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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>I have a ? what kind of laser engraver or cutting machine can put a print inside glass or crytal iam new to this and don't have big money but thought it be cool to make something like this the photo not mine but I like to make this for girl friend is there any machines around $500 that can do this thanks for the info </p>
<p>Here's a video on YouTube showing one way - looks like it's special laser + custom glass/crystal material. No idea on price of system, but I doubt it's under $500.</p><p>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUpkZxisWzo</p>
<p>You can find one here</p><p><a href="http://cerionlaser.com/" rel="nofollow">http://cerionlaser.com/</a></p><p>They do 2D and 3D sub-surface laser engraving machines</p>
Lasers can engrave the surface of glass but not inside it. I don't know how the photo was made, but probably not with a laser.<br><br>I don't know of any lasers that are in the $500 range. Most start in the thousand dollar range.<br><br>Good luck
<p>Enjoying your knowledge here and thought I would try to help A little. There is A type of laser that focus's to the center and works with corel. Don't know the brands but have a friend that dos this for A living.</p>
<p>I love the masking tape but I am finding it takes forever to pull the tiny pieces of masking tape off small detailed pieces off the places I want to paint. Can you set the laser low enough to just raster off the masking tape in certain places without really affecting the wood underneath ?</p>
<p>There's a product called Goo Gone.It will take the small bits of tape off easily without damage to the wood. It;s made for removing stuff like tape etc.</p>
Hypothetically yes. It would take a lot of testing to find the right setting. I'm also not sure what would happen with the adhesive on the tape. It would either burn or be left behind when the paper burned off.It is pain to peal of small bits of tape. <br><br>Another idea (I haven't tried this) would be to use some sandpaper or maybe steel wool to remove the small pieces.<br><br>If you find a good solution, post an Instructable about it.
<p>There's a product called Goo Gone.It will take the small bits of tape of easily without damage to the wood. It;s made for removing stuff like tape etc.</p>
<p>You could print a raster check file in one image that will show you what each shade will do .</p>
My simple solution would be ducttape or another bit of the masking paper (can also be the rest of the used one if bigger bits are left in one piece). Put it on the isolated cut pieces and pull off. Repeat until clean.
<p>Take a thin piece of metal, ie a ruler, and scrape over the material.</p><p>Re. www.BeQwaam.nl </p>
<p>You may want to try using application tape used in the sign making industry. It is used to apply cut vinyl letters to a substrate. It comes in various &quot;tac&quot; or adhesion. For example, Low-tac, Standard tac or high tack. Usually high tac would have a less agressive adhesive than your standard masking tapes. &quot;r-Tape&quot; is a common brand used in the sign industry. You may be able to get some from such suppliers such as &quot;Grimco&quot;, Tubelight or NGlantz. </p>
Good idea.<br>As always I would suggest running a test on some scape material to see how it behaves under the laser.
Hypothetically yes. It would take a lot of testing to find the right setting. I'm also not sure what would happen with the adhesive on the tape. It would either burn or be left behind when the paper burned off.<br><br>It is pain to peal of small bits of tape. Another idea (I haven't tried this) would be to use some sandpaper or maybe steel wool to remove the small pieces.<br><br>If you find a good solution, post an Instructable about it.
