Hello, I'm Geordie and I currently work at ADX Portland running the Laser Cutter and Engraver. My job is to take in customer's projects, set them up and run them on the laser. As a result, I've learned a few tricks for how to set up jobs to get the best results, and in this Instructable I'm going to pass them on to you.

The laser I work with is an Epilog Helix and the program we use to run it is Corel Draw. I'm going to try to write in general terms so you can use what ever laser and program you want to.

Note: For several of these tips it is important to understand the difference between Vector files and Bitmap files. Vector files are mathematical formulas defining lines, circles etc. These are created by programs like Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, AutoCAD and Corel. Bitmap files are collections of individual pixels. This included digital photos, Adobe Photoshop files, JPGs etc. With the Epilog laser (and I'm assuming other ones) you can only cut with a vector file. You can engrave with either vector or bitmap files. For several of my tricks you need your file to be a vector file for the trick to work.

Step 1: Tip #1: Preparing for cutting or engraving

Before we get to tips for cutting and engraving, lets start with some good ideas for preparing to cut or engrave.

Masking: If your going to engrave on something be aware that the smoke for the the engraving can stain the edges of the engraved surface. If you don't want that cover the surface with masking tape to protect it. The masking tape won't decrease the power of the laser much (bump up the power a bit if you feel it needs it) and the masking tape will protect the material around the engraving from the smoke. After running the engraving just peal the masking tape off. I use this a lot if I'm engraving on leather.

Presets: Your laser should have some suggested settings for cutting or engraving different materials and different thicknesses. You should also be able to load these settings into your computer or laser and save them as presets. Be sure to name them something that makes sense so you can easily find them That way the next time you need to engrave on leather or cut 1/8" thick acrylic, you can just find the preset for that material.

Test cuts: Even when I have a preset for cutting a material I usually try to run a test cut in it before I run the full job. Nothing is worse than taking the material out of the laser and finding that it didn't cut all the way through. I create a small circle or square (about 1/4" or 1/2" wide) and cut out in corner or on some scrap material. Then I can see if I need to increase or decrease the power before I run the final cut.

