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Ender 3 Laser Engraver Upgrade – All You Need to Know

Picture of Caleb Swabel
by Caleb Swabel
Jul 28, 2019
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Want to get more out of your Ender 3? Learn the basics of laser modules and how to produce your very own Ender 3 laser engraver.

Ender 3 Laser Engraver Nozzles to Lasers

A 10-W laser module.
A 10-W laser module. Source: endurancelasers.com

Creality’s Ender 3 is a major player in the desktop 3D printing community. One of the major reasons it became popular was due to all the modifications that can be done to it. 

One popular upgrade for the Ender 3 is a laser module. It enables the user to engrave metal, wood, acrylic, and many more substances. It can also cut wood and acrylic, depending on the wattage.

An advantage of laser modules is that no firmware upgrade is necessary to run most of them. Typically, they can just clip magnetically to the toolhead. They run from the fan port on the machine and are usually quick to assemble.

After a quick message on safety, we’ll take a look at two popular laser modules for the Ender 3 as well as how to install and use them.

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Ender 3 Laser Engraver Safety First

Always take the proper precautions when dealing with lasers.
Always take the proper precautions when dealing with lasers. Source: Wikipedia

Lasers are rated in Watts (W), a unit of power. For desktop machines, laser modules go from 500 mW to 20 W. As a rule of thumb, the higher the wattage, the more powerful the laser.

On the subject of laser safety, Wicked Lasers has this to say:

“With output power far greater than any other visible handheld laser, custom lasers equipped with the 445-nm direct blue laser diode, if mishandled, can lead to serious injuries and quite possibly permanent vision impairment. Prolonged exposure to blue laser light can alter and have a diminishing effect on a person’s perception of the color green.”

Therefore, all lasers must be treated with respect and care must be taken to wear proper eye protection.

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Ender 3 Laser Engraver Laser Module #1: Creality's High Power Laser Engraver Kit

Best value for money.
Best value for money. Source: Creality

Creality’s laser kit is only for engraving due to its 500-mW laser. While it is sold by Creality as a CR-8 addon, it also works with the Ender 3 if a buck converter is used.

In a YouTube video, Teaching Tech shows how to wire up the buck converter, which is needed to step down the voltage from 24 to 12 V.

This module represents a low-cost option, but if you want a cheap engraver for your Ender 3, this is your best bet.

  • Cost: $50
  • Wavelength: 405 nm (blue)
  • Power: 500 mW
  • Voltage: 12 V (DC)
  • Working current: 2,100 mA

Creality CR-8 Laser Engraving Attachment

Product image of Creality CR-8 Laser Engraving Attachment
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Ender 3 Laser Engraver Laser Module #2: Endurance 10-W Laser

The laser right out of the box.
The laser right out of the box. Source: endurancelasers.com

This 10-W laser from Endurance is a pricey but perfect match for the Ender 3. First of all, it’s rated at 9–24 V, which means it can plug straight into the 3D printer mainboard (v1.1.3, v1.1.4, or v1.1.5)

The module not only engraves but also cuts wood up to 10 mm thick with multiple passes. It can even engrave metal!

One drawback is that it requires an extra plug socket for the control box. But if you want a no-holds-barred multifunction laser cutter and engraver, this is the device for you.

  • Cost: Between $500 and $800 (depending on promotions)
  • Wavelength: 445 nm (blue)
  • Power: 10 W
  • Voltage: 9–24 V (DC)
  • Working current: 5–8 A
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Ender 3 Laser Engraver How to Upgrade

Wiring for the Creality laser module.
Wiring for the Creality laser module. Source: Teaching Tech / YouTube

Creality Laser Engraver Kit

  1. Open the control box for the Ender 3 mainboard.
  2. Unplug the part-cooling fan cable, which is the yellow and blue one.
  3. As the laser was designed for a 12-V board, you’re going to have to fit a buck converter.
  4. Wire the converter as in the above image. Don’t be alarmed if your converter differs slightly from the one shown.
  5. Attach the input of the converter to the power supply, a red wire from the V+ side and a black wire from the V- side.
  6. The blue wire from the board is the negative, so attach it to the black one on the laser.
  7. Then, from the positive output terminal of the buck converter, connect the red wire to the laser input.
  8. The plugs don’t matter. Feel free to solder or connect the cables in any other way.

Endurance 10-W Laser

  1. Open the control box for the Ender 3 mainboard.
  2. Unplug the part-cooling fan cable, which is the yellow and blue one.
  3. Plug the 2-pin plug into the mainboard and connect the laser module to the external control box and that into the wall.
  4. When you turn on the laser, to focus it, twist the dial on the laser until the laser dot is as small as possible.
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Ender 3 Laser Engraver Tips and Tricks

The buck converter recommended by Teaching Tech (YouTube).
The buck converter recommended by Teaching Tech (YouTube). Source: Banggood

Here are a few things to keep in mind to make your laser experience a little smoother:

  • To connect the laser module to the printer, many people use magnets screwed in or glued to the  module, allowing it to be magnetically attached to the hot end shroud, which is typically made of steel.
  • The wiring for a buck converter might seem obscure, but this is because the laser works with pulse width modulation, where the power is on half a set amount of time and off the other half, which corresponds to a 50% duty cycle. If 24 V goes in, the device acts as though it were operating at 12 V, with two capacitors acting as smoothers. To accommodate this, we take the ground directly from the board while the voltage is still modulated by the buck converter.
  • Remember that the image to be lasered will be inverted, so upload an inverted version to engrave or cut. Also, always perform a small test before engraving something expensive.
  • To turn on and control the laser, the G-code command “m106s…” is used.
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Ender 3 Laser Engraver G-Code Creators

Preparing a design in Inkscape.
Preparing a design in Inkscape. Source: wikidata.org

If you’ve used laser engravers before, you’ll  know that Inkscape is the software of choice for creating images to cut or engrave. J Tech Photonics provides a plug-in that’ll allow you to produce G-code for your laser.

Another option is to use the online platform img2gco, which prepares G-code for a laser from an image vectorized in Inkscape.

Finally, T2Laser is a downloadable software tool with a low learning curve and a fantastic user manual.

Happy burning!

Feature image source: Garage Makezone / YouTube

License: The text of "Ender 3 Laser Engraver Upgrade – All You Need to Know" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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