Laser Cutting Resources

Information about using a laser cutter.

Note: 2D design related information is in it’s own wiki page. Also check the 3D Modelling & CAD Resources, and CAM Resources.


Driver Notes

  • there are several modes that process the output from the application you’re printing from before it goes to job control
    • eg for rubber stamp making, photo engraving, etc
  • for all modes, other than relief mode, engraving will be done as “on”/“off” pulses at the set power level
  • many of the driver modes dictate how colours or shades of grey are converted (dithered) to very high resolution bitmaps (image with just “black & white” or “on & off”)
  • if you want maximum control, or follow many online guides, you will adjust your image in an image app such as gimp, photoshop, coreldraw, or photodemon (which has many dithering options!) and dither it to black and white in that app. In this case, In this case DO NOT use the “photo enhance” mode. It will re-dither your already black and white image!
  • Interesting modes:
    • “layer” mode: appears to bin the image into several sub images, one per layer. Each subimage is a bin of a range of shades of grey. E.g. if there are 256 shades of grey, and 4 layers, it will generate 4 images, each with 64 shades of grey. Each of these sub-images will the be dithered into black & white and engraved. Each layer can have a Z offset, hence changing the focus.
    • “relief” mode: instead of dithering the data into black and white, the laser power at each pixel will be set proportional to the shade of grey. The power scale appears to be the power setting selected and not full scale.
  • the driver has both PPI (pixels per inch) and DPI settings.
    • PPI is the actual number of pules per inch.
    • DPI is what the output will be internally rendered to
    • for best results, the PPI should be the same as or a multiple of the DPI
  • description of the other driver settings


Calibration for Materials

Advanced Calibration Adjustments

  • calibration grids are greyscale images that are sent using the relief mode
  • relief mode doesn’t dither the image but instead sends the grey percentage as the percentage of the maximum power set (typically 100%.)
  • then you can see what range of powers work best for your material
  • If you need more precision, and less than full power, you can set the max power to less than 100%. Now the final power is the full power percentage * percentage of the best engraving
  • if you need to test a range of powers not starting at 0, you can
    • export the SVG as a high res PNG
    • load the PNG into GIMP
    • set the image mode to Greyscale
    • set the image depth to 32 bit floating point
    • set the color mode to perceptual
      • linear would make more sense, but the grey percentages come through wrong (to dark) in InkScape
    • colors → levels, change the output range, eg from 30-60%
    • export the PNG and make sure the option to save the gamma value is enabled
    • import it into Inkscape
    • use the dropper tool to check the squares black (“k”) value is scaled to th values you expect
    • engrave!


  • brightest white removes/“bleaches” the color out of the anodized layer, doesn’t “blow through” to the metal
  • surprisingly, less power is more. There’s a relatively small window between leaving no mark and blasting away the anodized layer.
  • This sawmill creek thread is useful; the linked comment describes what is happening to the anodized layer.
  • Another sawmill creek thread describing suggested power settings



  • Darker engraving- several techniques
    • trying to “caramalize” the wood; think of a poker tool
    • different woods will react… differently
    • “Low and Slow”: reduce power and speed
    • “Max PPI”: wood can only “display” so many PPI. Higher PPI wil lead to multiple laser bursts hitting the same “pixel” → more burning
    • “defocus”: go ~+0.5mm out of focus with regular engraving settings. Can be done manually or by tweaking the Z-offset in the materials database. Results maybe a little fuzzy. Can be really cleaned up by a low power cut pass around the engraved objects.
    • above hints found from here, here, and here.


You may be putting damp things in the Laser.


Acrylic Engraving


Photo Engraving

Supporting Materials

  • we have a hex grid - but we reserve it for delicate materials (paper, fabric, etc), as it’s easy to damage, hard to clean, and expensive to replace
  • for general use, we have made removable plywood walls on which we put aluminium HVAC/Lighting “egg crate” - easily available from eg Andrew Sheret. To Do: find out if a bare/unpainted version exists
  • for thin/warped items we have made a vacuum table out of plywood and egg crate. It works very well- but you have to make sure all areas are covered!
  • we have started to make a pin board, which minimizes the amount of “back flash” from the laser hitting the supporting grid behind the item being cut. The idea is based on this video

Box Templates and Generators

Material Cutting Templates

  • 5’x5’ baltic birch plywood sheets:


Open the image in a new tab to see the template full size.

Hi All! I was recently using the laser and ran into a few issues with the Trotec software recognizing my vector file. Julian and I went through this troubleshooting walkthrough. Useful if you run into the same issues!

Laser Cutter: What to do if your file is not being recognized as a vector by the Trotec software

1/ ensure colour, stroke settings, and opacity is correct
must be at 255 colour setting, all red, all blue, or all black (where all colours are 0)
must be at 100% opacity - check in ‘stroke’ settings AND in layer settings
check stroke width - best os 0.1 mm

2/ after all setting are checked in Inkscape and it STILL doesnt work, try saving the document as a PDF then printing from Adobe Acrobat

  • before doing this, change your stroke width to 0.001mm


Check your sizing! If the job is greater than the size of the print plate you will not be able to place your job
Plate Size:
width = 729.7 mm
height = 433.5 mm


  • if a different grid is used, in job control -> settings -> options -> hardware -> accessories -> honeycomb you can change the thickness. Original is 34mm. Our diy one is 51mm.