LAYOUT GUIDE

Laser Cutting

Cutting methods

We offer three different modes: Cut, Scan and Dot.

  • Cut mode will follow the vector line of your drawing to cut all the way through the material. Cut can also be set to etch if you want to engrave a line rather than a full shape.
  • Scan mode etches complete areas by moving the laser side to side over the work.
  • Dot mode sets the laser to turn on and off in pulses. It will follow the vector line you have drawn resulting in a dotted line and can be used to make perforations.

There are a few basic principles to follow to ensure the parts you receive are as you’ve designed on your computer.

There are numerous CAD programs out there that all serve the same purpose but operate in different ways. The analogy can be like foreign languages and regional dialects. For humans we can politely smile and gesticulate, unfortunately computers can’t.

Incorrectly cut parts caused by these communication errors cost time and money. Thankfully many of these issues can be avoided by having a basic understanding and following some simple rules.

Drawing requirements.

For laser cutting / etching projects we require vector file(s).

The language of machining is vectors. Vector artwork is the most basic of computer drawing. The fundamentals are:

  • Lines: point A to point B.
  • Circles: a 360 degree line a set distance around a single point.

All vector drawings are made with variations and combinations of these two principles.

a to b
circle

Notes for Illustrator and Sketchup users. 

It is important to make the distinction between engineering software and graphics software. Engineering software creates accurate and defined measurements; graphics software creates approximate information for visual display.

For example, Sketchup will generalise a render to make it appear complete on the screen which can cause problems when you ask a machine to follow a vector.

Illustrator is guilty of generating multiple lines. When constructing a drawing, ensure your line thickness is set to hairline and is a single stroke. 

Tolerances / kerfing

As the laser cuts it vaporises a small amount of material. The laser cut line has a thickness of up to 0.3mm. This means that the piece cut out will be slightly smaller than it was originally drawn in the artwork – typically by around 0.15mm. It is minimal but can make a big difference to the wanted outcome.

When the laser hits the material it begins to cut at a slight angle. It can create a tapered edge of up to 4 degrees.

These factors should be considered when drawing your design.

Laser Cutting Layout Guide

Labelling

Please include the following text notes within the document:

  • Material – e.g. WBP, Birch Ply, ABS…….
  • Thickness – e.g. 9mm, 12mm, 18mm……..
  • Number of parts – e.g. x20

Colour coding

Please colour the lines of your drawing according to the type of cut you require:

  • Cut = Black
  • Etch = Red
  • Dot = Green

Scaling

The file you are creating should be scaled 1:1 and in millimetres. It is good practice to drop in a reference square of a labelled size to avoid those “Stonehenge” moments.

File type

We only accept .AI .DWG .DXF or .3DM (rhino). These are the .jpeg of the laser world, Rhino can read them fluently and most other software packages are able to export them.

Export

If you are cutting multiples of the same part, we only need one drawing to work from. Please don’t send a drawing with x500 of the same part – we will copy and arrange the parts on a sheet in the most suitable and efficient way for cutting.

Do not send the whole file, just the part you need cutting!

File size

Vector artwork should be small. Chances are if your 2D artwork is over 3MB there may be something wrong with the file. Go back and check that you are not also exporting any unnecessary parts or layers of your drawing.