Ready, Set, CUT!

A Guide to Using the Trotec SP500 Laser Cutter

Laser cutting is the process of using a powerful beam of heat to cut or engrave items from flat sheets of material like plastic, wood and metal. Using the laser cutting process you can make things like rubber stamps, signage, jewellery, prototype pieces as well as mass production jobs. The Speedy500 Laser cutter works by directing a high powered laser beam very precisely at the chosen material to either mark or cut right through.  When cutting, the laser beam burns away at the material leaving you with the cutout shape that you have specified in your vector file. The cutting beam is very thin (typically around 0.1mm) and precise resulting in incredibly detailed and accurate cuts.

The following materials are a staple within the Prototyping Lab. Any material outside of the current range needs to be purchased by the student/staff/client and brought in. Please allow time for testing other materials as the Speedy500 Laser Cutter may not yet have cutting/engraving settings for that material.  

Standard Materials and Thickness:

Acrylic – 2mm & 3mm clear

Plywood (interior hoop pine ply) – 3mm, 5mm & 8.5mm

Cardboard – 3mm corrugated

Creating a Vector File

  • A vector file is a graphics file that contains a vector image, rather than a raster, or bitmapped, image.
  • Shapes and lines make up vector graphics, which are fully scalable images, (you can make them HUGE without loosing any quality)
  • Raster images are made of pixels and cannot be scaled up without going blurry.
  • Vector files can be created in programs such a Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Inkscape (free), Autocad or Draftsight (free).

(There are lots of tutorials on the internet to show you how to use these programs)

The easiest way to tell if a file is vector or not is to zoom in on your file as far as you can, does it go all blurry? If so it’s not vector. If it stays a nice clean line then it’s vector. Vector files need to be drawn in the vector program rather than just imported or pasted in there.

Vector File formats – AI, EPS, SVG, DXF, DWG or (sometimes) PDF (should be ok to use)

Non Vector File formats – jpg, psd, bmp

(will need to be converted or redrawn in a vector program)

The following materials are not recommended for processing: Polyurethane PUR, Polyvinyl chloride PVC, Polyvinyl butyral PVB, Polytetrafluorethylene PTFE and materials containing epoxy or phenolic resin.

Creating a Vector File

  • A vector file is a graphics file that contains a vector image, rather than a raster, or bitmapped, image.
  • Shapes and lines make up vector graphics, which are fully scalable images, (you can make them HUGE without loosing any quality)
  • Raster images are made of pixels and cannot be scaled up without going blurry.
  • Vector files can be created in programs such a Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Inkscape (free), Autocad or Draftsight (free).

(There are lots of tutorials on the internet to show you how to use these programs)

The easiest way to tell if a file is vector or not is to zoom in on your file as far as you can, does it go all blurry? If so it’s not vector. If it stays a nice clean line then it’s vector. Vector files need to be drawn in the vector program rather than just imported or pasted in there.

Vector File formats – AI, EPS, SVG, DXF, DWG or (sometimes) PDF (should be ok to use)

Non Vector File formats – jpg, psd, bmp

(will need to be converted or redrawn in a vector program)