Laser Cutter/LaserCut Software
This page is for the old software. We no longer use LaserCut 5.3
Download poorly written manual: File:Lasercut5.3 Manual.pdf
Recommend reading through below info first:
TODO: Insert screenshots showing what I'm talking about
To import shapes/graphics, click the Import button. Reccomended formats are DXF for vector cutting/engraving, and 1-bit (black and white, not color or grey) BMP for engraving.
Moving things around
Use the 'Pick' tool, then you can click a shape/graphic once to select it (or drag a box to multiselect), then you can drag any of the handles to resize, or the center X to move. Hold CTRL while resizing to keep the aspect ratio
What this does is join together lines that are connected into a single line. This optimizes the cutting paths, making things cut faster and cleaner. It's under Tools -> Unite lines. I think "Unite tolerance" is how close lines can be before it joins them (in mm?).
If your design is complicated or has a lot of separate unconnected shapes to cut, you may want to simulate the laser cut route before actually cutting. This option is in the Laser menu, last option. What it does is run a red line on top of your drawing in the same path the laser head will take. Red shows when the laser fires, and a thin grey line shows where it's moving without cutting. If the simulation shows a really bad plan, you can mess with Define Cut Route (first option in the Laser menu) which will allow changes to the cut route. Simulate again to see what you ended up with. I haven't really figured out how Define Cut Route works though; I've just used trial and error. If you understand it, write it up here!
The way shapes are placed in Lasercut is a little misleading. If you place a circle in the middle of the screen, it will NOT be cut in the middle of the laser bed by default. What it does is shift everythin over so that the blue dot (alternatively 'laser origin' or 'knife origin') is at 0,0, or the upper right of the laser bed. If this is NOT what you want, click the set knife origin button (Or go to Laser->Set laser origin)
When this is checked (it is by default), the laser will start cutting from wherever it is positioned, and NOT from the upper right corner of the bed. The point of this is that you can manually position the laser red dot over the material where you want to start cutting, and then hit go, and it'll cut from there. I have not yet tested without Immediate mode enabled.
Have one small design you want to cut multiple times onto a single large piece of material? Hit this tool, then 'Auto-cover Calculation', input size of your material in mm, then it'll replicate the design across it. You can also manually specify how many times to replicate. If it's a very complicated design, check 'Array-data Only Draw Box' and the display will render quicker.
The way you tell it what should be cut, what should be engraved, etc is with layers. Every object/graphic is assigned to a layer, and the layers are color coded.
The two main settings you use are Speed and Power. Speed is how fast the laser head moves. Lower speed means more energy directed to the material, which means deeper cuts. Power is how much current is sent through the laser tube. NEVER GO ABOVE 90 (reports indicate reduced laser lifetime if you run it at 100%). Higher power means more energy which means deeper cuts. There is also a third setting: PWM frequency. This should not affect the amount of power, but different settings are better for different materials, it affects the cut edge quality. Need more experimentation to find ideal values
The main two types of operations you will use are Cut(vector) and Engrave(raster).
Is a vector operation -- the laser head traces the path of the lines. The name 'Cut' is misleading...you don't actually have to cut. If the power is turned down lower, or speed turned up, instead it will actually etch. A better name would be 'vector'. The main file format imported for this type of operation is DXF.
Is a raster operation -- the laser head will go back and forth over the entire area, similar to how the electron beam draws the display on a CRT monitor. This takes much much much longer than a vector operation, since the laser head needs to cover every single 'pixel' one by one, whether or not you are actually firing the laser at this point. You cannot vary the laser's power as it goes, in order to get shading you need a high resolution image dithered down to black/white. It's the same theory behind laser toner printers -- they can only print solid black dots, no shades of gray, so it just varies the amount of dots versus space to vary the darkness. The main file format imported for this type of operation are things like BMP, PNG, JPG
There are two further modes: GradeEngrave and Hole. GradeEngrave is the same as "Shoulder" mode on epilog's, basically it's for cutting shapes at an angle. The only use I know for it is for making rubber stamps. (see page 30 of Lasercut5.3_manual). Hole is for "drilling holes", basically moving the laser to a spot, firing the laser until it burns all the way through, and repeating multiple places (as opposed to cutting holes via Cut and tiny circles).
"Datum" basically means "Origin" or "zero point". Clicking this returns the laser head to 0,0 (upper right corner). Clicking Z datum raises the bed all the way up (you probably don't want that, might ram the laser into your material if it's thick).
Manually jogging laser
Make sure 'jog distance' is set to 0.0mm. Then hit 'esc' to get out of all menus, and make sure no items on the home screen are highlighted. Then arrow keys can jog the laser X/Y. Hit the 'Z' button to switch to z mode, then up/down arrows move the table up & down
Firing test dot
Make sure the laser cover is closed, and press 'Laser' on the control panel. This will fire the laser for the amount of time and power listed in the LASER SETTING in the menu on the control panel.