The laser cutter is located in the southeast corner of the wind tunnel lab, and can be used to cut thin, soft materials(woods, plastics, etc.) and to engrave anodized metals.
Using CorelDraw to Create an Image
CorelDraw functions like most other drawing programs. Along the left side of the screen are different drawing tool. In CorelDraw you can create shapes and lettering, scale objects, and set lines to either thick or thin, red or black. Black is used for when you want to make the laser cutter shade a shade or area without cutting through. This is called rastering. Red tells the laser cutter to cut through the material. You should only use thin red lines for cutting, thick red lines will cause the laser cutter to cut the same pattern about 8 times.
Importing a CAD File
- Create the model of the part you would like to cut. Be sure that the part is dimensioned correctly in inches.
- Create a 32x18 inch drawing by selecting Make Drawing from Part -> Custom Sheet Size -> Width: 32in Height:18in.
- Create the drawing view you would like to cut. Be sure that scale is 1:1 and you have deleted all constructions lines, centerpoints and callouts.
- Save your drawing as a .DFX file.
- Open your drawing in CorelDraw and edit line colors for desired cutting/rastering.
Importing an Internet Image
- Copy your image from the internet and paste it into CorelDraw.
- Once in CorelDraw, select Outline Trace and your image type.
- Once the image has been traced, play with the smoothing options until the image looks good to you.
- Delete the original image, the laser will cut/raster the trace. Any colored images will be gray-scaled by the laser cutter.
Sending Documents to the Laser Cutter
- Print your drawing from CorelDraw to "VLS6.6"
- Next select preferences: select and color code the lines and areas for what you want to cut with the laser. By default: red, blue, and magenta denote vectoring (cutting a line); black and green denote rastering (cutting out an area); yellow, cyan, and orange denote both vectoring and rastoring.
- Change Material Thickness to the thickness of your stock.
- The laser cutter cannot cut material greater than one-half inch thick.
- Select the material you will be cutting. Most materials should have pre-set settings.
- Select Manual Controls Tab.
- Here you can re-order the order of operations for the laser cutter. Always make sure that the last operation is cutting out the part because the part could shift slightly when it drops from the material board and would mess up whatever is left.
- Turn the Z-Axis off for all operations
- Click Set -> Apply -> OK.
- Click OK again to send it to the laser program.
- Open the Laser Interface by selecting the arrow in the bottom-right of the screen and clicking the red box.
- The ruler in the Laser Interface matches the ruler in CorelDraw as well as the ruler on the laser cutter.
- Make sure everything is before you start cutting: last check on the rules on the whiteboard, turn on the air with the lever to the left of the monitor (check to make sure the pressure is 50psi, the gauge is to the right of the monitor), and turn on the exhaust to keep fumes and debris from building up in the laser cutter.
- Once the 'Initial Laser Bed Setup' has loaded, select the green play button to start the cut.
If you are confused about any of these steps, you can watch a screencast for clarification Here
Again, before you start cutting, there are a few things you want to make a last check
- IMPORTANT: You must stay and supervise the the entire laser cutting process, and move the computer mouse every once in a while because the computer will go to sleep after 20 minutes of inactivity which will stop your print and you will not be able to resume from where you were before the computer went to sleep.
It can be fun to watch the laser cutter work anyways: Time Lapse