LaserCut 5.3 is the software that Bumblebee and Wolverine use to convert 2D layouts to an MOL file that can be read by the laser cutter The user can either do simple layouts directly in this software, or import layouts / drawings that were made in other software such as Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, AutoCAD, etc.
LaserCut is installed on the Laser cutter laptop, which lives on the desk next to bumblebee. One way to get your files to the laser cutter is to bring a flashdrive or download your files off of dropbox, etc and use LaserCut on the laptop to export the MOL files to the laser cutter. However, you can also now set up LaserCut on your personal laptop, which means you can get everything set up while hanging out in the commons area (or at home if you plan ahead) and then pop over to the laser only when you're totally ready.
Setting up the software on your personal laptop
- Download and install both the LaserCut5.3 software and the driver for the laser cutter itself
- The files are in the i3 Data Vault Equipment share, Folder: Laser Cutter
- You can also download from the Manufacturer. However, this has been reported to be a very slow download.
- The original CD that came with the laser cutter is in the plastic bin on the shelves by the machine. However, the software on the CD only supports XP machines.
- Before running Lasercut for the first time, you'll need the "soft dog" AKA USB dongle. The dongle lives in the USB port on the right side of the laser cutter laptop. Remember to return the dongle to the laptop
- Plug in the dongle and open LaserCut. Once LaserCut is open on your computer, you can remove the dongle and keep working. However, you do need the dongle to export files to the laser cutter.
- Hook up the laser when you're ready. The USB cord that connects to the laser cutter itself also lives in a USB port on the right side of the laser cutter laptop. Just plug it in you're good to go. You may need to restart LaserCut to get the software to see the laser cutter.
Importing vector graphic files
- File -> New to open a new design
- File -> Import to browse for your vector graphic file ( .ai, .dxf, etc)
- Make sure that the "PreView" box is checked and that you can see a preview of your art. If you can't and you're opening an AI file, make sure when saving in Illustrator that "Use compression" is un-checked.
- Double check the units of your file once it's imported. The laser cutter bed shown in the software is in cm. Importing DXF files from Inkscape sometimes gives screwy units.
Basic design set-up
- Clean up your tool paths
- Select all the paths in your design, Go to Tools -> Unite Lines. The default tolerance is OK. The idea is to make each path one cut to save time. It will also fix any gaps in your tool paths. LaserCut will show arrowheads on each cut-see picture below.
- Choose your origin.
- Go to Laser -> Set Laser Origin. It doesn't matter where your origin is, as long as you know where it is so you can set the head in the right position relative to your material. The origin will show up as a little blue box. Make sure you double check this before hitting test so the laser head doesn't run into anything.
- Set up your cut & engrave layers
- The color of the cut lines corresponds to their layer.
- When your design is imported, everything will be highlighted red. Click somewhere in empty space to un-select everything to see the real color.
- Select a path by clicking on it, and then choose a color from the bottom row. All active colors will show up in the Layers window on the right side of the screen, as shown below.
- The order of the layers in the Layers Window is the order that they will be executed. A good rule of thumb is to move all the engrave layers to the top of the list (select the color next to the layer and hit the "UP" button below the layers list) so that if the materials pops out of place a little from cutting, the engrave will already be done
- Set the power & speed settings for each layer by double-clicking the layer.
- See the Materials List for recommended power & speed settings but ALWAYS test your material first to avoid wasting material and time on the laser
Send your file to the laser cutter
- Plug in both the dongle and the laser cutter's USB cord.
- Save your file in LaserCut. Important: File names are limited to 8 characters.
- Click the "DownLoad" button on the bottom right side of the screen (see screenshot above). This button should be named something like "Export to Laser Cutter" but then again, nothing should be named a "Soft Dog" so clearly normal naming conventions do not apply to LaserCut
- If nothing happens, or you get an error here, you may need to restart the software.
- Click "Del all" in the popup window to clear out any other files that are in the laser cutters memory. (Sometimes bumblebee likes to inexplicably hang on to old files)
- Click "Download current" to download your current design to the the laser cutter. It may take a little bit depending on the size of your file. You should see YourFileName.mol appear in the window.
Other Useful tips
How to make a test box
It's often a good idea to test your speed & pnower settings before cutting a material for the first time. Here's how to make a simple set of test boxes
- File -> New
- Click the Rectangle tool- 2nd icon on the left sidebar.
- Click and drag to make a totally random sized rectangle
- With the rectangle selected, click the Size tool on the left sidebar.
- Enter the desired size in mm. 25x25 will make about a 1" square.
- Copy and paste the test box to make a row of them
- Put each box in a new layer and try a range of settings to see what works for your purpose.