5 Tips for Laser-Cutting Material

When it comes to using lasers, there are a ton of ways to do things and so many tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way. In this article, I want to take some time to highlight five of my favorite tips.

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Table of Contents

Machinery and Settings Used

This is a list of all the machines and their respective settings that were used to create this project. These items may contain affiliate links.

Video Tutorial

Step-by-Step Process

Tip 1 – Vector Cut at 20% Speed or Lower

Typically, most lasers have a speed that is listed in either a percentage or something such as mm/s. If you’re cutting an intricate and complicated design, limiting your speed to about 20% of your machine’s maximum speed capability is often better. The faster the speed, the more rapid the movements the motors will make, and with intricate designs, some of the moves could not be as smooth at high speeds. Limiting your cutting speeds to 20% will help produce nice smooth movement.

Tip 2 – Adjust Your Frequency

Frequency is how often the laser fires as it moves. The higher the value, the more often it fires and the lower the value, the less frequently it fires. The image below shows three different frequency values on a scale from 1 to 100. The solid top line is set at 10% frequency, the middle is set to 2%, and the bottom is set to 1%. 

Frequency is found on lasers that use RF tubes and won’t be found on glass tube lasers. Adjusting the frequency is usually something that is done based on the material. While frequency can be adjusted to get perforated marks, it’s more often adjusted to get a different cutting effect on the material. Materials like cardboard and wood will use lower frequencies around 10-25% while materials like acrylic will use 100% to get a nice flame-polished finish. Just remember that the higher the number, the more often the laser is firing. 

 Tip 3 – Mask Your Material

When cutting different materials, it can be helpful to mask the material ahead of time to get a cleaner surface finish. Most acrylic materials come with masking already on them, but wood materials typically don’t. To mask the material, any low tack or medium tack masking tape will work. It’s best to apply the masking using a squeegee to get it smooth and flat on the material. 

Tip 4 – Lift Your Material Off The Bed

When laser cutting materials that are laying directly on the bed, you may notice that the back of the material has some markings on the back once it has been cut. When the laser is cutting the material, it can flashback from the grid beneath the material and cause these marks on the back of the material as well as getting transferred from the grid to the back of the material. The easiest way to help eliminate this is to lift the material off the bed to create some distance between the material and the grid. Using scrap materials is one easy way to do this. You will also see fixtures with pins sticking up that will accomplish the same thing.

Tip 5 – You Don’t Always Need Air Assist

Air assist is fed by an air compressor. The purpose of the air assist is to help keep soot and grime from getting to the lens and keep everything clean as well as to ensure that there’s no flame up. With thin materials such as paper, it can be helpful to turn this off. The air assist tends to blow things materials around and can impede the laser’s cutting path. Turning this off will make sure that the paper doesn’t move around the bed. 

CAUTION: Be very careful when turning off the air assist and monitor the machine while in use to make sure that there are no flame-ups or any issues. 

Finished Project

Below is an example of lifting the material up off the bed. Using tips like this can elevate your end product and improve the quality.

Trevor Wanamaker

Trevor Wanamaker

Trevor Wanamaker is the owner of Maker Experiment and Lasers Made Simple. He works with Epilog Laser and LogoJET on creating video content for his YouTube channel Maker Experiment. In addition to this he works with other laser businesses to help them grow their own profitable laser businesses.