Versalaser: Laser Cutter
- 1 Preparing Your File
- 2 Preparing to cut
- 3 Cutting
- 4 Advanced Driver
Preparing Your File
You can use any vector file (EPS, AI, etc.) that Adobe Illustrator can open as the pattern to cut. If you use Alibre or AutoCAD you can export to a drawing that Illustrator can open.
To setup the work space so that it reflects the laser cutter, make the page size 24" (W) x 12" (H).
Cutting and Engraving
Every figure in illustrator has a line and a fill. The laser cutter determines what to do with the different parts of the figure based on the color of the lines/fills in the figure.
- Cutting is exactly that. The laser beam is on and slices through the material in some arbitary shape (think the scene in Goldfinger). Cutting accomplishes what you could do if you had a super sharp Xacto knife, incredibly steady hands and a lot of time.
- Change lines that you wish to cut to Red 0.01 pt thickness. Make sure you pick 100% Red. To convert a region into one that will be cut out: select the region and change the fill to blank. Change the line around the region to 100% red, 0.01 pt.
Engraving burns off bits of material with the laser. The laser cutter engraves by pulsing the laser quickly, burning off a spot of material each pulse. The effect of engraving is somewhat like a regular printer, except it "prints" in the color of whatever is underneath the surface and that the region being engraved is depressed from the surrounding area. While engraving can technically burn off enough stuff to punch a hole through the material being cut, if you need to make a hole, it makes more sense to cut it out than to burn it away.
- All regions that are black will be engraved
- To convert groups of figures, you can select by color or line thickness. Do this using the Select>All menu and pick what you want to select.
Preparing to cut
Set the printable area to 24x24 (your drawing will only cover the top half of the surface)
Versalaser Printer settings
The simplest method to get to cutting is to go to the print menu and under the printer choose "VL300". This is the basic driver that is simple to get up and running but doesn't offer as much flexibility. The advanced driver will be covered below.
The basic driver will prompt you about what type of material you have. This will determine how long the laser stays on and how fast it moves when it cuts and engraves.
The laser needs to be the correct distance away from whatever is being cut. There are two ways to make sure this distance is set correctly.
- Inputting the material thickness - Take a caliper and measure how thick your material is and put the thickness in the space.
- Measuring using the focus tool - Use the down arrow to lower the material tray in the laser cutter. put your material in the laser cutter. Move the laser to a location above your material using the software (see tips below). Place the focusing
tool (looks like a post with quarter-sized base) on the material so that the base is flat on the material and the notch touches the edge of the laser assembly (see figure). Slowly move the tray up. When the post moves, that is the correct focus distance.
Finally, see to make sure that the figure you want to cut is present in the "print preview" in the Versalaser Software. If everything checks out (you have enough material, your entire drawing is oriented and fits in the printable area, etc.), go ahead and press print and the laser should get to work.
- To move the laser assembly to a specific point on your material, open the cover to reveal the red positioning laser. Next,in the Versalaser control panel, click on a point in the canvas. The laser should move to that spot.
Make sure you stay in the room while the laser is on. Also, make sure that the super-loud vent fan is on.
The advanced driver lets you set very detailed material settings so that you can engrave to a certain depth. These settings vary depending on the material and will take some trial and error to get right. A guide giving suggested values for different materials is available next to the computer.
Colors and ordering
In the advanced driver you are no longer limited to black and red areas. In fact, your drawing can contain many colors, with each corresponding to a separate cutting or engraving operation. This way, you can do more complex things like making a series of engravings of different depths and decide what gets cut first. The ordering of the colors is the order that the laser cutter will perform the cuts and engravings. This can be useful if your drawing contains a complex engraving on an object that needs to be cut out. Using the advanced driver, you can ensure that the engraving happens first (so that nothing moves around), before the cutting occurs.