01 / GET STARTED

03 / MATERIALS

05 / SUBMIT A JOB

06 / GALLERY

The laser cutter utilizes high intensity laser beams to penetrate through materials, leaving a fine cutting edge. A variety of outcomes can be acheived with the laser cutter. The end product can be a combination of all three outcomes, creating textured 2D surfaces.

Laser Vector Cutting

the material is completely cut through by the laser

Laser Vector Engraving

the material is only cut a certain depth , leaving score marks on the surface

Laser Raster Engraving

a large area of the material is etched, leaving a burnt, concave region on the surface

1 / VECTOR FILE

We require a simple vector file to be able to lasercut and engrave for you. A vector file is a graphics file that contains lines and shapes and is fully scalable. Unlike a raster image it does not contain pixels and does not go blurry when you scale it. If you are unable to generate a vector file, don’t worry, we are able to assist in preparing them for you!

At The Make Lab, we aim to make things simpler for you by accepting numerous formats. We recommend using our downloadable templates that are set up to ease file preparation. If you prefer to create your own vector file, you can follow our steps below.

themakelab-make-files_dwg
AutoCad® (.DWG) / Download Template

themakelab-make-files_3dm
Rhinoceros® (.3DM)  /
Download Template

themakelab-make-files_ai
Adobe Illustrator® (.AI) /
Download Template

themakelab-make-files_pdf
Portable Document Format®  (.PDF)

themakelab-make-files_svg
Scalable Vector Graphics®  (.SVG)

themakelab-make-files_eps
Encapsulated PostScript®  (.EPS)

We recommend to use either Autodesk AutocadAdobe Illustrator or Rhino3d to create your vector file but other programs like Corel DrawInkscape or Vector Designer are also available to create your files.

If you are not familiar with creating a vector file, you can always send us your images and we can offer tracing services too. Vector Magic is a useful online service to help convert your design as an image into a vector line drawing.

When submitting files for INK & LASER we recommend using PDF or AI formats. For further information about our printing services please see INK & LASER.

2 / SETUP ARTWORK

So now that you have selected your preferred program for creating the vector file you need to setup the artwork for lasercutting.

Please note that the laser is capable of penetrating through thicknesses of up to 6mm subject to the type of material. For vector etching, the laser can however accommodate for items up to 80mm thick. We stock a standard range of materials that are finetuned for our lasercutter. If you are supplying a unique material, please send us an inquiry to ensure that we are able to accomodate your material.

Preparing your design for lasercutting means determining whether you would like your product to be cut, etched (engraved) or rastered. Separate the the cut lines, etch lines and raster hatches into separate layers each with their corresponding colour:

  • Vector cutting lines should be placed in the layer “cut” with rgb red (R=255 G=0 B=0) colour
  • Vector etching (engraving) lines should be placed in the layer “etch” with rgb green (R=0 G=255 B=0) colour
  • Raster etching (engraving) regions should be placed in the layer “raster” with rgb blue (R=0 G=0 B=255) colour

Ensure that all lines are continuous or closed lines (polylines) as the laser cutter will follow this line and cut out the product by fully penetrating the material. Ensure that there are no overalapping lines, duplicate lines or hidden lines in your file. Lines for etching and cutting must not be masked or hidden behind other objects as the lasercutter will cut all lines in the file. Not only will this result in unwanted lines appearing on your material, but the cut and etch results will not be optimal and the cost of lasercutting will be more expensive.

  • All vector linework (for laser cutting or laser etching) should be set the line thickness to 0.01pt/0.01mm or Hairline.
  • Rastering regions should be a solid colour or solid hatch. These can be masked or hidden in your files.
  • Linework that is intended for raster etching should be no less than 1pt or 0.4mm as the artwork will not etch very well. Use vector etching for lines thinner than this.
  • The minimum thickness for objects should equal the material thickness. ie pieces cut from a 3mm plywood should have minimum width of 3mm.

When preparing 3d objects for laser cutting, you should take in account for two types of tolerances:
Material tolerances need to be accounted for due to the errors in material manufacture, eg. a 3mm plywood might really measure 3.2mm or 2.8mm. Hence the tolerance is 0.20mm.

Joint tolerances need to be accounted for to ensure a smooth yet tight joining system.
Tolerances vary across materials but as a general rule of thumb, allow 0.15mm to 0.20mm for overall tolerances.

When using text in any artwork, ensure that the text is converted into vector graphics. It can either be defined as the outer boundary (curve) of the text, a solid hatch or both.

Single Line Font

Standard Font

AutoCAD
Select the text you would like to explode.
Select Express tools > Text explode

Adobe Illustrator
Select the text you would like to explode.
Select Type > Create Outlines

Rhinoceros
Select the text you would like to explode.
Run Explode command

There are two types of text that can be used for lasercutting. A single line font consists of only single lines and a standard font has a thickness. Single line fonts are efficient as they only cut single lines for each character, but are less common. Some Single line fonts can be found at One Line Fonts. Standard fonts use two lines to define the shape ond thickness of the characters and the most widely used fonts. It is important that both single line fonts and standard fonts are converted into vectors before submitting for lasercutting.

3 / LAYOUT FILE

Mounting is the process of transferring your design file to a template that corresponds to your material size. The material should be able to fit onto the laser cutting bed size of 300 x 600mm.

Find out the sizes for our stock materials for laser cutting to ensure that the sheet sizes are set up correctly. Before you start drawing your vector artwork, please ensure that the document colourmode is set to RGB.

  • Create a bounding template of the same dimensions as the selected material size in the layer “outline” with a rgb magenta (R=255 G=0 B=255) colour.
  • Create a 5mm margin around the edges of the template and place your 2D shapes within the marginalised area in order to prevent the accidental cutting of your material due to placement parallax.

The individual 2d faces should be laid out in a manner that allows for 2mm clearance between components. This ensures that your artwork will not be effected during the laser cutting. Its also possible to share cut lines if they are the same. It can help to reduce material usage and lasercutting time. Just ensure that there are no duplicate or overlapping lines.

Check once again if there are any hidden or duplicate lines as these will all be picked up by the laser cutter.

As rastering etching is achieved by the laser head going back and forth across the material like an inkjet printer, it is best to lay out components that require rastering in the same area on the sheet and in horizontal rows. This will etch a lot faster and work out to be cheaper for you!

4 / SUBMIT ARTWORK

Now that the file is prepared for laser cutting, its time to submit the file! If you have multiple sheets to lasercut it is advised to combine all the artwork into one file (with multiple sheets). Ensure to run through the Final Checklist before submitting the files to us.

When uploading your file please follow the naming conventions (date_name_filename) i.e 20090931_johnsmith_trial.ai

If you are after tracing services & file preparation, simply upload an image of your desired artwork and we will get back to you shortly.

5 / PROCESS JOB

Once we have received the file, we will review your file and provide any comments or advise on any issues with the artwork. If required, please address these issues and then resubmit your file. Once the file meets our requirements we will issue you a quote within 3 working days.

Upon confirmation and payment, and once you have supplied your material to us (if needed) we will send your job to the laser cutter. An invoice will be issued to you.

Payment either by credit card, paypal or bank transfer will be required before your job is processed.

Once the cuts are completed, our team will contact you to arrange for collection or delivery. Delivery will be additional cost on top of the job and will vary depending on job sizes. Read more information on costs.

So now you’ve finished reading through the guide, you’re ready to design and start cutting! If you have any queries, feel free to contact us at info@themakelab.com and we’ll answer all your questions.