Laser cutting file set up instructions
If you would like to create a laser cutting file for your parts using a program such as CorelDRAW, Adobe Illustrator, TurboCAD, AutoCAD, or Open Office Draw, please set up your files as follows:
- Cut lines — Draw thin, black lines where you want the laser to cut; the laser will cut down the center of your lines. In CorelDRAW, the lines should be "Hairlines". In TurboCAD, the line thickness should be 0. In other programs, be sure the cut lines are 0.003 inches wide or less.
- Size reference — Include and label a one-inch square size reference in your file.
- Standard layout areas are listed below. The parts shown below were laid out in a 11.75" x 23.75" area. Be sure to leave at least 0.05" between adjacent parts in your layout (for materials thicker than 1/4", adjacent parts should be no closer together than the material thickness). If you need a different layout area, we can use any sheet size up to 35.5" x 50" that can be cut from a 48" x 96" sheet, in which case the layout must have at least a 1/4" border all the way around.
- o 11.75" x 11.75"
- 11.75" x 23.75"
- 23.75" x 23.75"
- 23.75" x 35.25"
- 35.00" x 47.50"
- The largest layout area is 35" x 49.5" and would require a CAD file as detailed below.
- CAD files — If you are drawing your parts in CAD, be sure the file is purely two-dimensional.
- CAD files for large or thick parts — If your part is larger than 23.5" x 35.5", or if it is thicker than 1/4", we require a DXF or DWG file created in a CAD program. The file must contain only circular arcs and straight lines (no elliptical arcs, ellipses, Bezier curves, or other arbitrary curve types, and no curves approximated by very short, straight lines). This might mean that you will have to re-trace all curves in your file with many small circular arc segments using a snapping feature and an arc-drawing tool.
- Send only one file — The file should include one copy of each unique part with indications of how many of each you need, and the material from which each should be cut. This information can either be text in the file, or explained in the special notes section of the quote request form. Please make sure to leave enough space around every part so that we can easily select them by dragging a rectangle around them.
- Lay out your own parts — If you would like to lay out your own parts, please include the layout in a different area in your file (away from the single copies of each unique piece) and label it as your layout. (If you have many small, unique pieces in your layout, you do not have to separately include a single copy of each part and state how many of each you need; the layout by itself will suffice.)
- Line sharing — When setting up a layout that includes line sharing (two parts right next to each other so that they share a single cut line), please be sure to delete any redundant copies of lines. If you have lines stacked on top of each other, though you might not be able to see them in your file, the laser cutter will see the paths and end up cutting twice along the same line, degrading the final part (and possibly causing melting or warping).
- Multiple files — If you must send more than one file, please zip them and submit them in a single quote request, and explain the materials and quantities you would like for each file in the special instructions field of the quote request form.
- Saving cutouts — If you need the cutouts that fall out from your main parts, please specify this in your file or in the special instructions field in the quote request form.
- Sharp corners — If you have any sharp corners, you might consider rounding them (called "adding a radius" to a corner, or "adding a fillet") so your parts will be less likely to crack around the corners. We can certainly cut your parts with sharp corners if you prefer.
- Adjust for kerf — You may want to adjust for the kerf (the thickness of the laser beam), which is about 0.01". (The laser centers itself on the lines you draw and takes off about 0.005" of material from either side of the lines.) For example, if you would like the hole in your part to have a diameter of roughly 1.0", you should draw a hole with a diameter of 0.99". If you would like a circular part with a diameter of about 3.0", draw a circle with a 3.01" diameter. (These numbers are approximate and can vary depending on the material and its thickness.) In CAD programs, this can be achieved using an offset of 0.005".
- Small details should be no smaller than material thickness. For example, if you are cutting a spider web pattern from 1.5 mm acrylic, the thin pieces of plastic that make up the web must be no thinner than 1.5 mm wide in your drawings. Note that the laser beam thickness will cause the final piece to have webs that are slightly less than 1.5 mm wide. We can attempt to cut thinner pieces than this general rule of thumb allows, but the part will likely warp and be very fragile.
- Text should be converted from a font to line art (often called "breaking apart text to lines or polylines" in CAD, or "converting text to curves" in other drawing programs). Otherwise, if we do not have the font you are using, our programs will substitute your font with a different one.