Laser cutter

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Revision as of 14:14, 10 December 2014 by Mellchie (talk | contribs) (Updated various areas and edited for readability in places)
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A0 laser cutter.jpg

A0 Laser Cutter

The Hackspace held a successful pledge drive and purchased an A0 laser cutter from Just Add Sharks early 2014, which was installed later that year in May. The project information related to that is available on the wiki if you are interested in the decision making and pledge drive.

Inductions and Training

You need to have had an induction on the laser cutter to use it; this costs £20. Only inducted Nottinghack members are authorised to use the machine; it is not available for use by the public. Once inducted you will have 24/7 access to the laser and be able to use the online booking system through HMS.

If you have not been inducted, please do not attempt to use the laser yourself or borrow someone's card. You may, however, offer to run the laser for someone else, but you will be responsible for anything that may go wrong.


You need your RFID access card to use the machine. RFID cards will only work if they have been activated during a laser induction. Please do not let other people borrow your card; you will be held responsible if anything goes wrong - and of course the usage charges would be applied to your account balance!

A booking system for people who have had an induction is available on HMS which also allows you to track laser time against your Nottinghack budget - it can go up to £20 in debt and you are emailed with instructions on how to pay it off. No money can be taken at the machine itself.


The A0 laser cutter costs £3 per hour; it will be charged per penny. Your normal HMS account can be used to track and pay for this up to the limit of £20, or credit added in advance using methods in the space. Note that the laser won't turn off when you reach your limit but you won't be able to put your card on the laser to turn it on again.

Anyone who pledged will have been given their pledge amount in laser credit (separate from the costs for vending machine items or other things).

The charge is to encourage users to prepare their files in advance to keep the unit as free as possible. Money paid will contribute towards the provision of laser-related supplies such as replacement laser tubes and lenses. A booking system is in progress to sort booking slots on the laser for up to 2 hours at a time.

For guidelines these are the costs over an hour, since larger jobs can take a long time especially if engraving.

Time Cost
10 Minutes £0.50
20 Minutes £1.00
30 Minutes £1.50
40 Minutes £2.00
50 Minutes £2.50
1 hour £3.00



Inkscape is one of the most useful SVG tools and available for free on any platform (the Mac version however is hard to install). The help here on the wiki shows the best export settings and the different tools that help create a perfect laser cut file to import!

Adobe Illustrator

Illustrator by Adobe is a high-end paid-for vector graphics software tool. The Laser Cut program will import Adobe Illustrator files (given certain save options - no compression!). The main issue is that the Laser Cut program doesn't seem to export colour, but DXF export is still available - use R14 settings, but we had some issues testing this.

There will be some notes (as to settings, such as using mm sizes!) and screenshots of save settings in the future. If you can help please contact Andrew Armstrong for a session of testing.

Notes: When designing in Illustrator work in millimetres as your unit. On export as DXF, select AUTOCAD Version: R14/LT98/LT97. The artwork scale will show 1mm = 1Unit(s). Change the unit from millimetres to points. The scale should now read 2.8346 points = 1 Unit(s). See the screenshots below.



Draftsight is a free suite of software that can plan out diagrams, and save to DXF format. More information to come. It runs on Windows, Mac and Linux.

LaserCut 5.3

The main software is LaserCut 5.3 - this can be used on a local machine and items saved ready to send to the laser later. For large engraves the calculation times can be up to an hour.

See the installation instructions using the software.

There is also a page of basic information and tips available too. Tutorials also to follow!


  • LibreCAD: 2D CAD (Free-as-in-freedom fork of now closed-source QCad)
  • DraftSight: Free-to-use 2D CAD


There is a Windows 7 PC connected to the laser cutter via a blue USB cable, you will also be able to connect your own computer if you want via the USB cable; this allows you to use whatever software to export the laser compatible files quickly.

Laser Cutter Setup

Subpage for the setup to use the laser cutter here. Also helps identify if there are issues with the laser or cooling system and what to do (ie; mainly stop using it and tell someone!).

Laser Cutter Cleaning

This may be maintenance team only.

Note: Do not attempt to remove the honeycomb alone. It is too large, heavy and flexible.

Currently there are no guidelines on how to clean the laser, although users are encouraged to remove as much debris as possible after use. If necessary it may be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner or brush and surfaces may be cleaned with blue roll and acetate (nail polish remover). Do not attempt to clean the mirrors; if you think they require cleaning please report this to the laser inductors (laser[at]nottinghack[dot]org[dot]uk).

Laser Cutter Materials

You can have a look at what materials work well on the laser at what settings, and where to buy materials.

Note that a set of standardised laser cutter materials is being looked into, which will be kept in stock by the hackspace to lower the barriers to using the machine. A standard list will be produced here once stocks are sourced.

Main laser materials are wood, certain plastics and paper. Other materials may work, depending on what they are made of. Please note however that the laser cutter will not cut metal. You can see a reasonably complete list of what is laser safe here and here and a list is also kept on the whiteboard next to the desktop PC.

Laser Cutter Maintenance

Currently there is not a list of members who can maintain the machine (clean and align mirrors, swap tube etc.). Please do not attempt to do this without guidance from someone who does know; for the time being, please report any problems to the laser inductors email.

Replacing the major machine parts will be documented with photos when this is undertaken for the first time.

Red Laser Cutter

The original red A4 laser cutter has now been removed and is no longer available for use.