<p>Dear Geordie</p><p>Congratulations for this guide, unique in its kind, which can be found on the web.<br>I really appreciate the &quot;masking tape&quot; hint.</p><p>I have a DIY laser engraver with 2.5W blue laser diode.Controller is arduino UNO + grbl + grbl shield.<br><br>All is fine with my setup, but when engraving i have a strongest burn (sometimes up to drill the material) in correspondence with changes of direction.<br><br>Apparently the movement has very small pauses between running the command,</p><p>as well as you say &quot;in the corners of the lines the laser pauses just a little as it changes direction so the corners get burned a little deeper&quot;.</p><p>Do you have any hint to prevent this problem?</p><p>Regards, Diego - ITALY</p>
<p>For the corners try making them slightly rounded , say 0.5mm. The laser wont see the corner as a stop point then and you should have less of a difference at the corners</p>
I don't have anyway to fix that. The change in direction obviously slows the laser's movement down and it burns longer at that spot. <br><br>Sorry
<p>Ddear Geordie, thank to your quick reply</p><p>Doing some searches i read that if the G-code path has a sharp turn coming up and the machine is moving at full speed, the machine needs to slow down to safely go through the corner without losing steps (as you say).</p><p>Luckly grbl allow me to control how much to slow down with &quot;$11 - Junction deviation&quot; config param.</p><p>I am trying some different configuration to obtain a better performance.<br>I also can write some code to proportionally power down laser when decreasing speed at corners</p>
<p>As they are called the points of attachment left by the laser cutter between the cut figure and the surplus material, I need to reduce it, but I can not find it in the menu of the machine. Thanks</p>
<p>Bonjour Geordie,</p><p>I am not a PRO for carpentry but I am undecided between a Laser or a CNC router.</p><p>As part of a small family business, we want to cut out Russian birch (1/16, 1/8 and 1/2) to do different projects (door hanger, key ring, 6x6 box, hole a 24X24 panel Inch small size holes 2X2 inches, small key rings etc).</p><p>What we like less with the Laser is the black burned finish that is left on the pieces of wood. But I think it's more accurate than the Laser. Do you have suggestions for CNC and Laser rotors near Montreal? I have a budget of about $ 12,000. We looked for a Laser Thunder nova 35 which is Chinese of which there is a distributor in Montreal. Have you ever used this device? Do you have suggestions of reliable machines that can make cuts in the wood 1/2 maximum whose maximum size is 2X2 feet (24X24 inches)? Does a top make a clean job that requires little or no sanding? Are there any marks to avoid? What software is easy to use?</p><p>Thank you</p>
I only have experience with an Epilog laser cutter. <br>A laser cutter cuts with heat so the burnt edge can't be avoided. Also for most laser cutters 1/4&quot; is the maximum depth (until you get to more industrial lasers). Since you want to cut 1/2&quot; material a CNC sounds line the better option. The biggest difference is going to be the cutting line. On the laser it will be hair thin but on the CNC the size of the cutting bit will be the smallest detail you can cut. Be aware that long thin bits have a tendency to snap if you cut to quickly with them.<br>Hope this helps.<br>
We purchased a red sail cm1290 laser engraver from China. It uses auto laser software. We are having an issue getting auto laser and coreldraw graphic suite x7 to communicate. Any suggestions?
<p>I think it has to do with the simple fact that your vectors aren't be recognised by the software. If you are using LaserCut 6.1 software I imagine then you need to save your files as &quot;dxf. before you import them into your laser software program. The other obvious issue is that your using corel draw. It is not considered a professional tool for vector related artworks. If you use CAD then its easy to export your files to dxf format before you import.</p>
Not off hand. Since you know the company that made the laser I would see if they have a tech support or at least a recommend software for using with the laser.<br><br>Corel Draw works well with the Epilog laser I use. I prefer Adobe Illustrator for creating drawings. <br><br>Good luck
Not familiar with that laser. I would try contacting the manufacturer or seeing if there is an online blog for people using it.<br><br>Good luck
We have had very little luck with the manufacturer. I went on a chat and have yet to hear back and that was 4 weeks ago and I haven't found anyone else. Thank you for the reply though.
<p>Hello,</p><p>I also have that issue with my CM1490, and hence i have to normally use 2 or 3 programs to get the job done properly.... and i totally feel your pain about not getting anything in terms of communication from Redsail.<br>Good luck, and if you do manage to workout a solution can you please post it up for us?</p><p>Thanks</p>
<p>I Georgie,</p><p>Do you have any advice on cutting thicker acrylic like 10mm in pass. I don't use a top of the line laser cutter but it's something I can't seem to solve. Additionally what cleaner do you purchase for your lenses. I have been trying a few out but I find that some are better than others, however all in all I feel like I'm being duped every time I need to purchase more cleaner...</p>
I don't have any tips on cutting thick acrylic.<br><br>I've never compared lens cleaners. So again can't help out.<br><br>Good luck.
<p>Geordie,</p><p>Want to say &quot;thank you&quot;! I have been driving an Epilog Helix for over ten years both in my job (Tech Ed/Industrial Arts teacher) and my personal Epilog I bought 8 years ago for a small engraving/cutting business. Several of your tips were very useful! It goes to show that you can always learn some new tricks!</p>
Glad you liked it and if you have any tips you've learned you should create your own instructable.
