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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 am looking for some guidance on how to make a crystal pendant similar to the ones in the photos I have attached.I am just wondering how / what machine I could use to do this myself? </p><p>Thanks very much! </p>
<p>Any CO2 laser 40w or better should make those marks. Full Spectrum Laser makes one that works great. FSLaser.com</p>
I've never done anything like that. Its going to be a bit of trial an error so don't start with your best piece of crystal. It will probably be similar to etching glass with the laser. <br>As for what machine to use I don't have any recommendations. You will need one with enough depth to fit the crystals in and focus the laser. <br>Good luck.
Geordie, <br>I am wanting to etch into 1/16&quot; or 1/8&quot; thick plexiglass. Which is a good machine to buy and which softwares do I need as well? I am just starting and know nothing about this type of industry but have a great product idea. Thanks, JSOIL
I only have experience with Epilog machines. I'm buying a Glow Forge laser because its a good price and it got a lot of good features. <br>The main thing to think about is how big of a bed do you need for the pieces you are cutting and how powerful of a laser does it have.<br><br>I have another instructable about buying a laser:<br>http://www.instructables.com/id/Tips-for-buying-a-laser-cutterengraver/<br><br>Software<br>The laser should have the software for running it. You need a program to create files. I love Adobe Illustrator and Inkscape for vector drawing. The Epilog works best with Corel Draw, which I am not a fan of. Check to see what programs the laser says it can work with.<br><br>Good luck.<br>Geordie
<p>Laser cutting is really fancy! You can be very accurate with it because of how fine the laser is. I think you bring up a good point that you should test cut something beforehand so that way you know it will work. http://www.hygradelaser.com.au/laser_cutting.html</p>
<p>Hi Geordie, maybe you can help me out. I just set up my laser and when I try to cut some letters for example, My laser creates a second cut beside the actual cut (It creates a small burn mark). Could this be that my laser isnt hitting the exact center of the lens or is it a focus issue. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!</p>
<p>I think your beam setting is not correct. The laser beam is not pass though the air assist hole completely, so it create a second reflexing beam. I hope this info helps. Good luck.</p>
Thanks for the reply, the problem was my last mirror was not adjusted so the beam wasn't directly hitting the middle of the lens.
<p>I am facing a problem with size variations in laser cutter, when i try to cut perfect round it is compressed to 5-10mm in Y axis and cutting is also not smooth it goes zig zag.</p>
<p>Check the belt tension, fasten if necessary. Loose belt will cause incorrect movement. Check the mirror and lenses, fasten if it loose. Loose mirror or lenses will cause zig zag patern, because the beam is not steady and fibrate during operation.</p>
With the epilog laser I use there is an optical reader on the head that reads a track on the bar the head moves on. If that gets dirty the movement becomes less accurate. Its pretty easy to clean. You just remove the cover of the bar and wipe it with some rubbing alcohol. <br>See if your laser has a reader for the X coordinates and how to clean it.<br><br>Good luck.
<p>Hi Geordie, you are expert and admire you.</p><p>we are a laser marking machine supplier with high quality laser device.</p><p>export it to worldwide. someone is interested in it, please contact to me. thanks!</p><p>skype ID hi.szandy</p><p>CIAO</p>
<p>Hi i was just wondering how u make the g code i have tried so many ways and cant get it to work i brought a 2000mw large area DIY mini laser engraver from aliExpress if u could help that would be great the software im using is acan mini laser engraver thanks :) </p>
<p>Geordie, I totally forgot about this Instructable I came across last fall. Going through old bookmarks and reread it. Like many, I'm waiting for a Glowforge and am doing my best to prepare. This is as good an introduction to laser engraving and cutting as I have seen. Thanks so much.</p>
Thanks.
<p>Very good write up of tips! I see a lot of tips on the internet, but many are from people that only occasionally use a laser at a makerspace, so they are sometimes unwise tips. Yours are good and many match things I have learned over the past 8 years with my Epilog (75 watt Legend EXT 24&quot;x36&quot;)</p><p>One thing I would add to tip #10. Not sure on other models or other lasers, but on the Epilog, you can disable the X/Y motors and manually move the head. So, I power up the machine, let it zero out, disable the X/Y motors, turn on the &quot;red dot&quot; laser pointer, and then manually move the head to the upper right corner of my target material. The machine's display will show me the X/Y position of the head at that point and I use that as offsets in my software (Visio, AutoCAD, GCPrevue, or believe it or not, Word). It works great. I used the method to engrave a name onto a wine opener held in a panavise and landed it dead center first shot.</p>
Good Tip. I have moved the laser head by disabling the X/Y. But I have not tried that with the laser pointer.<br>Thanks.<br>
<p>Hi Geordie,<br>thanks for the great article and advice. I design and set up artwork for a lasercutter regularly using Adobe Illustrator. 95% of the time jobs go down without any issues, but every now and then the engraver does not recognise certain vector shapes and lettering (converted to curves). I have gone back and forth ensuring the vectors do not have additional shapes in or overlappings etc. Despite converting to curves and merging objects, certain objects are still not recognised. For example, Arial bold is used, converted to curves, but when it starts engraving it engraves everything but the 'T' letters in the sentence.</p><p>Any suggestions as to how to avoid this or what is causing this?</p>
Wow that's an odd one. No idea off hand. I always convert my type to outlines. That way I don't have to worry about not having the same font on different machines (I keep a backup with the live type). Maybe try that.<br><br>Best of luck.
