Laser Engraver

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GCC Laserpro Spirit LS

The Spirit LS laser engraver from GCC Laserpro is the laser engraver available at _Space.URI. It can engrave a wide variety of materials including glass, acrylic, wood, rock, and various plastics.

Spiritimage.jpg

Specifications

Work Area: 25 x 18 in. (640 x 460 mm)


Maximum Motor Speed: 80 IPS

Before Using the GCC Laserpro Spirit LS

Safety Precautions

To ensure your safety, and that of others in the makerspace, please obey the _Space.URI rules and guidelines, as well as the specific rules for using the Laser Pro machine.

  1. After completing the Laser Pro certification process, you may ask for a small plastic box containing accessories necessary to operate the Laser Pro machine.
  2. In the bottom cabinet of the machine itself, are a few pairs of safety goggles. You must wear these before using the Laser Pro Spirit LS.
  3. Be aware of your surroundings. Near the laser Pro is a fire extinguisher for use if needed. Before using the machine, make sure you are familiar with where the fire extinguisher is located before using the machine.
  4. The large red button on the Laser Pro is an emergency stop button in the case of a fire or other emergency. (Once pressed, a twist will release the button, allowing for normal operation again)
  5. Before engraving, check to ensure that the SafeGuard is Enabled (Func[F4] >> Advanced Option >> SmartGUARD >> Enable/Disable)

Using the Laser Pro Spirit LS

Basic Settings

  • CorelDRAW X8 is the software used to design and import files. CorelDRAW is provided on the laptop connected to the Spirit LS laser cutter. The file format used is CDR.

Under Printer Preferences

  • Options
    • Black & White
  • Pen
    • Speed
    • Power
    • Turn on 'Air'
    • Check off Raster and/or Vector depending on your cut
  • Advanced
    • Position Modes (defined)
      • Home - Use the top-left corner of the bed as the starting/orientation point.
      • Center - Laser will etch/cut using the position set manually as the center of the project.
      • Smart Center - Manually select the four corners of the material, the machine will automatically calculate the center.
  • Paper
    • Change the dimensions to match the document dimensions (check for units)
  • Raster
    • Dithering Matrix: A typical use of dither is converting a grey scale image to black and white, such that the density of black dots in the new image approximates the average grey level in the original.

Pen Settings

Pen settings allow you to change the speed and power of the laser. The power is the percentage of full (100%) power. The more power, the deeper and darker the etch. Too much power may burn your material or etch too deeply. Changing the pen speed changes the time the pen spends in an area. If you can not use a strong power on a delicate material, try lowing the speed so the laser lingers longer as it etches the surface. Here are some starting pen speeds and powers for different materials.

Vector and Raster

  • A raster cut is the default cut the laser uses. This in involves the laser moving back and forth across the surface as well as as it moves down the surface. A raster cut will etch anywhere there is color on an image, and is good for thick designs or designs that are filled in.
    • For a raster cut, the image can be converted into any bitmap up to Grayscale (8-bit). A typical use of dither is converting a greyscale image to black and white, such that the density of black dots in the new image approximates the average grey level in the original.
  • A vector cut etches the Trace of an image. The pen follows the Trace of the design. This would be used either to cut something out or to etch delicate line work. A vector cut can be done if the design traced in CorelDRAW.
    • If you trace the image then check off raster and vector, the image will do a raster cut. Then the laser will etch the trace over it.

