Cartesian Coordinate Laser Cut With AutoCAD

Hey everyone, in this lesson we will be learning how to plot a sketch into AutoCAD and then laser cut it onto a piece of wood using the ULS 3.50. This is a project that I do with my Advanced MFG | ENG high school class. It is my way of getting my kids to buy into understanding and completing the Cartesian coordinates unit for their semester. This project can be cut on any material you'd like, but I chose to do wood for the demonstration.

To get a gist of the project, we will be tracing an image or free drawing an image onto a piece of graph paper, finding the coordinates of the drawing, and plotting them into AutoCAD to create our image on the computer. From the computer, we will take that drawing and run it on the Laser Cutter, burning our drawing that was plotted using the Cartesian Coordinate System onto our piece of wood.

Prerequisites: In order to complete this project you need to have prior knowledge in the following areas;

- Cartesian Coordinates

- AutoCAD Software

- ULS software and capability of running the machine

- Safety Training

- CorelDraw Software

Supplies:

- 1/8" Wood

- Computer

- Must have AutoCAD and CorelDraw Sofrware

- ULS 3.50

- 2x Graph Paper

- Pencil

- Good Music!

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Step 1: Find an Image

FIND AN IMAGE

The first step to beginning this project is finding the image you would like to create. Your can research online for images or on your phone, whatever you'd like. I chose to do Spongebob for an example.

If you are new to coordinates, I recommend choosing a simpler image than Spongebob.

Step 2: Trace Your Image

TRACE YOUR IMAGE

The next step is to trace your image onto a piece of graph paper. When I do this project in class I have my students trace it from the computer screen, but if you'd like to freehand it that is an option as well.

For this step you will need the following materials;

- Graph Paper

- Pencil

- Good Music

Step 3: Find the Cartesian Coordinates

FIND THE CARTESIAN COORDINATES

1. For this step, we will be placing our origin (0,0) point and creating a graph from there. I recommend placing your origin so that your drawing is in the 1st Quadrant, that way everything we are graphing is positive. (please click on the link above if you need some review of Cartesian Coordinates).

2. Next, we will begin graphing our coordinates points. Choose a point and write down on your extra sheet of paper the (x,y) coordinates.

For this step you will need the following materials;

- Graph Paper with your Sketch

- Extra Piece of Paper

- Pencil

- Good Music

NOTE: If you are struggling with finding your points, grab a ruler and line it up with your graphing lines in order to follow the line easier.

ALSO! If there is fine detail on your drawing, don't worry about finding all of the coordinates. I free handed some of them for time's sake. On Spongebob, the sponge details, socks, and pockets were free handed.

Step 4: New Drawing

CREATE A NEW DRAWING IN AUTOCAD

Our next step is to create a new drawing in AutoCAD. Make sure to name your drawing and SAVE constantly throughout the process of creating this project (every 5 minutes).

For this step you will need the following materials;

- Computer

- AutoCAD Software

- Good Music

Step 5: Entering Your Coordinates

ENTERING YOUR COORDINATES INTO AUTOCAD USING ABSOLUTE COORDINATES

Begin the LINE command in AutoCAD. This is the main command that we will be using for this project.

Once you are in the LINE command begin entering in your coordinate points from your scratch paper. This is the EASY part! It is just a matter of typing them in at this point.

Type in EVERY coordinate from your scratch paper before you continue to the next step.

NOTE: For absolute coordinates to work in AutoCAD, make sure that your dynamic input is turned off. The hot key for it is F12 on your keyboard. I attached a couple images of an example of it being on (cursor with information) and off (cursor without information) as well as a video to freshen up your knowledge.

For this step you will need the following materials;
- Extra Piece of Paper with Coordinates

- Computer

- Good Music

Step 6: Editing Your AutoCAD Drawing

EDITING YOUR AUTOCAD DRAWING

This is where the fun happens! Now since we have all of our Cartesian Coordinates plotted in AutoCAD, we can now start getting creative!

At this point your drawing might look a little SHARP or BOXY to say the least. See the commands below to make some modifications to your drawing and start fine tuning it for laser cutting. I also added a description below the commands of what I used them for in my drawing.

COMMANDS:

- CIRCLE

- I use this command for the eyes and pupils on Spongebob. See the example above with the cyan coloring to see a before and after.

- FILLET

- I used this command for the outside of Spongebob and his hands. This got rid of the sharp parts of him. See the example above with the green coloring to see a before and after.

- ARC

- I used this command for the cheeks, nose, hands, and shoes of Spongebob. See the example above with the pink coloring to see a before and after.

For this step you will need the following materials;
- Computer

- Good Music

Step 7: Adding Final Details

ADDING FINAL DETAILS TO YOUR DRAWING

At this point, your drawing is probably looking pretty AWESOME. Please see the AFTER EDITING picture above to see a before and after. If you are doing Sponge Bob, it should look roughly like that.

For those of you who did a less rigorous drawing, you might be finished. My Spongebob is still missing a few things.

- Sponge Detail: I free handed the sponge detail in using the LINE command from the previous step. Once the sponge holes were created, I used the FILLET command to round the edges.

- Socks: I free handed the socks in with the LINE command.

- Pockets: I free handed the pockets in using the RECTANG command.

- Freckles: I free handed the freckles in using the CIRCLE command.

- Shading Eyes, Freckles, Pockets, and Shoes: I used the HATCH command to shade in some areas of Sponge Bob in order to get some shading on the Laser Cutter Later.

At this point, you have the freedom to add or subtract any details on your drawing that you desire.

