Learn to responsibly use our Large Format Lasers with this study guide. A class must be taken to gain clearance to use it unsupervised.
Experienced users who can demonstrate the safe, careful, and clean use of the equipment without instruction can test out of the class with our Clearance Test, scheduled by appointment only.
You can find this document in pdf format here.
- Check that your material is safe to use
- Listen for the exhaust when the laser powers on
- Stay by the laser while it’s running
- Avoid collisions with the lens carriage
- Mirrored acrylic must be reflective side down
- Submit a maintenance request when needed.
- Vacuum the interior
- Recycle waste in laser scrap bins
- Empty bins when full
Personal Protective Equipment
Face Masks & Cleaning Kits are required at all times during the Pandemic
- Lid – Absorbs the laser radiation and must be closed when running a job
- Exhaust – Allows for the efficient removal of fumes and particulate
- Maintenance Tag – Manually tracks the usability status with Green/Yellow/Red cards
- Lens Carriage – Houses the mirror, lens, and air assist
- Cutting Bed – 1200 x 900mm (~47” x 35”) Consists of a removable, magnetic honeycomb tray. Seated properly, it should feel stable & secure
- Emergency Stop – Reserved for emergencies. To deactivate and reset, you must twist the spring-loaded knob.
- Power Switch – Key switch turns the machine on and off
- Control Panel – LCD interface with commands to operate the laser
- Jog X-axis and Y-axis
- Adjust Z-Axis
- Exit Menu/Return to main screen
- Select menu item
- Set Job Origin
- Trace the footprint of a job to check its size and placement
- Reset machine, Abort Job
- Pulse the laser to mark its precise location
- Adjust speed (mm/sec)
- Adjust power (0-100%) for the areas the laser approaches a node/edge
- Adjust power (0-100%) for the areas where the laser is mid-cut/mid line
- Retrieve file sent to the machine (job queue)
- Start job, pause job, resume job
|FIRE||TOXIC FUMES||LENS COLLISION|
|Listen for the exhaust. It should automatically turn on with the laser||Be mindful of the safety of your cutting material||Load material with care|
|Vacuum beneath the cutting bed to prevent flammable build-up||Avoid chlorinated plastics and other prohibited material on the list||Be mindful when moving the cutting bed to vacuum|
|Avoid foam and other prohibited material||Off-gassing dangerous fumes like chlorine and cyanide is always a concern||Ensure material is flat and will not collide with the lens carriage during operation|
|Always pause the laser if you need to step away from the machine|
|Chlorinated plastics (PVC, vinyl, artificial leather,|
Moleskine notebooks, polymer clay/Sculpey)
|Emits chlorine gas|
|Polycarbonate/Lexan||Cuts poorly, absorbs laser, discolors, may catch fire|
|ABS||Emits cyanide gas, melts, bursts into flame|
|HDPE (milk bottle plastic)||Catches fire & melts|
|Polypropylene foam (foam core, Styrofoam)||Catches fire|
|Fiberglass||Emits dangerous fumes|
|Coated carbon fiber||Emits dangerous fumes|
|Pressure treated wood||Emits dangerous fumes|
|Galvanized metal||Emits dangerous fumes|
|Mirrored surfaces, including uncoated metal||Will not cut, reflects laser beam|
|Solid wood||X||X||Mylar Sheet||X||X|
|MDF & LDF |
(reflective side down!)
|Delrin Sheet||X||X||Anodized & |
Raster vs. Vector
Rastered data is an image that is made of pixels. Much like an inkjet printer, the laser will scan the artwork on a scale from black to white. The laser will vary the number of dots it fires depending on the tone of each pixel.
Common file formats like .jpeg, .gif, and .png are all rastered data.
Vectored data is made of paths that form lines and shapes. They contain mathematical data that allows the laser to trace the path like following coordinates on a map. This allows the laser to cut or score a line as well as etch a filled shape.
Common file formats like .ai, .dxf, and .svg are all vectored data.
- Power on the laser
- Import your file into Lightburn
- Set the job origin
- Check the layer mode
- Adjust the speed and power settings
- Send your file to the Laser
Lightburn accepts a range of file formats.
- Supported vector files: .ai .pdf .dxf .svg .lbrn
- Supported image files: .jpg .jpeg .png .tif .tiff .bmp
- Cut Lines must be in vector format, using a hairline stroke width in RGB red.
- Etched Shapes may be either vector or raster format.
Import your file into Lightburn
Set the job origin
Check the layer mode:
- scan fills a vector shape to etch
- cut traces along a vector line
- images will only etch
Adjust the speed and power settings
Send the file to the laser, keeping the filename “LIGHTBRN”
This saves over old job files and helps maintain a manageable memory in the machine’s job queue
Common Cut Settings
Common Etch Settings
|MATERIAL||POWER (%)||SPEED (mm/s)||DPI|
|Powder Coated Metal||25||325||299|
- Listen for the exhaust to ensure that it is on
- Check that your material is safe to cut
- Load material
- Focus the lens
- Set the origin
- Check the footprint of your job
- Start your file
- Monitor the machine until the job is complete
Focusing the Lens
Select the Z/U button on the control panel
Use the left/right arrows to align the lens carriage to the 40mm focus gauge
Select the escape button to return to the main menu
Setting the Origin
Use the arrows on the control panel to jog the lens carriage to the desired location
Optional: use the pulse button to verify the exact location
Select the origin button to set
Select the frame button to check the footprint. (framing can also be managed from Lightburn)
- Power off the Laser
- Reset any modified computer settings to default
- Vacuum the interior so material does not build up beneath the honeycomb
- Note any maintenance needs or concerns on the tag and at protohaven.org/maintenance
- Recycle waste in the single-stream scrap bins
There are two black scrap bins reserved for laser waste. Maintaining these is a shared, communal responsibility.
When you notice the scrap bins are full, it’s time to take it to the dumpster out back. Feel free to enlist a helping hand.
If you notice valuable material while emptying the bins, use your judgement to selectively save a few pieces or take it home for your personal use.
- Update the physical Maintenance Tag at the machine
- Green can be used without issue
- Yellow can be used with caution
- Red cannot be used without hazard to either the user or the equipment
- Record issues at protohaven.org/maintenance. This notifies our staff and volunteer maintenance crew of any issues
|Common Issues||Possible Causes||Possible Resolutions|
|Cut does not go through the material||The speed is too fast or the power is too low||Test a series of incremental adjustments until you find the sweet spot|
|The lens or mirror is fogged||Alert the volunteer/staff on duty by filling out a maintenance report|
|Slop in the frame||The origin is not set properly in Lightburn||Adjust the origin point in Lightburn and resend the file to the laser|
|The artwork is too large for the cutting bed||Decrease the overall artwork size|
|There are burn marks on the back of the material||Hot debris is scorching the edges of the cut lines||Lay a sheet of paper between the material and the cutting bed or line your material with a laser-safe, paper tape|
- Register your material on the cutting bed using magnets or tape when doing a production run.
- Use the front pass-through door for extra long pieces.
- Use surface treatments like Cermark or paint to etch designs onto metal surfaces.