Designing for laser cutting
NOTE: Needs to be merged with Laser Cutting Resources
Laser Cutter Software
LaserCut Software Guides (deprecated)
Since the change to the new controller we are running RDWorks and Lightburn laser cutting software so Lasercut Guides are no longer particularly useful.
RDWorks Software Guides
The RDWorks original manual suffers from rather poor translation in to English. Rabbit Laser USA have taken the installation manual and done their best to fix the duff English. It can be found on the Rabbit Laser website
There is also a YouTube video about how to use RDWorks
Lightburn Software Guides
2D Art and Design Software
- London Hackspace's guide to using inkscape to draw things for laser cutting
- Cambridge Makespace's advice on using inkscape with the laser cutter at their Makespace
- IMAL's Inkscape & Lasercutters
Kerf Loss and how to deal with it
When you design for laser cutting you need to account for the width of the laser beam / the width of the cut in the material. The loss of material is referred to as kerf or kerf loss. The amount of material lost can be compensated for in the laser cutting tool process by offsetting the path the laser takes to one side or the other of the artwork or design line / path. However if you are designing a box with interlinking tabs accounting for kerf loss to make sure your parts fit snugly together can get a bit tricky. One solution is to use one of the many web-based box design tools which take all the complexity away for you.
One of our members, Mark M, has the following to offer on accounting for kerf loss "In my experience it varies, dependent on the material batch, position on the laser bed, laser power/speed, focus setting, etc. So much that if it's critical, it needs checking on the day with the set up as similar as possible. Otherwise I assume 0.1-0.2mm for all materials."
As a Rule of Thumb assume that the laser cut removes 0.15mm.
A few examples are linked below. Alternatively you may want to make your own design and want to do the kerf compensation for your self. The following pages may help you with this..
RDWorks Kerf Compensation
From the RDWorks manual
Sew Compensation (Kerf Settings): A kerf is the width of the cut made by the laser. By default RDWorks cuts along the center of the path. This will result in outside cuts being smaller, and inside cuts being larger. The kerf settings allow you to correct for this. RDWorks calls the Kerf setting “Sew Compensation”. It is found in the cutting parameter window under the Advance button.
To access the setting double click a layer to get the layer setting and then next to the SEAL parameter click the Advanced button. You will need to enable Sew Compensation by checking the box and then enter the compensation you want to apply.
- Makercase's laser cut case design generator
- Boxmaker at Connection Lab - Another box maker
- Make-a-Box - yet another box maker
- Festi Box Maker
Laser Cutting Design and Fabrication Techniques
- Defferred Procrastination's guide to designing laser cut clip together construction
- Makezine Magazine - Visual reference for laser cut joint designs
- Ponko's How to make interlocking wood designs
Minimizing Burning and Laser Associated Damage
- CutLaserCut's Advice on Minimising burn/heat marks
- Rowmark's Causes and Effects of Cracking
- CutLaserCut's "Everthing you need to know about acrylic" If you're having problems with cracking/crazing, this link might help explain why (extruded vs. cast)