Here is a brief tutorial on using FabLab Tacoma's Epilog Laser Engraver 75 watts, 36x24 bed size. This is set up using Corel Draw with a vectorized image of a duck. This does not apply for every laser engraver, and if you are unsure about your settings check your laser manual or the internet for recommended settings.
Also we apologize for the lack of clear images, they were PrintScreens from our computer. Enjoy as Elysa, a member and employee of FabLab Tacoma, sets up a simple laser job. (:
Step 1: Check Your Image
Once you have your design set onto your page check your image lines. The lines you want to cut through (vector) should be set as "Hairline" while the places you want to engrave (raster) should be larger than hairline or filled completely.
Step 2: Go to the Print Screen
After checking your lines click File --> Print
Step 3: Select Your Printer
Now that you are on the print screen you are able to select your printer, in our case we select "Epilog Engraver Winx64"
Step 4: Preferences
After selecting the printer, click on preferences to change laser settings.
Step 5: Job Size
First thing you want to change in preferences is your job size. Make sure this matches the size you put your design on. In our case we put our duck on a 24"x12" material size.
Step 6: Auto Focus
There are two ways to focus the laser, manually and auto focus. To Auto Focus the laser you simply click the auto focus box.
Step 7: Manually Focus
To manually focus the laser choose the metal triangle that fits with the lens you are using. Place the triangle so it fits over the top of the lens. If needed you can "Turn Off X/Y" to focus in the middle of your material. Now use the arrow key inside the bed and move the Z-Axis till the tip of the triangle is just touching your material. When you are done remove the triangle and press Reset to turn on X/Y. You are now manually focused.
If you manually focus DO NOT click the Auto Focus box in preferences.
Step 8: Set Job Type
You can now choose what your Job Type is. You can either select "Raster" which is only going to engrave the lines that are thicker than hairline, "Vector" which will only cut out all of your hairlines, or "Combined" which will Raster THEN Vector your design.
Step 9: Set Raster
During this step you will set your Raster settings. Settings will determine how deep and dark you engrave. When you are using wood to get a deeper darker raster you would make your Speed fairly low while your Power is set higher, and vice versa if you want a lighter raster. When rastering Acrylic Plastic the speed won't make a difference on the color of the raster, instead it will determine the depth of the raster.
Rastering is all up to user preference, there isn't necessarily a right and wrong setting for Raster, although we do suggest not going 100% power to conserve energy as well as keep maintenance costs down.
Step 10: Vector Settings
These settings will determine how deep your hairline will cut. Again, the less Speed and more Power you use, the more likely it will cut all the way through on the first cut. There are many vector settings online for various materials, but it does differ according to the age and wattage of your laser. I suggest running a few tests to find out which settings work well with your material. You will also want to change your Frequency depending on your material, for birch plywood we go 500 hz, and for acrylic plastic we choose 5000 hz. Of course, this does differ depending on the laser and material. You can also check online for other frequencies.
And remember, if you are a strictly vector line artist who works with only hairlines, you can choose to not cut entirely through your material in order to create your image.
Step 11: Check Your Settings
Once you have finished setting your vector lines, double check all of your settings. When you are ready, click OK!
Step 12: Click Print
Double check the image on the print preview screen, if it looks incorrect go back and check your job size. If everything looks correct go ahead and press print.
Step 13: Put in Your Material
Place your material into the bed of the machine. We usually place ours in the upper left corner, but you can also set your own home and place your material there.
Step 14: Click Go
Always double check that the job number/title matches your job. If it doesn't then go back and click print again after checking if your preferences have changed. If it's your job on the screen, press Go and watch as your masterpiece gets lasered!