From Ace Monster Toys Wiki
Tool Steward: Peter Philips <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ace Monster Toys has an EXLAS 1280 laser.
This page details laser usage and operation, tips and tricks, etc.
TEMPORARY: while the computer running the laser cutter has a temporary Linux install/Windows emulator, to use it there are a couple minor tweaks:
The VM is set up to automatically "capture" the 2 USB devices needed for Lasercut5.3. The dongle and the laser itself.
If you use a USB file key to move files to the laser, you will need to manually grab that device by right clicking on the little USB icon on the bottom toolbar. It's the 3rd icon from the left. A list of USB devices will pop up and you can select the one you want.
On the linux side, the account name is amt, and the password is the standard one from the whiteboad upstairs.
Please don't touch or fiddle with the laser cutter unless you have been trained.
Laser cutter is currently operational.
See the mailing list for further discussion
Moved the details of purchasing to their own page.
Please make a reservation if you absolutely need to use the cutter at a certain time.
Usage Cost / Fee Structure
We charge by the minute based on the actual time the laser is firing.
Costs are as follows:
- General Public: must have a member run the laser for you
- AMT Members: $.25/minute
The laser has been paid off, and the fee for members was reduced from $0.50/minute by the board on 3-27-14.
Note that these fees do not include any assistance with setting up runs, models, etc. This is purely cut time assuming things are ready to go already and the person just needs to cut stuff. Any other help needs to be negotiated with willing parties.
PDF manuals for laser cutter and software:
- File:Laser Manual1280.pdf - Manual for EXLAS 1280 laser.
- File:Lasercut5.3 Manual.pdf - Software manual for the laser cutting software LaserCut 5.3 which is included with XYZ-Tech's machines
- File:MPC6515 Manual.pdf - Manual for MPC6515, the laser motherboard (technical info, not needed for general usage of the laser)
Laser Cutter 101 Class
Regular classes are scheduled for training on the laser cutter, check our meetup page for the next one; if there appear to be none currently scheduled, please post a request on the discuss mailing list!
Here are the notes from the class (note that just reading the notes is not a replacement for taking the class).
Safety information and training
We should have a bunch of helpful information here on safe operation of the device and who to go to to be trained on its use here.
- Please speak to one of the people who is experienced with this laser cutter before using it so we can show you where everything is, how to setup the software, how to use it without breaking it, basic safety tips, etc. The tool steward maintains a list of approved laser trainers.
- Read the instructions first.
- Never operate the laser cutter unattended because sometimes things catch fire. A squirt bottle with water is kept next to the laser to put out small fires. A fire extinguisher is in the corner of the room for larger issues.
- If little flames shoot up off of your material, turn down the power. Little flames can start fires and will fog up the lens, which is difficult to clean.
- It is easy to make the laser head bang against the side or top of the unit. This causes an awful noise and must be very bad for the gears. If the laser cutter makes a banging noise, stop it immediately and reposition the laser head before the next cut, or resize the artwork.
- Do not cut plastics which create hazardous fumes when burned. Acrylic is ok. PVC and vinyl releases the very toxic gas phosgene when heated. As a general rule, chemical resistant plastics should not be put in the laser cutter.
- Be very careful with the silver honeycomb, especially when removing it from the machine to clean little bits of debris off of it. It bends very easily and once bent can not be straightened out completely. It is mostly a cosmetic issue, but pressing your thumb in the wrong place will cause permanent marks (marks in your skin, not in the honeycomb. beware.)
- Do not laser materials that make an excessive amount of smoke. A little smoke is ok, but a large amount can fog up the lens. If it is making a lot of smoke, use more passes at a lower power.
- When cutting paper, turn down the power as low as possible (5-10%, if the power is TOO low, it wont be strong enough to even fire the laser), and the speed as high as possible (400 when in Cut mode)
Things that can / cannot be lasered
See the full list here. If any of the banned items are knowingly and purposefully put into the laser, you will be banned from its use (and possibly AMT) for being a danger to yourself and others. The outgassing or fire can kill people.
- Before putting your material into the laser cutter, test your image on paper. If you don't test on paper first you will ruin a lot of the material you are cutting. Once it looks good on paper you can place your material on the paper so you know it is positioned properly, and refocus if the material is thick.
- When engraving raster images, they go much faster if you use a lower DPI. Experiment to find the lowest DPI that still looks good while providing a good mix of speed. Generally using a scan gap much smaller than the actual spot size of the laser is a waste of time.
Usable Work Area
1200mm x 800mm (47.24in x 31.49in)
Please note this is the travel size for the head. The physical workbed is approximately 50mm larger in both X and Y directions.
Software to prepare designs to laser
Inkscape can be used to convert various vector file types (SVG, PDF, etc) into DXF, with the Inkscape DXF export plugin listed below.
