Here at Autodesk we have these amazing Epilog laser cutters that will cut and etch a variety of materials. The Epilog can catch fire, so its necessary to monitor the laser closely while it's working. If you have a project with as many raster etching as my latest, then you have stood next to the machine for too many hours.
The worst that can happen is that your piece is moved from its original position before its finished. Or maybe the laser settings weren't right and after all that etching, it didn't cut all the way through. This is a bummer, unless you know the way to correctly reposition your piece so that it is in exactly the same place as when you started.
Follow this post to find out the tricks I've learned so far.
Step 1: Like Watching Paint Dry...
Sometimes you lose your positioning after too much standing next to the machine while it works its magic. Or say you have a material that you want to etch on both sides and you want to verify that its in the right position after you flip it.
Its easy to fix if you are using Illustrator as your printer driver.
Choose a place on your material where you've already made a cut. That will be your guideline for positioning in Illustrator. Uncheck all other lines, images, etc and have only that one point visible.
Step 2: Printer Settings
In your printer settings you will set for only Vector cutting, and set speed to 100%. If you're new to this, be sure to set laser power all the way down, since you won't actually be doing any cutting for now.
Step 3: Start the Laser
Go to the laser and open the glass top. This stops the laser from engaging.
On the control panel is a button for turning the red glowing pointer on. Push it ans the LCD panel will confirm that the pointer is on.
Then run your print, watching the pointer. At any point you can push stop, and the laser will stop as soon as it reaches the end of a line. I like to call it a "thought".
Step 4: Measure the Difference
With the laser stopped on the control panel, you can reach in and measure the difference between where your laser pointer shows the cut and where the actual cut was.
Wiggle the piece if you can to get it right. If its off by a long shot, make the adjustments in Illustrator to make it right.
Step 5: Repeat As Necessary and Use Caution
You can repeat the steps as needed until your placement is perfect.
Just remember, the laser is a dangerous tool. You can seriously injure yourself and even start a fire with this laser. Any time you're reaching into the laser area, make sure the laser is set to 'stop' on the control panel. Be sure not to bump the laser or its parts with your material. Slow down. If you're getting frustrated then its time to take a break.
Step 6: Restart Your Print
Once you have the material in position, go back to the computer and start again. Hide any steps that have taken place and show the ones that you want to be created on your material. Reset the setting in the print dialog box to the correct ones and push print.
Any time you aren't sure if your print is in position or it will do what you expect, you can use this trick to verify that everything is as planned.
Step 7: Admire Your Work
When your hard work and patience pays off, you can really stand back and admire your work.