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Laser File Preparation

When machining material using a Laser Cutter/Engraver there are a few things that need considering as part of the design process and during the preparation of files. Files which have been prepared correctly allow for faster quoting and subsequent manufacture.

To make things easier we’ve put together the lists below, with short guides on how to check and correct things before sending your files to us.

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Each file uploaded should only contain the parts to be cut on a single sheet. You can determine the quantity of the sheet if you need multiples of the same layout, but different layouts should be uploaded as a separate file (you can add multiple files to the same quote/order).

As a way of double checking this, once a material type and size is selected the preview will show if your parts fit on to the sheet.

Different operations are determined by the colour of vectors. By default we use the following colour code;

  • Black (rgb: 0,0,0) = CUT THROUGH
  • Blue (rgb: 0,0,255) = ENGRAVE/FILL
  • Red (rgb: 255,0,0) = SCORE/ON LINE ENGRAVE

These are just a guideline and you can set whichever colours you like, as you have the opportunity to select colours and operations below the preview, as well as ignore colours altogether (important for bounding boxes, see below).

Bounding boxes need to be ignored for cutting, but can be included in your uploaded files providing they use a colour separate from anything else in the file. This will allow you to set the colour (and bounding box) to be ignored.

Important: Failure to remove or ignore the bounding box will likely cause it to be included in calculations, subsequently increasing cutting and shipping costs.

Process Considerations

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File Layout (applies to 2D/vector files only)

To understand the vectors in your files, we utilise layers.

Vectors which relate to the same operation (e.g. drilling with 3mm tool to a depth of 10mm) should be put on the same layer. That layer should then be named appropriately describing the tool, operation and depth required (i.e. “3mm EM DRILL 10mm DEEP”). Do this for all your vectors and the resulting layers form an instruction list which tells the operator what to do.

Common tools include;

  • End Mill (EM): for the majority of cutting operations
  • V Bit (VB): for chamfers, countersinking and engraving
  • Ball Nose (BN): mainly used for 3D contours, also engraving and decorative

Typical operations include;

  • PROFILE: the tool follows the line either ON, INSIDE or OUTSIDE
  • POCKET: the tool removes all material inside an enclosing vector
  • DRILL: used for creating basic holes

All files should be set up with a boundary box 1220mm wide by 2440mm high. This also acts as a guide for the material. If your material is a different size, draw another box the same dimensions as your material and align to the bottom left corner of the boundary box. Put these on different layers, one named ‘BOUNDARY’, the other named ‘MATERIAL’.

If you are laying out the parts before sending, please ensure you leave space between parts equal to the tool diameter being used plus 1mm (6mm tool used for cutting out parts = 7mm gap) and a 3mm gap around the edge of the material.

In order of preference/reliability;

  • DXF
  • DWG
  • SVG
  • AI
  • PDF

Error Checking

The export/import of files can sometimes lead to vectors being broken apart. In many instances this may not be visible, lines can be intersecting but not actually joined. This poses a problem for CAM software as it becomes difficult to determine the correct geometry.

We perform open vector checks as part of our setup, however it’s always a good idea to check this yourself prior to sending files.

Though not as problematic as the open vectors mentioned above, before sending files please check for duplicates. It can sometimes give erroneous timings for programming and in rare cases increase machining cycle times.

This is a difficult issue to check for, as it rarely shows on the software you’re exporting from. It manifests as hundreds (sometimes thousands for larger files) of additional nodes spread across curved vectors. In the worst cases it has caused our CAM software to stall during toolpath creation. If we find this present in a file we will ask you for a fresh export or different file format.

To be on the safe side, we recommend sending at least one secondary copy of your file in a different format. If we discover excessive nodes on curved vectors we can then switch to the alternate file to continue setup without interruption.

Software Specific Issues

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