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Training Required

The Laser Cutter is our first machine at the lab that we require training to operate. Training is provided at no cost to lab members. Please post to the mailing list to request training for the laser cutter.

Emergency Support and Maintenance

If there is a serious problem with the laser cutter, please inform the board at (563)484-0022, email [email protected] or email to the mailing list. In order to better coordinate maintenance tasks, please do not repair any problems with the laser without contacting the support contact first. This is so that we can have a better understanding of the problems we're facing with the machine and it's history.

Critical Specifications

  • Power: 80w
  • Table Area: 900mm x 600mm
  • Max Speed: 400mm/s (Unconfirmed)

Approved Materials

Some materials can damage the laser and be hazardous to human health when cut, and we're not talking about "ignore me because I'm just afraid you'll sue" hazardous, or "I care about you as a human being." hazardous. We're talking "Stop you fool or you'll kill us all!" hazardous. Here is a list of materials that won't kill us all, a list of materials that are dangerous, and a list of materials that are prohibited. This list is always up for debate on the mailing list. If you want to get something approved just post. Any of the approved trainers can update the list. They should only do so after researching the material in question and reviewing the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet)

Approved Material
Name Approver Notes
Acrylic David Hinkle Cuts and etches well
Leather David Hinkle Reported to work great
Buna-N Rubber David Hinkle
Wood David Hinkle
Paper David Hinkle You can tape it to the grid to keep it from blowing around
Cardboard David Hinkle
Painted Copper Clad David Hinkle Laser works well to etch off a matt black paint layer for acid etching.
Polypropylene Mark Kruse
Cork Board David Hinkle
Corian David Hinkle
Mica David Hinkle
Use Caution With
Name Cautioner Reason
Polystyrene Foam David Hinkle Reports on internet of very poor cutting and dangerous levels of flammability. Reported as the number one cause of laser fires.
Disallowed Materials
Name Disapproved by Reason
Metal David Hinkle Reflects IR light, very poor cuts and backreflections may cause damage.
Copper Clad David Hinkle It is possible to cut copper clad circuit board material but the results are extremely poor. You may use the laser to remove a layer of paint from the copper for etching, however.
Neoprene Rubber David Hinkle Review of MSDS supports that burning this material releases chlorine gas.
PVC David Hinkle Emits lots of chlorine gas during cutting. Very hazardous to machine and operator.

Other makerspaces also maintain lists of laser safe material. Please link them here. These lists can be valuable but we don't know these guys, so don't assume that something on their safe list is on our safe list... But it's certainly a good place to start to get it put on our safe list. These wiki's also often contain lots of good information about speeds, power, and experiences with various materials.

Lasercut5.3 software

  • Install the software and USB drivers from QC Co-Lab dropbox account.

You have to have the blue USB cord connected and the laser cutter on to use the software. You might be able to continue using it after unplugging the blue usb connection, but no guarentees. The software is buggy and might require restarts or replugging in of the USB connection. If the software refuses to delete the download, restart the software. You can either design simple text/patterns directly in the lsercut5.3 software, or you can use a more powerful or easier to use program (such as Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, Autocad, etc) and IMPORT the design in the following file types:

  • PLT - HPGL Plotter file
  • AI - Adobe Illustrator (be sure not to save with compression)
  • DXF - Autocad
  • DST - Tajima
  • BMP - Windows Bitmap
  • NC - Mastercam
  • JPG
  • JPEG
  • GIF
  • PNG
  • TIF
  • TIFF
  • TGA
  • PCX

It is possible to convert any image you find to black and white (with dithering for better resolution) and import it into the software. If you want to do multiple types of cutting operations (ie: 1. raster etch to a certain level, 2. etch to a deeper level, 3. cut around the outside) you need to assign them to different layers and adjust the speed and power

Manufacturer Speeds and Feeds

This should be called Power and Feeds, but speeds and feeds has a better ring to it.

Gweike Power and Speed Recommendations for Cutting
Material Thickness Speed Power
Acrylic 5mm/.197" 15 90
Acrylic 10mm/.394" 5 90
Acrylic 15mm/.591" 3 90
Acrylic 20mm/.787" 3 95
Wood 1mm/.039" 50 90
Wood 5mm/.197" 20 90
Wood 10mm/.394" 10 90
Wood 12mm/.472" 8 95
Leather 1mm/.039" 30 90
Leather 2mm/.079" 20 90
Leather 3mm/.118" 15 95
Rubber 1mm/.034" 15 90
Rubber 2mm/.079" 12 90
Rubber 3mm/.118" 6 90
Rubber 4mm/.157" 8 95

Member Recomendation Speeds and Feeds

Please list your great results or not so great results here so people can use them as starting points for their own projects.

The laser tube will not actually activate at the lowest power levels. The minimum power for the laser to activate is 13%.