<p>Hi Geordie, </p><p>I have run lasers for many years but your masking tape trick has sure made me smile! works like a bomb :) </p><p>many thanks for sharing.</p><p>kind regards Marc</p>
<p>Geordie, thanks for this. New to the whole thing, and thought I was going to set fire to some wood today - was trying to do some ablation and failed miserably. I do like the bit with the masking tape, and definitely about using the vector to give an outline to words. Much appreciated!</p>
<p>Great tips Geordie espically the masking tape tip.Im having trouble with scale. I set everything to A4 which is about the size of my bed. Id like to use all of that space but Im either running off by miles or bunched up in one corner. With the page set to a4 in Corel and the bed size set the same I did a test cut.I set a box 25mm wide x 100 long.It came out 11mm wide x55mm. I cant figure out how to calibrate it.Whats a good starting point.</p>
Sounds like the scale of the laser and Corel are off. I've run into problems where I have the file size set to one dimension but the print size set to another size. Corel usually tries to center the file in the print settings not the file setting.<br>Make sure your file and print settings are the same.
<p>Thanks for taking the time to reply.</p><p>I worked in engineering for 10 years and ran a 24 meter long cnc drilling machine. I may be mistakenly using the same techniques to zero this laser machine. Something is off and I'm still a bit lost among all the Chinese windows.</p><p>I looked at the print settings at it all seams to be set to A4.</p><p>I have limited time but some thing i have noticed whilst playing.</p><p>The x axis travel shows in the software as 0 to about 900mm, Its an A4 sized machine so it should be showing about 0 to 300 to 350 ish at the end of travel.Its the same on the y axis.</p><p>Any pointers would be much appreciated.</p><p>Kind regards </p><p>Chris.</p>
<p>Thanks for sharing these tips! :)</p>
<p>Wow thanks for this tip - its saved me a lot of time on my machine. Do you know if there is an easy way to 'engrave' words (fonts) using this cutting method instead of engraving? </p>
The only option is to out line the words rather than filling them in and then do a shallow cut. It doesn't fill in the center but is much quicker.<br>One trick is to do a light engraving and then outline the edge. The light engraving is quicker than a full engraving and then by outlining the edge you get a nice sharp edge.
<p>Lovely! Thanks so much :)</p>
<p>These are wonderful tips. I hope you can help me. I have a small Chinese laser, one that is based on CD/DVD frames. For the life of me, I cannot make logos that have filled in areas. It does great with outlines, but it ends there. I create the image in Photoshop, save it as a bitmap and import it into Inkscape.</p><p>I use the 'Trace to Bitmap' under path. I found problems using Laser in version 0.91 so I am using 0.48.5.</p><p>No matter what I do I cannot get the logo to fill in.</p><p>HELP!</p>
<p>I have a Chinese laser cutter too and have had some experience with a bunch of them , try to use it with corel 4 , most of the laser machines cant handle higher versions , and corel reads the laser cutter as a printer , while i tried to use it with other softwares but they don't detect it , in case you want to make a logo with inside fill and outside cut on a chinese laser you either make the logo a bitmap and draw cutlines over it , or just make a black fill most chinese lasers will make the black fill an engrave and make sure your output setting is set on auto when sending the file over to the machine cause in case it's set on vect it will only identify the vector lines ignoring fills .</p>
Good advice.
<p>You should be able to engrave a bitmap image. To cut you have to have a vector image. I would go straight from photoshop to the laser and skip Inkscape. The only reason I can see to going to Inkscape would be if you need to scale the image. A vector will scale better than a bitmap. </p>
<p>I have tried but how do I go directly to the laser? It isn't listed as a printer and I can't set it up as a printer. I need to generate Gcode. How?</p>
<p>Sorry I've never had to generate Gcode. </p><p>Best of luck.</p>
<p>i will buy a Co2 engrave laser but Did u suggest it to buy? </p><p>if i buy it i can to some design on photoshop and ingrave it? or only its program? </p>
<p>You should be able to do your design in Photoshop. You might be able to print/laser from photoshop or you might need to save your photoshop file as a certain file type, like a jpg, and then import that into the laser's program.</p>
<p>hi there. I am using a Versa Laser300... I am looking for a assistance in settings to make tags.... Im wanting laser information to laser (Rastor) and cut rectangle out... (vector cutting).... is there a specific power/speed you might know of... I have tried everything!! :) Great tip with the burning of wood!!</p>
<p>For engraving I use a speed of 90% and power at 35 to 40%. Then the cut I slow the speed down to 15 or 20% and take the power up to 100%. To cut a really dense hard wood you make need to slow down even more. If your going really slow take the power down to 95% to help prevent really burning the wood to much.</p>
<p>How to remove the laser cut black carbon</p><p>http://www.instructables.com/id/Tiling-pattern-laser-cut-and-make-white-from-black/</p><p>Toshinaga Urabe</p><p>toshi10@lcc-japan.co.jp</p>
Exellent tips
<p>Hello there! Great post :) I was wondering if someone could help me with what laser machine to purchase? I am in the UK and I am struggling to find reviews. It is for home crafts so I would like a cheapish one! I am interested in cutting &amp; engraving on wood. I am a graphic designer so the design side wont be a problem. Many thanks for any help :) </p>
