Laser cutters


These devices can quickly and accurately engrave or cut material using energy from a carbon dioxide laser.

Etching works by sweeping the laser back and forth and firing it only where it needs to mark the material. Etching can use bitmaps or vectors of any width.

When cutting, the laser follows the line firing continuously.

Material can be scored by following the lines as if to cut, but at a lower power setting. This is often faster than etching but produces only thin hairlines.


The Lasserre laser cutter is located in the southwest corner of Room 5 in the basement of the Lasserre Building. The MacMillan laser cutter is located in Room 394A in the MacMillan Building.


The laser cutters are available at a variety of times through the week. There are morning, afternoon, and evening slots. Check the online booking system for available slots (CWL required for login, and VPN required if off campus).


The cost is $1.40/min at Lasserre, and $0.90/min at Macmillan, with a $5.00 minimum charge. This includes file processing time.


You must provide your own materials and tape. Generally these are paper, wood or acrylic up to 1/4" (6mm) thick. When using the MacMillan laser, the maximum horizontal dimensions are 16" x 28" (400mm x 710mm). When using the Lasserre laser the maximum horizontal dimensions are 23” x 39”. If the material is warped, the laser might not cut through everything. The flatter the material, the better the cut. Limited stock of material pre-cut to size is for sale at the laser cutters for convenience (availability is not guaranteed).

Because of toxic fumes, do not cut:

  • MDF
  • PVC = polyvinyl chloride (e.g. white plastic plumbing pipe)
  • ABS = acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (e.g. black plastic plumbing pipe)
  • PVA = polyvinyl acetate
  • Polystyrene (e.g. Styrofoam)
  • Polyurethane
  • Polycarbonate (e.g. Lexan)
  • Polyester film including PETG or DURALAR (The thin sheets they sell at DeSerres with the blue covering.).
  • In general, anything sold at Home Depot will not work, even though they will tell you that it’s acrylic. It will only melt and turn brown.
  • Corrugated cardboard
File setup

We can laser cut from Rhino or Illustrator. Rhino is preferred whenever possible. See below to download the Rhino template, or use the following settings in your drawing.

For all file formats: Create a new, separate file for each job to be sent to the laser cutter. Ungroup everything. Delete everything (objects, layers, etc.) that is not required. Convert bitmaps to grayscale. Organize your drawing by layer, with all cuts on one layer named Cut, all scores on one named Score and all etches on one named Etch. Change the units to inches and scale it to the desired size.

Optimize your drawing: If all shapes are joined, the machine will cut an entire shape before going on to the next. Similarly, shapes can be laid out adjacent to each other so that they share a single common side. This saves time and space. Do not, however, lay out shapes with two lines in the same place. This will cause extra burning. Etching should be placed in as compact an area as possible.

For Rhino files:

  • Use the Purge command to get rid of unwanted blocks and unused layers
  • A template file for Rhino with the proper layers, colors and line weights can be found here. Copy and paste your drawing to the appropriate layers
  • Draw a rectangle that is the size of the laser bed (Lasserre, 23”x39”; McMillan, 16”x28”). Make the line purple and put it on a new layer. It is a good idea to draw a second rectangle the size of your material. Place your work within this rectangle.
  • Set the Cut layer to red, Score layer to blue and Etch layer to black
  • Etched objects should have the line weight specified, all other lines should default to hairline
  • To insert a bitmap for etching, use the PictureFrame command

For Illustrator files:

  • Ensure that you are in RGB colour space
  • It is best to have an artboard the same size as the your material
  • Orient the job to landscape
  • Ensure that red lines are 255,0,0 with line weight of 0.06pt and remove all fills. Ensure that blue lines are 0,0,255 with line weight of 0.06pt and remove all fills. Ensure that black lines are 0,0,0 and at whatever line weight you wish.
  • Trotec has difficulty with certain line types:
    • Make sure there are no transparencies.
    • Fills and dashed lines must be converted to outlines. Instructions here.
  • Save as an Illustrator (.ai) file for best results or as a .pdf file for less reliable results. It is very important to downsave to Illustrator version CS. Later versions can cause problems.