Laser cutters and/or engravers — just those words perk up interest in any self-respecting Maker or hardware hacker. In theory, you design your part, place whatever you’d like to be cut into your unit, and voilà, you have your new item. Sadly, many of these lasers cost a large amount of money, so you may have turned to the cheap-ish Chinese-made K40 engraver.
These units nominally do what they are designed for, but unfortunately come with a propriety dongle and software that makes it difficult to use. Unlike most users, who accept this as par for the course when dealing with rather cheap machinery, Paul de Groot decided to do something about it. He replaced the proprietary software/dongle on his with the open source Arduino-based grbl machine control package.
The result of his tinkering — which is now available via Kickstarter — is a hardware package that makes the unit more user-friendly, and produces wan improved output quality. Importantly, with this upgrade, any G-code generation software can be used to generate instructions for the enhanced device.
If you prefer to use — free vector graphics program — Inkscape, de Groot has rewritten a raster plugin that can output G-code appropriate for the system. Though it’s optimized for easy installation and cutting, the system’s open nature means that it can be modified and enhanced to meet your particular needs.