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Laser Engraving and Cutting

A guide to PPLD's laser engravers/cutters

Rastering Vector Lines

Problem: Vector files are being engraved instead of cut.

Cause: While the laser cutter will never convert raster images into vector lines, it can convert vector lines into raster images if the vector lines are too thick. The exact thickness varies depending on the DPI settings used.

Solution: Rather than try and figure out what the maximum thickness of your lines can be, simply set the thickness to the thinnest possible.

  • Illustrator & Inkscape: 0.001 in. (note that this may make the lines invisible on the screen, so it is best to do this after the design is completed)
  • CorelDRAW: Hairline (the line exists but does not have a defined thickness - if you set the thickness to none, then the line doesn't exist as far as the machine is concerned)

Empty Job Sent

Problem: You send a job, but when you press "Go" it immediately says Done without anything being done.

Cause: While a job is sent to the machine, it does not contain any actual data for it to work with.

Solution:

  • Most of the time, this is caused by selecting the wrong Job Type in the settings menu. If you have only raster data, but tell it to run only vector cutting, there will be nothing for it to do since there are no vector lines to cut. The same is true if you have vector data but tell it to run raster jobs.
  • If you are using vector lines and tell it to run a vector job, check to make sure the lines are as thin as possible, as it may be treating thick vector lines as raster data.
  • Can also be caused by having entered different dimensions for the page size in the Epilog print menu than what your artboard / document size is. Or, if printing from PDF, not selecting "Actual Size" when printing.

Working in the Wrong Spot

Problem: You expect it to be engraving or cutting in a certain area, but it shifts the entire project to the wrong spot.

Cause: The "Piece Size" in the laser settings do not match the workspace size in the design software.

Solution: Make sure that the piece size is set to match the exact workspace area from whichever program you are using. The name of the workspace can vary, but they all serve the same purpose.

  • Illustrator: Artboard (remember in Illustrator to also check that the print preview size matches the measurements you set)
  • CorelDRAW: Workspace
  • Inkscape: Page size (change in the document properties)

Tip: If you see the lens move to an area where it shouldn't be, immediately stop the project and you might be able to cancel it before it starts cutting into your material.

Image Skewing

Problem: The image is skewed - each row starts slightly more to one side than the previous one.

Cause: Generally this is caused by the sensor that aligns the lens being dirty.

Solution: Let a staff member know and they will clean the machine as soon as possible.

Not Center Engraving

Problem: You are trying to use centered engraving, but it is treating it as if it is a standard job.

Cause: Center engraving must be selected in the machine settings.

Solution: In the machine settings, select center-engraving, make sure the piece size matches the workspace size, and choose the correct type of center-engraving (center-center, left-center, top-center).

Tip: On the machine display, if there is an asterisk (*) at the end of the job name, it is set up for center engraving.

Job Won't Send

Problem: Jobs aren't being sent from the computer to the machine.

Cause: The laser cutter / engraver is connected to the computer as if it were a printer and, as such, can have the same issues spooling as any printer can.

Solution: Most of the time simply unplugging the USB cord from the computer and plugging it back in after a few seconds will clear up this issue. If that doesn't work, open the print spool on the computer (ask a staff member if you don't know how), then delete the job that isn't sending and try again.

"500 DPI" Error

Problem: You hit "Go" on the laser, "500 DPI" displays on the laser's screen, and it does not start your job.

Cause: "Go" was hit before the file finished sending from the computer.

Solution: The green data light will blink while a job is being sent from the computer; make sure the light has finished blinking before hitting "Go."

 

Engraving looks fuzzy or blurry

Problem: The engraving looks blurry or shadowed and/or vector lines are cutting shallower than expected.

Cause: Most commonly this happens when the laser was not properly focused before starting the job. Additionally, the lens of the laser may need to be cleaned or, if using the Zing 24, the mirror may need tightened.

Solution: Use the dongle (Zing 24 at East and Sand Creek) or focus key (Helix at Library 21c) to set the focus for your material before running the job. If the problem persists, notify staff so they can clean the lens and check the mirror.

Laser Overheating

Problem: The laser is moving but is not firing (no signs of cutting or engraving)

Cause: The laser may be overheating.

Solution: Notify staff. The laser may need a break to cool down or may require cleaning by staff.

 

Engraving White Background

Problem: The laser is engraving what looks like a white background of an image.

Cause: The background may not actually be pure white, as is often the case with .jpg images.

Solution: Remove the background from the image. See the tutorials below for help.