Preparing The Cut
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- Never open access panels without disconnecting power
- Do not circumvent the safety cut-out switch or operate the machine with access doors open
- Never run the laser cutter unattended
- Always vent material smoke or vapour to a suitable external outlet or filter system
- Only use laser-safe materials which do not contain chlorides and formaldehydes
LaserCut 5.3 is a dedicated laser cutter control software written by Leetro Automation Co Ltd. It is used to prepare cutting files that are sent to the Leetro MPC6515 controller hardware inside your laser cutter.
LaserCut has some basic drawing functions but it becomes most useful when dxf files are imported into the software for upload to the laser cutter. These .dxf files are created in other CAD drawing packages, such as the free, cross platform, open source vector editing package Inkscape, or the school favourite 2D Design by Techsoft. Once a .dxf file is drawn it can be imported into LaserCut.
Lasercut provides functions to simulate the cutting process that is about to occur and estimate how long the cut will take. All the information about a job can be saved and loaded by saving a project in LaserCut as an .ecp file making it easy to store settings, layouts and to repeat projects in the future.
This guide will walk you through the process of preparing the material for cutting and performing a cut with the laser.
From the menu system in the top left-hand corner, click ‘File’, then click ‘Open’ from the menu that appears.
The ‘Open’ dialog window will appear which allows you to select a file to be imported into the program. Locate the ‘Test Patterns’ folder that came with the Just Add Sharks software download. Select the ‘Height Tools.ecp’ file and a small preview of the file will appear in the lower window once the file has been selected. If the preview does not appear the file may not import correctly. Click ‘Open’ once the file has been selected.
The file has to be selected by clicking on the file name, typing the name of the file into the box will not result in successful selection of the desired file.
If the file was successfully opened by Lasercut it will appear on the screen zoomed in as large as possible. The location and the power settings will all be loaded from the file.
The file is now ready to be sent to the laser cutter but it’s worth mentioning ‘Immediate’ mode. With the ‘Immediate’ box ticked the cut will start in the top right-hand corner of the item (shown above as a blue dot).
With Immediate mode unticked the cut will always be performed in the same position of the work bed. Leave immediate mode ticked for now.
To send the workpiece to the laser cutter click the ‘Download’ button in the bottom right-hand corner, the download dialog will appear.
The download window shows all the files that are currently loaded onto the machine. It is easiest to keep one single file on the machine at all times. ‘Del all’ deletes any existing files, ‘Download current’ sends the currently loaded item down to the laser.
The filename for the workpiece will appear on the laser cutter display panel. If the filename has any spaces or special characters the display will call the workpiece ‘Laser’ instead.
Place a piece of material onto the honeycomb bed of the laser. Use the arrow keys to drive the laser cutter head to an appropriate starting location for the workpiece, remember this will be the top right-hand corner of the object you are cutting. The red dot will show you where the laser will be cutting.
As the laser beam passes through the lens in the flying head, the beam turns into an hourglass shape. The beam is most intense in the middle of that hourglass and that should be set to hit the surface of the material. Hold the height tool against the nozzle and move the Z axis up or down until the material sits flush against the bottom of the tool.
On the Blacknose the Z axis is adjusted manually using the lasercut knob in the bottom left hand corner of the work area. On our other machines it can be adjusted by pressing the Z button on the control panel. Once adjusted, press Z again to exit Z-axis mode.
The ‘test’ button on the panel will move the laser head in a square around the area it intends to cut, this can be used to confirm that the item will fit onto the material. Press the ‘Start’ button to begin the cut.
It is good practice to press the ‘pause’ button instead of the ‘stop’ button. The laser will come to a sudden stop when the stop button is pushed and the stepper motors may skip a few steps, it is nearly impossible to align the work again. Pressing pause allows the laser to come to a controlled stop, the work can either be resumed by pressing ‘start’ again, or stopped at which point it will return safely to the zero point.
The photo above shows the smoke coming out through the honeycomb bed, this is a good indication that the cut has made it all way through the material. Once cut the workpiece should drop cleanly out of the surrounding material
When moving the laser head around the work area it is possible to push the ‘Z’ button by accident, the machine will enter Z mode, the only way to exit this mode is to push the ‘Z‘ button a second time.
Once the cut has completed the display will show the exact amount of time it took to complete the cut. Compare this with the estimate time from laser cut to get a better estimation of the time needed for future jobs.
Honeycomb vs Knife bed
The laser cutter comes with two different cutting beds. The honeycomb is a closely packed network of vertical metal sheets, the knife bed is just a dozen vertical sheets. As the laser cuts through the material it reflects off these vertical edges and marks the underside of the workpiece. The knife bed has less vertical slats and has less reflections but it is not suitable for smaller items which may drop between the slats.
The knife bed is stored under the honeycomb bed by default because this allows the cutting fumes to easily circulate around the laser and reduces the staining on the underside of the workpiece.