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>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>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>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>
<p>Endurance L-Cheapo laser test</p><p>Cuts wood, plywood acrylic upto 2 inch.</p><p>Wait for new tests with compressed air and vacuum cleaner</p><p>https://youtu.be/FQtI5c7s6nA</p><p>https://youtu.be/4KOZXNG05TI</p><p>https://youtu.be/Hwy9GsZvarI</p><p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHwT63qztg8</p><p>More info about Endurance L-Cheapo http://endurancerobots.com/products/laser-cutters-accessory/</p>
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>
<p>http://3dprintingindustry.com/2015/07/27/l-cheapo-converts-3d-printers-into-laser-cutters-for-cheapo/</p><p>Article about Endurance diode laser cutter 2.1 Watt L-Cheapo BY MICHAEL MOLITCH-HOU how to convert 3D Printer into Laser Cutter / engraving machine</p>
<p>Endurance created 2100 mW and 3500 mW diode laser cutter </p><p><a href="http://endurancerobots.com/products/laser-cutters-accessory/" rel="nofollow">http://endurancerobots.com/products/laser-cutters-...</a></p><p>and make special tutorial how to use it </p><p><a href="http://endurancerobots.com/products/laser-cutters-accessory/setting-up-a-l-cheapo/" rel="nofollow">http://endurancerobots.com/products/laser-cutters-...</a></p><p>engraving samples are available here </p><p><a href="http://endurancerobots.com/products/laser-cutters-accessory/laser-cutter-accessory-engraving-samples/" rel="nofollow">http://endurancerobots.com/products/laser-cutters-...</a></p>
<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>
<p>Geordie, what a neat job that you have of doing laser cutting and all sorts of projects like that. I like the projects that you demonstrated in the article and they look amazing. Do you have any tips on how to use an Epilog laser?http://www.productiveplastics.com.au/custom-design/custom-design-fabrication/</p>
<p>I now have a CO2 Epilog and thinking about purchasing the Fibre Laser and they are not cheap. Anyone have pros and cons for this machine, would greatly appreciate any feedback.</p>
<p>hello here is kobeshi from China . WWW.RADIUMWIN.COM.CN is our web ,we do have co2 laser and fibre laser . if any need pls contact whatsapp 86 151 6666 3089 or email me kobeshi@radiumwin.com.cn for easy chat .</p>
<p>Hi Geordie_h, i use 123make to slice my computer models and get blueprints and as an attempt to get a lower price on my cutting, i'm trying to make efficient my DXF file by:<br><br>-Selecting the order in which the lines are going to be cutted.<br>-Reducing transfer distance between profile A and profile B. (when laser is off and goes to the next profile to be cutted)<br>-Make cuts first and engrave after. (avoid shifting between lines to be cutted and lines to be engraved)<br><br>Is this useful to reduce costs? Do i'm wasting my time? When the laser cutter process a DXF file, rearrange the cutting order?<br><br>Great article by the way. Tip #6 is genius.</p>
<p>Dear geordie_h!<br><br>I have a problem, what I hope you can fix it :)<br><br>I made my own home-made laser engraver, which is working perfectly, but i have a problem to make a good engraver-able file. The program (Inkscape, with engraver extension) working well, but always make just a line... never &quot;fill&quot; the sample... (I attached pic. about this problem :S) What can I do for?<br><br>I made SVG from png in Adobe Illustrator, after I go to the Inkscape to make engraver G-code (.nc).</p><p>And Im using grbl Controller, for the engraving proccess.</p>
Hello i have the same problem i cant fill the sample....did you find something?
<p>Thanks for the advices. I&acute;m trying to engrave a photo on MDF but I always burn the material. Do you have any tip for this?</p><p>Thanks again.</p>
Photos are tricky. The black parts of the image are going to be 100% power for the laser and white 0%. Make a square and fill it with black and then find a setting for the laser that doesn't burn through. Then try your photo at that.<br>
Hi,can i have ur telephon number or line id or instagram or somthing like this for easier coonection?<br>i have laser machine.when engraving photo on ston the picturehave black and white bound!means one bond about2 cm is strong and 2 cm or less or more is wake!and finally my picture will have bound...i can send its pgoto...please help me..my jobs stoped beacause that ...and nobody know that..
