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According to the grbl home page (Sept 2019), “Grbl is a no-compromise, high performance, low cost alternative to parallel-port-based motion control for CNC milling. This version of Grbl runs on an Arduino with a 328p processor (Uno, Duemilanove, Nano, Micro, etc). The controller is written in highly optimized C utilizing every clever feature of the AVR-chips to achieve precise timing and asynchronous operation. It is able to maintain up to 30kHz of stable, jitter free control pulses. It accepts standards-compliant g-code and has been tested with the output of several CAM tools with no problems. Arcs, circles and helical motion are fully supported, as well as, all other primary g-code commands.”

The grbl Wiki (Sept 2019) defines grbl in the following way: “Grbl is a free, open source, high performance software for controlling the motion of machines that move, that make things, or that make things move, and will run on a straight Arduino. If the maker movement was an industry, Grbl would be the industry standard. Most open source 3D printers have Grbl in their hearts. It has been adapted for use in hundreds of projects including laser cutters, automatic hand writers, hole drillers, graffiti painters and oddball drawing machines. Due to its performance, simplicity and frugal hardware requirements Grbl has grown into a little open source phenomenon.”

In other words, grbl allows controlling three axis machines that are driven by the Ariduno Uno micro-controller, e.g. CNC routers, laser cutters or 3D printers.

Supported G-codes

Version 1.1

   G0, G1: Linear Motions
   G2, G3: Arc and Helical Motions
   G4: Dwell
   G10 L2, G10 L20: Set Work Coordinate Offsets
   G17, G18, G19: Plane Selection
   G20, G21: Units
   G28, G30: Go to Pre-Defined Position
   G28.1, G30.1: Set Pre-Defined Position
   G38.2: Probing
   G38.3, G38.4, G38.5: Probing
   G40: Cutter Radius Compensation Modes OFF (Only)
   G43.1, G49: Dynamic Tool Length Offsets
   G53: Move in Absolute Coordinates
   G54, G55, G56, G57, G58, G59: Work Coordinate Systems
   G61: Path Control Modes
   G80: Motion Mode Cancel
   G90, G91: Distance Modes
   G91.1: Arc IJK Distance Modes
   G92: Coordinate Offset
   G92.1: Clear Coordinate System Offsets
   G93, G94: Feedrate Modes
   M0, M2, M30: Program Pause and End
   M3, M4, M5: Spindle Control
   M7* , M8, M9: Coolant Control
   M56* : Parking Motion Override Control

Grbl v1.1 Laser Mode

Laser Mode alters its running conditions, e.g. does not add stops that a milling machine would require to change spindles.


(none tested so far)

  • Lasergrbl is a GUI to manage grbl-enbaled laser machines. Quote “LaserGRBL is one of the best Windows GCode streamer for DIY Laser Engraver. LaserGRBL is able to load and stream GCode path to arduino, as well engrave images, pictures and logo with internal conversion tool. Unlike other GUI, LaserGRBL it is specifically developed for use with hobbist laser cutter and engraver. In order to use all the features your engraver must supports power modulation through S command.”
  • Inkscape Laser Tool Plug-in. See the Inkscape Laser Plug-In tutorial, will go over how to create drawings and text in inkscape and then create the G Code file needed to run on your 3D printer or CNC machine. Some extra add-ons may be required. This seems to be a popular extension, e.g. it is used by the little cubiio laser cutter.
  • Lightburn, commercial layout, editing, and control software for your laser cutter.

Grbl-compatible hardware

(there should be lots, in principle)

Laser cutters

This totally random list includes total DIY machines, weak DIY lasers that must be assembled, and finished machines. Weak lasers (500MW - 3W machines) can engrave and cut thin materials. We don't have any recommendations. See also laser cutter.

Be aware that lasers can destroy your eyes. Almost every cheap cutter requires wearing special eye protection glasses.

Do it yourself

Cheap and weak lasers

On sites like Aliexpress, weak and cheap lasers can be found from 80$. Search for "DIY CNC Laser". These lasers could be useful to cut fabrics, e.g. patches for embroidery. There exist many variantes in design. Power is usually from 500MW to 3 watt. 10W machines are not very expensive either e.g. around 250 Euros.

Weak lasers

  • Cubiio. The small portable $500 mini laser.

Add-on kits for CNC routers

CNC routers