Acrylic laser cutting and engraving machine

Usage arrangement

TRAINED
MEMBERS

Access
permission

CHECK-IN-OUT
WITH STAFF

Requirement
before usage

TUTOR’S
SUPERVISION

Buddy system
requirement
  1. [For trained members] Only members who go through the training tutorial on this page can use the GCC LaserPro Spirit acrylic laser cutting and engraving machine.
  2. [Talk to us] Before using our acrylic laser cutter, please fill the acrylic laser cutting job registration form. If you do not have a project supervisor, please contact our staff (Director of Innovation Wing/ technical staff/ tutor staff), we are very happy to help you.
  3. [Operate the machine with tutors/technicians] Please operate the acrylic laser cutter with the presence of our tutors/technicians, they are experienced operators and are very happy to help.
Usage procedure for trained members
  • Step 1. Create a drawing file (.cdr file /.dxf file)

    Use any object modeling software (e.g., CorelDRAW/ Solidworks / Autocad) or download a 2D model online for laser cutting. Prepare the object model in .cdr / .dxf file format.

  • Step 2. Talk to on-duty tutor/technician

    Come to Innovation Wing and talk to any of our on-duty tutors/technicians. They will go through the laser cutting file with members and do a final confirmation of the laser cutting parameters (such as acrylic sheet thickness, cutting and/or engraving, dimension, ...etc.)

  • Step 3. Fill in the job registration form by members

    Once confirmed, members have to fill the Acrylic Laser Cutting Machine registration form.

  • Step 4. Turn on and initialize the acrylic laser cutting machine

    Please work with our on-duty technicians/tutors to turn on the acrylic laser cutting machine and initialize the starting location of the cutting pointer

  • Step 5. Configure the cutting-related parameters

    Please work with our on-duty technicians/tutors to configure the cutting-related parameters.

  • Step 6. Start cutting and monitor the cutting process.

    User is required to monitor the entire laser cutting process and has the responsibility to report any accident or abnormal situations.

  • Step 7. Switch off the machine and clean up the workspace for the next user

    Please switch off the filter and the machine after use.

    Please clean up the workspace for the next user.

    Place the used acrylic board to the "Free to use" box.

Acrylic laser cutting registration form

ABOUT THE USE OF ACRYLIC SHEETS

  1. Members can only use the acrylic sheets provided by Innovation Wing.
  2. Any special requests have to address to the technical manager of Innovation Wing.
  3. The used acrylic sheets in the “Free to use” box is free.
  4. If a member uses a new acrylic sheet, please mark the number on the registration form.
  5. Innovation Wing Office may request the user to restock new acrylic sheets from the same vendor used by the Innovation Wing.
  1. Members please come to Innovation Wing and talk to our on-duty tutors/technicians.
  2. Innovation Wing tutor/technician will go through the cutting file with members and do a final confirmation of the cutting parameters. 
  3. Once confirmed, members can fill the acrylic laser cutting registration form

User manual of GCC LaserPro Spirit

Please click the following button to access the official user manual for GCC LaserPro Spirit

