Laser Cutter

Laser cutters use a high-powered laser to cut and engrave wood, acrylic, metal, paper, fabric, and other materials with extreme precision.

Laser Cutter: What you need to know

  • Only Volunteers and Staff who have completed the two part Laser Safety Training are allowed to operate the laser cutter.
  • The laser cutter must be monitored across the entire duration of the job. This means that if your cut is going to take an hour, you are required to sit next to the laser cutter for an hour. Make sure to use the restroom before you start!!

Reservations

Priority will be given to visitors who have made a reservation using the Laser Cutter Reservation Calendar. Reservations are available in 30-minute slots during the Maker Hub's open hours. Each visitor is limited to a two 30-minute reservations per day.

If no reservation has been made, or a visitor is more than 10 minutes late for his/her reservation, the laser cutter will operate on a first-come first-serve basis.

Approved Materials

Only approved materials are allowed to be used with the laser cutter. Approved materials include:

  • Wood, plywood, medium density fiberboard
  • Acrylic
  • Leather, cloth, paper
  • Engraving only: aluminum, glass

Forbidden Materials

Some materials produce harmful or even toxic fumes when cut by the laser. These materials are never to be used in the laser cutter:

  • Fiberglass
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Rubber
  • Polyvinylchloride (PVC)
  • flammable materials
  • pressurized gasses

Designing for the Laser Cutter

To create designs for our VLS 4.60 laser cutter, you will need a vector-based software such as:

    • Adobe Illustrator (available in the Maker Hub and in the Gelardin Center)
    • Inkscape (a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator). If designing in Inkscape, make sure to save your file as an SVG when you bring it to the Maker Hub

There are three different styles of cuts that the laser cutter can perform. These are:

  1. Vector cut - the laser will follow a path and cut all the way through your material
  2. Vector engrave - the laser will follow a path and cut partially through your material
  3. Raster engrave - the laser will create your image by engraving "pixels", and cut partially through your material

Knowing that there are only three different styles of cuts, let's learn how to set up our file so that the laser cutter will recognize them!

  1. The first step is to set the document's size to 24 x 18 inches (this is the capacity of the laser cutter) and the color mode to "RGB" (as opposed to "CMYK").
  2. Next, draw your design! Things to keep in mind at this point:
    • Lines can be a vector cut or vector engrave
    • Shapes will be raster engraved
  3. Now it's time to set which style of cut you want:
    • To create a vector cut, the line must be "pure red". In "RGB" language this means R=255, G=0, B=0. The other parameter to change is the line "stroke", meaning it's thickness. Set the stroke to 0.1pts. That's it!
    • To create a vector engrave, the line must be "pure blue", aka R=0, G=0, B=255. Again, set the stroke to 0.1pts.
    • To create a raster engrave, the shape must be in greyscale. The blacker the color, the deeper the laser will engrave. To do a maximum depth raster engrave, set the fill color to R=0, G=0, B=0.
  4. Now you have a design ready for the laser cutter! Come in during open hours and speak to a Volunteer to have your design cut!

Obviously there are many intricacies with using Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape. If you want help using these softwares, come speak with a Volunteer. Also, check out our Workshops and Events page for Adobe Illustrator and Intro to 3D Printing workshops.

Laser Cutter Reservation Calendar