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Laser Checklist Draft

The existing checklist was incomplete so I wrote another. Links are to PC and manual screenshots.
  • Turn on the laser (it will take a while to warm up/calibrate).
  • PC
    • Double click your PDF to view it in Adobe Reader
    • Right click select Document Properties (Ctrl+D) and note page size
    • Right click select print (Ctrl+P, or printer icon)
    • Click Properties to open the Epilog Dashboard
    • Click Advanced, select the desired preset (1) and click Load (2)
    • Click General, set piece size to match page size (3) and click OK (4)
    • Insure that the print preview image now shows the proper page/piece size
  • Laser
    • Focus
      • Use the up/down buttons on the laser control panel to select FOCUS
      • With the focus gauge in place, use the joystick to move the bed until the gauge just touches your material
      • Press straight down on the joystick to set the focus (should read 0's)
      • Remove the focus gauge and place it in its tray (laser top/front/left)
    • Home (optional, default is ~3/16"? from top/left)
      • Turn on the pointer (red starburst button)
      • Use the up/down buttons on the laser to select JOG
      • Use the joystick to move the head to the desired home/start position
      • Press straight down on the joystick to set the home position (should read 0's)
    • Exhaust and air assist (Important!)
      • Turn on main exhaust wall switch (SW corner of the Makerspace room)
      • Turn on the air compressor and exhaust fan on the floor next to the laser
    • Test Fire (if the laser hasn't been used recently, or doesn't fire when you hit Go)
      • Use a scrap portion or piece of material
      • Use the up/down buttons on the laser to select JOG
      • Use the joystick to move the head while pressing the white starburst button
      • Press the Reset button after the laser fires/marks the material
    • Click the Adobe Reader Print button to send your file to the laser
    • Insure the laser display is set to JOB and shows the desired job name
    • Press Go to start cutting/engraving
    • Press Stop if anything unexpected happens, e.g. flames lasting more than a few seconds
    • Use the laser log (PC) lo record your laser usage time (laser control panel)
  • Finishing up
    • Unless someone else is waiting to use it, turn off the laser
    • Turn off the air compressor and exhaust fan on the floor next to the laser
    • Turn off the main exhaust wall switch (SW corner of the Makerspace room)
    • Put any unusable scrap materials in the trash bin next to the overhead door
    • Pay at the front desk (n.n minutes x $1)

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DXF to PDF

DXF to PDFI've come across some odd things when converting DXF's to PDF's for vector cutting on the laser. At this point I'm not sure what is important, but using Inkscape to save DXF's to PDF may be the best way to do it. Note: Page size gets lost and using Inkscape Document Properties : Custom size : Resize page to content and then rounding up to even inches (makes entering the laser Piece Size easier) is an easy way set the PDF page size.

The image is a closeup of a 3mm hole from a PDF created by AutoSketch (CAD) and opened in Inkscape. The same circle from a PDF created by QCAD appears round, but has tons of nodes (smaller facets?). Opening the QCAD DXF with Inkscape shows a laser friendly circle with just two nodes.

An odd thing happens when saving that DXF drawing as an Inkscape PDF. While the nodes are nice and tidy in the DXF saved as PDF, there are added, missing or changed nodes when opening the saved PDF in Inkscape. The changes are random and inconsistent and may not mean a thing. I have no idea what the laser sees, how it translates PDF's to motion.

This post is partially motivated by the laser chattering when I was cutting an ellipse. One possibility is the facets in the AutoSketch generated PDF. I don't think filesize was an issue (though it has been suggested that large PDF's are best printed from the desktop instead of a memory stick/card), but that tons of nodes QCAD generated PDF was something like 40 times bigger than the same DXF saved as a PDF in Inkscape (~120 VS 3KB)... I don't know if that equates to 40 times more nodes and work for the laser, but I have been told that the high number of nodes was probably what caused the chattering - that, like a circle, an ellipse only requires two nodes.
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