Laser Cutting Guide

Our Lasercutter

WSA has a Cadcam FB7100 laser cutting machine which can cut a range of materials and fabrics! Laser cutting costs £2.00 per lasercut for students - however, if your artwork will take over an hour (£4.00) to cut you will be asked to make an appointment with the laser operator to assist in the production of your work - please keep an eye on your Snowhite messages.

The cut area of the machine is : 707mm x 964mm.

Permitted Materials

These materials are fine for use with our laser cutter. It is worthwhile having a test done before purchasing a large amount of material to make sure you are happy with the results.

This list is not exhaustive. If there is a material not listed in either section we may still be able to process it through the laser cutter. However we will require a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) so we can ensure it is safe to cut. Every manufacturer is legally required to provide one.

  • Paper
  • Card
  • Mountboard
  • Polyester
  • Plywood1
  • MDF1
  • Cork
  • Acrylic/Perspex1
  • Rubber (not containing Chlorine)1
  • Laminate1
  • Leather (Real)1
  • Polypropylene1
  • Formica1
  • Fabrics (not containing PVC)
  • Anodized Aluminum2
  • Coated Metal2
  • Stone3
  • Rocks3
  • Marble3
  • Granite3
  • Ceramics3
  • Glass3

1These materials should be supplied from our list of approved suppliers. Plywood, MDF and Acrylic that is supplied from DIY stores is often inappropriate for laser cutting.

2Marking only.

3Engraving only.

See our approved suppliers list.

Prohibited Materials

These materials cannot be processed through our lasercutter due to health & safety concerns.

  • PVC
  • Polycarbonate
  • Polystyrene
  • Lenticular Lens
  • Faux Leather
  • Vinyl
  • Fiberglass
  • Printed Circuit Board
  • Carbon Fiber
  • High-Density Polyethylene
  • Metals (uncoated)
  • ABS
  • Neoprene

Top Tips

  • Upload a Illustrator PDF to Snowhite - choose ‘Printshop’ and ‘Laser cutter’ in the drop down menu
  • Leave your PDF as editable so changes can be made at production stage
  • Supply your material to the Creative Services Centre
  • Supply an extra piece of material so a small test of your design can be produced
  • Keep an eye on your Snowhite messages - be ready to pop in a check your test
  • Remember to delete any double lines
  • Remember to convert any text to outlines
  • Make sure your document size is the same dimensions as your material - measure!
  • Delete objects from the pasteboard - the laser will try and cut them!
  • Make sure objects have no fills and just a stroke applied
  • Don't use white filled boxes to hide objects / create shapes - the laser software sees all objects even hidden ones.
  • For a raster engrave you can supply a Photoshop image set to Greyscale saved as a PDF
  • Remember to allow 7 working days from submission of your artwork
  • 'Expand' your Illustrator live trace and have a tidy up
  • If you want to try an unusual material get hold of a Material Safety Data sheet first before buying

Starting your Design in Illustrator

In Illustrator choose File > New. Make your New Document Profile = Basic RGB and alter the width and height options for the size of your material.

The parameters of your design for laser cutting must be or within 707mm x 964mm.

The easiest way to visualize how your artwork translates to the finished cut is to imagine laying the pieces you want to make on a sheet of paper, then drawing around the edges before taking them away. Your design should look like the lines left on the paper.

The color of the line you draw determines what the laser cutter/engraver will do - see diagram.

cut%20diagramsmall.png

All thickness of all three options are thin – approximately the width of the laser’s beam.

Vector line engraving works in a similar way to cutting, but instead of cutting right through the material, the laser just marks the surface.

The laser will trace along the engraving line you draw. There are two different strengths available: kiss cut and engrave – with corresponding depth and darkness.

