Despite the fact that the first laser cutter predates the first 3D printer by about 20 years, their popularity has lagged behind in hobbyist circles. That’s probably because they only work in two dimensions, but they’re still very useful. Unfortunately, most laser cutters are expensive. An exception is the cheap Chinese K40 it’s knock-offs, which can be purchased for under $400 if you shop around.
However, like most automated Chinese tools, the software included with almost all K40 laser cutters is woefully inadequate. Luckily, there is a great open source alternative called K40 Whisperer. This is free software what works with most K40-style laser cutters, and Alex at Raspi.tv has a tutorial that will help you get it running on a Raspberry Pi.
Alex started with a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B installed with the Raspbian Stretch, but he says this should work on a Raspberry Pi Zero W as well if you’re patient. From there, it’s just a simple process of installing some software (Inkscape, Python, K40 Whisperer, and a couple of utilities), changing a few permissions, and configuring it all. Some of you may be daunted by performing those last two steps in Linux, but it’s really quite simple.
Once that’s all done, the Raspberry Pi is simply connected to the laser cutter via USB. Files can be sent to the Pi through SFTP, and then they’re processed and sent to the laser cutter itself. Alex says this has dramatically improved his workflow over the standard software, and it’s definitely worth trying if you’ve got a K40.