With all the excitement over the potential for consumer-level, affordable 3D printers, everyone's clearly forgotten about lasers -- specifically laser-engraving. If you had the gear at home, you'd be burning things onto other things left, right and centre, but short of spending a few thousand dollars on a professional device, this isn't a realistic or practical endeavour. Enter Melbourne-based Darkly Labs and its "LazerBlade", a laser engraver kit current on Kickstarter that you can get for a little over $500.
The demand for such a piece of equipment is definitely there, with the project $3000 away from its $45,000 goal just a day after launching its crowd-funding attempt.
According to developer Darkly Labs, the LazerBlade aims to "fill the gap in today's world of affordable desktop rapid-prototyping machines". The machine itself comes in two sizes -- A4 and A3, and packs a 2W M140 laser (with granular power levels). The Kickstarter page states that the diode is good enough to etch most materials, with the exception of glass, aluminium and steel. Note that the stretch goals include upgrading the lens and upping the laser's output to 3W.
Software-wise, you'll need a vector art app such as Adobe Illustrator to create designs, which are then fed into a program called "Cut2D Laser" (though support is there for any tool that can create G-code). This generates the information required for the cutter to do its thing.
Unfortunately, all the early-bird offers have been snapped up, so you'll have to part with $595 at a minimum to get a unit. Darkly hopes to fulfil orders by the end of the year, starting from October.