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Laser Engraving and Cutting

A guide to PPLD's laser engravers/cutters

Choosing Your Material

First, click on the advanced tab, and you'll be able to load a preset for your material. It is important to always select the preset, even if you know the speed and power settings you're going to use as it will load numerous other settings that may impact performance and functionality.

In the list on the right-hand side, find the material that you are working with. Select it and click “Load”. If you do not find your material on the list, talk to a staff member to see if your material is usable in the laser cutter. Be sure to click Load or it will not update the settings.

Some materials will say "etching only" or "cutting only"; these materials have been shown to have issues with one type of work and are not permitted. Other materials will have multiple entries with different thicknesses listed. If you are cutting, choose the thickness closest to your material's thickness. If you are only engraving you can choose any as the engraving settings are the same.

After loading the proper preset, click General to return to the main screen where you can adjust the settings.

Customizing Settings

Once you've loaded the material preset, you can adjust settings as you need. If it is your first time using the material, you must start with the presets and make minor adjustments until you find a setting that works safely. Do not adjust the speed or power by more than 10% each try.

Tip: Bring in scrap material so you can run multiple tests to determine the best settings.

While there are a lot of settings, most jobs only require changing a few - usually speed, power, and piece size.

Epilog laser control panel (labeled)

Section 1: Raster Setting

  • Speed: The speed that the lens moves back and forth. The slower the speed, the longer the laser will stay in one spot. This results in deeper and more pronounced engravings, but can also cause scorching or melting.
  • Power: The strength of the laser. The higher it is, the more pronounced the engraving, but too high can cause scorching and other types of damage to the material.
  • Engrave Direction: Whether the engraving starts with the top or the bottom of the image(s). When using the Air Assist, it helps reduce smoke if it is on Bottom-Up.
  • Image Dithering: The pattern used for converting pixels to laser pulses. "Standard" works in almost all cases, but other settings can work better with photographs.

Section 2: Vector Setting

  • Speed & Power: The same as in the Raster Setting - speed is how fast the lens moves and power is the strength of the laser.
  • Frequency: The pulse rate of the laser. What settings works best depends on the material, and therefor it is inadvisable to change in most circumstances. Altering it significantly will usually result in the material not reacting to the laser as expected.
  • Vector Sorting: Rather than processing vector lines in the order they are listed in the SVG file, this lets the Epilog software determine the best order. While this may result in lines being cut in a seemingly random order, it helps prevent the material from over heating and does not significantly increase cutting time.
  • Frequency Automatic: This forces the laser to always run at a frequency of 5000hz. Since presets are used, this setting is not necessary or ideal.

Section 3: Resolution

Resolution is measured in dots-per-inch, much like a typical paper printer. DPI can range from 75-1200, and can result in significant differences in image quality. It is also important to note that the higher the DPI, the longer the runtime. E.g. a 1200 DPI setting will take twice as long as a 600 DPI setting for the same image. This only applies to raster images, as vector lines do not have a resolution in the traditional sense.

Tip 1: The machine can up-scale an image, but only to a certain degree. Most images are made at between 72 and 300 DPI. Setting one of these images to 600 DPI will result is significantly better quality that if it was engraved at its native resolution, however you will probably not notice an improvement between 600 and 1200 DPI. Therefore, unless your image was made at 1200 DPI, it will most likely be a waste of time to run it higher than 600 DPI.

Tip 2: If a vector line is too thick, the software will convert it to a raster image and engrave it. The threshold for "too thick" varies and is determined by the DPI setting. Therefore, it is recommended that any vector line that should be cut has the minimum thickness possible ("Hairline" in CorelDRAW and 0.001mm in Inkscape and Illustrator). Setting the thickness to None (CorelDRAW) or 0.0 (Inkscape and Illustrator) results in the line being completely ignored by the machine.

Section 4: Options

  • Auto Focus (Library 21c Only): This setting would, in theory, automatically adjust the bed height so the focusing key would not be necessary. Unfortunately it does not work, and therefore this setting cannot be used and should never be turned on.
  • Center Engraving: A way of manually setting the XY origin of the laser, which is useful in situations where the material does not fit neatly into the upper left corner. Please see the Advanced Techniques page here for more information.
  • Send to Laser/Send to Manager: This tells the software driver where to send the data - to the machine and/or to a management program. Send to Laser has to be on or it won't actually send the file to the machine. The software management program is not installed, and so the option should be unchecked.