<p>Hi there,</p><p>you should look at the glowforge, it is amazing new desktop laser printer. </p><p><a href="http://www.glowforge.com" rel="nofollow">www.glowforge.com</a></p><p>if you like it, please use this thread: $100 dollar discount.</p><p>Still 10 days left for 50% pre-order discount </p><p><a href="http://glowforge.com/referred/?kid=j3E2BI" rel="nofollow">http://glowforge.com/referred/?kid=j3E2BI</a></p><p>enjoy :)</p>
Thanks that looks amazing. I've been hearing some great buzz about it.<br>
I just posted an instructable about buying a laser. Here is the link:<br>http://www.instructables.com/id/Tips-for-buying-a-laser-cutterengraver/<br><br>I've only worked with one brand so I can't review brands.<br><br>Good luck.
<p>quick question. I need to know what type of wood to use and where to buy it for a cheap lazer cutting project I'm doing. Thank you </p>
I use a lot of 1/8&quot; plywood. It cuts nicely and holds up afterwards. Bamboo ply is beautiful but a little expensive.<br><br>As to where to get it, I would go to a wood store. Home Depot and other big box store have wood but it isn't the best quality. Shop around to find the best prices.<br>
<p>Great Tip! The masked cuts look so much cleaner. </p><p>Q: Do you ever get some leftover goo from the adhesive on the rastered parts? Not sure if it's just burnt wood, or if it's leftover from tape. What happens to the tape, does the laser completely remove it? I'm cutting / engraving cherry wood.</p>
Usually the laser burns through the tape and doesn't leave any residue, but if its old tape or a special tape it might. I use plain masking tape. Also with wood you can some times get sap coming out of the wood from the heat. I've only had trouble with that when I set the power to high. Try lowering the power or speeding up the time.<br><br>Good luck.
<p>Great Tip! The masked cuts look so much cleaner. </p><p>Q: Do you ever get some leftover goo from the adhesive on the rastered parts? Not sure if it's just burnt wood, or if it's leftover from tape. What happens to the tape, does the laser completely remove it? I'm cutting / engraving cherry wood.</p>
<p>According to u which material is best suited for laser. Because I am using acrylic and I don't think that I am getting good results dimension wise may be it is beacause of the quality of the material ., but which material do you suggest.</p>
<p>The 2 materials I have the most experience with are wood and acrylic. Both are fine. You need to make sure you are setting the laser's speed and power correctly. To much power burn the edges. Also plastics, like acrylic can warp from the heat of the laser. Try making some test cuts with different settings until you find the one that gives you the best results.</p>
<p>Great tips...it takes a lot of botch jobs to learn all those tips in one night!</p>
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I need ur help please tell me how do I make this with my brothers photo
<p>Photos are tricky. I don't have a specific technique but you need to edit the photo in a program like photoshop. You want to reduce it to black and white and as few grays as possible. Color photos turn to &quot;mud&quot; very quickly. Also experiment with filters that give a wood block cut or etched effect.</p>
<p>I would recommend mask and or keeping the leather wet.</p>
<p>Hi, Is it possible to safe engraving aluminium or copper (circuit board) with any DIY laser engraving? Thanks!</p>
<p>Not that I know of. To cut metal you need a pretty powerful laser. The only thing the laser I use can do is etch anodize aluminum by burning off the anodized layer. </p><p>I think you need a chemical etch for circuit boards.</p>
<p>Do you have any recommendations for making laser cut fluorescent acrylic get the rough edges needed to glow? My table saw makes the edges pop for cutting pieces down to size for my laser; but once they are lasered into my designs, what options are available for bringing that glow back?</p>
<p>I've done some laser cutting of fluorescent acrylic and the edges still glow pretty well, but I haven't compared that to a saw cut. With plastic you want to set the frequency of the laser very high. For wood you set it much lower.</p><p>Sorry I can't be more helpful.</p><p>Geordie</p>
<p>Great design! </p><p>Must try laser marquetry with ImagePaint software by Amazon Canvas.</p>
<p>great tips! Thanks!!!</p>
This guide was really handy to gain the &quot;common sense&quot; many people get through experience, so this is a great ible for a beginner(me)!
<p>These are going to come in really handy for my projects! Even though I already knew #1, #5 and #9 are killer! Thanks for posting this!</p>
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<p>Nice work,this is very useful for laser lover!</p>
<p>This is a great resource you've put together.</p><p>Only comment I'd make on this particular tip is, if you're cutting a material which sometimes contains air pockets or other imperfections (e.g. birch ply) you're better off adding the extra cuts. If one cut separating two pieces doesn't cut cleanly, you lose the two pieces. With the extra cut you're more likely to only lose one. It takes longer to cut but can save time, if you see what I mean?!</p><p>That said, it makes perfect sense with regular materials!</p>

About This Instructable


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Bio: Mad scientist, graphic designer, mechanical drafter, sci-fi geek.
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