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My First Laser Cutter Project
This simple project will help you to create a lasercut tag in Inkscape and cut it out in RDWorks using a 3mm thick piece of MDF.
Build Your Thing In Inkscape
Make the Text
- Select the type tool and type out your name in a 40pt font.
- Select the text and choose: Object > Object to Path
- Set the stroke of the text blue and to .01mm, remove the fill.
Make the Box
- Select the rectangle tool and draw a box around your text, leaving about a 20mm margin.
- Press F4 to bring up the rectangle tool options.
- Enter in a RY of 4mm. This will round your rectangle's corners.
- Set the stroke of the box red and to .01mm, remove the fill.
- Select rectangle and choose: Path > Object to Path
Make the Tag Hole
- Select the circle tool.
- Hold down CTRL+ALT and draw a perfect circle.
- Click the lock button, and change the size of your circle to 4mm
- Move your circle to an end of your tag. You may wish to adjust the size of the rectangle to allow for room.
- Set the stroke of the circle to red and .01mm, remove the fill.
Save Your Art for RDWorks
File > Save As > .DXF
A dialog box will pop up. Do this:
- Uncheck "use ROBO-Master type of spline output."
- Uncheck "use LWPOLYLINE type of line output."
- For "Base unit" select "mm" if you set up your document for millimeters. If you used a different unit of measurement, select that here.
- Leave "Character Encoding" on the default, which should be "Latin 1."
- Also leave "Layer export selection" set to "Visible only" which means the export will contain only what you currently see in Inkscape, so hidden layers won't be exported.
- Leave "Layer match name" blank.
- Most lasercutter setups use .01mm as the "standard" size for width. While this isn't always EXACTLY true, it's a good starting point; you can adjust your art as you see fit.
- Most lasercutter programs use colors to differentiate between commands items are given. E.G., Blue = an engraved area, Red = an area to be cut out
- RDWorks can import .DXF and .AI files. Inkscape can export .DXF files, not .AI files. Do the math.
- BONUS FACT! .DXF = Drawing Exchange Format and is a file format used by plotters etc. Some users report derpiness when going from Inkscape to DXF to RDWorks, so always check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Import Into RDWorks and Set Settings
- File > Import
- "HEY MY FILE DOESN'T LOOK RIGHT!"
- Adjust settings. For this project:
- Everything in the BLUE layer will be engraved.
- Everything in the RED layer will be cut.
- BLUE Layer settings:
- SCAN, 50 power, speed 150. "Scan" means the laser isn't trying to cut through, it's going over the surface of an item, firing off at possibly different intensities.
- RED Layer settings:
- CUT, 85 power, speed 15. "Cut: means the laser is traveling along a single path. You don't have to necessarily be trying to cut through a material, but can also outline text, or create perforations.
- Move your art to economize material and space.
- Select ALL of your art.
- Click "Transform"
- Type in 685 for H and 487 for W.
- Make sure "Relative Position" is unchecked, and check the bottom left box.
- Click "Apply": This moves your art to the bottom corner of the lasercutter position so you can not cut through the middle of your material like a dingus.
OMG CAN I PLEASE BURNINATE SOMETHING ALREADY
- Save your file first, you've done a lot of work!
- No seriously save your file.
- Eyeball the cutter:
- Are there any signs or notices? (This includes Slack channels!)
- Is there excess material on the bed or in the cutter?
- Does everything look clean and plugged in?
- Get your material and put it in the lasercutter, aligning it with the bottom left-hand corner.
- Main Screen Turn On: Power up the machine and wait for it to go through it's bootup. If it makes any super-loud noises, or otherwise seems in a bad way, turn it off and contact Leadership ASAP.
- Use the little arrows to move the laser head over your material.
- Use the little white box to focus the laser: it should slide between your material and the head firmly, with no wiggle room.
- Back at your computer: Click "Download" to download your file to Trogdor. Wait for Success!
- Back at the cutter: Press FRAME. This ensures your design is where it should be, and won't go off the edge of your material. If it's not, go back a few steps and see what's up.
- Shut the lid.
- Press START.
- MONITOR. YOUR. CUT.
- Seriously, monitor it. You go out for some food and leave that machine running for an hour? You will quickly find yourself without membership at the Lab.
DING FRIES R DONE!
If everything went well, the machine will beep a few times and the laser head will move off to the side. Open the lid and inspect your cut. It should fall out of place and boom! Your first project is done.
A few tips:
- Take. Notes. You can only have one file open in RDWorks at a time, making it difficult to compare settings. Make notes as to what settings work right for you on your materials.
- Utilize the Parameter Library: Did you find your perfect setting for cutting out hoodygooders? Save the settings in the Parameter Library in RDWorks for later. It's super-handy.
- Test test test. Don't fire up that giant project without testing settings first. The laser doesn't need to run for 3 hours for you to discover you hate the settings you chose. Test small first.
- When in doubt, ask. #print_cut_engrave exists for a reason in Slack. To HELP YOU! Join it, and ask away. Your fellow members love to help.