Section 5: Job Type

The software used to layout the images (CorelDRAW, Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape) can support both raster and vector images, and the machines can handle both types of jobs simultaneously. However, for the best results, it is often necessary to run jobs multiple times and the number of times you will want to raster will often be different than the number of times to cut. You can layout both types of files in the software and then tell it to only do the rastering, and then simply resend the job with only the vector data without having to making any adjustments to either the layout or the power/speed settings. If left on combined, the machine will do a single pass for all rastering and then a single pass for all vector cutting.

Tip 1: If either Raster or Vector is selected, the other type of data is ignored. It will not raster the vector lines if Raster is selected, for example.

Tip 2: It is considered a best practice to complete all rastering before doing any cutting. This is because, while the cuts are extremely narrow, it is theoretically possible for a cut out piece to shift around if rastering is done after the cutting. It is unlikely, but not impossible.

Section 6: Piece Size (inches)

The piece size must be specified here, and it must match the size of the Workspace/Artboard. If the numbers do not match, the engravings/cuts will not line up properly. Also note that while the layout programs can work in a variety of measurement units, you must specify it in inches here.

After you have set and double-checked your settings, press OK to return to the layout software's print dialog. Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW both have special considerations, so please see the appropriate page on this guide for final steps before continuing on to the Running the Machine page of this guide.

Choosing the best Power & Speed

The most common settings to adjust are the speed, power, DPI, and the number of passes. Each one will have a different impact on how the project turns out. Slowing the speed or raising the power will result in deeper engravings/cuts, but also more scorching and/or melting (depending on the material). There is higher risk of fire if the settings are changed too much outside of the presets. Another option is to keep the settings standard, and simply repeat the job multiple times. The more passes, the deeper the engravings/cuts and the more pronounced the engravings. For engravings, changing the DPI is an effective way of saving time, as halving the DPI halves the time it will take. However, there will be a noticeable reduction in quality.

Epilog’s Recommended Speed & Power Settings

Because the maximum wattage of the laser cutter varies significantly between each location, settings are not compatible across locations. If a project is done at one location, the settings will have to be adjusted for the new location. Unfortunately there is no simple algorithm to convert the settings, so trial and error is necessary.

The recommended settings for a variety of materials is provided by Epilog, and is available here, in the manuals, and on Epilog's website. Please see the appropriate tab for your location.

Materials vary greatly, and neither PPLD nor Epilog can guarantee that any recommended setting or preset will work properly and will not damage the material. It is recommended that tests be done on scrap material.

