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Cutting Christmas Ornaments With An Epilog Helix

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I made it at TechShop.

As a novice user of the Epilog Helix Laser Engraver and Cutter, I decided to cut out some relatively simple stars and circles which will be used in a local elementary school for a Christmas art project. There were plenty of problems along the way, which I'm sharing so you can make different mistakes on your own version of the project.

For this instructable, I'm assuming that you've taken the Laser Cutting and Etching SBU class at TechShop or have equivalent knowledge if you're using a laser cutter elsewhere. This instructable only deals with cutting, and doesn't involve any etching.

The Epilog Helix uses a CO2 laser to cut and engrave non-metallic materials. Each laser cutting station at the TechShop is connected to a computer workstation where you'll load your design files.

 
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Step 1: Prepare The File

After deciding what to cut on the Epilog Helix, you need to create a drawing which lays out the shapes you want to produce. The TechShop recommends that you use CorelDraw to "print" to the Epilog Helix, so you should use a file format that CorelDraw can open. If you are going to work at the TechShop, prepare your file in advance and bring it on a flash drive. I used an open source CAD program called QCad to produce a dxf file, which is attached. Cutting many copies is straightforward, so I copied the original pattern to cover a 24" x 12" acrylic sheet.

Step 2: Materials

I purchased a 24" x 12" x 1/8" piece of fluorescent amber acrylic at a local plastic shop. More on that later. According to another person doing laser cutting, I should have also brought some paper to place between the Helix's grid and my acrylic. I used a second piece of acrylic with its protective paper still attached as a protective layer. It was not a great idea.
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