Laser cutters use a high-powered optical laser to precisely etch or cut designs into various materials, often in a shorter amount of time compared to other technologies. BeAM provides wood, acrylic, and cardboard sheets for use with the laser cutters.
Makerspaces that have these tools: Murray, Hanes, Carmichael (Acrylic and Cardboard only)
Ready to start making with the laser cutter? The first step is to sign a Safety Waiver and Release, complete the Sakai orientation module, attend an orientation training, and complete the laser cutter Sakai module by clicking below. Onyen login required. Please note that waivers are not a registration for trainings.
Complete the Sakai training module to use this tool
Frequently Asked Questions
Before looking into Frequently Asked Questions, try the BFAQ checklist below:
1. Flatten Transparency: Select everything (or the image in your document) and go to Object/Flatten Transparency. This prevents invisible layers inside of rasters (especially PNG files) from interfering with the laser cutter software, and sometimes flattening the entire document will fix other problems.
2. Color Mode and Selection: Check that the color mode of the document is RGB, and that each color you’ve chosen is RGB (unless you want it to turn to greyscale). If it isn’t in RGB color mode, it’s easiest to make a new document in the correct color mode, copy everything over, and then change all the colors to RGB.
3. Stroke Width: Check that the vector line strokes are 0.001in thick. This indicates to the laser cutter that you want these to be designated as vectors.
A rastered project that takes up the whole bed of the laser cutter, depending on the power and speed settings, can take between 2 and 3 hours to fully print. The left image shows a print job that uses the full bed size at P100/S60 (Time Estimate: 2:44:49), and the right image shows the same print for P100/S100 (Time Estimate: 1:51:24), which cuts the time down by about 55 minutes. The difference between these visually is minimal, so consider running them at a higher speed, 100% is ideal, especially if you’re short on time. Large images or intricate vector diagrams with multiple colors can also take a long time. If your print is going to take longer than 2 hours please run through the BFAQ checklist, then ask a staff member to check out the file. They will double check the file to make sure everything is properly designed.
These two pictures look very similar, but the one on the left is estimated to take 7 hours and the one on the right is estimated to take 30 minutes. The issue here is that the laser cutter reads all the lines on the left image as rastered content. The laser cutter will raster the greyscale image and words, then raster the blue outline to the words, then raster the red line that is expected to be the “cut line.” The clearly colored and defined lines in the second picture indicate vectored content, which will operate as expected and reduce the time estimate. Check all the colors of your design for the following: – Are they RGB? – Is the thickness of your vector strokes .001in or .072pt? Keep in mind, if you have an incredibly complicated vector design, there is a slim chance that your estimate is correct; please double check with staff to confirm this.
Check that the thickness of your vector strokes is 0.001in (which is 0.072pt). If it is anything else, the laser will not consider them vectors and will attempt to rasterize them. This example had lines with stroke 0.005in, and you can see that a one side of the rectangle isn’t showing up, two are thin, and the bottom is thicker. It also is estimated to take over 7 hours to print, which is another clue to the issue.
Check that the document is in RGB color mode. If it’s CMYK, make a new document in the RGB color mode and copy your design over, then check that all of the individual colors are RGB as well. If that doesn’t solve the problem, select your entire design and flatten transparency, then reassign all colors and line thicknesses to the correct settings.
This is most likely an issue with how the design handled. If you meant for vectored lines to have different power and speed settings, you’ll need to separate those vectored paths (“ungroup” or “release” are the commands in Illustrator)
You’ll want to look for duplicated lines. Try using the Direct Selection tool to move or delete the design in Illustrator to see if there’s a duplicate directly under the existing design. You may need to ungroup or release the design to verify this. You can also find duplicates if you notice that some of your vector lines appear darker than the rest even after you’ve verified they are the correct thickness (.001in or .072pt). This issue can result in burning the material, interlocking pieces not fitting and longer print times.
Clipping masks (Object/Clipping Mask) allow you to “crop” a rastered image to fit within a specified vector shape, like a rectangle, circle, or outlined text. However, once a clipping mask is created, it is not possible to assign a stroke to the outside line. A work-around is to make a copy of the shape before you make the clipping mask, and then place the mask inside that copied vector. You may want to flatten transparency before using a mask, as flattening a clipping mask may not fix underlying problems.
The most likely issue here is that the Artboard for your document does not match the size of the bed for the laser cutter you’re using. Most commonly, this occurs when setting the document up to be printed on our 18in by 32in laser cutters then taken to our larger 24in by 48in printer, or vice versa.In Illustrator, go to Windows -> Artboards and edit the artboard width and height to match the laser cutter you’re using.
Download the BeAM Laser Cutter Template for the laser cutter you’re using (link to download) and copy your entire design into it. This essentially resets your design to remove any artifacts that may have been created when you were designing it.Keep in mind, our staff is here to help!
Projects Made with These Tools
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