Manual Micro Factory Laser cut

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Our Laser Cutter

The machine is a 130 W laser cutter from Morntech.

Specifications:

  • 60 x 90 cm cutting area
  • Uses LaserCut 5.3 software, see below for more info.
  • 130 W laser (originally 80 W, upgraded to 130 W on 20/05/2018)

Materials

Also see annotated samples from previous users in the white CD disk box sitting next to the controller computer’s screen and which includes three values:

  • Speed : this is the speed of the laser.
  • Power : The maximum power setting at MicroFactory is 80, do not use 100!
  • Corner : speed of the laser in corners

see list of materials and settings

  • Plastic identification chart: Found some plastic that you would like to laser cut but have no idea what it is? This chart has some tests to identify it.
  • Information on wood and a thread about wood appropriate for laser cutting.
  • "Laserable" materials from Trotec and Rabbit Laser


Laser Cutter Log Sheet

The ►►►Laser Cutter Log sheet ◄◄◄ will guide you and act as a reminder will you are using the laser cutter. Explore it and use.

Let's be clear though, this sheet act as an helper, it does not replace the full documentation here nor any in person training.

Read the Essential Security Recommendations (Must Read carefully!)

This machine is not foolproof, it can break and it can harm you! If you fail to follow these recommendations, you are responsible for the damages!

  • Use your brain, don't hurry, don't act lightly, think twice.
  • Never use the "Z-Datum" button when an object is under the head. Actually never use the Z-datum button at all!
  • Do not set the power more than 80. The laser bulb would heat up to much and break.
  • Always keep the machine under your attentive supervision while it is running. Things can go wrong at any moment (it can catch fire, something can get stuck ... )
  • In case of fire use Emergency Stop button and cover fire with fire blanket (on wall next to left of laser cutter)
  • Don't hesitate to use the Emergency Stop button. If anything is weird or even if you have the slightest doubt, press it first and then think.
  • Be very cautious when cutting a material not on the list below. Some material are not suited for laser cutting (NEVER cut anything with vinyl in the composition e.g. PVC). If you try a material for the first time, try Googling it to checks what others says about it.
  • Make sure nothing is sticking outside the cutting bed. It might get stuck when moving up the bed and twist the whole machine.
  • Beware that nothing is in the way of the laser head when operating.


Turn on the laser cutter

Use the key near the control panel. If it doesn't start, check that the emergency button is not pressed (turn it counterclockwise to release) and that the machine is plugged-in.  

laser cut turn on.jpg

Check that the cooling system is on

  • It should turn on when you turn the laser cutter on but always check that the switch is “on”
  • Turn on a few minutes before your first cut
  • The longer it runs the better. Don’t stop it when you or someone else intends to use it again later
laser cut cooling system on.jpg

Prepare your DXF file for importing to LaserCut

InkScape

  • Save as > Type > Desktop Cutting Plotter,
  • untick both “use…” boxes,
  • set Base Unit to mm
  • Tips for using InkScape with laser cutters (and LaserCut)

Other programs

  • Export as DXF/AutoCAD (year 2000 file format)
  • Export as .AI
    • version 8 or 10 (not CS)
    • untick “use compression”
    • remove any guides
    • vectorize any font

Position the panel to cut/engrave

Place the panel on the cutting bed (there are two types of bed you can use: blades bed (the best for most situations) or honeycomb bed (for intricate pieces of work).

  • Beware: under the Blade bed are two screw, make sure that are inserted in the matching holes otherwise the bed will not be flat. 
    laser cut flat blades.jpg
  • If you use the honeycomb bed, put it on top of the of the blades, not instead of the blades.


The rulers on the bed are aligned with the ruler in the software. You can use them as a reference to position your panel.

Cuts are much cleaner when there is a void behind the cut line. Each time the laser touches a support when going out of the cut, reflections create burn marks on the back of the material.

The laser will cut best at a constant distance from the head therefore it is very important to keep the panel very flat and level on the bed.

There are some round weights and metal strips that can be used as weights. In LaserCut you can click the Run Box button to see the laser head move around the area to be cut. This can help you decide where to put weights.

Set the focus

laser cut set focus.jpg
  • Press "esc" on the laser-cutter control panel to be sure to exit any menu.
  • Use the arrow keys on the control panel to move the head on top of your panel (or use the X and Y buttons in LaserCut)
  • Press the "Z" key on the control panel to control the height of the bed so that the distance between the top of the flange and the surface of your panel exactly matches the caliber gauge (this is attached to the front of the machine with a magnet, find the cord).
  • Press the "Z" key again to exit the height control mode.
  • Focus is preserved even if the machine has been switched-off.