Steps

  1. Use the Dell laptop next to the Laser Pro only
  2. Open the program, CorelDRAW, located on the desktop
  3. Turn on the Laser Cutter by using the switch on the right side of the machine. Do not turn the laser key until you're prepared to print
  4. Create an image or import one into CorelDRAW
  5. Measure the materials you will be engraving or cutting to determine the size of the image
  6. Change the dimensions of the document to match the dimensions of your working surface
  7. Using the guide marks in CorelDRAW scale your image to the size required
  8. When your image is completed, click the print dialog
    1. Under printer choose the Spirit LS as shown below
    2. Choose preferences and set the print settings for your material according to the reference sheet

    Laser Printer Dialog.PNG Properties Dialog.PNG

  9. After finalizing the software settings, click the print button
  10. Place your material in the bed of the laser cutter, attach the auto-focus attachment, and press the auto-focus button
  11. Once this is completed, move the mirror head until the red dot is in the center of your drawing space
  12. To ensure that your settings are correct close the lid and press the start button
  13. If the mirror head appears to be in the incorrect drawing space, cancel the print, re-center the mirror head, turn the laser key on and press print again to begin engraving or cutting
  14. Once your print is complete the laser will recenter itself. If you do not touch your material, you can got over the etch and deepen it by pressing Start again. This can help compensate for lack of power.

Lists Of Engraver Materials

Printer Properties
Job Description Material DPI Pen Speed Pen Power PPI Raster (R) / Vector (V)
Score Foam Board (1/4") 500 30 60 400 V
Cut Foam Board (1/4") 500 20 60 400 V
Cut Acrylic (3mm) 500 5 85 400 R
Photo Maple 600 60 85 400 R
Cut Paper (Black Pen) 500 50 70 400 R
Cut Paper (Red Pen) 500 15 100 400 V
Engrave Glass 500 25 85 700 Both
Engrave Ceramic Cup 500 50 75 1400
Engrave Acrylic Keychain 500 10 100 1000
Engrave Wood Pen 500 30 50 1000


DO NOT Engrave with these Materials

  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
  • Poly(methyl methacrylate) (Plexiglass)
  • Vinyl
  • Most metals (check with _Space employees)
  • Carbon fiber
  • High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
  • Printed Circuit Boards (PCB)

The new "Using the Laser Pro" (In Progress)

Creating a file in Corel

You can make and import a large range of pictures and designs, all of which can be cut or engraved into various materials using the Spirit LS
  1. Start by opening up a blank document
    1. The blank page icon with the little green plus (right below the “file” option of the menu bar)
  2. Preparing a logo (Pics of examples)
    1. File > Import > Choose File (JPG., PNG., PDF….)
    2. Hit <enter> to place the logo right in the center of the page
    3. Click on your logo and then on “Bitmaps” in the upper menu toolbar
      1. Resolution: 300 dpi
      2. Color mode: Black and White
      3. Dithered unchecked
      4. Anti-aliasing checked
      5. Press “ok”
    4. Click on the new bitmap and the “Trace Bitmap” dropdown on the property toolbar
      1. Choose “Outline Trace”
      2. Choose “Detailed Logo”
      3. In the settings tab on the right experiment with the “Detail,” “Smoothing,” and “Corner smoothness” sliders until you can settle on something you like
      4. Hit “Ok”
    5. Resize and Center (see below)
    6. From here you can add more logos or pictures or move right onto setting up the print settings and Spirit LS.
  3. Preparing a picture
    1. File > Import > Choose File (JPG., PNG., PDF….)
    2. Hit <enter> to place the logo right in the center of the page
    3. Click on your logo and then on “Bitmaps” in the upper menu toolbar
      1. Resolution: 300 dpi
      2. Color mode:Grayscale (8-bit)
      3. Dithered unchecked
      4. Anti-aliasing checked
      5. Optional: Transparent background (makes whitespaces of the new bitmap transparent - only noticeable when placed on a background or another image)
      6. Press “ok”
    4. Click on the new bitmap and the “Trace Bitmap” dropdown on the property toolbar
      1. Choose “Outline Trace”
      2. Choose “High Quality Image”
      3. In the settings tab on the right experiment with the “Detail,” “Smoothing,” and “Corner smoothness” sliders until you can settle on something you like. You often don’t need to adjust these settings when working with a picture.
      4. Hit “Ok”
    5. Resize and Center (see below)
    6. From here you can add more logos or pictures or move right onto setting up the print settings and Spirit LS.
  4. Adding Text *Can be by itself or added to and on top of logo and picture designs
    1. Select text box option in left-side toolbar
    2. Click and drag to create a box (will be resizeable)
    3. Type what you want
    4. Highlight and edit text properties (font, size, etc.) in object properties panel on right side of screen (if that panel isn’t there look for “object” in the top menu bar and choose “object properties”)

