2.009 Product Engineering Processes

Instructions for Pappalardo lab laser cutter

There is a 75W universal laser cutter, avaialble for supervised use in the Pappalardo lab and a 60 universal laser cutter in 35-307 (PDL).

Each time, before using the laser cutter, always make sure that:

  • the exhaust vent gate for the laser is open, and the gates for the hot-wire cutter, vacuum former, and spay booth are closed.
  • the small compressor under the laser cutter is on (this compressor blows air through the laser's optical stages so that they do not get coated with soot).

Never leave the laser cutter running unattended. Fires are always a possibility. Never touch the optics.  If you notice that the optics is dirty please notify the TAs or course instructor.  The lens is normally orange/yellow in hue.

If the computer for the laser cutter is logged out, you can obtain the password here (staff access only).

The remainder of the document covers: material guidelines, and how to import a .dxf file and cut it.

Material guidelines for laser cutting

  • Never cut PolyCarbonate (Lexan) or PVC (vinyl) as they release poisonous gasses.
  • Acrylic (PMMA, Plexiglass) and ABS are good plastics to cut with the laser.  Plywood or MDF is hard to cut as it has many layers of glue but plywood up to 1/2" thick material usually can be cut.
  • Try to save material by putting parts close together on a sheet and salvaging material that has usable space

Importing and cutting from a dxf file

This tutorial covers how to take a .dxf file (from Solidworks or other applications) and import it into Vision Pro clean it up, and cut it. It is assumed that you have a .dxf file and have used the Universal Laser Print Driver before. Pappalardo staff, TAs, or the course instructor can help you with the operations of the laser cutter.

And please please please ask for help if you are ever unsure! The laser is friendly but also potentially dangerous, and should be treated as such.

1. Open Vision Pro
The application is located on the desktop. If you're having trouble with this step, you should probably get shop help for the rest of this procedure.

2. Set document to laser cutter bed size
This is not necessary but it will help you lay out your work. 32"x18" should be the default.

3. Import your .dxf
Use Import, not Open and select your file.

4. Decide on Import Settings
Usually the defaults are fine. If things look completely wrong (for example, you made the model in inches and it assumed millimeters), just import again and choose new settings.

6. Delete the words that student Solidworks includes by default.
Your should now see your parts, but they are not ready for cutting. If you are importing file form thestudent version of Solidowkrs, you need to delete the extra text in the file. No, there is no way to turn this off in Solidworks.

7. Make the lines hairline
Hairlines are lines with no inherent weight/thickness, and they will be used to cut vectors. All hairlines will be cut. Select 'Line Style' from the Stroke and Fill menu.

Choose the hairline icon as shown below (the middle one).

8. Make the Line the appropriate color (usually red)
If you are using the Universal Material Settings Database, red (R=255, G=0, B=0) lines are used (by default) to cut through material. Black is for etching, blue is for scoring. The laser cutter will only recognize certain RGB combinations so please use the colors along the bottom bar.

Now your creation should look like this (if you did red and hairline). Imagine your geometry below!

9. Move the drawing to the appropriate location
Because you set up the document the same size as the laser cutter bed, it's easy for you to see where will be cut. Top left of the document corresponds to top left of the bed (if you're looking down from above). Move your drawing to the desired location.

10. Time to print. Yes!
File —> Print

Choose PLS6.75 (which is the laser cutter) and click setup.

Next, the Universal Laser Driver will open. Select your material and thickness, or manually choose your settings. If you need help, ask a TA, the course instructor, or Pappalardo staff.

Once you have set and applied your settings, click ok and then print on the previous screen. Often Vision pro crashes at this stage (bonus) but your laser setting will be saved.

Open up the Universal Driver (should be a red square on bottom right of start bar, or minimize the rest of your windows) and click the hotdigity go button!

Please contact us if there is a problem with this page or you have suggestions for improvement.