Laser cutters

Location

One laser cutter is located in the southwest corner of the architecture studio on the third floor of the Lasserre Building. The other laser cutter is located on the mezzanine of the “bike room” in the Landscape Architecture Annex.

Availability

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.

Fee

The cost is $0.80/min with a $5.00 minimum charge. This includes file processing time.

Materials

You must provide your own materials. Generally these are paper, wood or acrylic up to 1/4" (6mm) thick. The maximum horizontal dimensions are 16" x 28" (400mm x 710mm). If the material is warped, the laser might not cut through everything. The flatter the material, the better the cut.

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.

Application

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.

File Setup

Requirements for all files
  • Illustrator, .pdf, or Rhino files.
  • Create a new file for digital output. You can easily do this by saving your file under a new name. Create a separate file for each job.
  • Delete everything that isn’t required.
  • Remove layers that aren’t required.
  • Explode all blocks and remove the definitions. AutoCAD users can use Overkill to get rid of unnecessary lines. AutoCAD or Rhino users can use the Purge command to get rid of unused blocks and layers.
  • Ungroup everything.
  • Change the units to inches.
  • Scale the model to the size you want your output to be.
  • Vectorworks displays geometry at the printing scale (e.g. 1:200). However, the geometry is being created at 1:1. If you are using Vectorworks, you need to scale the actual geometry to the size at which you want it milled. This requires the use of the Scale Objects tool under the Tools menu.
  • Convert bitmaps to grayscale.
  • Create an art board the size of your material.
  • Use layers:
    • One layer for all lines to be cut through (coloured red: RGB=255,0,0). Use only outlines, make sure all fills are removed. Line width should be 0.06 points.
    • One layer (if necessary) for all lines to be scored (coloured blue: RGB=0,0,255).  Line width should be 0.01 points.
    • One layer (if necessary) for all lines or text to be etched. (coloured black: RGB=0,0,0). For bitmaps convert to grayscale.
  • The cutting will go faster if shapes are composed of joined lines so that the machine will cut all of one 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 so that there are two lines in the same place. This will cause extra burning.
  • Orient the job to landscape format.
  • Export as Adobe Illustrator for best results or .pdf for second best.