    Note: all of the previous designs are created using the “line-by-line” raster style cutting. For thin-line designs, we use vector cutting. (great for outlined shapes, and especially for cutting through materials)

  5. Vector cutting
    1. There are two ways of getting vector cut designs; one is by just using the outline of a logo and the other is by doing a Centerline Trace
    2. Stencil/Logo outline (best for clean, thin-line art)
      1. Follow the steps for “Preparing a logo” as seen above all the way through
      2. Click on the new object and then with the left mouse button click on the Black square in the color panel on the right side of the page and then with your right mouse click on the White square. *This will give you a black outline of your logo with white fill
      3. Highlight the object once more and on the property bar click on the pen-size drop down menu. Select “Hairline”
    3. Centerline Trace (best for cutting out parts of a project)
      1. Convert the drawing to a black and white bitmap (as seen in “Preparing a logo” above)
      2. Select the new bitmap and, in the “Trace Bitmap” drop down menu on the properties bar, select “Centerline.” Choose “Technical Illustration”
      3. In the settings tab on the right experiment with the “Detail,” “Smoothing,” and “Corner smoothness” sliders until you can settle on something you like
      4. Hit “Ok”
      5. Highlight the object and on the property bar click on the pen-size drop down menu. Select “Hairline”
    4. If there is a rectangular border around your image that you don’t want to be etched with it, highlight the image and click the “Ungroup all objects” button on the property bar, then click and delete the unwanted pieces of border (must use the “pick tool” found in toolbar on left of screen)
    5. Resize and Center (see below)
    6. From here you can add more logos or pictures or move right onto setting up the print settings and Spirit LS.
  6. Resizing and Centering
    1. Resize:
      1. Click on the object to be resized
      2. Enter width into “width box” on the property bar. Hit <enter> *If the lock symbol is closed then the height will snap to match, keeping the image ratio the same.
      3. Enter height into “height” box. Hit <enter>
    2. Center:
      1. Click “Object” in top menu bar
      2. Go to “Transformations” then “Position”
      3. Relative Position unchecked
      4. Center box of 9x9 box grid selected
      5. Enter the x and y position (in inches) of the center of your document *X = ½ * width of page (usually 4.25”) *Y = ½ * height of page (usually 5.5”)

Print Setting

  1. Choose “Spirit LS” as the printer
  2. Hit the “Preferences” button

Preparing printer

  1. Power switches
  2. Insert metal grid platform through the front hatch of machine (if not already there)
  3. Insert the key (don’t turn it yet)
  4. Close bottom cabinet and front hatch

Running the printer: Etching and Cutting

  1. Open glass panel on top
  2. Place in object to be etched, level and oriented neatly
  3. Attach the autofocus pin and move the whole laser head so the the pin is over a point with a height that represents the average height of the surface area that will be etched (if surface is perfectly flat, anywhere will do)
  4. Press the autofocus button, wait for it to finish focusing, then press F1 button to go back to main menu
  5. Remove pin
  6. Drag the the red dot to the center of where you want your etch/cut to be
  7. Close glass panel
  8. With the key in the OFF position, press the Start/Stop button. The printer will do an exact run of the etch/cut except the laser won't fire. This will help you make sure the laser doesn’t go off your workpiece and it also records the time it took to do the print so that when you do the real run you’ll have a countdown timer.
  9. Turn the key to the ON position
  10. Press the Start/Stop button firmly and watch as your design is etched
  11. If at any point you need to stop the print run, press the big red Emergency Stop button to cancel the etch. Twisting it clockwise will release it again.
  12. DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM THE SPIRIT LS WHILE THE LASER IS FIRING (things can go wrong and you need to be there if they do to press the emergency button to avoid damaging the machine)