Laser Cutter/Engraver

The laser cutter is one of the more versatile machines we have in the I-Create Lab. It also is one of the more complex. Therefore, it is important to arrive prepared in order for your projects to turn out.

How can I use the laser cutter at the I-Create Lab?

Patrons who wish to use the laser cutter must present a SandDollar card or a valid ID. Patrons who wish to use the laser cutter must a complete a safety orientation session. The orientation session covers the basic operation of laser cutters, safety practices, basic tools and techniques to create the artwork files and the I-Create Lab Laser Cutter Policies. Patrons must sign an I-Create Waiver form. Patrons must be 18 years or older. Patrons must be present to supervise the laser job at all times.

Patrons must make a reservation to utilize the laser cutter. Use the link below to schedule a reservation.

Laser Cutter Reservations

What type of Laser Cutter does the I-Create Lab have?

The I-Create Lab has an Epilog Helix 24 Laser. It has a 24” x 18” x 8.5” (610 x 457 x 215.9 mm) working area.

Epilog Laser Cuter/Engraver

https://www.epiloglaser.com/laser-machines/legend-laser-series.htm

Cost

There will be a charge of $2.00* per 30 minutes for TAMUCC students, faculty and staff

There will be a charge of $3.00* per 30 minutes for community users.

*30 minute minimum

Sales tax will be added to all purchases, unless the patron can provide a tax-exempt form.

Waiting List

In the event that there is a waiting list, everyone will have 1 half hour maximum use with the laser cutter. If there is not a waiting list, you can renew for another half hour.

How does laser cutting and etching work?

Laser cutters use a carbon dioxide laser beam to burn through (cut) or mark the surface (etch) of flat materials. The beam diameter is small and the positioning is very precise, so depending on the material used and the quality of the original artwork, lasers are capable of cutting and etching very fine materials.

The lasers are capable of etching a variety of bitmap images (BMP, JPEG, PNG, etc.) in “raster mode” where the laser moves back and forth over the image area to “paint in” the pixels. The laser uses vector files (SVG, AI, CAD, PDF, etc.) for cutting and etching intricate line-art images in “vector mode” where the vectors define a specific path for the beam to follow.

What materials can I use?

Choosing your material is the first step for using the laser cutter. In general, the laser cutter is capable of cutting most wood, acrylic and plastic

If cutting all the way through material, ensure your material is less than 3/8” (9.5mm) thick.  If engraving your material, thickness will not matter quite as much, but still must be kept under 8.5” thick. The thinner, the better. All material must fit on the laser cutter’s build plate of 24”x 18”

Here are some of the most popular materials we are able to use:

  • Natural wood
  • Acrylic
  • Glass – both curved and flat. It leaves a frosted appearance like a glass etching cream.
  • Cardboard
  • Cardstock
  • Grip tape or sand paper
  • Denim, leather and fabrics – most can be cut, thicker fabrics are well suited to receive engravings.

Always bring extra material. The I-Create Lab is not a production facility. Most projects require testing and refining. Things don’t always turn out the first try.

You are NOT allowed to cut the following:

  • Any and all material containing Chlorine 
  • Any wood that has been painted or stained, otherwise non-natural
  • Metals
  • Vinyl and PVC
  • Polycarbonate
  • Fiberglass or printed circuit boards (anything resin based)
  • Carbon fiber
  • ABS or other types of plastics

For safety concerns, if any material is questionable or unknown to staff, we will not attempt to cut it for any reason. If you have any questions on material, please contact I-Create staff.

The I-Create Staff reserves the right to refuse any unprepared projects or material.

Materials list marked if it can be etched and/or cut
Materials Etch Cut
Soft wood (up to 1/4" thick) Yes Yes
Acrylic (up to 1/2" thick) Yes Yes
Fabric Yes Yes
Glass Yes No
Coated metals Yes No
Cloth Yes Yes
Leather Yes Yes
Marble Yes No
Matte board Yes Yes
Melamine Yes Yes
Paper Yes Yes
Mylar Yes Yes
Pressboard Yes Yes
Wood veneer Yes Yes
Fiberglass Yes Yes
Painted metals Yes No
Tile Yes No
Cork Yes Yes
Corian Yes Yes
Anodized aluminum Yes No
PVC No No
Vinyl No No

Tips and Tricks

Glass Engraving

There are a few things to know when choosing your glass for engraving.

  • For glass, we can do both curved or flat pieces
  • Curved glass such as cups or glasses require a rotary attachment that the lab provides.
  • Curved glass that works best either has a slow gradual increase in size from bottom to top such as a pint of glass or has very little if any change in circumference throughout. Any bulbed or curved glass such as a stemless wine glass or sniffers are discouraged because they are difficult to load in the machine and results can vary.
  • Crystal glassware retains heat making it harder to engrave

Keep in mind the size limitations for the laser cutter: 24” x 18”. Any glassware longer or larger in area that this will not fit inside our machine.

Design

Depending on your design, getting your images and vectors ready for the laser cutter can be either somewhat labor intensive or quite simple. Your design is a digital file and should be brought in as such. The laser cutter needs a digital file to run, it cannot translate a physical picture or printed off piece of paper into an engraving. We can resize your file to fit your material in the makerspace, but it is recommended to have a size in mind and measured out when coming in.