What is a Laser Cutter?
A laser cutter is a tool that’s used primarily by artists, designers, and engineers to cut and etch/engrave into flat material (such as cast acrylic, wood, and steel.
Laser Cutters are used for both prototyping and manufacturing purposes. These machines can create and focus a thin laser beam — approximately the width of a human hair — to etch, mark, burn, pierce, drill and/or cut through laser-safe materials to create patterns, shapes, and artwork. One laser is usually capable of performing all these processes simply by applying different intensities to the laser beam while in operation.
Cutting with a LASER
For cutting-type operations (including piercing/drilling), a digital vector file is required and provides the plotting directions the laser needs to move across the material as it cuts. The quality of the cut all depends on the quality of the line in the digital vector file.
What’s a Vector File?
If the vector line(s) are too complex, there’s a good chance it’ll show in the finished product while also increasing the cut time, so the simpler the better.
Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication. ~ Leonardo Da Vinci
There are many programs available capable of producing vector files suitable for laser cutting such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, Inkscape, Sketch, Fusion 360, or any program capable of producing CAD type vector files — for example, a digital scroll-saw pattern would likely work.
Etching & Engraving with a LASER
Most laser cutters can also etch/engrave pixel-based designs — known as raster files — onto laser-certified material by heating up a tiny area of the material’s surface, thus burning off / vaporizing the top layer of the material to change its appearance or texture.
What’s a Raster File?