60 watt Epilog Zing Suggested Material Settings
Material DPI/Freq. Speed & Power
Acrylic
Photo Engraving 500 DPI 90s 15p
Text/Clipart Engraving 400 DPI 90s 30p
Text/Clipart Engraving 500 DPI 90s 20p
Cutting 1/8” (3 mm) 5000 f 50s 100p
Cutting 1/4” (6 mm) 5000 f 30s 100p
Cutting Note: Adjusting the standard focus distance so it is closer to the lens by about .030” (.762 mm) will produce better edge quality on 1/4” acrylic and thicker. Two passes may produce better results and allow for cutting through thicker materials. There are two types of acrylic: cast is better for engraving (creates a frosted look when engraved) and extruded acrylics are better for smooth-edged cutting.
Alumamark
Engraving 400 DPI 90s 35p
Engraving 500 DPI 90s 30p
Anodized Aluminum
Photos/Clipart 400 DPI 90s 35p
Photos/Clipart 500 DPI 90s 25p
Text 500 DPI 90s 30p
We find when engraving anodized aluminum, text appears best at 500 DPI, but photos and clipart can be engraved with great detail down to 400 DPI.
Cork
Engraving 400 DPI 90s 15p
Cutting 500 f 60s 20p
Cotton
Engraving 250 DPI 90s 10p
Denim
Engraving 250 DPI 90s 15p
Fleece
Engraving 200 DPI 90s 15p
Cutting 2500 f 40s 5p
When engraving fabric, try changing the graphic to 80% gray and use the Jarvis dithering pattern for the best results. Every fabric you are cutting will need to have adjusted settings - find a small swatch of the fabric you can test first.
Glass
Engraving 400 DPI 35s 100p
When etching glass, try changing the graphic to 80% gray before engraving and using the Jarvis dithering pattern. You can also diffuse heat by covering the glass with a thin sheet of dish soap.
Leather
Photo Engraving 400 DPI 90s 20p
Text/Clipart Engraving 500 DPI 90s 25p
Cutting 1/8” (3 mm) 500 f 80s 50p
Mat Board
Engraving 400 DPI 90s 40p
Cutting 500 f 30s 30p
Bottom-up engraving is suggested for mat board etching.
Marble
Photo Engraving 400 DPI 90s 40p
Text Engraving 500 DPI 90s 50p
Every marble is very different for settings. Start low and increase the power with a second run if you haven’t used that marble before.
Painted Brass
Engraving 400 DPI 90s 50p
Engraving 500 DPI 90s 45p
Plastics
Engraving 400 DPI 90s 25p
These settings work well with many plastics, including plastic phones and covers. Even one color plastics can achieve a great look when engraved.
Plastic (2 Layer Engraveable)
Engraving 400 DPI 80s 100p
Engraving 500 DPI 90s 100p
Cutting 1/8” (3 mm) 5000 f 90s 30p
Rubber Stamps
Engraving 400 DPI 40s 100p
Engraving 500 DPI 50s 100p
Cutting 100 f 25s 100p
Stainless Steel w/Cermark
Engraving 500 DPI 35s 100p
Twill
Cutting 2500 f 60s 15p
Wood
Photo Engraving 500 DPI 95s 100p
Clipart/Text Engraving 400 DPI 80s 100p
Clipart/Text Engraving 500 DPI 90s 100p
Deep Engraving 500 DPI 50s 100p
Thin Veneer 500 f 30s 12p
Cutting 1/8” (3 mm) 500 f 70s 25p
Cutting 1/4” (6 mm) 500 f 50s 100p
When cutting wood, multiple passes may allow cutting of thicker materials. You can readjust the focus between passes down to the center point of the cut for the best results.
75 watt Epilog Helix Suggested Material Settings
Material DPI/Freq. Speed & Power
Acrylic
Photo Engraving 300 DPI 90s 40p
Text/Clipart Engraving 300 DPI 90s 60p
Text/Clipart Engraving 600 DPI 90s 55p
Cutting 1/8” (3 mm) 5000 f 25s 100p
Cutting 1/4” (6 mm) 5000 f 15s 100p
Cutting 3/8” (9.5 mm) 5000 f 5s 100p
Cutting Note: Adjusting the standard focus distance so it is closer to the lens by about .030” (.762 mm) will produce better edge quality on 1/4” acrylic and thicker. Two passes may produce better results and allow for cutting through thicker materials. There are two types of acrylic: cast is better for engraving (creates a frosted look when engraved) and extruded acrylics are better for smooth-edged cutting.
Alumamark
Engraving 300 DPI 90s 20p
Engraving 600 DPI 90s 10p
Anodized Aluminum
Photos/Clipart 300 DPI 90s 35p
Photos/Clipart 600 DPI 90s 30p
Text 600 DPI 90s 40p
We find when engraving anodized aluminum, text appears best at 600 DPI, but photos and clipart can be engraved with great detail down to 300 DPI.
Cork
Engraving 300 DPI 90s 30p
Cutting 500 f 25s 30p
Cotton
Engraving 300 DPI 90s 10p
Denim
Engraving 300 DPI 90s 15p
Fleece
Engraving 150 DPI 90s 15p
Cutting 2500 f 25s 5p
When engraving fabric, try changing the graphic to 80% gray and use the Jarvis dithering pattern for the best results. Every fabric you are cutting will need to have adjusted settings - find a small swatch of the fabric you can test first.
Glass
Engraving 300 DPI 35s 100p