Import your file

  • Make sure the USB stick is (with the big keyfob or another from the blue box on top of the PC) plugged-in, or
    save your DXF file to the network.\\mf-2\MicroFactory\YOURNAME\
  • Make sure the laser-cutter is on.
  • Start "LaserCut 5.3" from the desktop icon.
  • Import your file (Open > Import). DXF files from Inkscape work well (Save as > Type > Desktop Cutting Plotter > untick both options).
  • Place your drawing on the canvas according to where you placed your panel on the laser bed using the "pick" tool (SHIFT-J).
  • It’s a good idea to optimise the travel of the head by selecting your drawing (CTRL-A) and Tools > Combine Polylines.

Position your file

  • If you use the wooden “L” shaped guide (around the edge of the cutting area) then the accuracy is about 1mm. You can also cut your own L-shaped guide by drawing two lines in LaserCut, both from 0,0, on the X and Y axis.
  • Tick “Immediate” to start laser from current position (top right, not bottom-left???). The starting point is shown as a blue dot in LaserCut. You can set the laser start position in Laser Machining > Setting Laser-head Position. (Note: if you make changes to the laser position (or move the design in LaserCut) always Download (see below) the design again!)
    OR Untick to start laser at front-left (“left-down” in LaserCut) as zero [should this be “from the chosen start position in the previous step”???].

Set your cutting/engraving parameters

  • Each color can be set for a different cut/engrave style. You can set a colour NOT to print which is useful for guidelines. You can set the colors in your drawing applications or select objects in LaserCut and click on one of the color below to set its color. Note: Objects are red when selected, this can be confusing when setting colors.
  • Double click on one of the layer's parameter (top right panel) to modify the cutting parameters.
  • Cut: trace lines; Engrave: Fills the surface

Cut

  • Speed: (1-100 mm/s) speed of laser movements. Faster = shallower cut
  • Power: (12%-80% MAX) intensity of the laser. More power = deeper cut
  • Corner power: (12%-80% MAX) you can set lower power on the corners to compensate for the fact that the head slows down on corners and so tends to cut deeper. Usually just a bit less than Power, something like 5% less

Engrave

  • Speed: (100 - 600 mm/s) speed of laser movements. Faster = shallower cut/engrave
  • Power: (12%-80% MAX) intensity of the laser. More power = deeper cut/engrave
  • Scan Gap: (lines/inch) the distance between each engraved lines. The smaller the distance the finer the details but the longer the job. It is often easier to think in DPI equivalent so here is a table for equivalence:
laser cut scan gap equivalence.png


“Download” your file the machine

  • Click "Download" (the software considers you are "downloading" your files to the laser-cutter)
    • click "Delete all" to avoid confusion with previous files
    • click "Download config" to download the cut settings
    • click "Current" to download your drawing

Check Run box

  • check run box

Start your job

  • Click “Run box” to see the bounds of the area that the laser will cut. If this not as expected go back and adjust.
  • Again, check that everything is safe and secure!
  • Close the lid
  • Turn on the switch for the “Air Exhaust” (and make sure it’s exhausting outside).
    laser cut turn on air exhaust.jpg
  • Click the "Start" button in LaserCut


KEEP THE MACHINE UNDER SURVEILLANCE WHILE IN USE!

  • This includes keeping an eye on the cooler’s temperature which should be under 30º C.
    If it reaches this point, press “Pause” on the laser cutter for a few minutes.

Finishing

  • Before opening the lid wait a few seconds for the "air exhaust" to remove fumes.
  • Open the lid and collect your work
  • Turn Off the air exhaust (switch) and Air Assist (unscrew the manometer valve to stop).
  • Clean the bed of any small parts that have fallen through, they are a fire hazard. Also make sure the bars/honeycomb is in the correct position before raising so it doesn’t hit the side of the machine!
  • Close the LaserCut program
  • At the end of the session stop the laser cutter (with the key).


Log and Pay for you work in the “tireliere”

  • Log your work in the ►►►Laser Cutter Log sheet ◄◄◄ > "Log Your Work" tab.
  • Go to members.microfactory.com > Tirelire.
  • Add “Laser Cutter - X minutes” as a description and the amount including VAT (5€ / 15 minutes).