Safety rules

General safety recap from the official user manual

  • The resulting debris from laser cutting is very dangerous and may cause a fire hazard.
  • DO NOT leave debris and scraps inside the laser machine after the job finished. Always keep the machine clean after the job finished.
  • Always remove the vector grid to clean any small pieces that have fallen through the grid.
  • LASER RADIATION WARNING: Exposure to laser radiation may result in physical burns and severe eye damage. Proper use and regular maintenance of this machine is important to the safety of all people in the immediate area.
  • Prior to operation, carefully read and familiarize yourself with the warning labels located on both the laser system and in the user manual.
  • Never leave the machine unattended during the laser cutting and engraving process. The laser may ignite combustible materials. A well-maintained fire extinguisher and operational smoke or fire detector should be kept in the vicinity of the machine.
  • Caution—Use of controls or adjustments or performance of procedures other than those specified herein may result in hazardous radiation exposure.
  • Enable the SmartAIR™ nozzle when engraving or cutting materials that may easily ignite, such as acrylic, wood, or paper.
  • Always wear safety goggles when the laser system is in operation. Reflective materials such as mirrors, enameled brass, and anodized aluminum may partially-reflect some of the invisible laser radiation. Severe eye damage may occur if proper safety goggles are not worn.
  • Connect the machine to a properly grounded power outlet. Ensure the voltage of the power source is identical to the voltage of the machine.
  • Do not open the laser access panel when the machine is plugged in.
  • Do not attempt to modify or disassemble the laser module.
  • Do not attempt to remove or modify any component of the machine’s laser interlock safety system.
  • Ensure the immediate work area of the machine is well-ventilated. Odors, vapors, and dust are by-products generated during the laser engraving and cutting process. An exhaust system is already installed in the Innovation Wing laser cutting room.
  • Do not laser heat-sensitive surfaces or materials that may generate toxic fumes, such as PVC and Teflon.
  • Regularly clean and maintain the machine according to the cleaning and maintenance instructions in Chapter 8 of the user manual. Doing so will ensure the machine will operate effectively and safely over a long period of time.

A demonstration of clearing the debris from laser cutter

Video demo created by our tutor Boris Lee and John Lu from the Innovation Tutorship Training Scheme on Mar 2021.

Operational guideline
(to be completed by tutor/technician/training member)

This operational guideline is a walkthrough of the general procedure in using the Acrylic laser cutting and engraving machine in Innovation Wing. You will act as a member and go through this process once.

  • Step 1. Create an object model (.cdr file)
  • Step 2. Talk to on-duty tutor/technician staff.
  • Step 3. Fill in the job registration form by members.
  • Step 4. Turn on and initialize the acrylic laser cutting machine.
  • Step 5. Configure the cutting-related parameters.
  • Step 6. Start cutting and monitor the cutting process.
  • Step 7. Switch off the machine and clean up the workspace for the next user.

After the tutorial, you will create your acrylic name badge and will understand some basic operation principle of the acrylic laser cutting machine.

Step 1. Create an object model (.cdr file)

  • Trained members can do this part on their own computer/ in the laser cutting room.
  • This is not a tutorial of CorelDRAW.

1.1. The computers inside the laser cutting room are installed with the CorelDRAW software. Please open the CorelDRAW software.

1.2. Start a new document to start drawing your figure.

1.3. Fill in the name of your CorelDRAW file, say MyFirstLaserCut(Kit) <–With your name. 

Choose the primary color mode as RGB. 

Why choose RGB? Because the Laser cutter will use different color to represent different types of cutting. (Yes there are different type of cutting depending on the laser power we choose later on. For example, vector cutting: deep cutting through the acrylic board based on a vector pattern / word, or vector engraving: engrave the outline of the pattern / word, or raster engraving: engrave the whole area represented by the color)

1.4. Import the following HKUlogo.ai file into the workspace. 

Note that the logo is in black color (later we have to tell the laser cutter that we are doing raster engraving on the black color, by setting proper speed and power of the laser).

1.5 Import the following Outline.ai file into the workspace.

Note that the outline is in green color (later we have to tell the laser cutter that we are doing vector cutting on the green color, by setting proper speed and power of the laser)

1.6. Let’s do some scaling, highlight the HKU logo and set its width to 0.8 inch and height to 0.9 inch, that would make the HKU logo smaller and can fit inside the green outline. This is useful if you download other image and import to the drawing, and wish to scale it up/down to fit your cutting work.

1.7 Carefully move the HKU logo inside the green outline. The green line represents the deep vector cut (cut through the acrylic board). The black color represents raster engraving.

1.8. Now let’s add Text into the drawing by using the Text tool. 

Add the text “INN   WING” and set its properties accordingly.

Note that we leave the space for the “O” , because we want the text “INN    WING” to be raster engraving (same as the HKU logo).

