Laser Cutting Job Guidelines
This page is intended as a guide for customers using our laser cutting service. For more detailed information, including the materials compatible with our cutter, go to the laser cutter's main wiki page.
Refer to the Laser Cutter Materials List for information on materials that are safe to cut.
We currently charge £30 per hour for the laser cutter time (including the technician operating it). How fast the machine can cut is very dependent on the material being used.
Vector and bitmap images are handled differently by the laser cutter software.
Vector files are versatile - they are imported as separate individual shapes that can either cut or engraved by the laser. Cutting means laser traces the outline of the vector shape. Engraving means the whole shape, not just its outline, is etched on the material, as the laser scans repeatedly across the workpiece like a printer.
DXF files are the only vector format the laser cutter software imports. However, we can convert other vector drawing files to DXF for you if necessary. When exporting your own DXFs, make sure the files's units are set to millimetres.
Assign colours to elements of your drawing depending on how you want them to be treated by the cutter; for example, lines you want to cut in red, and lines you want to engrave in blue. Layers are useful for this purpose at the design stage, but are ignored by the laser cutter software when importing DXFs. Note that CAD software often by default assigns colour as 'colour by layer'. This is not recognised by the laser cutter as the corresponding layer colour, so make sure each item has been assigned a real colour if you want the software to distinguish between them.
Fonts are not recognised by the laser cutter software; all fonts must be 'exploded' into their vector components to be reproduced correctly. Zero-thickness line fonts are treated the same as any other lines when exploded. Exploded vector fonts become closed vector outlines, and can be treated either as filled solids or outlines.
Multiple lines on top of each other (coincident lines) will be traced multiple times by the laser, wasting cutting time and potentially reducing cut quality. Some 2D CAD software allows you to find and remove coincident lines automatically.
Line weights in the file are ignored by the laser cutter software.
Bitmap files can only be engraved by the laser cutter - images are etched on the material as the laser scans repeatedly across the workpiece like a printer.
Most common image formats can be imported (jpg, png, tif, bmp).
Engraving does not allow shades of grey, so the cutter software converts all images into black and white, using a 50% threshold. For greater control, you can do this conversion yourself in most bitmap editing software, and save the image as a 1-bit black and white bitmap. Lossless formats like PNG are most appropriate for this.
To help us complete your job efficiently, saving both money and time, we recommend doing the following:
- If we don't stock the material you need, source it yourself. But make sure you buy laser-safe materials, and tell us what the material is. Hobarts is a useful supplier of laserable materials.
- Do the layout for us: Arrange your parts to fit neatly on the size of material you have selected, and save it as a DXF.
- If the correct cutting parameters for your material are not our list, make sure you have enough spare material for us to perform a test cut (120x150mm).