<p>Hello geordie </p><p>im bouhgt cnc laser machine reci co,laser w2</p><p>last week and i want to test it &lt;&lt; ihave plasama cnc and im worck on autocad and fast cam</p><p>for cnc laser what i need to cut or engrev </p>
<p>Scanning and cutting</p><p>if I want to engrave the whole picture for example a bird except the wings and eyes. which setting must I make. My lasercutter shows it as Scan and Cut. So I scan the outline of the bird but I don't want the eyes and wings to be coloured in. I made the eye and wings an other colour and choose the option of cut, but at high speed and low power. It doesn't work because it coloured the bird as well as the eyes and wings</p>
You will need an image editing software like Photoshop or Illustrator. The best thing to do is to edit the image so it is how you want it, before you send it to the laser.
<p>Our non profit would like to use personalized wooden spoons as a holiday fundraiser. Similar to the ones in the attached photo. We would like to take orders and then submit them all at once. Have the completed items mailed back to us for distribution. Is there anyone interested in doing the laser engraving at a discounted rate for us? Thank you. We are located in Southeast Texas.</p>
I can't do custom orders right now. Best of luck.
<p>Sir. </p><p>Hi</p><p> Will you please guide me a simple way or any simple formula to set parameters for laser cutting. I actually going to cut 19 gauge stainless steel. But it is cutting only on speed of 15. With 5Jar Oxygen, 90-95 power of Laser and 400 ms open delay. </p><p>Kindly give me some guideline to cut this sheet with fast speed. I can't able to set full parameters for fast speed. </p><p>rockky.style@gmail.com is my email id. </p>
<p>Hi all I am looking for a family tree template that I can cut out on my lazer cutter, I have only just bought it and this is one of the first things I want to try and do, is there anybody out there can help me.???? </p>
Cool idea, but I don't know of a template.<br>Have fun.
<p>can anybody out there make some wooden beer tokens out of cherry wood?? I cant afford to buy the laser engraver </p>
<p>Check with your local middle school or high school. Lots of us do work for community members and non profits. It's a win win. We get money for our programs and it's a tax write off for you! </p>
<p>I can make them if you provide details </p>
<p>Heya,</p><p>While I own and run a laser cutting and prototyping business, and I would love your business at <a href="http://www.oaklabs.co" rel="nofollow"> www.oaklabs.co</a></p><p>There are plenty of laser owners that are available to do some contract work. One way I would recommend is a site called you3dit.com There you can request design or fabrication assistance and usually get a quick response and solution as providers bid on the job and you can choose who you like.</p>
<p>Dear @MargaretW24.<br>We are based in India and would be glad to hear from you about your requirements at avinoint@gmail.com. Please provide the details/requirements.<br>We are making customized keychains, beer tokens and other items from last 5 years at wholesale price. Thanks.</p>
Look for someone in your area how has a laser cutter and is running an engraving service with it. Or see if here is a maker space where you rent time on one. That's what I do.<br><br>Good Luck
<p>I have tried finding someone in the area, no luck... need beer chips bad </p>
<p>hi , there was good instruction, could you tell us about the dangerous parts of this machine? Im a novice worker</p>
<p>Hello you know a lot about engraving and cutting on wood, can you please give me a tip on how to set up a logo for print on two sides? because the logo isn't evenly made, the second side (the way i set it up) won't print properly as the front side. i am stuck with it and i gotta hand this in today. please help me out.</p>
Not sure I understand what you mean by 2 sides. Are you engraving on both sides of the piece of wood?<br>If so, the trick is to make sure the piece of wood gets put in the same place when you flip it over to engrave the other side.
<p>I am 64 years old I bought a Chinese engraving machine realized that sites with ready files engraving and cutting plexiglass. Can you give me a link of those sites. Thanks in advance.</p><p>And my enamel can also yosef2006@013.net</p>
Any tips for multiple insert alignment? Alignment marks so you can reposition item if it doesn't cut all the way through? Or is it never good enough?
Do you find that the epilog helix power changes with the ambient temperature in the room?<br><br>I run several FSL lasers down on Stark &amp; 80th and i find i have yo jack up the power a lot in summer.
I've never noticed a relationship with temperature. Although there have been days when the laser seem a bit weaker. I'll have to pay attention to the weather and temperature and see if I notice anything.<br><br>Thanks for the suggestion.
<p>Great Job Geordie! I am an owner/operator of a laser engraving and cutting business in FL for 11 years now. These are are all great tips for nubies and novices alike. And a brilliant refresher course for old farts like me as well.... Thx and keep up with the instuctables!!!!!</p>
<p>Hey sixshooter,</p><p>I am thinking about starting a laser engraving/cutting/3D printing business in the eastern North Carolina area and was wondering if I could pick your brains about getting started?</p><p>Bruster </p>
Hey bruster999,<br>Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I don't get out here that often. I would be happy to answer your questions. Be patient for my responses. We are pretty busy...
<p>I don't have much experience with the business side of lasers. I worked for a Maker Space and let them handle the business aspect. The basic advice I would give is get the best laser you can and make sure they have good support. If something goes wrong you don't want to be calling China for help. Figure out if you are going to stock materials or require you clients to provide the materials. Set up a good website to answer people's questions, so your not spending all your time on the phone telling people what type of file to send you. Finally figure out if your going to offer design help and how if so how to charge for that. </p><p>Good luck with the business!</p>
These lasers are to week to cut or mark steel. You can engrave anodize aluminum. But steel is too strong. Photos are difficult to engrave but can be done. I don't have any great tips at the moment for photos but I have seen it done.<br><br>Good luck.

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