services, such as sentiment analysis and natural language processing.

Out of all the laser cutter projects on this list, this one probably has the most potential for customization and expandability. Even if you’re not interested in laser cutting, you should give this a second look.

3. Wine Butler

A wine butler at work
A wine butler at work Source: Cartonus

Finally, a simple 2D design that doesn’t need much explaining: This thing helps you carry wine glasses.

Its creator calls it a wine butler, and you can download the files on Cartonus. Just cut a configuration based on the number of glasses you need, slip it onto the neck of a bottle, and serve that Chardonnay, maker-style.

4. FlexPi: Raspberry Pi Case

Cut and folded FlexPi
Cut and folded FlexPi Source: EngrainedProducts

If you’re sick and tired of flimsy 3D printed sleeves for your Pi, we’ve got just the thing: a wooden, laser-cut case. Available on Thingiverse, it’s an interesting piece of engineering, too. Instead of folding at the edges, this case has a living hinge that enables the solid wood to flex around the Raspberry Pi to enclose it.

There’s something to be said about the burnt wood and grained exterior, as well. If you dress your board in this laser cutter project, it’ll likely draw a few extra glances at your next hackathon.

5. Parts Box

An assembled parts box in all its glory
An assembled parts box in all its glory Source: Mutsuki / Thingiverse

Who wants a conspicuous mass of ugly plastic against the wall? Even if it keeps your screws organized and accessible, an eyesore isn’t worth it. That’s why you should try this classy laser-cut organizer, designed by Mutsuki and made available on Thingiverse. With its warm brown tones, crisp edges, and cute rounded handles, this tool box will add some gentle style to any workshop.

If you can’t find the material in the exact dimensions used by the designer, you’ve got an easy solution this time. The design is flexible enough that you can use material of slightly different dimensions by tweaking and rearranging the cuts. Structurally, this laser cutter project remains sound even after adjusting it in this way.

6. Weighing Scale

A Roberval balance
A Roberval balance Source: AbocAbac / Thingiverse

Maybe you’re someone who likes doing things the old fashioned way. Maybe you want to pay tribute to you ancestors every time you do some baking. Either way, this laser cutter project will excite you: a humble Roberval balance. Essentially, you can put an object of unknown weight on one plate and another object of known weight on the opposite plate. If the beam is horizontal or close to it, you’ll be able to estimate the weight of the unknown object. 

For some simple weighing action, download the files on Thingiverse and use this in the kitchen. True, you’ll need a dab of glue here and there to put it together, but once that’s done you’ll be making cornbread the good old fashioned way in no time.

License: The text of "6 Cool Laser Cutter Projects That Are Actually Useful" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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