From Ace Monster Toys Wiki
Ace Monster Toys has an EXLAS 1280 laser.
This page will detail laser usage and operation, tips and tricks, etc. once we have it set up in the space.
Please don't touch or fiddle with the laser cutter unless you have been trained.
Laser cutter is installed in the space.
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: $1/min*
- AMT Members: $.50/min
- Initial Laser Investors: $.25/min (applied against investment)
Once the laser is completely paid for, the entire cost structure will be reexamined in order to charge cost+maintenance for laser operation.
- = The charge for the public does not include time helping them set 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)
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.
- 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. The lowest setting is 250 DPI and that is enough for most things. Use higher DPI only with high resolution images and with materials that show the difference.
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)
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
If you are so lucky to have this piece of expensive software, 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.
- Get the total dimensions of you 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, raster it and then use a greyscale range to indicate depth. Black = a lot of laser and the lighter you go the less lasering you get. Like a photo negative. Try to match the DPI of the image to the DPI you will be engraving at, to prevent scaling. DPI of the laser is set via the 'scan gap' setting, mentioned elsewhere on the wiki.
- 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)
- 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
- 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)