Epilog Laser Helix Tutorial
The laser cutter is essentially a big printer. It has a moving head just like an inkjet printer, but instead of laying down droplets of ink, a laser is directed by mirrors to spot on the material where it burns away a precise spot.
The intensity of the laser can be varied so it can either print/engrave, called raster, or you can cut all the way through material, called vector.
The laser determines whether to raster or vector the material based on the “stroke weight” of the lines on the image. If you want to vector (cut) an image out, highlight the specific line(s) and change the stroke weight to 0.001, any other line weight will be rastered.
The lasers have an area of 24 inches wide by 18 inches high.
A variety of materials can be used in the laser cutter including cardboard, wood, plastics, and some metals. Note: PVC and vinyl are not laser safe.
There are several safety features about the laser that you need to be aware of before you begin. First and foremost, while the laser is in operation, you need to be able to touch the machine at all times (be no further away than an arm’s length).
Secondly, make sure the vent is on to ensure that exhaust and fumes are removed and that the possibility of fire/combustion is minimized. Before hitting “go” on the laser, ensure that the light switch behind the machines is flipped up and that the gates on the pipes are open to let the air supply flow.
Take care when placing material into the cutter so as to not hit the mirrors on the carriage inside the machine, they are very sensitive and it is easy to damage them if you are not careful. Also, never lean on the honeycomb bed platform inside the machine as it will bend and break easily.
Just about any 2D program can be used to design, however no matter where the design takes place we use Adobe Illustrator to send the file to the printer.
Most commonly designs are done in Illustrator or AutoCAD, both have strengths and weaknesses.
The vast majority of the work is in the design and will take longer than setup of the laser.
In Illustrator, you can draw your own images, insert pictures, or insert files for parts.
Also possible to download stuff to print.
Advantages: quick and easy
Disadvantages: material and technology
All files must go into Illustrator.
Open Illustrator found under the start – Adobe Design and Web Premium CS6
File new- change units to inches width the 24 and height to 18 to make a 24×18” document that will match the size of the laser. Make sure the units are in inches.
If your drawing or image was created in any other program use File- Place making sure to select original size and 1 to 1 in inches if the prompt box pops up.
If your drawing was created in AutoCAD- save it as a dxf 2004 to place it.
Pressing ctrl and R at the same time will bring up rulers along the top and left sides
There are many tools used to draw- we will be using a few.
Common Problem- When drawing a box it will fill with a color.
Solution- Change the fill and stroke options, found directly under the ‘edit and object’ drop downs
To cut, you need your line to be 0.001 pt thick – This tells the laser to cut this line. Change the line weight by selecting the lines you wish to cut and changing the stroke to .001.
To trace an image to cut its outline:
Use the procedure above to place an image into illustrator.
Click image trace.
The image is now traced. Click expand to separate the image from the trace lines.
It will look as shown below.
The next step is to separate the trace and the picture, this is done with Object- Ungroup
You are now able to separate the trace and the image, use the selection arrow. It may be necessary to assign a line-weight to the trace to make it show up (see above).It also may be necessary to adjust the fill and stroke colors to eliminate the fill and make the stroke black (see above).
Jackson Hole Fablab laser demo video.
Make sure the design is in an Illustrator file and is 24 by 18.
Keep objects close together to avoid wasting material.
Load the material into the laser.
The objects will have to be moved on the document accordingly to where physical material is available.
Run a test cut on cardboard before using expensive/limited material to verify all is correct.
When the document is ready login to a computer connected to the laser, open the document File- Print
On the top of the pop up window, there will be a drop-down menu to select the printer – select
“Epilog Engraver WinX64”
From there, select “Setup” from the bottom left corner.
There may be a box that shows up – If it does, select “Continue”
Under the selections for printers, on the right side, select “Preferences”
A menu will pop up which allows you to customize your job settings.
On this menu:
Always check “Auto Focus”
Always change: horizontal of the page to 24 and the vertical to 18
Select whether you are cutting (vector), engraving (raster), or both
Change the speed, power, and frequency for the raster/vector settings based on the material you are using these will affect the quality of the image/lines you get out.
– Only change the settings that need to be changed
– The mousepad is made of the page of settings for different materials.
Press “Print” on the next window, you should see the image on the preview in the proper location.
Press “Print” on the next window, this will send data to the machine.
The laser will not turn on until you actually hit “go” on the machine. Before you hit go on the machine:
-make sure the glass lid is closed
-check to make sure the exhaust is on.
The job will show up, and you can send multiple jobs and click through them on the machine to select the one you want.
When everything is on and ready hit “go”. Remember to remain within an arm’s reach of the machine.
If this is the first job of the day, it may take the laser some time to “warm up” but it will attempt to engrave anyway so you may need to press go again.
If something goes wrong:
-press stop, the machine will stop where it is.
-open the glass lid , the laser will turn off, but the head will continue to move.
When the laser is done it will beep and you may remove the material, if the machine did not cut through, run it again by pressing go.