The Laser cutter is a machine that uses a high powered laser beam controlled by a computer to cut through material in a pattern or shape. In industry it is used for making highly accurate parts for different products and machinery. In the University it can be used to create shapes cut out of flat sheet materials so that they can be used to construct with. It is also possible for the laser cutter to etch details into the surface of materials including text and images. Our laser cutter is a 100watt laser which allows it to cut though most everyday materials but there are some limitations. A variety of sample’s can be seen in the laser room.
What materials can I use?
The laser cutter has the capability to cut and engrave a large variety of materials. There are some materials however that we cannot cut for safety reasons. To see a list of all the materials we can and cannot cut click on the button below:
This list is ever growing and we welcome experimentation so feel free to contact us about any materials that we haven’t covered in our list that you would like to try cutting.
For harder materials such as Metal, Glass or Stone you would need to use a much more powerful laser cutter or alternatively a water jet cutter. If you would like to know of companies that can provide these services please get in contact with us and we will do our best to help.
One exciting capability of the laser cutter is the ability to engrave text and images into the surface of a sheet material known as Rasterisation. Rasterisation is the process of engrave filling, meaning that the laser cutter will engrave a whole area of a filled in vector shape. Rasterisation of images uses a grayscale version of the image you want etching, to vary the power of the laser enabling it to represent it on a material, black being more powerful and light less powerful. This process works best on wood, paper and card.
What size can I cut?
Width (x): 1750mm
Depth (y): 900mm
Please be aware that this is the absolute maximum size of the cutting bed. Materials we provide are smaller than this size so please check the max material dimentions before you submit your file.
How much does it cost?
The laser cutter is a charged service. The price is based on the length of time it takes to cut and etch the material. The standard charge is 50 per minute so if a job takes 10 minutes it will cost £5. Lighter and thinner materials are cheaper to cut than thicker and denser ones and rasterising takes a long time so is more expensive.
How do I prepare a file?
Please download our Illustrator laser cutting template from the files section of our software support page. File’s suitable to import into our laser cutter software APS Ethos are:
- Adobe Illustrator (.ai) *We prefer this kind of file!*
- Portable Document Format (.pdf) *This must have been created using a Vector drawing program*
- Drawing Exchange Format (.dxf)
- AutoCAD Native Format (.dwg)
APS Ethos is installed on the Tech-Hub PC Computers in Room 140. It is possible to design ideas on this software also but the software is limited.
To assist you with your file preparation you can download a template on the Downloads page.
File Preparation for Adobe Illustrator
Once you have completed your drawing follow these steps to ensure that your file can be read easily by APS Ethos
- Remove any fills from your objects even if they are to be rasterised.
- Set the stroke weight to 0.1pt
- Make sure any objects you have merged or image traced have been expanded and any text objects outlined.
- Check that the document colour mode is set to RGB.
- Ensure your lines are coloured differently dependant on what they are to be used for. The example below is recommended:
RGB 255,0,0 = Cut-Through RGB 0,0,255 = Engrave RGB 0,0,0 = Rasterise/Etch Fill
RGB 255,0,255 = Material Boundary
- Order your cutting by arranging cuts from the inside out so that your Red outside cut is at the back of the drawing. You can do this in the layers panel.
- Go to File >> Save As
- Enter the name of your file (remember to put your name) and choose where you wish to save it to. Click Save.
- Ensure you save your Illustrator file as the latest version of Adobe Illustrator CC. If you have an older version it is advisable to open your file on the university computers and save your file in Adobe CC before submitting your file.
- Proceed to upload this file in our dropbox folder. Don’t forget to put the file on a memory stick and bring it along to your appointment too.
Other CAD Software
Many other CAD packages can be used to prepare files for the Laser Cutter such as Rhino. For these packages please look to save your files as a .dxf and send it to the Technical Demonstrator to be checked.