In order to use the laser cutter, you must first sign-in here. You can also find a QR code link to this page next to the on/off key on the laser cutter. This is an essential step to help us keep track of use and maintain the machine properly.
Turn on the chiller
The chiller is located in the back of the room, near the FDM 3D printers. Flip the switch on the chiller to the vertical position. The chiller will take a few seconds to activate. Wait 10 min after you turn on the chiller before cutting.
Turn on the laser cutter
Turn the key, and wait for the laser cutter to initialize. The laser cutter bed will move downwards to its lowest possible position and the laser cutter head will move to the back left corner. Two beeps will sound when the laser cutter is done initializing.
See troubleshooting section if you're having trouble with this step.
overview of the laser cutter interface
caution: moving the laser cutter head
The laser cutter has no safety measures in place to prevent you from crashing the honeycomb into the laser cutter head. Therefore, use caution when moving the laser bed up and down. The most common scenarios that can lead to accidentally crashing the honeycomb into the laser cutter head include:
Forgetting that the z-direction buttons move the laser bed and not the laser head. If you get this mixed up and the laser cutter bed is already very close to the laser cutter head, you will move the laser bed in the wrong direction and hit the laser head.
Accidentally pressing the z-direction buttons instead of the x-y direction buttons because you were looking at your part rather than the button interface.
Not being gentle enough with the z-direction button and pressing it too long.
In order to cut using the laser cutter, one needs to:
Calibrate the vertical distance between the laser head and your material.
Open your design in Inkscape (available on the laser cutter computer) and modify your stroke properties so your lines can be interpreted properly by the laser cutter software.
Send your file to the laser cutter software, Job Control.
Set your cut settings and cut location in Job Control and then press start.
calibrate the height of the laser cutter bed
Place your material on the laser cutter bed.
Move the laser head above your material using the x-y buttons.
Place the calibration tool on the edge of the laser cutter head as shown in the video to the left (carefully look at the orientation of the tool - it will fall off if placed in the wrong orientation).
Slowly move the laser bed up until the calibration tool hits your material (the tool will either fall off the laser head or just move a little). Lightly tap the button repeatedly in order to move the bed up slowly.
If you don't calibrate the height properly, the laser cutter will not cut through your material despite using the proper power settings.
Make a test cut!
The following steps will show you how to prepare your file in Inkscape and cut your job on the laser cutter. However, we strongly encourage that you make a test cut first. Draw a small shape in Inkscape and follow the steps below to cut your test part on your material. If the laser does not cut your part properly, see the troubleshooting section. Doing a test cut first can save you time and prevent you from wasting material.
Prepare your file in Inkscape
When you open your file in Inkscape, your design may not fit on the default canvas. Drag your design to the center of the canvas and increase the canvas size, using the instructions below, until your part is completely on the canvas.
Check your canvas size
You can modify the size of your canvas in Inkscape by going to File -> Document Properties and changing the "Width" and "Height" boxes.
Note: If either the width or height of your canvas is greater than the respective width and height of the laser cutter bed, Job Control will throw an error (with the message "Cannot load your job").
Change the stroke properties
Stroke color: In Job Control, you can assign different power and speed settings to 16 different colors. For example, you might select cut settings for one color and engraving settings for a different one. You can find the RGB values associated with each color by hovering your cursor over the colors in Job Control, as shown in "Select the laser cutter settings" section below. Two of the 16 colors available include Red (255,0,0) and Blue (0,0,255).
Stroke width: 0.1 pt
Send your file from inkscape to job control
In Inkscape, select File -> Print
In the window that pops-up, ensure that "Trotec" is selected as the printer to print to.
Click-on preferences to check that the appropriate settings are set.
Set the size settings drop-down menu to "User-defined size"
Check "Minimize to Jobsize" to reduce the print width and height to the size of your part.
Debugging trick: Try changing the "Take from Application" box if you aren't able to send your job to JobControl correctly.
Do not change the material settings here.
The "Standard" Process Mode is the most commonly used mode. You can find a more detailed description of other modes here.
Set the resolution to 333dpi to start. If you are doing high precision engraving, you can change the resolution according to these instructions.
Always set the Cut Line option to "None." If you'd like to have a cut line around your part, draw it yourself in Inkscape so you know exactly what will be cut.
Set Halftone to "Color," unless you are using a Process Mode other than standard.
Check the "Enhanced Geometries" box. This improves the accuracy of round contours.
Check the "Inner Geometries First" box. When a piece is cut, it will move slightly on the bed of the laser cutter. By cutting inner geometries first, you will improve the accuracy of your cut.
Select the JC button once you are done selecting your preferences, and press "Print" to send your job to the laser cutter software, Job Control.
Open Job Control by clicking on the glowing orange JC icon on the bottom of the screen.
Connect to the Laser cutter
Click the USB-icon (bottom right of the screen) to connect the computer to the laser cutter (as shown on the bottom of the image to the right). A blue cross will appear on the computer's honeycomb structure representing the location of the laser in the actual laser cutter.
See troubleshooting section if you're having trouble with this step.
Drag your job onto the virtual honeycomb
After selecting File-> Print in Inkscape, your file should appear in the Job Control job queue (top right of the screen, under "Jobname"). Drag your job from the queue onto the honeycomb structure.
Often, your job will appear as a gray box on the honeycomb. In order to see your design, click the eye icon as shown below.
Select your job location
Please do this step carefully to ensure that the laser will only cut your material and not the honeycomb.
Using the X-Y buttons on the interface of the laser cutter (not on the computer), move the laser cutter to where you think the top left corner of your job should be on your material.