When etching glass, try changing the graphic to 80% gray before engraving and using the Jarvis dithering pattern. You can also diffuse heat by covering the glass with a thin sheet of dish soap.
Leather
Photo Engraving 300 DPI 90s 20p
Text/Clipart Engraving 600 DPI 90s 30p
Cutting 1/8” (3 mm) 500 f 30s 60p
Mat Board
Engraving 400 DPI 70s 60p
Cutting 500 f 20s 30p
Bottom-up engraving is suggested for mat board etching.
Marble
Photo Engraving 300 DPI 90s 35p
Text Engraving 600 DPI 90s 45p
Every marble is very different for settings. Start low and increase the power with a second run if you haven’t used that marble before.
Painted Brass
Engraving 300 DPI 90s 25p
Engraving 600 DPI 90s 20p
Plastics
Engraving 300 DPI 90s 20p
These settings work well with many plastics, including plastic phones and covers. Even one color plastics can achieve a great look when engraved.
Plastic (2 Layer Engraveable)
Engraving 300 DPI 90s 60p
Engraving 600 DPI 90s 50p
Cutting 1/8” (3 mm) 5000 f 30s 70p
Rubber Stamps
Engraving 400 DPI 50s 100p
Engraving 600 DPI 60s 100p
Cutting 100 f 40s 100p
Stainless Steel w/Cermark
Engraving 600 DPI 45s 100p
Twill
Cutting 2500 f 50s 25p
Wood
Photo Engraving 600 DPI 60s 100p
Clipart/Text Engraving 600 DPI 50s 100p
Clipart/Text Engraving 300 DPI 45s 100p
Deep Engraving 600 DPI 30s 100p
Thin Veneer 500 f 30s 9p
Cutting 1/8” (3 mm) 500 f 45s 100p
Cutting 1/4” (6 mm) 500 f 25s 100p
Cutting 3/8” (9.5 mm) 500 f 12s 100p
When cutting wood, multiple passes may allow cutting of thicker materials. You can readjust the focus between passes down to the center point of the cut for the best results.
60 watt Epilog Zing Suggested Material Settings
Material DPI/Freq. Speed & Power
Acrylic
Photo Engraving 500 DPI 90s 15p
Text/Clipart Engraving 400 DPI 90s 30p
Text/Clipart Engraving 500 DPI 90s 20p
Cutting 1/8” (3 mm) 5000 f 50s 100p
Cutting 1/4” (6 mm) 5000 f 30s 100p
Cutting Note: Adjusting the standard focus distance so it is closer to the lens by about .030” (.762 mm) will produce better edge quality on 1/4” acrylic and thicker. Two passes may produce better results and allow for cutting through thicker materials. There are two types of acrylic: cast is better for engraving (creates a frosted look when engraved) and extruded acrylics are better for smooth-edged cutting.
Alumamark
Engraving 400 DPI 90s 35p
Engraving 500 DPI 90s 30p
Anodized Aluminum
Photos/Clipart 400 DPI 90s 35p
Photos/Clipart 500 DPI 90s 25p
Text 500 DPI 90s 30p
We find when engraving anodized aluminum, text appears best at 500 DPI, but photos and clipart can be engraved with great detail down to 400 DPI.
Cork
Engraving 400 DPI 90s 15p
Cutting 500 f 60s 20p
Cotton
Engraving 250 DPI 90s 10p
Denim
Engraving 250 DPI 90s 15p
Fleece
Engraving 200 DPI 90s 15p
Cutting 2500 f 40s 5p
When engraving fabric, try changing the graphic to 80% gray and use the Jarvis dithering pattern for the best results. Every fabric you are cutting will need to have adjusted settings - find a small swatch of the fabric you can test first.
Glass
Engraving 400 DPI 35s 100p
When etching glass, try changing the graphic to 80% gray before engraving and using the Jarvis dithering pattern. You can also diffuse heat by covering the glass with a thin sheet of dish soap.
Leather
Photo Engraving 400 DPI 90s 20p
Text/Clipart Engraving 500 DPI 90s 25p
Cutting 1/8” (3 mm) 500 f 80s 50p
Mat Board
Engraving 400 DPI 90s 40p
Cutting 500 f 30s 30p
Bottom-up engraving is suggested for mat board etching.
Marble
Photo Engraving 400 DPI 90s 40p
Text Engraving 500 DPI 90s 50p
Every marble is very different for settings. Start low and increase the power with a second run if you haven’t used that marble before.
Painted Brass
Engraving 400 DPI 90s 50p
Engraving 500 DPI 90s 45p
Plastics
Engraving 400 DPI 90s 25p
These settings work well with many plastics, including plastic phones and covers. Even one color plastics can achieve a great look when engraved.
Plastic (2 Layer Engraveable)
Engraving 400 DPI 80s 100p
Engraving 500 DPI 90s 100p
Cutting 1/8” (3 mm) 5000 f 90s 30p
Rubber Stamps
Engraving 400 DPI 40s 100p
Engraving 500 DPI 50s 100p
Cutting 100 f 25s 100p
Stainless Steel w/Cermark
Engraving 500 DPI 35s 100p
Twill
Cutting 2500 f 60s 15p
Wood
Photo Engraving 500 DPI 95s 100p
Clipart/Text Engraving 400 DPI 80s 100p
Clipart/Text Engraving 500 DPI 90s 100p
Deep Engraving 500 DPI 50s 100p
Thin Veneer 500 f 30s 12p
Cutting 1/8” (3 mm) 500 f 70s 25p
Cutting 1/4” (6 mm) 500 f 50s 100p
When cutting wood, multiple passes may allow cutting of thicker materials. You can readjust the focus between passes down to the center point of the cut for the best results.