tools:lasercutters:start

Laser Cutters

The Perth Artifactory has 3 laser cutters available for use. For details on each machine see these pages:

The laser cutters use high intensity collimated infrared light to cut and engrave various materials. The most common materials cut on our laser cutters are woods and acrylic.

All operators must be trained before using the machines. An operator must be watching the laser cutter at all times while its cutting.

The laser cutters are dangerous tools. The main hazards:

Risk of FireMaterial can ignite and cause a major fire. Ensure extraction and compressed air are working and always supervise jobs. In event of a fire - if safe to do so - press e-stop on machine and use spray water bottle to douse the fire. Call 000 and evacuate if fire is out of control.
Pinch pointsThe laser cutter head moves in 2 dimensions (back/forward, left/right) and the bed moved up/down. Be careful to keep your hands clear of moving parts. Any time you command the laser cutter to move, keep your hands clear of the machine. Always have your hand near e-stop when adjusting bed height.
Class 4 Invisible Laser RadiationThe main laser beam is invisible (10.6 microns) and strong enough to blind you immediately. When correctly operating the laser cutter there is no safety risk because the windows filter out the laser light and the lid has a switch that detects when it opens and stops the laser beam. So never defeat interlocks or operate the machine with maintenance panels open.
Bright visible lightWhen laser cutting, the vapourised material may be visible as a bright white light where the laser hits the material. This may be too bright to comfortably look at so don't stare at it.
Class 2 Laser EquipmentThe red aiming laser beams are less powerful than the main laser beam. However you should not stare directly into the beam.
High VoltageThe laser cutter is a mains powered device so the usual 240V hazards exist if working inside the machine. In addition there is a very high voltage hazard when laser cutting. The tube is driven by a special high voltage power supply that reaches 30kV. The high voltage path is isolated but maintainers must ensure the laser power supply cannot turn on while panels around the tube are open (e.g. unplug the laser cutter at the wall).

To cover the cost of maintenance and consumables the laser cutters have fees per minute of operation. When a laser cutter job finishes, the display shows the time it took. This is the time to be charged. The laser cutter software on the PC can give an estimate of cut time before you start a job. It tends to under estimate though especially for engraving.

The definitive reference to fees is given under “Tool Usage Fees” on Committee Rulings. If these two pages differ, Committee Rulings takes precedence.

Laser cutter Member Rate Casual Rate
Big Red $0.20 per minute rounded up to nearest $1 $5 per 10 min ($0.50 per min) rounded up to nearest $5
Middle Red $0.10 per minute rounded up to nearest $1 $5 per 10 min ($0.50 per min) rounded up to nearest $5
Little Red $0.10 per minute rounded up to nearest $1 $5 per 10 min ($0.50 per min) rounded up to nearest $5

Casual members must also pay the day rate.

Please pay for laser time via bank deposit.

  • BSB: 086 366
  • Account: 16 546 9448
  • Description: LASER + Your name

All users must be trained on the laser cutters before using them. Training consists of two parts - first a session to explain how to use the laser cutter including supervised jobs done by the trainee. The second part is a test to ensure the operator is safe to use the laser cutter. A user must be trained and tested on each laser cutter since they are all different in certain aspects.

Training Procedure - This page details the laser cutter training procedure.

Below is a list of trainers (Artifactory volunteers who are able to train new operators). Training can be organised by posting a message to the #lazors channel on slack.

Trainer Name LG500 “Little” KH7050 “Middle” LC1290 “Big” LSO Availability
Nick Bannon Yes Yes Yes Yes Third Tuesday of the month from 6pm
Steve Hodges Yes TBC Yes Yes Ask on Slack
Glenn Martin Yes TBC Yes No
Lemming Yes TBC Yes Yes
Fletcher Boyd Yes Yes Yes No Workshop Wednesdays, other times by arrangement
Iain Graham Yes Yes Yes No Upon request
Beau Daley Yes Yes Yes No Workshop Wednesdays, General Hacking Saturdays, other times by arrangement
Blake Samuels Yes Yes Yes No

Laser Safety Officer (LSO) is a training and certification under the Radiation Safety Act (1975).

Operators List - this is a list of the people who are trained to use each laser cutter.

The software which drives both the LG500 and LC1290 is called “LaserCut” and can be found on the desktop of the computers linked up to their respective cutting machine.

LaserCut 5.3 Manual PDF - It's not a fantastic piece of documentation, but may be useful. Also see MPC6515 controller page.

Please don't alter any of the machine settings without checking with a trainer first!

The LaserCut software accepts only DXF (Drawing eXchange Format) Files.

Which can be created using most CAD programs out there, The most commonly used ones at the Artifactory are Inkscape and V-Carve which are installed on the CAD machines in the Design Lab which can then saved in the internal network the PC connected to the laser cutters can access.

The machines can operate in either absolute positioning mode (The machine will cut the vectors in the position they are located on the outline of the bed in the software) or in relative positioning mode (The machine will cut the vectors starting at the current location of the cutting head).