<p>With MDF, you should test different sides of the material, too. The thing about MDF is that a great deal of it is made up of the glue that holds it together. Also, one side of the MDF is usually very shiny. This could be reflecting your laer. You may want to sand it lightly before you use it. In the end, you may simply need to switch from MDF to a thin wood.</p>
<p>Thanks for the tips.We have the same cutter at work.</p>
<p>hello here is kobeshi from China . WWW.RADIUMWIN.COM.CN is our web ,we <br> do have co2 laser and fibre laser . if any need pls contact whatsapp 86 <br> 151 6666 3089 or email me kobeshi@radiumwin.com.cn for easy chat .</p>
<p>You BUTT things up not BUT!!</p><p>Great article thank you!!</p>
<p>Great article! I found another site that has some information about the benefits and advantages of laser cutting - <a href="http://www.laserage.com/laser-cutting/" rel="nofollow">http://www.laserage.com/laser-cutting/</a></p>
<p>Very nice &amp; helpful :)</p>
<p>Good article. I, too, wish I had read this article earlier. One suggestion I might make for improving the article is to give the reader some direction for when they have multiple shapes that result in overlapping lines (this happens a LOT). Usually, it's not a trivial case where they are butting simple geometric shapes next to each other, but frequently it's a combination of complex overlapping geometries whether the source art was in vector or raster. In particular, Illustrator seems to be fairly commonly used.</p><p>It seems that one way to resolve this in Illustrator is to use the scissors tool, click on either side of the overlapped line, then hit the delete key. The other approach that I had to use on my project today was to use the Direct Selection tool to select and delete specific anchor points on a shape.</p><p>The other thing is when you're wanting to score a vector outline around the shape in question. In Illustrator since my main artwork was already vector, I tried the approach of creating a stroke around the object as a whole and then using the above technique to get rid of everything but the outline. This was too tedious though and what I ended up successfully doing instead was to lock my existing layers, and then use the Pen tool to trace the outline. What made it easy was that since the underlying layers were visible but locked -- that meant that the cursor would automatically snap to the anchor points in the layers below -- and since the layers were locked I didn't have to worry about accidentally modifying one of the shapes below. If I didn't hit one of the anchor points accurately, no sweat, Edit | Undo and try that last anchor point again. Because of this, I was able to trace the outline blazingly fast without losing accuracy.</p><p>Great article as a whole - thanks for the contribution!</p>
<p>hello,</p><p>I have a problem with engraving picture,</p><p>always draw me a L profile line outside picture and i can not dissable it.</p><p>??</p>
<p>Good afternoon WravoR,</p><p>What program/programs are you using? I have had this issue a few times on some of the items i have engraved, and usually is quickly solved by selecting the whole screen or engraving area and converting it all over to one single bitmap. When you do this ensure that the new bitmap has all edges turned off. I hope this helped you, if not you can reach me for more help at www.EliteEngraving.com</p>
<p>Hi!</p><p>Nice write up! Must say your article gave me useful insights. </p><p>I have a laser machine in place and have couple of queries and it'd be great if you could address them.</p><p>1. How should I photo engraving on pine wood mdf. I have a software called PhotoGrav Version 2_11, where I selected mdf as the material and didn't get the desired results. Is there any way I can directly use the laser cut software or corel draw to do it?</p><p>2. When is &quot;grade engrave&quot; and &quot;hole&quot; used? </p><p>Many thanks!</p>
<p>Another option is to place several vector lines extremely close together, III or IIIIII instead of I and you will still get what looks to the eye like one thicker line, and you don't have to de-focus the lens, which is nice if you don't have a z axis.<br><br>I run three multi headed industrial lasers as my day job, mostly etching and cutting hardwood veneers for smartphone covers.</p>
<p>That's awesome and very helpful!</p>
<p>This is so incredibly helpful, thank you for taking the time to post all this info!</p>
<p>I want to get something engraved. I don't really know how to go about getting it done though. I've got time though because its a Christmas present for my husband! http://www.ajcelectrical.com.au</p>
www.blnkdesigns.com.au<br>Contact these quys! :)
<p>Another site on laser engraving you'll enjoy: </p><p><a href="http://www.primeproductsinc.com/laser-etching-marking.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.primeproductsinc.com/laser-etching-marking.html</a></p>
<p>hi im buy a laser machine k40 the laser w is on only go to the lelt sida soo I turne off </p>
<p>Very useful tips for a beginner. Many thanks.</p>

About This Instructable


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