Laser Cutter. Revision 1

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1 Laser Cutter The laser cutter uses a high- power laser to precisely cut or engrave two- dimensional profiles and images on flat material. Commonly cut materials include acrylic and MDF. This guide will walk you through the process of operating the laser cutter, starting with a Solidworks model and ending with the finished part. Revision 1

2 Table of Contents Process Overview... 3 Saving DXF from Solidworks... 4 Open DXF with CorelDRAW... 6 Position and Format the Profile... 7 Adjust Cutting Speed... 8 Clean the lens and mirrors... 9 Turn On the Laser Cutter Focus the Laser Adjust Control Panel Settings Run Machine

3 Process Overview Before we dive into all the specific steps, here s an overview of the process for cutting a part. For engraving an image, the Solidworks steps do not apply. Solidworks Model your part using Solidworks DXF Save the part as a vector graphic (.dxf) CorelDRAW Use the CorelDRAW software to prepare the vector graphic for cutting Print Print the profile to the laser cutter software ULS Control Panel Use the ULS software to run the machine 3

4 Saving DXF from Solidworks Creating a 2- D profile from a 3- D model 1. Select the face you want to save by clicking on it. It should turn blue. 2. Click save as, either under File or by clicking the black triangle next to the Save icon. 3. Set file type to.dxf by clicking the Save as type field and by choosing Dxf (*.dxf) from the list. Choose the name and destination folder as you would with any other file. Click save to continue. 4. Click the green checkmark to proceed. This should bring up a new window showing the edges of the face you selected. 4

5 5. Click save to save the file. Tips for saving as DXF: If you get a warning message about saving the part as a copy, hit ok and don t worry about it. That only matters if we are saving as a Solidworks part document (.sldprt). A really quick, easy way to choose DXF as the file type is to: o Click the Save as type field. This will expand the list of file types. o Press d on your keyboard. o Without moving the mouse, click again. DXF is now selected. The cleanup window the one that pops up showing the outline of the selected face has a Remove Entities button at the bottom. This is useful e.g. to remove holes that you will drill manually without modifying the Solidworks part. Instead of clicking the green checkmark, you can push return on your keyboard to save the file and bypass the cleanup window. 5

6 Open DXF with CorelDRAW This software will prepare your file for cutting. 1. Bring your file to the computer next to the laser cutter, either on a USB drive or via internet ( , Dropbox, etc.). 2. Open CorelDRAW from the start menu. 3. From CorelDRAW, open your file. To browse for and open your file, use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+O or click the open button. 4. After finding your file and clicking Open, a dialog box will appear. Make sure the correct units are selected to match the units you used when modeling the part, or just select Automatic. Make sure that Auto- reduce nodes is selected. Note: Depending on which version of Solidworks you use to save the DXF file, there may be an educational use only warning added to the graphic as text. If there is, another dialog box will appear, asking about fonts. Just click OK, and then delete the text once the part is open. 5. Once you have opened your file, check that your file is the right size by comparing to the rulers around the edges of the canvas. If it looks about right, you re good to go. If the part appears to be scaled by a factor of 25.4, then inches are being interpreted as millimeters or vise versa. Close the file and open it again, this time selecting the correct units from the dialog box shown above. 6. The part should now be open and ready for preparation. 6

7 Position and Format the Profile Move the profile to the position and orientation in which it will be cut. When possible, avoid cutting in the top left corner. That area, while convenient for alignment, tends to be heavily used and hence wear out long before the rest of the cutting table. 1. Click and drag to select the part. Make sure that the rectangle formed when clicking and dragging fully encompasses all contours in the profile. 2. With all the contours selected, Group the contours using Ctrl+G. This allows the profile to be manipulated as one entity, rather than many discrete curves. 3. Position the profile. This can be done using the mouse by clicking and dragging. For fine positioning, use the arrow keys to translate the profile. Holding shift allows faster but coarser arrow key positioning. 4. If needed, rotate the profile. This can be done by selecting the profile and typing an angle into the toolbar. Rotating may be useful especially when cuting multiple profiles together, in order to nest them more compactly. 5. To cut multiple instances of the same profile, select the profile, then copy and paste using the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V. This will create a duplicate of the profile in the same place. This duplicate can then be moved and rotated as needed. To laser cut multiple distinct profiles, insert a new file by going to File>Import in the menu bar, or using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+I. Click to place the imported profile on the canvas. 7