Recommendations from QC Co-Lab Members
Material Process Thickness Speed Power Kerf Recommended by Notes
Elmers Foam Project Board (Solid Foam Core) Cutting 0.19" 20 30 Chris Cooper Watch for flame ups, let vent before opening
Buna-N Rubber Engraving Stamps 0.25" 150 100 NR David Hinkle This rubber seems to take lots of power at slow speeds really well. I got excellent results with about 1/8" inch relief at this setting with a .05mm scan gap.
Buna-N Rubber Cutting Gaskets 0.63"/1.5mm 400 30 NR David Hinkle Pretty good gasket.
Plywood Engraving Sign .5" 400 75 NR David Hinkle Plywood isn't the best for signs, the laser tends to blow through one or more layers and expose a glue layer underneath. Solid wood is better. This setting provided .065" relief. Dark lettering.
Plywood Cutting 0.5" 10 100 NR David Hinkle Reliably cut through. Edges are black but not quite charcoal.
Plywood Cutting 0.5" 10 100 NR David Hinkle Reliably cut through. Edges are black but not quite charcoal.
Balsa Wood Cutting 7/8" 70 60 NR Sarah Haubrich Could go faster or less power. Used corner power 10
Pine wood (2x4") Deep Vector Engrave/Cutting ~1/4" 50 90 NR Sarah Haubrich The sap smoked a lot and came to the surface. corner power 15
Pine wood (2x4") Engrave 1/8" 150 90 NR Sarah Haubrich Left with an uneven bottom due to wood grain. Sticky due to sap. scan gap 0.1.
Baby blocks are 300, 90, 0.1 engrave (~1/16" deep) with cut diagonals of 200, 65 (~1/16" deeper)
Aspen wood cut 1/4" 20 95 NR Sarah Haubrich Corner power 80
Oak Plank Cut 19mm/0.75" 1.5 100 David Hinkle This speed is a little too fast, but I compensated by settings the focus down a few mm.
Oak Plank Cut 6.5mm/0.255" 10 100 .20-.22 David Hinkle Set focus down 1mm
Pine Plank Cut 19mm/0.75" 2.5 100 David Hinkle
Aspen Plank Cut 19mm/0.75" 2.5 100 David Hinkle Very Nice Brown Cut
Poplar Plank Cutting .75" 2.5 100 Ryan James Very dark edge. Set down focus 3/8" for best cut.
Poplar Plank Engraving .75" 400 35 Ryan James Gives a very light cut, probably less that 1/16"
Acrylic Cutting 2.86mm 40 100 NR David Hinkle Reliable cut, clean flame polished edges.
Acrylic Cutting 5.86mm 12 100 .22mm David Hinkle Used 75% Corner power for funzies.
Acrylic Vector Engraving NA 100 20 NA David Hinkle
Acrylic Countersink Screw Holes NA 150 100 NA David Hinkle As a raster engrave to countersink my 3mm screw heads. Used a 6mm circle.
Hard Board Cutting 5.5mm 10 100 David Hinkle Will cut as fast as 20, but won't cut consistently across the entire table at that speed. Has a better edge though.
Leather Cutting 3mm 50 100 David Hinkle
Leather Cutting 1.5mm 70 100 David Hinkle At one point I thought I was able to get through this leather at 150 with 80/70 power but not now?
Leather Vector Engrave 150 23/16 David Hinkle Second number is corner power
0.005" Matte Mylar/Duralar film Cutting 0.005" 100 20 Sarah Haubrich
Glass Engrave N/A 400 80 Ryan James
EVA Foam Cut 5mm 50 40 Ryan James Cuts foam quickly with a nice edge and little to no edge burning.
EVA Foam Cut 12mm 30 40 Ryan James Cuts foam quickly with a nice edge and little to no edge burning.
EVA Foam Cut N/A 400 20 Ryan James Light score into the foam. Turn corner power way down to prevent deep cuts at ends of lines.

Manufacturer Docs

Manufacturer documentation can be found in the QC Co-Lab dropbox in the Gweiki folder.

Advanced Topics

Finger Joints

10 Tips and Tricks for Laser Engraving and Cutting


Laser Cutter Scheduling Calendar

  • To schedule time on the laser cutter:
    • Create an appointment on your Google Calendar/Outlook/other calendar program.
    • Include [email protected] as a participant
    • Select the times you plan to use the laser.
    • Send the appointment.
    • Verify the appointment is showing on the Laser Cutter Calendar on the website.

Training Outline

This outline is meant to help the trainers remember everything they need to cover.

  • Hardware
    • Talk about the water chiller: Cools laser with cold water.
    • Talk about the air assist pump: Pumps air through nozzle, removes smoke from path of laser and prevents fire.
    • Talk about the ventilation system
    • Point out Laser Tube. It's CO2 and the laser is invisible.
    • Following path of laser to work material. Point out all three 3 mirrors.
    • Show and talk about the lens
    • Demonstrate moving table and talk about laser focusing and hourglass shape of beam
    • Point out red focusing laser and mention that it's not the main laser, but only a positioning aid.
  • Safety
    • Talk about emergency stop
    • Talk about how dangerous it is to operate the laser with any of the panels open
    • Talk about chlorine gas and show user the approved material page on the wiki and how to access it
    • Never operate the laser without the air assist to prevent fire
    • Never leave laser unattended during operation
  • Operation
    • Student moves X,Y and Z axis
    • Student zeros Z axis to focus the laser
  • Software
    • Provide the student with the software manual
    • Demonstrate importing a DXF file
    • Talk about cutting and engraving modes
    • Talk about relationship of power vs speed
    • Show student speed and feed table on the wiki
    • Have student draw a figure and cut or etch the figure with the laser
    • Talk about immediate mode
    • Talk about DPI 254
    • Demonstrate the simulator