<p>I have a Chinese laser with a roller &quot;rotary&quot; attachment. I have issues engraving stemless glass due to it being wobbly on the rollers. Any suggestions? </p>
I have cut circular O shaped adapter pieces from plywood sometimes if the bottom and top of a glass differ too much in diameter. This way the overall slope is at least halfed.
<p>Hi Stacy, the easiest way is with some rubber bands. Make sure that the part of the glass that you want to engrave is level by adding rubber bands at either end. This will also ensure that the glass does not slip on your rotary attachment.</p>
glasses can be tricky when they are oddly shaped or weighted. See how much you and adjust the location of the rotary wheels and if there are different ways to position the glass on it. I did one glass &quot;upside down&quot; to get it to stay on the rotary wheels. <br>Also plan on 2 or 3 getting messed up. If you need 10 buy at least 12 glasses.
Hi I want to buy My first laser engraver/cutter to use as a hobby which laser would you suggest I buy for ease of use and not expensive, thanks
I've only used an Epilog laser so I can't personally review different models. I wrote this Instructable with so advice on what to look for when buying:<br>https://www.instructables.com/id/Tips-for-buying-a-laser-cutterengraver/
<p>Hello</p><p>I had a logo engraved on Leather, long story short i need to have it corrected. Is there anyway to correct/fill or do something to the leather and or engraving to have it fixed?</p><p>Any advise will be appreciated</p>
Sorry not that I know of.
<p>Hello,</p><p>I use a laser cutter for cutting and engraving various leathers. The problem I am experiencing is not only with burn marks around the edges, but the smell of the leather once it has been cut. Do you have any tips for getting rid of the burnt smell?</p><p>Thank you!</p>
Sorry no help with the smell. Good venting.<br>As for burns around the edges try putting some masking tape over the leather.<br>Good luck
<p>Hi Geordie</p><p>I wonder if you can offer any advice as to where I'm going wrong with my project.</p><p>I did some small test circles on 3mm Mirror Acrylic which were fine, I then started a bigger project that was roughly A4 size and quite intricate, so took quite a while to cut. However, I couldn't get the two parts apart as it had sort of re-welded itself back together again.</p><p>I'm using a Epilog Helix 40 w and although I don't have the pin table I did raise the acrylic up on level blocks and it was mirror side down. I have extraction on and also air assist. </p><p>I did read somewhere about putting a sheet of damp paper on top to help cool it but not sure if this is the answer and maybe just need to adjust settings but as they were ok on the test cuts, not sure what to change them to for a larger piece?</p><p>Regards</p><p>Carol</p>
Interesting problem. I've never had trouble with plastic re-welding but I can see how it would happen. <br>You could try slowing the cut down. That might give it more time to cool and for the air assist to blow air into the cut. The damp paper might work or you could try masking tape. Last idea, do the cut in 2 passes. The second pass would hopefully recut anything that had re-welded from the first.<br><br>Good luck and if you find any good ideas post your own instructable.<br>Geordie
<p>My understanding is that 'slowing down the cut' results in more char- not less; the tool pumps more energy into the part when passing over it slowly.</p>
<p>With the laser you control 2 things, speed and power. If you slow down the cut you also want to use less power. I always do some test cuts to find the best ratio of speed to power.</p>
<p>So I am looking for more in depth info on vector cutting. I have a huge project I am cutting on a co2 universal 60w laser.. I need to reduce cutting time as much as possible. Any suggestions. </p>
Well the Instructable is has all my tips and tricks in it. What I would do is go through it and figure out which ones you can use. Try and setup a template or workflow for you project that will minimize your tasks and then stick to that. Properly setting up the job will make it go faster.<br><br>Good Luck
<p>These are great tips! The defocusing cut is clever! I've been starting to use the local Makerspace's 100w laser cutter and will keep these in mind.</p>
<p>Hello,</p><p>I have a CAD file and I would like to engrave character on my object with laser engraving method.</p><p>What is the minimal or recommended depth of extrude material (plastic for me) to prepare it for laser engraving? (in metric system please)</p>

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