Laser Cutter Introduction

From CoMakingSpace Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Once we have a laser cutter, introductions will be carried out by tutors and should take about 2 or 3 hours. Why "waste your time" like that? Attendance to such a briefing is required in order to use the machine without supervision! Scrolling down, tutors can find a checklist of what to teach and attendees can see what to expect.


During a briefing, participants should learn enough to work with the laser cutter independently and safely. They also receive a basic cleaning and maintenance course so not every little hickup has to be solved in the issue tracker.

Here's what will be covered in such a briefing:

  • dangers
    • invisible but powerful IR radiation - luckily contained by the enclosure (laser class 1)
    • fire can destroy the machine!
    • harmful gases
      • forbidden materials (ANYTHING containing chlorine or fluorine!) may not be placed into the laser cutter at all
      • exhaust filtering system should take care of most others - if you notice a strong smell, something may be broken or the filter is full!
  • general overview of technology, mirror system, lens, etc.
  • quick overview of SVG sources and/or editing software, e.g. Inkscape
  • practical session, especially demonstrating the machine and filter control pads and focussing
    • release of x and y motors, definition of workpiece origin
    • network settings (static IP) to communicate with the laser cutter; job selection
    • operation of the exhaust filter unit and "Air Assist" compressor
    • safety switch: laser turns off when glass is lifted - important when fire breaks out!
      • also useful if you only have one try and want a "dry run" using only the pointer (that laser stays on)

This should act as a guide, tutors can always emphasize or add points of importance.


  • software
    • install Inkscape or similar software to produce vector files
    • install VisiCut (platform independent version, developer branch recommended)
    • download/import settings
    • import SVG file into VisiCut, select material and/or try individual settings, select elements for cutting or engraving
    • calculate time estimate (VisiCut + Zing: about 20 % higher estimate than actual time)
  • prepare laser cutter
    • to prevent fires, clean the tray under the honeycomb table when it gets cluttered with little pieces
    • clean lens (roll Q-tips with isopropanol over lens - roll with light pressure, do not wipe) if necessary
      • you can use a mirror or cellphone selfie-cam to look under the lens - only with the laser pointer disabled!
    • clean mirror/s (especially mirror above lens) if necessary
    • switch on laser cutter
    • switch on laser pointer
    • deactivate X/Y motors and manually move lens to starting point - touch only the metal parts, not the optics!
    • set focus with spring gauge, further reduce height for cutting (aim for the center of your workpiece in that case)
    • connect your laptop to our network
    • transfer job via VisiCut, notebook can be disconnected once transfer is complete
    • select the job on the cutter's display
  • execution
    • activate exhaust system
    • activate compressor
    • start the job by pressing "Go"
    • observe cutting, watch for irregular fumes or flames - especially if testing new materials
    • cutting might not work for the first one or two cm after a "cold start" - in that case, restart the job briefly at the end
    • do not leave the laser cutter unattended!
      • cutting: stay at the machine the entire time!
      • engraving: stay at least within sight and earshot!
  • after cutting
    • switch off exhaust system and compressor
    • remove parts from table
    • vacuum table if necessary
    • share your experiences with the others :-)
    • donate for the machine time!
      • currently 50 ct per minute (goes to the next owners of the loaned machine who will need it for maintenance costs)

Waiting List

This introduction takes longer than many others and usually can't be done spontaneously during regular opening times. If you would like to receive it, please add yourself to >> this list << and we will find a good time once a few members are on it!