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Laser Cutters

Laser cutters cut and engrave a variety of materials using a highly-focused, powerful laser. These machines come in a variety of sizes and strengths, depending upon the scale and materials of the desired operations.

There are two laser cutters in the dFab studio. There is also a laser cutter in the Model Shop in 15/15.  They are able to precisely etch the surface of materials and cut through thin materials. We are able to work with paper, wood, plexiglass, some plastics, and other materials, cutting through materials up to about a 1/4 inch thick.  

Laser Cutter Specs

Trotec Speedy 300

The Trotec is a 150 Watt laser cutter capable of cutting 1/2" acrylic in a single pass.  Files are send to a job control software from Illustrator, Rhino, Corel Draw, or other applications.  The job control software stores and applies material setting and send the file to the laser cutter.

Maximum cutting area: 29" x 17"
Maximum height of material: 6 1/4"
Cutting depth: 1/2" 

Accuris

The Accuris is a 60 Watt laser cutter capable of cutting materials up to 1/4".  Materials that are more dense must be smaller than 3/16" thick if you wish to cut through.  Files are sent to the laser cutter from Corel Draw or Rhino.

Maximum cutting area: 25.98" x 19.48"
Largest size able to be fit in machine: 28" x 24"
Maximum height of material: 8 3/4"
Best case cutting depth 1/4"

Mercury

The Mercury laser cutter is located in the Model Shop in 15/15, and will be available to students who have been trained in-class to use the laser cutter.  See Model Shop page for more info on hours.

The Mercury is a 30 Watt laser cutter this is good for etching and is capable of cutting materials up to 1/8".  Files are sent to the laser cutter from Corel Draw.
Maximum cutting area: 25" x 18"
Largest size able to be fit in machine: 29" x 22"
Maximum height of material: 6 1/4"
Best case cutting depth: 3/16"
Lathe attachment for engraving the surface of cylindrical objects

Access

Students wishing to use the laser cutters must first familiarize themselves with the material in this document.  Access is limited to the staffed "laser cutter hours" posted on the main page of the dFab site, and is on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Keep in mind that the dFab studio is not a service center; it is an active learning and making environment.  The technicians will help you with the laser cutter, but they are not there to do the work for you.

Faculty wishing to use the laser cutters in their curriculum should contact the dFab technician (Andy Ta ata@mica.edu), schedule a class visit to the dFab studio, and provide the students with the training and resources needed to utilize the machines and facility most effeciently.

Cost

The cost for using the laser cutters is $10 per half hour, or fraction thereof. This includes set up time, such as working on your file using the computer connected to the laser cutter, when the technician is helping you, while test cuts are being made, and when the file is actually being cut. Preparing files correctly ahead of time will greatly reduce the cost of using the laser cutters.

File Preparation

It is essential that all users read, understand, and follow these guidlines.

For users working in Illustrator, it is highly reccomended that you download and use the starter document formatted for the laser-cutter you plan to use (TrotecStarterDoc.aiAcurisStarterDoc.ai or MercuryStarterDoc.ai).  This file contains preset color pallets, artboard dimesions, and helpful instructions.

The first determination to make is whether your file should be a raster or vector file. This is typically determined by whether you are engraving the surface of your material, or cutting through it.

A raster file is a pixel-based image such as a jpeg. This type of file can be used for engraving. The laser will move back and forth one line at a time, like a printer, and fire the laser based upon the pixel value. For cutting through material, a vector file is needed. Vectors are mathematically defined lines generated in programs such as Illustrator, Rhino, or Corel Draw. The laser will tavel in paths defined by these lines. This allows for a much more efficient cutting (or engraving) of shapes.

Keep a version of your document that is optimal for your editing and save another version specific for the laser cutter. Files may be imported into Corel Draw to set up and send to the laser cutter.

Cutting

If your document has any fonts, be sure to convert them to outlines before saving them. If any font is not converted to an outline it will default to a basic font when opened on the laser cutting computers. To convert your text to outlines, select the text areas and select "Create Outlines" from the "Type" menu in Illustrator. Note that your text will not be editable after you do this so make sure to have another copy with editable text.
Set the stroke (outline) color to black with no fill. If you would like to set up a sequence of cuts, that can be done with the pen colors in the templet files.

Engraving

Corel Draw can open most major raster formats including bmp, gif, jpg, tiff, and psd. If you are preparing a file to be engraved convert it to grayscale.  The laser engraver will accept any resolution file, but extremely large or hi-res images will take a very long time to spool (load) and engrave. A good rule of thumb is to prepare a file for engraving as you would for printing. Keep the resolution high around 150-300 PPI.