Quick tutorial on exporting files from inkscape as dxf:
- start inkscape, open some vector file
- ctrl+a, ctrl-shift-G a bunch of times (break objects out of groups),
- ctrl+a, then ctrl-shift-C (convert objects to paths)
- Delete any shapes you don't want, tweak things if needed. Go to Object->Fill and Stroke. Click 'X' under the Fill tab. Click 'solid color' under the stroke paint tab. Change width to something small (1 mm for example) in the stroke style tab. This will give a more accurate idea of the laser output (the laser can't cut thick lines)
- file->save as->Desktop Cutting Plotter (*.dxf)
If it doesn't import correctly into LaserCut, try this:
- select all the shapes in InkScape that you want (don't use ctrl+a)
- cut them (ctrl-x)
- new document (ctrl-n)
- paste (ctrl-v)
- save it out again
Dunno why, but that solved a problem for me once.
note: linux didn't import .pdf files from box-maker. There is a command line program you can use called pdf2svg that worked for me. (ubuntu: sudo apt-get install pdf2svg)
If you are on a Mac with Lion or Mountain Lion, you may encounter a dialog in Inkscape when trying to export as DXF, saying there isn't a problem but you should install something (lxml). This actually is a problem, but installing lxml doesn't solve it. Instead, add one line to a file in your Inkscape install as described in this link: http://www.inkscapeforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=12478#p46872. This should allow you to export DXF files successfully. In case that link goes away, I'm copying it here.
Can export DXF files with a plugin (see below)
Good for converting bitmaps. Use curves or levels to make the image super light, then convert to an indexed 1-bit palette (black & white), then save as BMP
Here are some tips form our members that have used it to make lasercut designs. The tips are somewhat general, and may apply to any 2D vector design program you may be using:
- Make a copy of your file… Cause you are about to make your art way less editable
- In preferences convert the whole thing to millimeters including type and strokes
- outline all your text
- Lines only no fills - .1mm (.005 in) stroke weight
- Un-group all your stuff… I don't know why, but it seems to junk up the file.
- Remove all the unused layers, guides and and stuff your aren't doing something with.
- Remove any overlapped or double lines if any of your art has shared cut lines. Only keep one. Sometimes it can help to use the "clean up" and/or "simplify" functions.
- Get the total dimensions of your art… you will need it later. Select all, look at the measurements and write that down.
- If you are mixing cutting and other stuff put them on layers with names. Example: Cut, engrave, score, null, etc.
- To engrave, Make a copy of the art and raster it. If you do not dither it to 1-bit black/white, the laser software will for you. Black = laser fires, white = laser doesn't fire. Grey = will get dithered to a pattern of white and black dots to approximate partial lasering.
- Export Settings: dxf
- Autocad version = 2000/LT200 OR 2004/2005/2006 (I am still not sure)
- Artwork Scale 1mm = 1mm
- number of colors = (depends on your work… engraving or cutting)
- Raster file format = PNG
- Options = Alter paths for Appearance, Outline text (in case you forgot)
From Crafty regarding how to make sure Illustrator units are reflected on your lasercut piece:
I use an in art "measuring stick" as the unit conversion on out software is not reliable depending on the version of illustrator you are exporting from. I using the flowing low tech technique to quicky and reliably resize my art and have very good results
I have very specific reasons for using that order of operation and can explain to anybody who wants to chit chat about. c/Rachel
- Drop a 1200mm x 800mm box around the art
- Import the art and select Draw> Resize > Choose 1200 x 800
- Move the art to the "laser bed" on the software
- Delete the box you used to size it
- Proceed with all the other art clean up steps
In Photoshop, the Gold Method Script works very well for preparing photos for engraving. After applying the script to your liking, to save the file for the laser software, make sure your Image > Mode is set to Bitmap, then Save As type BMP, setting depth as 1-bit.
Draftsight is a free (for non-commercial use) clone of AutoCAD by Dassault Systèmes. For those who have used AutoCAD in the past, this may be a good option. It run on Windows, Mac, and popular Linuxes.
- I have had success exporting as R14 DXF.
- Layer assignment (for multiple cutting paths and vector/raster cuts) can be assigned later in the LaserCut software.
- Text that is filled in (proportional?) will come into LaserCut as an outline, but can be assigned to a raster cut.
- The laser works in mm. You can set the block units using the "units" command to mm.
- Sketchup for Laser Cutting
- QCad - open source .dxf exporting 2D CAD program
- Sketchup plugin to export SVG files
- Sketchup plugin to export dxf
- Slicer - Sketchup plugin to slice a 3d model along a single axis (direct download)
- SliceModeler - Sketchup plugin to slice a 3d model along 2 axes, to produce a "sliceform" reconstruction (direct download)
- Inkscape - vector editing tool
- Hershey Text plugin for Inkscape - Lets you write text that looks good as vector output on a laser cutter. Use 1-stroke fonts for faster etching.
- Gold Method -- photoshop script for dithering photos for nice engraving output
- DXF Gear Generator -- python script for generating gears which outputs .dxf files directly. see also notes on gear generator
- Some useful laser info from Adafruit - the settings section in particular gave a good idea of what we can expect.
- Software settings to improve engraving quality
- other random info
- rabbit laser has some useful documents on lasers that are similar (use same LaserCut5.3 software and same DSP control unit) to ours
- notes on cutting acrylic -- how to get the nicest edges when cutting. air assist is essential
- info page on laser motherboard
Existing designs to laser
- For making boxes, you can use this script - recommended settings of "--bolt_length 13 --nut_multiplier 1.8" YMMV
- boxmaker is also _very_ good for making boxes.
- QRStenciler -- convert QR codes to laser cuttable designs.
- epilog sample club
- thingiverse laser cuttable things davr's favorites
- instructables laser cutting related
- scroll saw patterns should be usable with minimal tweaking
How Other Spaces Use Lasers
Here are links to the laser cutter pages put up by other hackerspace or hackerspace-like entities:
- London Hack Space (see page for info on reverse engineering LaserCut software & file format)
- Metrix Create:Space - A for-profit Hackerspace-like business
- Metalab (in weird German)