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The HSL Makerspace Laser Cutter

The Laser Cutter

The PLS6.75 Laser Cutter

The PLS6.75 laser cutter is a machine that can cut and engrave images onto a variety of materials, including wood, aluminum, acrylic, glass, and others. You can use it to cut flat objects like boards, or cylindrical objects like drinking glasses using the rotary attachment.

The laser cutter is a powerful and complicated tool. If you use the cutter incorrectly, you will put yourself and those around you in danger of injury and illness. You also risk causing damage to the machine. Read the instructions carefully and ask for help if you need it.

Materials

Allowed and disallowed materials

In general you should only cut materials which are in the ULS Materials Library. Some materials catch fire and/or emit deadly toxic gases when burned. It is wise to avoid cutting those materials with the laser.

IMPORTANT: If you do not know what your material is, do not use the laser cutter on it.

Disallowed materials

The following materials are known to be unsafe for cutting.

  • PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
  • ABS
  • HDPE
  • Epoxy
  • Polystyrene foam
  • Polypropylene foam
  • Polycarbonate/Lexan
  • Fiberglass
  • Carbon fiber

Materials that can be etched, but not cut

  • Glass

How to use the laser

Preparing your file in CorelDraw

  1. Open Corel Draw.
  2. Click File > New.
  3. Check the settings.
    1. Document width should be 36 inches, height should be 18 inches.
    2. The primary color mode should be RGB.
    3. Now click OK.
    4. Check the rulers on the top and the left side. The top left corner should be at the 0 position for each ruler. Ask for help if it isn't.
  4. Open your image.
  5. The laser software, Universal Control Panel (UCP) uses colors and line width to determine what the laser will do.
    1. Grayscale images are carved into the material as a raster image - at each point, how deep the laser cuts depends on how black the image is. The blacker the image, the deeper the cut.
    2. For pure red lines, the laser follows that line and cuts straight through the material.
    3. For pure blue lines, the laser follows that line and engraves the material.
    4. All lines must have a 'hairline' width.
    5. Anything different from the above settings will cause errors.
  6. When you're finished, select Print. Choose "PLS6.75" as the printer.

Working in print preferences menu

  1. In the Print menu, select Preferences. A UCP menu should appear.
  2. Select the type of material you are engraving from the menu.
  3. Use the digital calipers to measure the thickness of your material. Enter that number into the Material Thickness field.

Preparing the machine

  1. Check to see if the laser is on. The switch is on the bottom right side of the machine.
  2. Check to see if there is any leftover material in the machine before starting.
  3. If you’re going to be cutting all the way through things, use the thick honeycomb table. Otherwise, don’t worry about it.
  4. Place your material in the machine.
  5. Calibrate the machine by placing the calibration tool, black side down, on top of the material. Press the flat part against the laser carriage.
  6. There is a little groove. You want the carriage to fit neatly into the groove. Use the buttons on the control panel to move the carriage downwards until it fits.

Working in Universal Control Panel

  1. Move the image to where you want to have it cut and engraved. For example, it should be in the top right corner of the program window if that’s where you want it cut out on the material.

  2.  Use Focus View to make sure that your piece is large enough for the cuts you’re trying to make. This will move the laser and shine a light down from the location of the laser carriage. Use this to determine whether the image is too big. Check all four corners to verify that the point of light shines on the item to be cut and not on the laser bed. If you move the crossed circle to an edge or corner of the image and the light shines on the laser bed, it means that the piece is too small for the image.

       

The location of the point of red light in the below picture corresponds to the location of the blue crossed circle in the above-right image.

Finalizing

  1. Close the top door of the laser.
  2. Turn on the exhaust. If you do not turn on the exhaust, you will be in danger of inhaling toxic fumes.
    1. If you want to protect your ears from the extremely loud exhaust, grab some earplugs which are on the shelf across from the laser.
  3. In UCP, press the green play button.

After the machine finishes cutting

  1. Allow the exhaust to run for an additional ten seconds.
  2. Open the top door. If you were cutting all the way through, poke one of the cuts and slightly lift the piece without moving it side to side. If it didn't cut all the way through properly, we can keep it in the same place and try the cut again.
  3. When it's all finished, retrieve your engraved item.