For this step you will need the following materials;
- Computer

- Good Music


Step 8: Offsetting Your Cut Line

OFFSETTING YOUR CUT LINE

In order to cut the piece out of our wood, we are going to need to create an offset from our original drawing. I created a 1/4" offset around Sponge Bob in the drawing above using the OFFSET command in AutoCAD. The offset line is the RED line in the above image.

For this step you will need the following materials;
- Computer

- Good Music

Step 9: Changing the Colors

CHANGING YOUR COLORS IN AUTOCAD

Laser cutters see color, more specifically, they see RGB color. We will change our colors in AutoCAD and verify them when we take this drawing into CorelDRAW before we cut on the laser.

- Change your outside line to RED 255 to cut out your entire piece.

- Change your inside lines, that are JUST LINES to BLUE 255 to create a vector cut in your piece.

- Change any hatching in your drawing to a shade of BLACK 0 to create a shading effect similar to a black and white photo. For Sponge Bob use R100,G100,B100 (this RGB will give you the grey shade in the above picture)


COLOR KEY FOR LASER CUTTING

RED 255 = CUT --> THIS WILL CUT ENTIRELY THROUGH YOUR MATERIAL

BLUE 255 = VECTOR --> THIS WILL JUST DO A ONE PASS LINE ON YOUR MATERIAL

BLACK 0 = RASTER --> THIS WILL CREATE SHADING ON YOUR MATERIAL. YOU CAN MODIFY THE BLACK TO DIFFERENT SHADES IN ORDER TO GET DIFFERENT DEPTH OF CUTS ON YOUR MATERIAL. IT WILL COME OUT LOOKING LIKE SHADING ON A BLACK AND WHITE PHOTO FOR EXAMPLE.

For this step you will need the following materials;
- Computer

- Good Music

Step 10: Saving As a PDF

SAVING YOUR DRAWING AS A PDF FILE

The easiest way to save your file to a .pdf format is to use the PLOT command. The settings that you should use for plotting are as follows;

- Printer/Plotter Name: Microsoft Print to PDF

- Paper Size: Letter

- Plot Area: Window (at this time you will just select your drawing using the window selection)

- CHECK Center the Plot

- CHECK Portrait

- PREVIEW

See the Image above of the PLOT window to verify that you've checked everything necessary.

Once you've verified, click OK and it will ask you to save your .pft file.

For this step you will need the following materials;
- Computer

- Good Music

Step 11: Opening Up in CorelDRAW

OPENING UP YOUR PDF DRAWING IN CorelDRAW

Once you open up CorelDRAW, you are going open up your recently saved .pdf file of your coordinate drawing.

You can place your drawing wherever you'd like for the time being. There are a couple things that we need to do in CorelDRAW before we print. They are as follows;

1. Scale your drawing to size by selecting all objects and typing in a desired width or height.

- I scaled my SpongeBob to 3in. width because my material was only 3.25in in width.

2. Make sure all of your colors are correct.

RED 255 = CUT --> THIS WILL CUT ENTIRELY THROUGH YOUR MATERIAL

BLUE 255 = VECTOR --> THIS WILL JUST DO A ONE PASS LINE ON YOUR MATERIAL

BLACK 0 = RASTER --> THIS WILL CREATE SHADING ON YOUR MATERIAL. YOU CAN MODIFY THE BLACK TO DIFFERENT SHADES IN ORDER TO GET DIFFERENT DEPTH OF CUTS ON YOUR MATERIAL. IT WILL COME OUT LOOKING LIKE SHADING ON A BLACK AND WHITE PHOTO FOR EXAMPLE.

3. Make sure all the line types are correct. They must all be HAIRLINE.

4. Print your drawing to your ULS 3.50.

NOTE: Other laser systems can be used to cut this drawing, the set up and printing methods just might vary a little.

For this step you will need the following materials;
- Computer

- CorelDRAW Software

- Good Music

Step 12: Setting Up Laser Cutter

SETTING UP YOUR ULS 3.50

There are a couple things you need to do before your final cut on the laser cutter. For the ULS 3.50 model, please follow the below steps;

1. Orient your drawing: Using the Relocate View on the ULS Control Panel, move your drawing so that it is properly positioned onto the materials that you will be cutting. You will see that I positioned mine at (4.50,0.100) because that is where my materials is laying on the laser cutting bed.

2. Check your Laser Location: To ensure that your drawing is going to be cut on the material that you have placed on the cutting bed, use the Focus View to click the outside corners of the drawing. If the laser stays on the material, then you are good to cut! If it does not, you might have to return to STEP 1 and relocate your drawing once more.

3. Change your Settings: Select the Settings button in the far right corner of the ULS Control Panel and select the material you are cutting (I used General Hard Woods) and select the material Thickness (My material was 0.250 in). MAKE SURE TO SELECT APPLY BEFORE CLICKING OK TO RETURN TO THE MAIN SCREEN.

Once all these settings have been changed, and your ventilation system is turned on, you are ready to click start and begin cutting!

For this step you will need the following materials;
- Computer

- ULS Control Panel

- ULS 3.50 Laser Cutter

- Good Music

Step 13: Reflect and Admire Your Project

REFLECTING AND ADMIRING YOUR COMPLETED CARTESIAN COORDINATES PROJECT

Congratulations on completing your Cartesian Coordinates project! Now is the time to admire your work and give yourself a pat on the back! I appreciate the time you've taken to do this lesson, and hope that you can use this knowledge to teach someone else what you've learned.

Please feel free to share any thoughts or reflections with me on here! I am always looking to listen and learn myself.

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    2 Discussions

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    seamster

    6 days ago

    Nicely presented, thank you for sharing! : )

    1 reply
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    rpresto628seamster

    Reply 6 days ago

    More than happy to! Thank you for taking the time to check it out :)