setting your file up properly will likely ensure that your laser-cutting time is as smooth, happy and efficient as possible. the following guidelines, tips and tricks may help.
the laser’s kerf is approximately .007” centered on the drawn line. this will cause the parts that are cut to be slightly smaller than what is drawn. this fact is normally insignificant, but if it is critical to your particular piece, please make note of it. if you have pieces that must fit together and feel that this could be a problem, we will gladly work with you to run some tests of the connectors before the final project is completed.
the laser bed is 24″ x 36″ which is the largest material we can load into the machine. this also dictates the size of your artboard (artboard = laser bed size).
autoCAD file setup:
1. set units to inches.
2. in model space draw a 24″x36″ rectangle and offset it 1/4″ inward (this represents the laser bed table size, with a tolerance around the perimeter). set the contents of your drawing to be cut or etched within the smaller rectangle.
3. set your layers and line weights as follows:
vector cut — color index #1 (red)
vector etch — color index #5 (blue)
raster etch (hatch / fill) — color index #7 (white)
4. vector cut and etch lines should be drawn at zero thickness
5. for raster etched (engraved) areas use the solid hatch command or a line with a thickness of greater than 0.25.
6. for smoother cuts, all continuous line segments should be joined using the PEDIT/JOIN command.
7. please clean up your drawing before sending it to us: erase all stray lines manually and remove all overlapping and duplicate lines (use the OVERKILL command for this task). the laser will double-cut overlapping lines, with unpredictable / potentially negative results.
8. save your file as 2012 (or lower) and email or deliver it to us.
illustrator file setup:
1. select file > new
set units to inches
set the height to 24” and the width to 36”
set the color mode to RGB (this is very important to ensure that the color settings below will work properly)
2. set your layers and stroke weights as follows:
vector cut — red (255, 0, 0) — 0.001 pt. stroke
vector etch — blue (0, 0 , 255) — 0.001 pt. stroke
raster etch (hatch / fill) — black (0, 0, 0) — any stroke greater than 0.25 pt or black fill.
3. please maintain a 1/4″ margin offset inside of your 24″ x 36″ artboard (for material / laser tolerance).
4. text: if you have text in your design, once the file formatting is finalized, please select everything, go to ‘type’ -> ‘create outlines’ – this will preserve the font you have selected (but will not allow you to edit the text anymore). filled text by default will raster etch, if you want the text cut, place it in the ‘vector cut’ layer, create a stroke of .001 around it and remove the fill. please clean up your drawing before sending it to us: remove all overlapping and duplicate lines. the laser will double-cut overlapping lines, with negative results.
5. please clean up your drawing before sending it to us: erase all stray lines and remove all overlapping and duplicate lines. the laser will double-cut overlapping lines, with unpredictable / potentially negative results. make sure stroke is aligned to center on all objects (failure to do so may result in improper importation of your file).
6. save your file as CS6 (or lower) and email or deliver it to us.
here’s a link to a helpful document that illustrates some more principles of happy (efficient) laser file set-up.