Beginnen met lasersnijden - Lasersheets

Getting started with laser cutting

Laser cutting and engraving is a great and creative hobby. You design and make your own objects, from a photo on the wall to a pair of unique earrings. If you have a laser cutter, you can also start your own business, as a freelance laser cutter, and start generating an income. Or consider the laser cutter at school, so that you, as a teacher or technical education assistant, can give your students a flying start in the world of digital production.

Snijlab, the sister company of Lasersheets, was founded 12 years ago and we were also in our infancy. In this article we share some valuable resources that will get you off to a quick start, for anyone who is new to laser cutting and in need of some inspiration.

Laser operator takes a workpiece from the laser

How do I start with laser cutting?

To get started, of course, you will need a laser cutter (your own device, or use one at your local makerspace, school, or fab lab), a computer or tablet, software, and the right materials . Naturally, you first think about the type of laser cutter and accessories to purchase or borrow. This depends on the type of products you want to make or sell. It is essential that you have the right tools for this.

Tip : do you have a Glowforge or Glowforge Aura? Then read our article about which materials are suitable for this.

What material do you need?

The material is also important. Do you want to start making billboards? Then you need weather-resistant and eye-catching material, such as acrylic . Do you want to focus on artistic products, wall decoration, for example, or for personal use? Then there are beautiful wooden sheets for that.

As you are just starting off, it is a good idea invest in a small amount of different materials, so that you can experiment with the best techniques and the results you will achieve with them. For beginners, it is smart to start simple. Birch plywood , MDF and acrylic are affordable and versatile choices, available at our web shop.

Tip : at Lasersheets you can order a large number of materials in small quantities, ideal for the novice laser cutter. If you then grow into a laser pro, you order larger quantities and receive an interesting bulk discount. And with us you can always be sure that your materials will come out beautifully.

Tip: You can save a lot of money with a starter pack . This is a pack of 20x30 cm sheets of many different materials on which you get a discount of up to 40%. There are various starter packs available, suitable for your projects.

Fluorine acrylic

How do I make a drawing for laser cutting?

Every product that comes out of a laser cutter starts with a design. It could be anything. Do you have a beautiful photo that you want to portray in a unique way? Your company logo or a namesheet are also good places to start. You can make it even more personal if you design a logo yourself that you can cut with your laser.

You can do this by making a sketch on paper and scanning it. Another option you have is to create your design on your tablet or computer, for example with a program such as Adobe Illustrator.

Tip: take a look at the Shaper Trace for example. An instrument to convert sketches into vector drawings for, among other things. laser cutters.

Unless you are going to engrave a photo or use the halftone technique , for example, then you still have to convert your design into a so-called vector drawing. These images operate with points and interconnected straight or curved lines rather than pixels. This allows the laser cutting machine to identify the paths for cutting. Common vector file formats include .PDF, .AI, .DXF, and .DWG. This distinction is particularly crucial when cutting and engraving logos and texts. For surface engravings, also known as raster engravings, pixel files like .JPG are often suitable.

Make sure the file is accepted by the laser cutter you are using and suits the technique you want to use.

Tip : Use the free vector drawing program Inkscape to draw your own designs and save them directly as a vector file.

Which software should I use for laser cutting?

The laser cutter you employ at home, school, in your fab lab, or makerspace typically comes with its dedicated software, much like the software that accompanies home printers or scanners. Most laser cutter software is designed to be user-friendly, providing step-by-step guidance through the layout process to facilitate cutting and engraving your design.

The process typically begins with uploading your design, which you have converted into the appropriate (vector) file format for your laser cutter. Many beginners use Adobe Illustrator and opt for a PDF file. Once your design is uploaded, the laser cutter's software leads you through the essential steps before you hit the Start button, ensuring a smooth and straightforward operation.

Tip: do you have a generic Asian laser machine and are you not happy with the included software? Lightburn is popular and good software to control lasers and is compatible with many types of machines.

10 useful websites and ready-made vector files for laser cutting

Why reinvent the wheel when there are pre-existing vector files ready for use in your laser cutter? Ready-made files serve as a convenient solution, particularly for beginners or those who may not consider themselves very creative. Numerous websites provide a wealth of options to help you embark on your laser cutting journey until you have gained the expertise to create your own designs. This approach allows you to get started with laser cutting efficiently, and gradually progress to designing on your own as you become more proficient.

Tip: even if you start small, save all your files in your own database. Use a grouping so you can easily find them. You can always consult this database if you are looking for a design that you have used before.