For most jobs it is easier to operate in relative positioning mode as it allows you to manually reposition the cut much faster by simply jogging the head. Absolute positioning mode is however preferable if you are using a jig to cut or engrave multiple parts. To switch between cutting modes you simply need to toggle the Immediate checkbox, if the checkbox is checked then the machine is operating in relative positioning mode, if it is not then the machine is operating in absolute positioning mode.

Note: You will need to re-download your job after changing the positioning setting in order for it to take effect.

Basic Laser cutter Rules and Tips:

  1. You cannot look at both laser cutters at the same time, This means you cannot operate both Little and Big Red at the same time.
  2. Clean up the bed after you are done cutting.
  3. Closed footwear must be worn at all times in the laser area, Due to the large and heavy objects in the area there is a crushing risk.
  4. Do not attempt to open covers or fix issues yourself if you are not qualified to do so. Let the list know if there is an issue so it can be safely resolved.
  5. Ensure Chiller temp is correct before operating, I have seen over the last week or two countless times where the chiller is at 30+ Degrees and people are cutting.
  6. Do not slam or force the main door, if its not closing there is probably something in the way, Move it and try again.
  7. Do not leave the laser cutter while its being used, This may result in the Pause button being pressed by someone, Or in some cases the E-STOP button pressed, If you are withing ear/eyeshot of the laser cutter this is generally considered OK (Going to the fridge etc)
  8. Non approved materials are not to be cut in the machines, I have found two cases where people are cutting(trying to cut) ABS in the last 2 weeks.
  9. If you aren't confident, Then dont do it.
  10. If you dont know… Ask.

General Courtesy:

  1. If you have a job that will take an Hour, But someone else has a 5 minute cut, Let them ahead of you.
  2. If you NEED to do big 1Hr+ jobs, Try come in at times when the space is less busy (At night)
  3. If you change the laser origin, Change it back when you are done, There is nothing more frustrating than downloading your design just to find the origin is changed from the last person who used it. (Yes you)
  4. Clean up after yourself, Anything, Even if it has meat left on it, Left out will be disposed off, No questions asked. (Or chopped up), Dont complain when your big bit of 3mm MDF goes missing after leaving it out.
  5. If it doesn't have a name of it, Its declared free-game, unless its obvious.

Tips:

  • Big red does not like engraving over 200 Speed, It Rattles the gantry and causes all sorts of harmonics, It is very important to not go over ~200.
  • Little Red has a laser accuracy of 0.1mm, This means that your engrave at 0.01mm will take 10x longer than a engrave at 0.1mm (And will look the same), ITs a waste of your time and money.
  • Big Red Is not designed for high detail engraving and you wont get the result like you do on Little Red.

Pointers and helpful Tips for using the Artifactory Laser Cutters:

  • Corner power on cuts - For most tasks “corner power” should be set to the same power as that you wish to use for the cut. However, please check this when you're setting up the power settings as a lower power setting here can be the difference between a good cut and a failure. The moving laser head moves fastest in a straight line and can “blow holes” through the corners as it slows down.
  • Don't use red in your drawings - when you go to load the drawing to cut with lasers, the lines are highlighted red. If you use red you won't be able to tell between your red lines and highlighted lines.
  • Cut from the inside out - when cutting intricate shapes with holes in the middle, make the inner cuts first. Define a specific layer and move the layer to the top of the operations queue. The material can move, drop or blow around after being cut free.
  • Engrave before cutting - similar to the above. Engrave items before they have a chance to move
  • You can etch rather than engrave by using the cut setting with a power level which marks rather than cutting through the material. eg with MDF (any thickness) on the small cutter: try 100% power, 70mm/s speed and 25% corners.
  • The large LC1290 laser cuts faster and has a longer focus with a deeper cutting area, but may not be able to be fine enough for some engraving jobs.
  • The small LG500 laser has a shorter focus which works well for fine engraving and thin&intricate cuts. It may not be able to cut all materials that the larger cutter can eat.
  • The main software used to create laser cuts are VCarve and LibreCAD. They are installed on each CAD computer.
    • VCarve is easier to use and works better with the software on the CNC machines.
    • LibreCAD has more features but as such is a little harder to use and often creates files that cannot be fully read by the laser cutters. It helps to open these files in VCarve and export again as DXF.
    • VCarve runs happily within Wine (Windows emulator) on Debian.
    • In VCarve it is also helpful to select all lines on each layer one at a time and join the lines. This allows the laser to cut lines in a continuous motion and reduces travel time for the laser. This reduces the cut time and saves you money.

Some materials are dangerous to put in the laser cutter. If you are not sure what a material is then do not cut it. Some plastics look like acrylic but release chlorine gas when cut. Experience laser operators and maintainers can test samples of materials with extreme caution.

Forbidden Materials:

  • Polycarbonates - Releases cyanide - very dangerous to people
  • PVC or Vinyl - Releases chlorine gas - very dangerous to people and very bad for machine
  • Glass - you can etch it but if you try to cut it will shatter.
  • tools/lasercutters/start.txt
  • Last modified: 2021/07/22 21:55
  • by blakesamuels