Laser Cutting Basics

18 May.,2023


Before I start going into the processes of vector cutting and rastering, I want to quickly cover the settings you will encounter. A laser cutter has four primary settings, as listed and described below. While power and speed apply to both vector cutting and rastering, frequency only applies to vector cutting and resolution only applies to rastering. The settings need to be changed based on your material in the laser cutter "Print Properties" dialogue box before you "print" your job (remember, laser cutters connect to computers like normal printers). based on the material you are cutting through or rastering on: for example, harder, thicker materials require higher power and lower speed so that the laser can actually be strong enough and move slow enough to successfully cut all the way through the material, while thinner, weaker materials can be cut with lower power and higher speed.

Power: How strongly the laser fires. A high power will cut through stronger, thicker material, but may end up burning thinner, more flammable stock. A low power may not be strong enough to get all the way through the material. During rastering, higher power will burn more layers off of the material, creating a darker image.

Speed: How fast the head of the laser cutter moves along its gantry. A high speed will cut faster, but may not cut all the way through if you have thicker or stronger materials. A low speed will definitely cut through, but has the potential to burn or melt the edges of the material as it slowly cuts. During raster operations, the laser moves back and forth very quickly, so a high speed on a large piece may wear out the gantry.

Frequency (only for cutting): Determines how fast the laser pulses during a cutting operation. The laser turns on and off rapidly when it makes cuts, so a higher frequency will create a cleaner cut, but if the material is flammable it may end up catching fire, so a lower frequency would be preferable.

Resolution (only for rastering): Determines the resolution and quality of the raster operation. A higher resolution will produce a better, darker image, but if there is too much heat concentrated in one area, it may severely melt, burn, or damage the work piece.

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