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Laser Engraving & Cutting

A guide to PPLD's laser engravers/cutters

What is Vector Edging?

Vector edging is a technique which uses shallow vector cuts to create an outline around areas of raster engraving.

This is done by creating a vector copy of an image which is overlaid on top of the original raster. The vector copy is run as a cut, but not given enough power to go all the way through the material. The end result is a much sharper edge than you would get with just a raster engraving.

When to Use Vector Edging

Vector edging works well with most raster designs and can even be used on its own in place of engraving when you only want an outline, not a filled in shape. This technique can also help smooth out engravings that are noticeably pixelated.

While vector edging is possible with almost any image, it is not compatible with all types of materials.

  • Materials that cannot be cut (such as glass) can not be vector edged.
  • With other materials, such as fabrics and paper, it is not possible to find a setting low enough to only go partially through the material.

As with all projects, it is recommended to try it on scrap material whenever possible.

Setting Up a Vector Edge

Before you begin, you will need to have both the raster image to engrave and the vector lines for the edge work.

  • Often times, creating the vector pattern can be done easily in a free program such as GIMP or Inkscape.
  • Please see the Vectorizing Images tab of this guide for more information on the process.

Once you have both versions of your image, you will need to align the vector on top of the raster in the software.

  • One way to align is by placing the center of both images in the same X/Y position on the artboard / document.
  • Make sure to set the thickness of the vector lines to the correct size for cutting (0.025mm/0.001in in Inkscape or .001pt in Illustrator) before sending to the laser.
  • When overlaying the vector file onto the raster image, don't worry if it isn't an exact match. If one or two pixels along the edge of the raster image are on the outside of the vector line, it will not be noticeable on the material.

The raster settings will be exactly the same as they would be for a non-edged project, however the vector settings will have to be significantly altered.

  • The power should be less than half of what it would be to fully cut through the image, and the speed should be at least 20% higher.
  • The cut does not have to go very far into the material to get the desired effect, so start with low power and raise it if necessary.