8 Adjust Cutting Speed Adjust color to indicate the desired laser process, and print the graphic to the laser cutter. 1. Select the graphic to be formatted by clicking on it. 2. Adjust the color and line width as needed for the desired cutting or engraving process from the object properties menu. The menu and appropriate settings are shown below. If the object properties menu is not visible on the right hand side of the screen, go to Edit > Properties or use Alt+Enter, and then click the menu tab with a pen- tip icon. Process Vector Cutting cuts along a path Vector Engraving engraves along a path Raster Engraving engraves an array of pixels Settings Color: Red Width: Hairline Color: Blue Width: Hairline Color: Black/White, or Gray scale image Width: N/A 3. Print the graphic to the laser cutter. This is done by going to File > Print or using Ctrl+P, just like any normal printing operation. When the dialog box opens, the laser cutter should be the default printer, so you can simply click Print. The file has now been sent to the laser cutter s software. 8

9 Clean the lens and mirrors To avoid buildup of smoke, which can permanently damage the lenses, clean the lenses each time you use the machine. 1. Clean the stationary mirror. This mirror is located on the left side of the machine, and is affixed magnetically. Pull on the exposed red tab to slide the mirror out of its holder. Spray the lens with lens cleaner solution, and wipe it off gently with lens paper or a kimwipe. Put the mirror back by sliding it back into its holder. 2. Clean the mirror and lens on the moving carriage. Unscrew the two thumbscrews on the front red panel, and pull the panel towards you. Attached to it are a mirror and a lens. Clean each one with lens cleaning solution and lens paper or a kimwipe. Put the mirror/lens back and replace the screws finger tight. 9

10 Turn On the Laser Cutter This must be done before adjusting some of the settings in the control panel. You can also turn the machine on before preparing the graphic in CorelDRAW, but there is no need to do so. There are three steps when turning on the laser cutter: 1. Turn on the wall- mounted power switch. This makes power available to the laser cutter, and also turns on the exhaust fans. 2. Open the air valve, which is mounted on the wall next to the power switch Turn on the laser cutter itself, using the switch on top of the cutter, near the screen and other buttons. 3 The laser cutter will go through a startup sequence, which takes a minute or so. When it is ready, the screen will look like this: 10

11 Focus the Laser The laser beam must be focused so that its narrowest point lines up with the top of the material. 1. Place your material on the cutting table, and then close the laser cutter lid. 2. Press and hold the focus button on the laser cutter. This will tell the machine to auto- focus to the material using a built- in sensor. Back Focus At this point, the laser will move to the focusing position on the cutting table and the cutting table will begin to lower. If the laser is not positioned over your material, press the back button to abort the autofocus process. Reposition your material so that it will be under the laser, and then start the autofocus over. While autofocusing, the cutting table will first go down about two inches, then come up until the laser is about half an inch from the material, then wiggle up and down a couple times, and finish by going up briefly. Once the focusing sequence finishes, the laser will be properly focused on your material. 11

12 Adjust Control Panel Settings Tells the laser cutter what type and thickness of material you are using so it can adjust cutting speed and intensity accordingly. 1. Open the control panel software. Click on the red diamond- shaped icon in the taskbar. This will open the control panel software, and your graphic should be displayed. 2. Adjust material settings. Click on Settings in the bottom right corner to open the settings panel. 3. Select your material from the list, and indicate its thickness. Note that you will generally need to specify a thickness greater than the true thickness of the material, or else the cut will not go all the way through. 4. Make sure that the air assist settings are turned on, and set to 100%. If they are turned off, or set too low, an error message will indicate low air pressure, and the machine will not run. 5. Click OK to apply the settings. 12

13 Run Machine After final checks, it s time to execute the cutting or engraving cycle. 1. Check the orientation of your material on the cutting table to make sure the cut or engraving will be made on the desired portion of the material. 2. At this point you are ready to click the round green play button to run the machine. Once you click the button, the laser cutter will begin the cutting or engraving cycle. 3. While cutting or engraving, it s a good idea to keep an eye on the machine to make sure all is going well (e.g. the material is being cut where you intended, nothing is catching on fire, etc.). The machine can be stopped at any time by clicking the stop button on the computer screen, or if necessary, by pressing the emergency stop button on the machine. 4. Once your parts are done, open the cover and remove your material. 5. To turn off the laser cutter, the steps are the same as when turning it on, but reversed. First turn off the power switch on the machine itself, and then close the air valve and turn off the wall- mounted power switch. 13

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