To make a Cutting line:
  1. Draw a line or shape.
  2. Then set the stroke weight to 1pt.
  3. Set the stroke colour to a RED swatch in the swatch panel. All lines must be the same swatch colour.
To make a Kiss-cut:
  1. Draw a line or shape.
  2. Then set the stroke weight to 1pt.
  3. Set the stroke colour to a BLUE swatch in the swatch panel. All lines must be the same swatch colour.
To make an Engrave:
  1. Draw a line or shape.
  2. Then set the stroke weight to 1pt.
  3. Set the stroke colour to a GREEN swatch in the swatch panel. All lines must be the same swatch colour.
Raster Fill Engraving:

Raster fill engraving is used for filled areas, the strength of the raster engraving ranges from black as the heaviest, down to very pale gray which is the lightest (or white, which is none). Vector shapes or a Photoshop image set to Greyscale can be used for raster engrave. To prepare your Photoshop image (Image > Mode > Greyscale) and save as a PDF.

  • Light grey areas - Light raster fill engraving
  • Medium grey areas - Medium raster fill engraving
  • Black areas - Heavy raster fill engraving
Using text

Any text you use in your design file needs to be converted to outlines. This way the laser cutter will follow your design correctly, regardless of whether or not it has the font installed.

This is as simple as selecting your text and then choosing Type > Create Outlines from the top menu. You won’t be able to edit the text once you’ve done this, so do it last after your spell check.

Using images

To create vector artwork of an image, you’ll need to trace the image you want to incorporate into your design. You can do this by selecting the inserted image and using the Object > Live Trace > Tracing Options command. You’ll see there are several tracing options so try out a few until you find the one you want.

Next, you’ll need to use the Object > Expand command. If the trace has worked correctly, vectors should appear around all of the individual parts of the traced image. There will also be a clear rectangular box around the outside of the traced image – select this with the ‘Direct select’ tool and remove it.

Removing double lines

Sometimes if you are using the ‘Live Trace’ option it’s possible you’ll end up with cutting lines sitting one on top of the other - they may appear darker or slightly thicker.

You need to change these double lines into a single cutting line. Otherwise the line will literally be cut twice – which is not the best for your material, or the machine.

To remove double lines, select them using the ‘Direct select’ tool, then hit delete once or twice. This should leave behind another line. By removing double lines you’ll achieve a better result.

Sometimes lines too close together on some materials may cause the shape to be very fragile or to burn away completely so this is worth considering.

Removing Duplicate Lines in Illustrator - Tutorial

Exporting from Illustrator

Once you are ready to export:

  1. In Illustrator go to FILE and then SAVE AS.
  2. In the FORMAT drop down select ADOBE PDF (pdf).
  3. In the ADOBE PDF PRESET select HIGH QUALITY PRINT. Untick ‘Optimize for Fast Web View’. And then click SAVE PDF.

Uploading to Snowhite

Top up your ETILL and upload to SNOWHITE.

  1. LOGIN
  2. PRINTSHOP
  3. Select CHOOSE FILE and find your PDF. If you have multiple files that are going on the same paper type you can combine your PDFs using Adobe Acrobat, see this guide.
  4. Select the PAPER TYPE or SERVICE. All CSC services are located on the bottom half of the list.
  5. Change the number of copies for that pdf, if you need more than 1 copy.
  6. Add any relevant comments such as the desired colour profile or any exact dimensions, if a custom setting is selected.
  7. Now you can click SUBMIT JOB FOR PRINT.
  8. Check your Snowhite MY PRINTS for up to date comments and details about the status of your prints. Also make sure to keep an eye on your emails in case we need to contact you regarding your prints.

External Cutting

Sketch Laser Cutting

Tutorials & Techniques

Tracing a Line Drawing - Lynda
Laser Engraving Acrylic - Cutlasercut
Removing Duplicate Lines in Illustrator

Links

Approved Suppliers
Rob Ryan - Inspiration
Paper Paper Bird Design - Inspiration
Brian Dettmer - Inspiration
Heritage Inlay - Inspiration
Fabric Laser Cutting - lasercutit
Louis Vuitton Lasercut
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