My laser cutter arrived a few weeks ago. It’s pretty cool. Partly because I’ve been anticipating it for the better (worse?) part of two years, but mostly because it’s just there.
I’ve used a laser cutter before, and this was the workflow:
- Find a free time slot at the nearest makerspace, 45 minutes away, that matched my schedule
- Arrive, sign in, turn on laser (but not compressor or exhaust system)
- Transfer my design to the PC attached to the printer and open it with Corel Draw
- Use the funky Corel plugin to set up which lines and areas would be scored, cut or engraved with which power/speed/etc
- Put my material in the laser, making sure it’s tight against the stop bars. Use joystick and guide block to adjust focus.
- Transmit job to cutter, fire up compressor and exhaust system — good thing the proper order is printed on the boxes — and press big button to start job.
It wasn’t that much fun, and it was not conducive to experimentation. If I screwed something up, it would usually be weeks before I could come back.
- Make a design in Inkscape or draw something on a piece of paper or cardboard.
- Turn on laser cutter
- upload design to web-based UI or put it on the bed and hit the “trace” button
- Put material in and position the cut/engrave on the material
- Select speeds and powers
- push glowing button
If I screw up, I figure out how and redesign or just run the job again with new settings. And since I can use it often, I don’t forget how to work the software or the hardware between times. The 12-year-old has used it to make chachkes for his chess club; one of his friends came over and drew some monsters to cut out of cardboard. It’s easy.
My main complaint is that I am not worthy. Having it doesn’t endow me with new artistic or engineering skill, or even a working knowledge of multiple CAD programs. So that part is going to be a slog, but at least the incentive is there.
Oh, and another complaint: it only cuts through things like acrylic and wood, a maximum of about a quarter inch thick. No aluminum or steel or granite. (But it does have some really cool low-power capability — when I was playing with a design for a bookmark, I engraved my tests on a piece of 20# copier paper without even leaving a mark on the back.)