Laser Cutter Class

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  • Welcome people to Xerocraft and to the class
  • Suggest that new people get a tour
  • Getting credit for the course
    • Remind people to sign in at front desk, BEFORE class
    • Remind people to have their participation recorded at front desk BEFORE leaving

Why are you here?

  • Successfully completing this class earns you your training wheels
  • Training wheels permit you to turn on the machine, perform the startup sequence, get Job Control ready. Everything up to but NOT including running the job
  • Before running every job, you must find one of the people listed on the “Approved laser cutter users” list and have them verify your setup and settings

How to become an “approved laser user”

  • Become competent with the machine
  • Become competent with Inkscape
  • Understand the common errors and their meaning
  • Clean up after yourself
  • Once a user feels they know how to use the machine without any help, they can take the laser cutter test
  • There is a written test
  • There is a practical exam. The exam: Without help or guidance from anyone, design your name badge in Inkscape/Illustrator, send the job to Job Control, cut and engrave your name plate, and affix it to the wall. Details were given by Connor in July 19, 2014:
    • The plaque must be 1" x 8"
    • You must set the manual focus yourself
    • You must use the engrave function for text
    • You must use the cut function to cut the perimeter
    • If you engrave all the way through your plaque, you fail
    • If you light your plaque on fire, you fail
    • If you crash the machine, you fail
    • You may NOT ask questions during the practical test. If you have to ask questions, you are not yet proficient enough to use the machine by yourself.
  • Once you are on the wall, you are now a resource for others who need help

Preflight Checklist

  • Turn the laser cutter on with the lid closed
    • Explain interlocks and their purpose
    • Show front access panel
    • Briefly explain homing sequence
    • Explain what happens if you leave the lid open when turning it on
  • Check focusing lens for debris and build up
    • Explain what focusing lens does
    • Explain its delicacy and outrageous price
    • Instruct them to ask an approved laser cutter user for help/training
    • Explain what “air assist” air compressor does
    • Demonstrate how to remove lens and have all attendees remove and replace the lens
    • Explain purpose of cutting table
    • Demonstrate how to remove cutting table
  • Check Nozzle for blockages
    • Explain what nozzle does
    • Explain how to clean if clogged
    • Not necessary to have everyone remove/replace nozzle
  • Perform Bed Height focusing procedure
    • Explain buttons on control panel
    • Emphasize the gantry only controls X-Y
    • Emphasize that the Z control buttons move the BED and not the GANTRY
    • Explain consequences of crashing bed into gantry/head
  • Ensure exhaust blower is on
    • Show where fumes are removed
  • Check settings in job control to verify air assist is enabled for ALL colors

Material Usage and Selection

  • Discuss approved materials and banned materials
    • Go into more detail about pros and cons of most common materials (acrylic, plywood, MDF)
    • Explain how our laser does not have the wattage required to cut through metal
  • Ask if anyone has an out of the ordinary they were hoping to use
  • Introduce them to our “retail drawers” of pre cut materials for sale

Software/Hardware Interface

  • Explain different functions and applications for Raster/Engrave mode and Vector/Cut mode
  • Explain importance of clicking “connect” button immediately upon opening job control
  • Describe job queue panel
  • Describe “calculations” tab
  • Describe WYSIWYG button
  • Open material database
    • Describe the importance of each column
    • Explain how the colors work to specify operations
    • Explain importance of standardizing black as an engrave and RGB red as a cut
    • Reference “speed and power” poster for general guidelines

Vector Art software

  • Inkscape is free
  • Adobe Illustrator is expensive
  • Both will work for most purposes
  • Line widths are critical for software to interpret vectors as cuts
  • Color mode (RGB vs CMYK) can cause Job Control to be sent the wrong color and not “see” the job

Sending a job to the printer

  • Demonstrate how to access print driver settings
  • Explain each field in the print driver dialog box
  • Explain importance of leaving “Quickprint” box UNchecked
  • Refer any further questions about the software and print dialog box to the software manual
  • Show the “Laser cutter quick reference guide” document that should be hanging out on the laser cutter computer table
  • Defaults/standard values for print driver obviously don’t need to be memorized as they can reference the “reference guide” but users should understand what the mean

Equipment responsibility and fire safety

  • “You and you alone are responsible for the machine when it is operating”
  • User must be standing and watching the machine or sitting on a tall stool and watching the machine while is operating
  • User cannot walk away from the machine
  • If there is a fire, use the CO2 fire extinguisher hanging from the machine. The other fire extinguishers throughout the building spray chemicals
  • User will not be faulted for using fire extinguisher. Users will be faulted for not using the fire extinguisher in a situation that it's called for
  • Pull the pin, throw the grenade
  • Introduce the “take a number” queue system for using the laser cutter
  • Be aware that the laser is an incredibly popular tool and many people want to use it
  • Laser jobs during open hack should be limited to 15 or 20 minutes
  • Longer jobs should saved for members-only nights and should still be broken down into multiple smaller/shorter jobs if possible