Would this printer ever be able to laser engrave?
Would it be possible that this or future versions of the printer may have the ability to perform laser engraving?
Is this a good question?
laser engraving isn't currently supported, I can't comment on the plans for the future.
I've seen some mod, but those are done by the community and might void the warranty.
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There are at least a couple of problems with this - but by far the worst is that to do a decent job, you need a sufficiently powerful UV laser that it would be extremely hazardous to your eyes...even the reflection of the light off of the surface being lased would damage your eyes.
At the lowest end, you can use a laser diode from a "blu-ray" video disk player - which produces mostly blue light - and not too much UV. But even that is pretty dangerous...and those things are really only powerful to scorch wood and cut paper. To cut (say) 3mm plywood or etch more deeply, you need at least a 30 watt UV laser - and to cut anything thicker than that - you'll probably want 100 watts. A 100 watt UV laser is about 5 feet long and 6" in diameter - and will cost you at least $800.
If you went the blu-ray laser diode way - you could probably just fix the laser next to the nozzle of your existing 3D printer and figure some way to turn it on and off again under Gcode control. Probably, you could wire it up in parallel with one of the fans or something - and use a physical switch to turn off the laser when doing regular 3D printing.
But even the smallest true laser tube (as opposed to laser diode) is far FAR too large and heavy to move around rapidly - so instead, real laser cutters/engravers keep the laser tube bolted to the frame and bounce the light off of mirrors attached to each axis of the machine...with a final focussing lens a couple of inches above the work surface. Keeping these mirrors free of vibration - and carefully aligned - is a pain...but it's absolutely necessary.
Also, laser etching of most materials produces a lot of smoke - and laser etching of many plastics produces gasses that are poisonous, dangerous to eyes and mucous membranes in nose and mouth - and should you inhale it...it will damage your lungs. Etching any polymer with chlorine in it will produce hot hydrochloric acid vapor that will also wreck the bearings and motors of your machine. Also, the smoke that's produced soon coats the inside of your machine, so within a few months, it'll look like the inside of a barbeque! This is not good for the delicate parts of a 3D printer mechanism!
Real 3D printer/etchers have enclosed housings with a UV-proof polycarbonate viewing window - and have strong venting fans to extract the smoke and gasses and either filter them or vent them outside the building.
Then there are issues of vibration and focus. The Prusa machines don't produce much vibration as 3D printers - but when there is a long optical path, bouncing off of multiple mirrors - that vibration multiplies up and becomes a major problem.
Honestly - just buy a laser cutter...it's better and easier than trying to make one machine do double-duty.
The three tools we all think about here (3D printer, Laser cutter and 3D milling machine) look like they could all be combined into one - and many companies have tried to do that and failed. It turns out that when you try to combine any two of those machines together, you end up with a crappy 3D printer, a terrible Laser cutter and/or a flimsy milling machine. Although they LOOK kinda similar - the devil is in the details - and each of them has their own subtle, but important, reasons for not being the same.
If you want a really good OpenSource/OpenHardware solution to laser cutting and etching that's robust and powerful - take a look at the Lasersaur project...but be warned: It's a $7,000 machine that you have to assemble yourself over a couple of weeks!
If you just want something cheap then go to eBay and buy a Chinese laser cutter for under $1,000. It'll be a piece of junk compared to a Lasersaur - but for simple lightweight use - it'll get the job done.
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