Laser Cutting Machine Basics

About: Mexican woman, concerned about the environment, education, and poverty reduction. When I bring something to reality, it is my way to contributing to the world. Innovation and design engineering

Intro: Laser Cutting Machine Basics

Hi there!

Here at the prototyping area in Málaga building at Universidad Panamericana, the most requested machine for projects is the laser cutting machine. In this instructable we'll learn the basics:

- Concepts

- Safety measures

- Starting the machine

- Basic LaserCa software interface

- Preparing a file

Step 1: Specifications

For this instructable we'll be operating:

- Machine: BOYE LASER, Cutting & Fold-bend Machine (from now on CFM)

- Control Software: LaserCA

- Software compatible: AutoCAD, Illustrator, Photoshop, CorelDraw

- Supported file formats: DXF, AI, BMP, PLT, DST

And using:

- 6mm plywood

- 6mm MDF

- 6mm cast acrylic

Step 2: Concepts

Vector

A vector is a curve (path) made up by dots, which can be scaled without losing definition.

Bitmap

A bitmap is a matrix made up by color dots (bits), which has color depth depending on the number of bits per pixel and is described by width and height in pixels.

When working with the CFM for bit maps, all files must be saved in 1 bit and .BMP format. Why 1 bit? The LaserCA software is binary, meaning that only understand color bits (white) or absence (black) of it and the CFM translates it as laser cuts (white) or laser stands by (black). What’s interesting about bit maps is that contrary to engraving that works with specific speed and power inside an area, bit maps allow you to make gradients depending on the amount of bits (white). Also bitmaps are a good option for accurate representation of an image or vector.

Engraving

Engraving employs a path and the engraving function that converts that path in a bitmap, meaning that it covers the area inside the path and then sent to the CFM it is translated as columns with color bits (white). Engraving covers the whole area in white, and applies the same speed and power through it.

Cutting

The CFM uses paths (vectors) that are given the right speed and power in order for the laser to go through the material. For the LaserCA software cutting also may be applied for tracing paths using different speed and power values, thus letting you mark the material without going through it.

Step 3: Safety Measures

Safety always goes first. You must always remember this when using the CFM:

- Always close the lid when the CFM starts working.

- NEVER ever put your hand close to the lens system when the machine is working. It burns.

- DON’T try to cut or engrave these materials, as they may be harmful for your health, as well as ruin the machine:

o PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride)

o PET G

o PolyStyrene Foam

o ABS

o Food

- DON’T try to engrave these materials, unless you have previously given a treatment for laser engraving:

o Metals

o Ceramics

o Glass

Step 4: Starting the Machine

The CFM starts with 3 simple steps:

- Power button

- Laser Button

- Open air

Try to repeat them in this order, it’s easier.

Step 5: Preparing a File

The CFM comes with the LaserCA software, in this instructable we’ll only review the most basic functions: cut, engrave, bitmap; how to apply changes to their settings and send a file.

I will post some time later another instructable that will cover more of the LaserCA software.

First of all you should prepare a file in any of the supported file formats: DXF, AI, BMP, PLT, DST and download it to the computer in which you’ll be working.

Then open LaserCA > File > Open > choose your file

In this instructable we’ll be doing a file for three different materials: plywood, MDF, cast acrylic (all in 6 mm); with different values (speed, power, precision) for cutting, engraving and bitmap.

Start assigning colors for the paths that will cut and mark the material, colors are located in the bottom left corner; each color will have different parameters.

Step 6: Cutting Settings

After that > Cut settings and start assigning parameters; I used the ones in the file.

Step 7: Engraving Settings

Select a closed geometry > Assign engraving area (the desired area should be covered).

Then assign colors > Engrave settings and start assigning parameters.

Step 8: Bitmap Settings

You need a bitmap file available at your documents.

Select File > Import > select your bitmap file.

Place it and assign colors (the perimeter of the bitmap should be colored) > Bitmap settings and start assigning parameters.

Step 9: Sending the File

Select Run all

Go to the machine place your material > Leave a separation of 6mm between the nozzle and your material (for this we use a hex key) >Laser enable

At the control pad select File > Move with the arrows until you find your file (the CFM displays a preview) > Start > Close the lid.

For the MDF and cast acrylic, you can either assign the same parameters or simply change the vectors with the names.

If you wish to run the file and cut it another time > Save As.. > Choose a NAME.ble (it saves the color and parameters)

Step 10: Result

The files with parameters and final result.

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