We recommend the 10 websites below for anyone taking the first steps with laser cutting:

1. Justin Laser

 

The YouTube channel of @justinlaser

This YouTube channel is full of information for laser cutting beginners. Justin shares his experiences on how he got into laser cutting and also on how to turn a hobby into a professional and profitable business.

2. Rasterbator

Halftone acoustic panel

Rasterbator is a free program to use if you want to convert a photo into a hole pattern. This technique is called halftone. If you look at the photo up close, all you see are holes of different sizes and at different distances. But when you step back, the image comes to life, with astonishing detail.

For more information about this technique and how to make an acoustic sheet yourself with the halftone technique, consult our blog with an extensive halftone tutorial .

3. Maker case

MakerCase: parametric vector drawings for laser-cuttable boxes

MakerCase is an ideal website for beginners who want to make boxes and need a ready-made Vector file. You can choose from parametric laser drawings of simple boxes, but also boxes with three or more sides and boxes with dividers.

4. Boxes.py

Boxes.py parametric laser drawings

Boxes.PY also offers you the opportunity to download parametric designs for your laser cutter. They go a bit further than MakerCase, because you can also choose from, for example, a holder for your keyboard, round boxes or boxes with drawers.

5. Thingiverse - laser

Thingiverse: design database for digital production

The name says it all, but Thingiverse is full of free designs of 'things' for your laser cutter or 3D printer. You get access to 6000 Things for use in daily life, for the wall or utensils that you no longer have to buy in the store.

6. Etsy

Laser drawings on Etsy

As a laser cutter, Etsy is your friend. Even though you pay a small amount for the designs (sometimes you get hundreds of designs in one handy bundle), these are really beautiful and artistic. It is an ideal starting point for creative people who want to make something very special with the laser cutter.

7. Blog by All3DP

Are you a novice laser cutter or a high school technology teacher who wants to introduce laser cutting into the classroom? Then in this article you will find a handy comparison of the most common software to use for creating designs for your laser cutter.

9 different types of software are compared and described, so that you can form your own opinion and make a choice.

8. imagR

ImagR: a tool to prepare images for laser engraving

Do you want to engrave a photo with your laser cutter, for example on a beautiful Birch Multiplex sheet from Lasersheets? Then Image is the website to prepare your files for your device. You will be guided through the entire process in 6 short steps. You can then download the file in the format you need and send it to your laser printer.

9. graveermaterials.nl

Graveermaterials.nl is the Trotec website where you can find a large number of different materials for your laser printer. These are all suitable for the laser printer and for both engraving and cutting work.

10. Sawmill Creek

Sawmill Creek is a forum where woodworkers come together and share experiences. It is not only intended for laser cutters, but covers many topics in the field of laser engraving. Current hobbyists, makers, teachers and professional laser engravers come together to discuss problems and exchange ideas.

How do I make a box with my laser cutter?

Now you have all the information and resources you need to get started with laser cutting. For students and novice makers, a box is a perfect object to try out your laser cutter for the first time. Use the step-by-step plan below and you can make a handy box yourself with your laser printer at home or at school.

  1. Go to https://www.makercase.com and choose Simple Boxes .
  2. Under Units , choose Millimeters .
  3. Enter the dimensions of your box. The width ( Width ), height ( Height ) and depth ( Depth ) and the thickness of the material you use ( Material Thickness ).
  4. Indicate whether you want to make an Open or Closed Box and how you want to finish the edges at Edge Joints .
  5. If everything is correct, click on ' Download Box Plans' .
  6. Load this file into the software of your laser cutter.
  7. Instruct your laser cutter to cut the parts of the box and all you have to do is assemble and finish it.
Box laser cut from black MDF

Lasersheets for all materials for novice laser cutters

We also started laser cutting 12 years ago (as Snijlab ) and we understand better than anyone how enthusiastic you are when you give an order to your laser cutting machine for the first time. Hopefully this article has helped you make this a success. The more you work with your laser cutter, the better you become.

Want to buy some different materials to experiment? Or do you need an affordable and reliable supplier for your stock materials? Is it important to you that these materials are immediately custom-made and simply delivered by post? Then walk through our webshop . We guarantee that all our sheets come out of your laser cutter perfectly.

Together we ensure an excellent start to your laser cutting adventure. Students, makers and professional users of laser cutters create beautiful products time and time again with the materials from Lasersheets!

 

 

 

 

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