 

1.9 Now let’s use the Ellipse tool to add a circle to represent the “O” of “INNO WING”. We will change its color to green and do the vector cutting (the “O” will be a deep cut through of the acrylic board).

1.10. In the Properties of the ellipse, set it as green color by setting outline as “RGB” and its RGB code as: R: 0, G:255, B:0.

This is the RGB code for green color  (later we have to tell the laser cutter that we are doing vector cutting on the green color, by setting proper speed and power of the laser).

1.11. Also set the line thickness as “Hairline” (that mean very thin, because we are doing vector cutting)

1.12 Now this is your task to add in your name. In the figure we use “KIT” as an example.

Please note that we will set its property as No Fill inside text, No Fill for background.

For the outline width, set it as “Hairline” and red color  (later we have to tell the laser cutter that we are doing vector engraving on the red color, by setting proper speed and power of the laser).

1.13. As a requirement in the tutorial task, please also use the Rectangle tool to draw a rectangle as the figure above. We would like to use vector engraving to make a round-edge rectangle. What is the color and the setting we should choose? 🙂

1.14. Please set the color of the outline to red and its thickness to Hairline.

1.15. Use the Round corner button and set the 4 corners round shape (say 0.1 inch corner radius).

1.16. Finally, because we would like the engraving to be at the bottom of the acrylic board, we have to flip the whole drawing by using the Mirror horizontally button. Otherwise, the engraving would be on the top of the acrylic board.

Once you are done with this step, please save the file as .cdr file. You will need to submit this file when you register the usage of our Laser cutter.

Step 2. Talk to on-duty tutor/technician staff.

CHECK-IN-OUT
WITH STAFF

Requirement before usage

  • 2.1. Members come to Innovation Wing and talk to our tutors/technicians.
  • 2.2. Only members who go through the training tutorial on this page can use the GCC LaserPro Spirit acrylic laser cutting and engraving machine.
  • 2.3. Innovation Wing tutor/technician will go through the drawing file and double confirm the cutting configuration and materials.

Step 3. Fill in the job registration form by members.

  • 3.1. After confirming the drawing file, members will fill in the Laser cutting machine registration form.
  • Note: Members, tutors, and technicians who go through this tutorial, please also fill in the form once and fill the following info:
    • Please use your name and student/staff ID
    • Project supervisor as “Innovation Wing”
    • Supervisor email as “innowing@hku.hk”
    • Project type please select “Training – Work on the training material”.

ABOUT THE USE OF ACRYLIC SHEETS

  1. Members can only use the acrylic sheets provided by Innovation Wing.
  2. Any special requests have to address to the technical manager of Innovation Wing.
  3. The used acrylic sheets in the “Free to use” box is free.
  4. If a member uses a new acrylic sheet, please mark the number on the registration form.
  5. Innovation Wing Office may request the user to restock new acrylic sheets from the same vendor used by the Innovation Wing.
  • 3.2. Tutor/technician will check received registrations. (Please use the login account mentioned in the staff training workshop to check the following registration list.)

Step 4. Turn on and initialize the acrylic laser cutting machine.

TUTOR’S
SUPERVISION

Buddy system requirement

ABOUT THE OPERATION OF THE ACRYLIC LASER CUTTING & ENGRAVING MACHINE

  1. The following steps should be done with the presence of Innovation Wing tutors/technicians.
  2. Even a member is trained user of the acrylic laser cutting machine, he/she has to operate the machine with the presence of Innovation Wing tutors/ technicians.

4.1. Switch on the power source for the acrylic laser cutter

4.2. You will see the red light blub is on and hear the pump of the laser cutter starts running.

4.3. We also installed an air filter to further filter the exhaust during the cutting process (some plastic burn smell and is not good for health if inhaled).

  • Switch the air extraction system from ‘OFF’ to ‘Local’ to activate air extraction.
  • The fan rotation speed should be above 5000 rpm.

4.4. Turn on the power button of the acrylic laser cutting machine. The button is on the right hand side of the machine.

 You will see the light inside the cutter chamber of the laser cutter is on. 

