Well, I know I am getting way ahead of myself, but still knowledge can't be harmful. I don't even own a mill!
What would it take to build a nice PC powered laser etcher/cutter? I think intergrating it into normal PC operation would be almost impossible for the average joe, so the next option would be building it on the CNC router platform.
Lasers could be one of these: http://www.co2laser.com/english/index.html
Problems I foresee:
- Accuracy and speed and the same time. This thing needs little torque but it does need to be very quick and quite accurate in order to do a half-decent job.
- Power to the laser and air too the laser. If the main unit(head) moves to quickly the laser and its air supply, which ought to be used to blow away particles in order to prevent burning, may cause some sort of restrictions on how fast it can move. Of course a large company that does this day to day has the whole idea thought out, but use DIYers may find a problem in trying to prevent the cables and hoses from impeding in speed an accuracy.
- Control. Doesn't a laser need a focuser? Is that self controlled or does software/drivers play a role in this? Also, what could be done to control the intensity of the laser so that it cust when needed and etches when its supposed to? Conventional CNC should work, but I assume some sort of driver would need to be plugged in in order to convert spindle speeds in laser intensity, but is it possible?
- 2,3, or 4-axis? Does the DIYer make a simple X and Y axi(sp?) machine? Or do they also add the Z and a C? My idea was have a X, a Y, and a C and a manually adjustable Z in order to adjust clearance for larger objects.
-Construction. Should it be aluminum extrusions, plasic, tubes and bearing, roller blade wheels and channel, or plywood and drawer hardware? Cable driven or ball screws? I would say plastic or plywood should suffice for this overhead gantry type machine. Since the structure need not be extremely stiff and lightness of the assembly could help in the movement. Also, this construction would save money since the laser and table and controls would probably cost a lot more. But, will it weat, be reliable, low maintenance, and hold a decent accuracy?
-Safety. How to prevent it from blowing up.... well, actually more likely to just burn a hole through everything. Would a nice thick steel plate serve as a resting point? Maybe a plate submerged in a water. But then again the water may boil. That wouldn't be bad since it would give a visual indication of a problem since CO2 lasers are NOT visible.
I leave this questions before you and hope to see a good idea brianstormed by the community.