As a staff member of Do Space I’m usually trying to find various ways to help patrons on their projects. One subject that many would ask about is how to fix various issues with the laser cutter. Unfortunately, I knew nothing about the laser cutter and could not help anyone with it. I decided to solve this problem by educating myself.
I started this project by going to instructables to learn the basics of laser cutting (http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Use-a-Laser-Cutter/). I noted the materials then found a white cast acrylic plastic sheet and studied what I could make with this material. For my first project, I did not want to create anything original, because I had no idea how would the laser cutter software handle hard edges and curves from my illustrator designs. I searched thingiverse for a design that had both sharp edges and curves for the test. I found a great bee project that had all the specs I was looking for (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:297758).
I modified the illustrator files for they could not be read correctly by the laser cutter software. All the cutting lines were black and all the etching lines were red. The lines were also too thick for software and the software show all the lines as black. We need the software to read the lines as red to cut. I solved these issues by selecting the black lines and change them to red. I also change their size to 0.071 pt, which is the only size the software will read for cutting. I selected the old red lines and changed them to black for etching. There was one last issue with the size of the canvas. The size of Do Space’s laser cutter’s bed is 16” by 12” and my illustrator file’s canvas size was 20’’ by 10’’. I changed that to the appropriate size by editing the art boards (http://www.wikihow.com/Change-Artboard-Size-in-Adobe-Illustrator). Once that was all fixed I hit print to send my file to the laser cutter.
After this I found myself lost because I could not find anything online about how to start the Do Space’s laser cutter or where to find the software for it. Whenever you find yourself stuck you can always google the brand of the device and then the question to find what some help. Luckily, Do Space has an instructions booklet in their 3D Lab to help users answer various questions on the laser cutter. I followed the instructions and started my cut. See picture above on how it turned out.
Troubleshooting is the best way to learn and for this project I had some problems that I could learn from to improve my next projects. My problem was where the parts of the acrylic was not cut correctly and it also burned in some places. Some suggest to set the laser on a low power for the first cut and if it didn’t cut through you can cut it again for a second time on top of the same design. I didn’t cut the design twice for I feared that it would burn the acrylic more. I used a pair of scissors and a pencil to pop the pieces out of the acrylic. I suggest to use a X – ACTO knife instead for that type of situation. I also could have reduced the burning my taping the acrylic with painter’s tape.
Now that I have learned how to laser cut I can assist patrons with their projects as well plan for a few of my own in the future.