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.)
Cool toy! I believe the glowforge has a feature that allows it to detect contrast to follow and cut out a hand drawing without the need for cad. Something to look into for getting going quicker.
Yes, it does. It’s pretty sweet. You can also resize and rotate the drawing in the web interface.