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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.

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?
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>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>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>
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>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>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>
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.
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>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>
<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.
<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>
<p>&quot;NAMASTE &quot; AND HELLO GEORGE THIS IS AKASH FROM INDIA I HAVE A CHINESE LASER I WANTED TO KNOW HOW CAN I REDUSE THE COSTING OF ENGRAVING ON LEATHER MATERIAL BEC THERE IS STIFF COMPETETION IN THE MARKET SO IF U COULD SUGGEST ME SOME TRICS .MY MACHINE WORKS ON CORAL 12</p>
i have engraved on leather before but I don't have any specific tricks for improving it. I would keep good notes on what settings you have used so keep track of what works and what doesn't.<br><br>Good luck
<p>I have the Corel draw x3, and I know how to cut out circles, and plates, but I can't figure out how to cut out an object, like if I wanted to cut out a logo of a yellowjacket. Please help! Thanks</p>
Well that's not an easy question to answer. The basic answer is you need to learn how to use the pen tool to draw custom shapes. While I've taught people how to use programs like Inkscape and Illustrator, I don't think I can teach it over email like this.<br>I would go to Google or Youtube and search for tutorials In Corel Draw.<br><br>Best of luck
<p>Thank you! </p>
<p>I have a Xenetech laser, and I know how to cut out a plate, and circles, but I still don't know how to cut out an object (like a logo yellowjacket). I have Corel Draw x3, and I have spent hours trying to figure it out. Please help, thanks!</p>
<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>
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>Hi Geordie,</p><p>I am a beginner to laser engraving/cutting. purchased a boss LS-1630 100watt laser with a 5000 chiller. Previous owner used windows10 and coreldraw X7. My question is do I have to install laserworks first before using coreldraw to run the engraver? Please be nice I am new at this but eager to learn.</p>
I'm not familiar with that laser. If Corel can access the print driver for the laser than that is all you need. To be honest all the lasers I've worked with were already set up, so I don't have a lot experience with setting them up.<br>If Corel can't find the laser I would look into how to connect to it. Either ask the previous owner or see if you can contact the manufacturer.<br><br>Good luck and have fun.
<p>Hi Geordie,</p><p>I have an Epilog with a 12 x 24 table and use CorelDraw7</p><p>A client wants a particular graphic on an odd shaped board (24 1/8 x 23 7/8).</p><p>There is an approx 1/4 in. wide circle that needs to meet up perfectly when I flip the board around after rastering the 1st half. I feel like I am over thinking it, but have spent days on this project and am out of ideas.</p><p>Any suggestions?</p><p>Thank you!</p>
Tough problem. What I would suggest is putting some masking tape or paper on the board and running the laser at very low power to burn a test into the paper or tape. Once you have it aligned you can either remove the tape/paper.<br><br>Good luck
<p>Hello Geordie,</p><p>I have a problem with the alignment of the engraving and final cut.</p><p>For example, with earrings; I do make the engraving at first, then cut the circle around the engraving but Corellaser does not align and I run out to cut the engraving. I show the pictures to explain. <br>At first I found a method that works by creating a transparent square that I selected for both the engraving and for cutting, but now it no longer works.</p><p>Help me!!! Tnks, Ilaria</p>
Odd. You should be able to engrave and cut from the same drawing. Create your engraving and then draw the cut line around it. Make sure the cut line is set to hairline. If that doesn't work. Try moving the cut or engraving to a separate layer. Make sure it is still aligned the way you want it and then run the laser.<br><br>good luck.
<p>I'm looking for a good wood source for making ornaments and keychains. 1/8in preferably light in color. Do you have any recommendations?</p>
Not off hand. I go to my local woodstore, Woodcrafters. You could try online craft stores. <br><br>Good Luck.
<p>Hi Geordie, I have a question for you please. I am also using an epilog engraver but use Illustrator for my files. </p><p>I am trying to create wooden cards that are also engraved, When I go to combi the job, it wont work, it will only do the engraving and ignore the vector to cut. I am not sure why it is doing this as it has worked many times for other files. This has to be done as two separate jobs once I delete the rasterised images from the file. What am I doing wrong!? Thank you in advance</p>
I don't have much experience with using Illustrator on the Epilog. The issue is probably the line thickness for the cuts. I do my design in Illustrator and then use Corel Draw to run the job on the laser. In Corel you can set the thickness of the cut lines to &quot;Hairline&quot; and that is what it uses to cut the lines. <br>I did a quick Google search and the solution is to set the cut lines to .01 thickness so they are treated as Hairline.<br><br>Give that a try.
<p>Hi,</p><p>I have a question. Am I able to paint a piece of wood and then engrave on it - or will that damage the machine?</p><p>Thank you!</p>
It should be fine. The only issue is what happens to the paint when it burns. Off hand I have not run into any paint that produces toxic or corrosive fumes. Make sure you have good venting on your machine to remove any fumes. That should protect you and the machine.<br><br>
<p>I have a question. I bought a 50w laser engraver off of ebay and I can't find the print drivers that will work with it? Any suggestions?</p>
I would get in touch with the manufacturer. I only have experience with Epilog lasers. If its one of them their website and customer service are great. If not contact the manufacturer or do a web search.<br><br>Good luck
<p>thanks for the information</p>
<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>

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