This guide was first published on Mar 26, 2013. It was last
updated on Mar 26, 2013.
This page (Overview) was last updated on Apr 24, 2019.
This tutorial focuses on case design. If you’re new to laser cutting/engraving, please see our All About Laser Cutters tutorial
Laser cutting is a fantastic method for prototyping and the type of small-run manufacturing favored by maker businesses. A powerful laser — usually a 30 Watt or larger CO2 tube laser — is aimed by a computer-controlled X/Y gantry to engrave a surface or cut clean through flat materials like acrylic or wood. It’s quick, precise and repeatable. Avoiding big startup costs such as mold tooling makes it a popular choice in the kit business.
No longer the exclusive domain of mass-produced plywood dinosaur models, these tools are now accessible to members of many community hackerspaces and makerspaces after just a little training. Even owning a personal laser cutter in your workshop or home is within reach of the determined hobbyist.
Unlike 3D printed or injection-molded parts, laser-cut enclosures are always built up from a series of planes. This tends to dictate a certain aesthetic to laser enclosures…it becomes a challenge not to make everything look like the same boring rectilinear box. This isn’t a concern for personal one-off quick projects that nobody will see, but for a finished kit it’s best selling something that looks like a polished product and not some prototype covered in wingnuts and cable ties.