Laser Cutting 102
Time 2.7 hrs

Difficulty Intermediate
Prerequisites Laser Cutting 101
Departments Human Technologies
Authors Sandra Kuipers
Groupings Individual
Minimum Year Group None


Laser Cutting 102


This work is shared under the following license: Creative Commons BY-SA


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Cross-Curricular Links
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Teacher Reflection
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5 mins
Design Something!
The Pitch
  • You've already laser cut an element for the periodic table. Pretty cool!
  • But, the template for the element had already been setup for you.
  • In this unit you'll learn to setup your own template for the laser cutter.
  • You'll get to create your own design and cut it out of cardboard or wood.
10 mins
Vector Graphics
Design Time
  • If you've created computer graphics before, chances are they were designed using pixels.
  • Computer screens display everything in pixels, so the default and most common form of computer graphics also stores everything as pixels.

  • Pixels, however, aren't the only form of computer graphics.
  • Vector graphics are another form of computer graphics, often used in printed media.
  • The difference is that vector graphics are stored as a type of mathematics called coordinate geometry, where pixels graphics are stored as pixels.
  • Why have more than one type of graphics?

  • An important difference between pixels and vectors is what happens when you scale them up.
  • If you resize a pixel image to make it larger, it will get blurry.
  • If you resize a vector image, smaller or larger, it will always be perfectly sharp.
  • This is because numbers and math can scale to any size!

  • Vector graphics are used by cutting machines like the Cricut and Laser Cutter because the cuts need to be incredibly precise. The laser width is 0.08mm, that's eight hundredths of a millimeter!
  • The most common format for vector graphics is .svg, which stands for Scalable Vector Graphics.
10 mins
What Makes a Good Design?
Getting Started
  • Every laser cut design needs an outside shape and an inside design.
  • When you created your laser cut element, there was an outside rectangle shape, and the design inside was the text and numbers for the element.
  • When creating your design, you need to think of two things:
    • What will your shape be?
    • What will your inside design be?
  • You can create many different things by combining a shape and a design, for example:
    • Keychains
    • Nametags and bag tags
    • Beverage coasters
    • Bookmarks
    • Puzzles
  • Take a moment to search online for different laser cut ideas.

30 mins
Creating Your Design
Hands On
  • We'll use the free online vector graphics program called Vectr
  • Login to Vectr using your School Google account, which will save your work under this account.
  • Next, click the New Artwork button:

  • Then, select the Print sizes tab, scrolling down to find the A4 template. This is a good size for your design. Now click Create.
  • Take some time to play with Vectr:
    • How do you create text?
    • How do you create shapes?
    • Can you combine shapes to create complex shapes?
    • Can you import vector designs you find elsewhere on the internet?
  • Remember this design will be cut with a laser, so you can't use different colours, and holes in your shapes will fall out once cut.
  • Make sure you have a clear outside shape for your laser cut design, as well as an inside design that can be etched or cut.
  • Have fun and create a design! Don't worry if it doesn't work the first time, you can choose to use cardboard to create the design the first time, which is a cheap recyclable material.

5 mins
Before Continuing
BEFORE continuing, please complete this checkpoint:
  • Take a screenshot of your design in Vectr.
  • Upload your screenshot and submit it to complete this checkpoint.
  • Your teacher will check your design and give you feedback.
30 mins
Setting Up Your Template
Using Lightburn
  • Before you can laser cut your design, you'll need to export it out of Vectr as an SVG file and email it to
  • Then, on the laser cutter laptop, open LightBurn and open the LaserCutter102-CardboardTemplate or LaserCutter102-WoodTemplate file.
  • You can delete the example Gibbon shape: this is here to show the different cutting options.
  • Go to File > Import to import your SVG file, then resize it and place it within the frame.

  • Select the different elements of your design and assign them to what type of cut to use:
    • Click the Blue 01 for parts that will be Cut
    • Click the Black 00 for parts that will be drawn as a Line

25 mins
Materials and Laser Settings
How It Works
  • Everything in LightBurn is a line, because that's what the laser cutter does, it cut lines.
  • Even when you etch a design, the lines determine the outline, and the laser cutter fills in the middle.
  • However, not every line is the same: some lines cut all the way through, some lines only etch.
  • Each cut by the laser cutter is controlled by its speed and its power.
    • The speed of the laser cutter is how fast it moves, in millimetres per minute (mm/m)
    • The power of the laser cutter ranges from 0% to 100% (of a 10 Watt laser).
  • Different materials, especially different thicknesses, require different speed and power to cut through them.
  • Our laser cutter can cut up to 15mm of wood, but this requires a lot of power. We'll mostly cut 2mm and 3mm sheets of basswood, or 3mm cardboard.
  • Check the material library spreadsheet for info about cutting different materials.

