Dev#004 Choosing which linear rails to use.


choices choices choices

This is not the first time I designed and made a machine. In fact, the machine I’ll make in this project is just a little baby of a much bigger machine I already made 3+ years ago.

Yes, yours truly already developed a very big 80 Watt laser cutter in the past. The machine features 80Watt RECI laser tube, a 1210×610 mm effective cutting area and an automatic up/down-table. It was constructed out of 35x35mm + 45x45mm aluminum extrusions and high quality components. One of the most difficult to source were the linear guides.


I am a THK man. THK is a manufacturer of the (in my opinion) absolutely best linear slides in the world. They run smooth like butter , almost maintenance free and with very high precision.

If I take my THK rails and lift 1 side of a 400mm rail for 10mm, then the carriage already starts to move by itself because of gravity. This stuff is the best a man can get (Sorry Gilette).

But….. you don’t want to PAY these beauties. I had the luck that my sourced rails were found on Ebay. Still, for 2 700mm rails and 1 1300mm, I had to pay over $300 and that was a “used” price for surplus material.

The purpose of the LaserBeaver project is to create a small 40W cutter which can easily be made with readily available parts. I can’t expect you all to go find used rails on Ebay and bid on them. That is simply not an option. (Unless you want to buy them originally from THK in which case I think around $1500 will be ok for the needed 3 rails.)

hiwinAnother option is HIWIN. This is a very promising make of high quality rails. Maybe not a direct competitor for THK, but still a very good producer of linear rails. They are a lot more affordable than THK and for around $230 + some shipping, you might be able to buy these rails new from Ebay/Aliexpress. If you have room to spend the extra money, go for HIWIN.

China might not be better, but it certainly is cheaper

s-l1600The rails I will use in this project are actually made in China and they are de knock-offs of HIWIN rail. They have the same outside dimensions of the HIWIN MGN series, but at a reduced price. Of course that reduced price does not only mean it’s cheaper. It is not at the 100% same quality like the original HIWIN rail, but… it should be more than enough for our purposes.

The LaserBeaver project will need 2 MGN12 rails with 400mm length and a MGN12H carriage and 1 MGN12 rail

On Ebay/Aliexpress these rails can be found at quite low prices.

  • MGN12 400mm rail with MGN12H carriage $28.00 (Free shipping)
  • MGN12 700mm rail with MGN12H carriage $41 (Free shipping)

2 x 400mm rail and 1 x 700mm rail costs approximately $97 , which is an absolute bargain.

These are the linear guides we will work with. They are NOT the best and if you are willing to buy the more expensive HIWIN originals, be my guest, but… they are cheap, very easy to source/buy and should be of more than enough quality to make the laser cutter.

buy with care

If you want to buy these rails on Ebay or Aliexpress, then be aware that it is better NOT to buy all 3 rails together. Look at THIS article why.


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