Picture of How to Use a Laser Cutter
The laser cutter is one of the most useful tools in a modern shop. Laser cutters work by directing a very powerful laser beam, at a precise focal length, onto a material which they either cut or etch, depending on how the laser cutter has been set up. Laser cutters cut materials similarly to other computer controlled tools, only they do so using a beam of light as opposed to a blade. When laser cutters are set up to etch something on the surface of a material, they operate like a printer, literally using their laser beam to etch an image onto something.

This Instructable is meant to be a resource to anyone who is looking to do some laser cutting for the first time, learn a bit more about how laser cutters work, or just explore the wonderful world of laser cutters.
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Step 1: Materials - Part 1 - The Machine

Picture of Materials - Part 1 - The Machine
The first thing you're going to need to use a laser cutter, is the laser cutter. Though, chances are if you don't have one yet, purchasing one may not be within your budget.

Epilog recently released a line of budget laser cutters that come in just under $8,000.00. With that in mind, I'm going to explore other ways of getting your hands on a laser cutter.

First, there's always local colleges. Community colleges are fairly cheap for classes, and it can't hurt to see if they offer any classes in art or engineering that involve laser engraving. Less then a hundred dollars (depending on cost per credit) for a class, and you should have access to a laser cutter for a whole semester. Going about it this way, you not only get cheap access to a laser cutter, you also get to learn some tips and tricks, plus constant hands on experience.

If you just want your design made and don't have the cash for, or want to buy, the machinery, you can do some searches in your local area for businesses that will laser cut for you. There's a lot of places that make a business of laser cutting items for other people. You can also try to find places that use laser cutters, and see if they wouldn't mind helping you out.

Another way to get your design made without buying a laser cutter is with a company like Ponoko, who will cut whatever design you send them, and send you back the finished product. There is an excellent set of Instructables on doing just that.

If you really want your own laser cutter and just don't have the money for it, there are a couple of options. You can go to manufactures websites and see if they have an option to purchase pre-owned models, or go to a site like ebay and hope that what you buy is what you get.

You could also treat it as you would a car, since it costs just about as much, and lease-to-own.
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nodcah1 month ago

This was super helpful thanks!! =D

triumphlaser4 months ago


schumi234 months ago

Is all acrylic laser cuttable?

KonstantinG made it!6 months ago

Wanted to mention this free open source ruby software that you can use to generate notched boxes outline. You run the script, and it generates PDF file that can be imported into Adobe or CorelDraw:

SenfengL7 months ago

yes ,laser cutting machine can cut almost any nonmetal materials .

sdcharle1 year ago
Don't forget to see if there's a hackerspace or makerspace in your area. We (Bloominglabs in Bloomington, IN) recently pooled our resources to purchase a laser cutter. Members can use it for reasonable rates (mainly, we just want to cover costs) and members of the public can work something out with us. There may be a place in your town like that, and it's a heckuva lot cheaper than buying your own.

GRMakers(.com) in Grand Rapids, Michigan is eagerly awaiting the delivery of a brand new Laser Cutter this week (April 22, 2014)! I look forward to using it to make custom-designed fence panels and trellis!

lukish1 year ago
Can I use Autodesk Inventor to design a knife and cut it? Thanks in advance :D
makermike2 years ago
I just took the Laser Cutter class at San Jose Tech Shop last night, and this is a really good tutorial! Can't wait to start using the machine!
ljandueza3 years ago
its ... HUGE .
I found an affordable laser cutter right here: Trotec Speedy 100
It's an entry level laser system at high quality.
psbatra4 years ago
FANTASTIC tutorial - I always wondered about the process...I. Really. Really. Really. Want. One! I think I will get a large piggy bank and start filling it up with day it'll be enough.....
thepelton4 years ago
If you are going to laser engrave glass, be prepared to run the focusing equipment manually. I found that the glass reflection can confound the auto focus.
ShadowJesus5 years ago
Awesome... now only if i could afford a $8,000 dollar laser cutter:p
They can be bought used, but that doesn't mean dirt cheap. Be prepared for a big bill anyway.
It seems to me that a laser cutter is something that a group of folks could buy together and share. Like a snow blower in the South. One person might not use it enough to make it profitable. But divided among 4 people?
ponoko FTW. hackerspaces FTW.
Agreed. But there are more specialty tools in general at TechShop.
3 friends and I are planning on buying a Epilog Mini this next year. Gonna start a engraving business, might even take orders offa the internets as well
hintss4 years ago
IIRC, the autofocusing happens at the first point where the laser will be on, right?
StumpChunkman (author)  hintss4 years ago
Yes, but I find it can be a little difficult to determine what point that will be on larger images. I think you have to be very aware of which line is on top of all the other line segments in your vector image.
thepaul935 years ago
was that the EEE 900HA?
StumpChunkman (author)  thepaul935 years ago
It's actually the 1000 model (got it before they started releasing ones with suffixes).
cool. Anyways it reminds me on what i want to do one day. I want to get i really old laptop (that runs windows 3) and put an EEE or something like that in its shell. Just for something to do..

also, I wish they had linux drivers
SinAmos5 years ago
HOW TO BE RICH ENOUGH TO AFFORD A LASER CUTTER, so all these instructables don't go to waste. These teases irk me. I want a laser cutter. Waaaaaah.
hintss SinAmos4 years ago
step 1: be rich enough to get a 3D printer
step 2: print 3D printer parts until you're rich enough to get a laser cutter
Me, too. I so want a desktop cutter and out of reach I think...big sigh
Oroka SinAmos5 years ago
OMG! I was thinking the same thing! I am going back to school in Sept, when I am done and in my job, first thing I buy is a laser cutter! Damn thing is worth more than my car :(
Same here! But $8000...!
SweetTea5 years ago
 What is the purpose of this instructable? 

If someone spent 8K on an Epilog Laser, shouldn't they have the initiative to RTM?
hintss SweetTea4 years ago
but trust me, the manual dosen't cover everything.

same goes for the manuals for MRI machines. apparently, they're not to be used in explosive environments*.

*I actually found that in a manual for an MRI machine
acornstu4 years ago
Hey! Great tutorial. Sadly my budget for laser machines is running about $8,000 short. Would you be interested in erching some arcrylic for me? Please email me at thanks!
hintss acornstu4 years ago
ah-el4 years ago
tanl you merci
knektek5 years ago
gonna use a laser cutter @ school for my own bookend project.
kcls5 years ago
Oh how I want a laser cutter...
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