  • Since you're using pre-existing templates, the power settings are pre-filled for you in different layers.
  • Layers can be found at the bottom of the screen (fullscreen if you can't see them):

  • Select one of your lines, then click a layer to set it to that layer.
  • Once you delete the existing design, you might not know which layers to choose.
  • For the LaserCutter102-WoodTemplate, use the following layers:

  • For the LaserCutter102-CardboardTemplate, use the following layers:

  • Always double-check your layers before proceeding: it's important to always use the correct power and speed settings so a material doesn't burn or scorch the metal underneath.
15 mins
Setting Up
  • Once your template is setup in LightBurn, it's time to prepare the laser cutter.
  • Ask your teacher for assistance setting up and turning on the laser cutter.
    • Currently, the only teachers trained to operate the laser cutter are Sandra Kuipers and Ross Parker. The laser cutter is a powerful piece of equipment: we require someone trained to always be present when starting up the laser cutter.
    • Your teacher will turn the laser cutter on, as well as the fan in the case and the air assist. Be sure that all three of these are turned on before cutting.
    • Ask your teacher to set the focal height for the laser so that it's set for 3mm material.

Note: Try to follow the below instructions yourself. Your teacher will be nearby observing, but you will be responsible for learning these steps and following them.

These instructions are the most important and most difficult step of operating the laser cutter: pay attention, read them carefully, and be sure to ask for help if you get stuck.

Step 1: Connect the Laser Cutter

  • Connect the laser cutter laptop, with LightBurn open, to the laser cutter using the blue USB cable.
  • In the Laser window, check that Devices is connected via cu.usbserial-1410.
  • In the Laser window, also check that Start From is set to User Origin, bottom left corner.
  • In the Laser window, press the Home button to ensure the laser is at position 0,0

Step 2: Setting the Origin

  • In the Move window, set the X coordinates to 90.00 and Y to 50.00.
  • In the Move window, click Go to move the laser to this position.
  • In the Move window, click both the Set Origin and Set Finish Point buttons.
  • Do not touch or manually move the laser after the origin is set.

Step 3: Aligning your Material

  • Check that you have acquired and measured your sheet of 3mm basswood from the template steps. Be sure to use pre-cut sheets if there are any available.
  • With the teacher present, carefully open the case of the laser cutter.
  • Without touching the laser itself, place your sheet down on the honeycomb cutting grille, roughly centred above the silver mat below the grille.

  • Try to carefully line up the bottom left corner of your sheet with the centre of the laser.
  • As much as possible, ensure the sheet is lined up straight and parallel with the laser.

Step 4: Framing your Cut

  • With your sheet in position, keep the case of the laser cutter open so you can make adjustments as needed.
  • In the Cuts/Layers window, turn the Output for the Frame layer on, as seen below:

  • In the Laser window, click the Frame button. This will cause the laser to trace the outline of your sheet without actually turning the laser beam on.

  • Now, watch carefully as the laser cutter moves around the frame of your sheet of wood. Check the see that the middle of the laser cutter head lines up with the outside edge of your sheet.
  • DO NOT touch the sheet while the laser cutter is framing. Wait for it to finish moving, then make small adjustments to position your sheet so that it is lined up in your frame.
  • Use the Frame button multiple times, as needed, to ensure your sheet is aligned.
  • Then, in the Cuts/Layers window, turn the Output for the Frame layer off, as seen below:  

With your origin point set, and sheet in place and framed, you're almost ready to move onto cutting.

5 mins
Measure Twice, Cut Once!

Click the Preview Button:

  • Be sure to preview your cut to check the time and order of the cuts.
  • In the preview window, use the slider bar to watch a preview of the cuts: the etching needs to occur before cutting, as the material may shift once it's cut out.

20 mins
Laser Cutting!
The Fun Part

BEFORE starting your cut, please go through the following checklist with your teacher present:

  • Check the machine:
    • Laser cutter and air assist and case are all On
    • Laser cutter case is Closed
    • Laser cutter window in LightBurn is showing Ready
  • Check yourself:
    • Protective eyeglasses are On
    • Do you have to go to the washroom or anywhere else? Go now
  • Check your software:
    • Frame layer is turned Off
    • Preview your project and note the Total Estimated Time
    • Is there enough class time left to complete the cut?
  • Check your material:
    • Press the circular Frame button: (called the "Elastic Frame")
    • The Elastic Frame tool will trace the outline of exactly where the machine will cut.
    • Does the middle of the laser line up with where you plan to cut?

With all of these checks complete, and your teacher present, you are ready to press Start

You must remain present and alert during the whole cutting process. You can watch the laser cutter, but do not stare at the beam, even with glasses on.

Do not open the case while the laser cutter is active. Press Pause or Stop in LightBurn if there is an issue with the cut. If there is a fire or excessive smoke, press the Emergency Stop button.

Watch the progress bar and wait for your cutting to complete.

BEFORE opening the case, when the laser cutter is done let your teacher know and wait patiently. The teacher must be present before you open the case. Then, make sure you:

  • Turn the laser cutter and air assist and case all Off
  • Open the case and carefully retrieve your materials.
  • Use a tissue to wipe any charcoal off the edges of your element, so it doesn't smudge.
  • Remove any excess material or debris. Do not leave material in the laser cutter.
  • Congratulations! You've just completed your first laser cut. It gets easier the more you practice :)
5 mins
Finishing Up
  • Create a Google Doc, give it a name and a title.
  • Take a photo of your final laser-cut design and add it to your doc.
  • In your document, tell us about your design process.
  • Aim to answer several of the following questions:
    1. What design did you choose and why?
    2. What was the hardest part of this unit?
    3. Did your design work exactly as intended?
    4. Where there any parts that fell apart or were too complex?
    5. What's one difference between cutting cardboard vs. cutting wood?
  • Share and submit your document as evidence of your learning.

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