Solidworks to Laser Cutter Tutorial

Open your part in solidworks, and make a drawing from the part. Select the custom template, and choose an arbitrary sheet size or the size of the cutting table that you’ll be working on.

Drag the appropriate view of your part onto the sheet. The outline of the drawing that you make in Solidworks will be cut out of the acrylic, so it’s important to make sure that you select the correct view. Next, make sure that the drawing is on a scale of 1:1. To check and change the scale, right click on the drawing view in the left hand feature tree and select edit feature.

Inside of the edit feature toolbar on the left hand side of the screen, there will be a box to adjust the scale. Choose the custom feature and set it to 1:1. Make sure to delete any unwanted lines in the drawing, such as axis lines or construction lines. Any lines left in the drawing will cut when printed.

To indicate to the laser cutter software whether you will be cutting out a shape, rastering it, or etching it you will need to adjust the line size and color. For the sake of efficiency, you can use a filter select tool to select all of the lines in a given drawing. Right click the top of the window (right next to the little settings option). From the drop down menu, choose the selection filter. This will bring a toolbar of selection options to the bottom of your screen.

From the tool bar options, choose the small purple filter with the line next to it. This will allow you to simply click and drag to make a box over your drawing, and select all of the lines completely contained within the box.

Before selecting your drawing, you will want to change the settings for the smallest line option to 0.002 inches. To do this, go to the options toolbar at the top of the window, which opens a larger window of different customizable features of solid works. In the second tab, labeled Document Properties, there is an option to adjust the line thickness. Change the smalles line thickness to 0.002 inches and hit okay.

Now you can go in and select all of the lines in your drawing. Once selected, simply right click in the sheet and you can bring up a small toolbar. You can adjust the color and line thickness from this simple toolbar.

To make a cut line, the color should be pure red and the line thickness should be 0.002 inches. On the RBG scale, this is equivalent to the values (255,0,0).

To make a engrave line, the color should be pure blue and the line thickness should be 0.002 inches. On the RBG scale, this is equivalent to the values (0,255,0).

To make a raster, make sure the whole area that you want to raster is filled with pure black. On the RBG scale, this is equivalent to the values (0,0,0).

Once you have finished adjusting the line properties of your drawing, make sure that you save it. It is important to note that each of the computers at the laser cutting station hooks up to a different laser cutter. The computers are labeled according to which laser cutter they are attached to, so choose accordingly based on the size of the part that you want to design and print!

Next, export the drawing to the laser cutter software (called UCP) using the print button. Make sure to print to VLS6.60.

Hit okay, and open up the UCP software from the desktop. You’ll see your part on the first page of the software, and you can read the UCP tutorial on how to operate the laser cutter software.

Laser Cutter Setup

Before using the laser cutters, it is important to turn on the compressed air as well as the fume extraction. When you cut materials they often emit fumes since the laser is burning through the material, and the air vents are an important component of the system that keeps the fumes from spreading in the space.

To turn on the compressed air, simply turn the yellow lever into the vertical position. To turn on the air vent, flip the light switch to the right of the copper tubing (it will take about 1 minute to turn on). You should hear the compressed air come on loud and clear.

** Insert photo of compressed air things

Turn on the laser cutter that you are using by holding the power button on the right side of the machine. Once on, check the list of allowable materials to make sure that you can cut the material you’ve chosen.

You can open the laser cutter using the handle on the front of the machine, and load your material inside. Before closing the machine, hit the large green run button from the UCP software. You will see the laser head move as if it were cutting the material, however there will be a low-energy red laser instead of the cutting laser. This is a great way to make sure that your cut will stay on the material that you’re cutting.

Once you have checked that your pattern will fit on the piece of material that you’re using, you can go ahead and close the lid of the laser cutter and hit the green run button on the UCP software again. This time, you should see the laser cutting for real. If you notice any flames, please stop your print and review which materials are acceptable for laser cutting. If you notice any odd sounds, or out of the ordinary cutting patterns (such as the laser head running into the material) please stop the cut, put an out of order sign on the machine and text or email Richard Mejia about the issue. The sooner you let us know, the sooner we can fix our equipment so that everyone can use it!

When you are done laser cutting, please remove your scrap material and take it with you or donate it to the scrap pile in the space. Make sure that the laser cutter, air compressor, and air vent is turned off after you are finished. ** If you are NOT the only one using the machines, please leave the air compressor and air vent on for other users!

UCP Tutorial

Now that you have your properly formatted drawing in the UCP software, you are almost there! Before you adjust the location of your piece or change how many copies you want to cut, you’ll need to turn on the laser cutter as outlined in the Laser Cutter Machine Tutorial.

Once you’ve turned on the machines, there are various different operations that you can do within the UCP software to change where your cut is located on the cutting table, how many copies of your piece cut, what sort of material you’re using, and other settings. For most options, you will use the five button toolbar on the right hand side of the UCP window.

The Laser Position button physically moves the laser in the laser cutter. You can use this button to pinpoint where you need to place your material, and ensure that the laser will never travel off of the material during a cut. In addition, after moving the laser to a given location on the cutting table by clicking laser position, and left clicking a spot on the cutting table, select the Cut Position button and another button will appear on the lower left hand side that says To Pointer. This button will move the corner of your cut highlighted in blue to the preselected location of the pointer. To change which corner of your cut is highlighted blue, simply hold shift and left click on a different corner of the cut.

If you have a specific coordinate on the cut table that you want to move the pointer or the cut to, you can do so by simply entering the coordinates when the appropriate button is selected.

The Pattern Cut button allows you to make a pattern of the object that you want to cut. You can pattern in both the x and y directions, and set an offset between each cut. The minimum offset for a pattern is 0.1”, however if your material is thick or burns easily, it would be a good idea to have a larger offset.

If you are cutting a large piece of material, and need many pieces cut you can hit the small + button to the right of the Apply button to fill the entire field to the right and down from the placement of your first cut.

Objects can not be rotated from the UCP software. If you want to cut things at a specific angle, rotate them in your solidworks or corel draw file before printing them to VLS6.60.

Once you have your cut located in the proper spot, and you’re happy with the number of objects you’ll be cutting, next it’s important to make sure that the laser cutter settings are adjusted for the material that you’ll be using.

Before proceeding with the settings, make sure that you know what material you’re working with. We have a list of materials that can NOT be cut on the laser cutters, as they emit toxic fumes or quickly catch fire. Please check that list!

To load the pre-set laser powers for red, blue, and black lines for the material that you’re using, go to the Settings button on the lower right of the UCP window.

First, select the material that you are using from the material tree. Each material category has drop down bars inside of it.

You can measure your material using the calipers attached to each computer. Enter the material thickness into the window on the lower left.

Hit the Apply button and the OK button on the lower right, and you can move on to begin cutting!

Once you have adjusted the settings, and have the correct number of patterns for what you want to cut, you can move on to the Laser Cutter Machine Tutorial.