Difference between revisions of "AB's Laser Cutter"

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*High power on wood and paper may cause some discoloration near the cuts (browning color from burned material).
*High power on wood and paper may cause some discoloration near the cuts (browning color from burned material).
[[Category:Fab Lab]][[Category:Equipment not currently at i3]]
[[Category:Equipment not currently at i3]]

Revision as of 17:58, 21 February 2013

AB's Laser Cutter
Name THE BIG RED LASER CUTTER Gone but not forgotten...
Owner 100% AB Garcia
Make Model Jinan XYZ Machinery LLC, model XJ1280
Date Acquired
Storage Location FabLab
Authorization Required
Other References Sketchup_to_LaserCut - How to import a Google Sketchup design into the LaserCut software.



  • Operation of the laser cutter must be done under the supervision of one of the trained operators.
  • Do not cut or etch any of the banned materials listed below.


  1. Design your parts.  You will need access to vector graphics software to do this.
  2. Find an operator.  To lower the risk of damaging the laser cutter, you must work with an operator to cut your parts.  You can get in touch with the operators by sending an email to the laser cutter operator mailing list (i3detroit-laser@googlegroups.com).
  3. Schedule a time to meet at i3 with your operator.
  4. Cut your parts.
  5. Pay for your time on the cutter ($10 / hour of active cutting time). Can use estimate-time function in LaserCut if you forget to jot down the time on the LCD when the cut was finished.

Time-of-cut checklist:

  1. Place material (square to edge of honeycomb).
  2. Cover inactive honeycomb area except an "intake" in front of the material. This directs smoke away from the gantry.
  3. Turn on main switch. This should bring up the chiller and air-assist pump.
  4. Push gently on rubber hose to trigger chiller alarm, verifying that it's awake.
  5. Turn keyswitch to on, and wait for boot and home to complete.
  6. Jog head over to start of cut.
  7. Grab a focus-chip and keep one hand over emergency-stop while setting Z.
  8. Wave hand under head and verify that air-assist is blowing.
  9. Download design from LaserCut software.
  10. Keep one hand over emergency-stop while using Test to check boundaries.
  11. Turn on the exhaust fan.
  12. Lift the fire extinguisher and set it back down. This verifies that your muscle-memory knows where it is.
  13. Press Start.
  14. DO NOT WALK AWAY. See http://www.thinkhaus.org/2011/04/03/lazzoring-is-serious-business/ for why.

Maintenance Info


How much does it cost to use the laser cutter?

$10 per hour of laser cutting time.  This does not mean $10 per hour of standing near the machine; rather, $10 per hour of time displayed on the laser cutter's digital read-out.  This timer is only active while the laser is cutting and its motors are moving.  For many cuts, the laser is only active for a few minutes, meaning to laser-cut a project part you will often pay less than a dollar.

Why do I have to pay to use the laser cutter?

The laser cutter's consumable parts are generally not expensive, such as the lens and distilled water.  The CO2 laser tubes, however, are $900 to $1,000 each.  The laser cutter has a built-in timer to track how long the cutter has been in operation.  This makes it simple for us to collect a fair amount of money - you pay for what you use - to eventually replace these expensive consumables.  In other shops, laser cutter usage time could be five or ten times more expensive.

Why do I have to work with an operator to cut parts?

The operator has received training with using the chiller, the exhaust system, and what to do in case of an emergency.  The purpose of the laser cutter operator is to prevent damage to the machine and to prevent you from being liable in case anything happens.  If you use the laser cutter without an operator, you lose all protection from liability and could be on the hook for thousands of dollars to replace what you break.



Operator Name Trained By
AB Garcia Owns the laser
Nate Bezanson AB
Dustin White AB
Brian Wennberg AB
Matt Arnold NateB and Dustin
Dave Worsey (pending) NateB and ???
Rocco ? Fill me in!
Brad Dahlhofer Dustin W/Nate B


The laser cutter can cut or etch a wide variety of materials.  However some are not possible to cut with our current set-up, and other materials are dangerous - they release fumes that damage humans or the laser cutter itself.

The laser can only etch some materials; it will not be able to cut through them.  See the materials list for more.

The key thing is not to try to cut:

  1. Any metals
  2. Any materials that contain glue (such as plywood)
  3. Any plastics or other materials that contain chlorine or vinyl

Seriously, do not cut any of the banned materials.

You are responsible for knowing exactly what your material is before you try to cut it.

Do not cut any materials marked as BANNED in the list below.  You would be liable for expensive damage to the machine or worse - you may release toxic fumes that could easily harm or kill! 

Materials List

Material Cut? Etch? Power Speed
Acrylic Yes Yes

Glass No

Coated Metals No

Ceramic No


Delrin Yes

Leather Yes

BANNED - Lexan No No
BANNED - Human flesh (yes, this has come up) No No
Marble No

Matte Board Yes

Melamine Yes

Model Foam


Plexiglass Yes Yes

Painted Metals

BANNED - Particle board

BANNED - Plywood

BANNED - Polycarbonate plastics of any kind

BANNED - PVC of any kind



Wood, veneer

Wood, natural

Cutting Parts on the Laser Cutter

When cutting parts on the laser, you will use the software to set the cutting speed and power.  If we have cut the material you are using before, you can refer to the power and speed recommendations in the table above.  Otherwise - experiment!  Bring some scrap material to do test cuts on until you find a cut you are satisfied with.  After that, record your power and speed settings in the table above.

In general:

  • Lower speeds allow for lower cutting power, which saves life on the laser tube.
  • Lower speeds cut a wider "kerf" (thickness of cut) through the material.
  • At higher speeds the cut is faster but requires higher power, which uses up the laser tube faster.
  • High power on wood and paper may cause some discoloration near the cuts (browning color from burned material).