On the computer, drag your job such that the top left corner of your part snaps to the blue cross.
Using the X-Y buttons on the interface of the laser cutter (not on the computer), move the laser cutter horizontally past the right-most edge of your part. Check that the laser cutter is still on top of your material.
Similarly, move the laser cutter past the bottom edge of your part, and check that the laser is still on top of your material.
Repeat this process until you're certain your job will remain on your material.
Select the cut/engrave settings
In order to select the cut/engrave settings, double click anywhere on the honeycomb structure (but don't double click on your job itself) to open the material settings menu. Notice that the menu has options to select a material type on the left and a material thickness on the top. Ignore these options. Only modify the "Process", "Power", "Speed", and "PPI/Hz" options for each color.
Important: Take the time to find the right settings for your cut. Using too high of power settings can damage the lenses and make your cuts less accurate.
Color: There are 16 different colors that can be adjusted for different processes with different settings. Move your mouse over one of the color boxes to display the RGB color components (red/green/blue) corresponding to that color. These are the color settings you should set your stroke paint to in Inkscape. Skip all unused colors in the material settings.
Engraved: The corresponding color will be engraved. Only fills with this color will be engraved. Vector objects in this color will be ignored.
Cut: The corresponding color will be cut. Only lines with the correct thickness will be cut. Fills of the same color will not be processed.
Power: Percentage of the maximum laser power. Increased power as well as decreased speed results in deeper engraving or cutting. Adjustment range: 0-100% (100% is equivalent to the maximum power of the laser).
Speed: This number corresponds to a percentage of the maximum speed of the laser. For engraving, we typically use a range between 0-100. For cutting, we typically use a range between 0 and 2, where 2 is the fastest speed and 0 is the slowest speed.
PPI/Hz: Select Auto.
Passes: Default to 1. You can increase the number of passes to cut thicker materials, but this option should be used with caution to avoid cutting through the honeycomb structure.
Air Assist: Always select "on"
Recommended settings to get started
0.25in Acrylic: 100 power, 0.8 speed
0.173in Acrylic: 70 power, 0.8 speed
0.25in Duron: 70 power, 0.8 speed
0.125in Duron: 70 power, 1.5 speed
Remember to make a test cut to make sure the recommended settings work for your material!
Check the cut time
Click "update" in the calculation box to check how long the laser cutter will spend on each color. This is an essential step! If the times don't look right, then the laser cutter is not going to do what you expect.
If the cut or engrave time is 0:00, the laser will not cut anything. Verify your stroke properties in Inkscape. Sometimes, even if your stroke properties look good, printing your job again will fix the issue.
If the cut time seems too long, check your Inkscape file to see if you have any double lines.
See the troubleshooting section (below) for more info.
Press start to cut
Once you've completed all of the steps above and are ready to cut, press the start button (on the bottom right of the screen, as shown in the image to the side). Stay near the laser until it has completely finished cutting/ engraving.
Remove your part
Wait 15 seconds before opening the door of the laser cutter after your cut has finished. This will prevent the air quality in room 004 from deteriorating.
Pick up all pieces left on top of the honeycomb.
Turn off the laser cutter
Move the bed of the laser cutter downwards, away from the laser cutter head. Then turn off the laser cutter by turning the key you used to turn on the laser cutter.
Turn oFF the chiller
Wait 10 min after your last cut. Then turn off the chiller.
1) The laser does not cut all the way through your material
If your cut line looks thick (thick lines are bad), re-calibrate the vertical height of the laser cutter.
If your cut line looks thin, increase the power and decrease the speed of the laser cutter.
If your cut line is thin, and your power and speed settings are close to our suggested settings, STOP and ask a CA to clean the lenses of the laser cutter. Please don't continue trying to use the laser cutter, as you may permanently damage the lenses.
2) Calculated times the laser will spend on each color seem wrong
Check the material settings menu to verify that you assigned each color the correct task and that the number of passes for each color is correct (usually just 1 is enough).
Check your Inkscape file to verify that your strokes are the correct color and width. Sometimes, Inkscape will change your stroke properties after you set them.
Check that you do not have overlapping lines in your Inkscape file (select a line, delete it, and see if another line is still beneath it). The laser cut time may be too high because the laser will repeat cut lines.
3) Laser cutter is cutting lines twice
4) Job Control error: "Cannot load your job"
If either the width or height of your canvas in Inkscape is greater than the respective width and height of the laser cutter bed, Job Control will throw an error (with a message "Cannot load your job"). To avoid this error, check the size of your canvas and make appropriate changes by going to File -> Document Properties in Inkscape.
5) Design looks cropped/ incomplete in Job Control
Often sizing issues are the cause of weirdly cropped designs showing up in Job Control. If this happens, go to Preferences (Go back to Inkscape and select File->Print->Preferences), and select or unselect (i.e. change the value to what it was not before) "Take from application" under the "Size Settings" section. If this does not fix the issue, go back to Inkscape and check that your part is fully inside the canvas.
4) Job Control Error: Cannot connect to the engraver
Check that the laser cutter is on
The most common reason for this error is that the USB cable connecting the computer to the laser cutter isn't fully inserted in the computer. Often this is the case because a USB drive is too close to the cable. Remove the USB drive and the USB cable and try plugging the USB cable back in on its own.
5) The laser cutter won't turn on
If the laser cutter is not turning on, check that the emergency button is not pressed down. A green line should be visible under the red button if this is the case.
If the laser cutter is still not turning on, try moving the switch on the right side of the laser cutter to the horizontal position, then back to its original vertical position. You must complete this step to turn the laser cutter back on after the emergency stop has been pressed.