4.5. A power indicating lamp would light up and the machine panel would indicate ‘Table Down Please Wait’.

 

4.6. Wait for the machine to perform initialization and automatic leveling before opening the machine door. This would take around one minute.

4.7. Open the machine door. 

 

4.8. A door indicating lamp would light up.

4.9. Place a 5mm thick acrylic sheet on the top left hand corner of the cutting platform. Remove any covering paper on top of the acrylic sheet.

Attention!! Do not contact the focusing tip of the pointer when placing the acrylic sheet onto the platform. Breaking the tip could lead to malfunctioning of machine

4.8. Now we adjust the starting position of the cutting.

There is a small red dot that marks the laser pointer’s location.

Make sure your hand is dry, and gently move the cutting pointer to the location on the sheet where you want to start the cutting.

We have to make sure that the acrylic sheet is big enough for the cutting job. Sometime we will reuse acrylic sheets that was cut previously and therefore we need to check carefully before proceed to the next step.

4.9. Now we have to do auto-leveling for the laser head. 

Close the cover door.

Press the ‘Auto Focus’ button on the panel to start auto focusing.

4.10. You will see the grid platform moves up, and then the laser head sensor will touch the acrylic sheet and the platform moves down a little and then stops. This is the process of auto-leveling. 

Now please leave the laser cutter intact and proceed to the next step.

Step 5. Configure the cutting-related parameters

5.1. To setup the laser cutting, we use the “Print” function in CorelDRAW. 

In fact, the Laser Cutter is listed as one of the “Printer”s. 

In the Destination for the “printing”, select Printer as “SpiritLS-4.07-03“, this is our acrylic laser cutter.

5.2. On the “Color” tab, select Output colors: RGB. The reason is that we would like the drawing output RGB color to the laser cutter, and the laser cutter will based on the color to do different types of cuttings (we will do the setting in next few steps).

5.3. On the “Layout” tab, choose Reposition artwork to “Top left corner”. This will move the drawing to the top left corner of the workspace, and will be very handy when we manually set the cutting position of the acrylic board on the top left corner.

5.4. Then we go back to the “General” tab, and further go to the setting of the acrylic laser cutter by clicking the gear icon as marked in the figure above.

5.5. Now we are doing the setting of the acrylic laser cutter. Choose “Manual Color Fill”  for Mode Setting becuase we have 3 different types of color used in the drawing, representing different types of cut. 

  • 5.6. This is a very important step.

On the “Pen” tab:

  • Set the Pen No 1.(represented by black color) with the following parameters:
    • Speed: 20, Power: 20, PPI: 400, Raster: YES, Vector: NO, Air: YES, other leave as default.

The above configuration sets the black color in the drawing as raster engraving. Speed of 25 and power of 20 is a parameter we tested that will only engrave the 5mm acrylic board but not cutting through it. 

Whether we are cutting or engraving is mostly determined by the Speed and Power setting of the pen.

  • Set the Pen No 2.(represented by red color) with the following parameters:
    • Speed: 20, Power: 25, PPI: 400, Raster: NO, Vector: YES, Air: YES, other leave as default.

The above configuration sets the red color in the drawing as vector engraving. Speed of 25 and power of 20 is a parameter we tested that will only engrave the 5mm acrylic board but not cutting through it. 

Please observe and understand the difference between raster engraving and vector engraving later when we start the cutting.

  • Set the Pen No 3.(represented by green color) with the following parameters:
    • Speed: 2Power: 90PPI: 1200Raster: NOVector: YESAir: YES, other leave as default.

The above configuration sets the green color in the drawing as vector cutting. Speed of 2 and power of 90 is a parameter we tested that will be strong enough to cut through the 5mm acrylic board. For cutting other thickness / other materials, the speed and power parameter have to be changed accordingly.  

Please read the user manual for the meaning of the PPI and Air. The manual for the laser cutter is in the Dream Chamber.

 

5.7. On the Advanced tab, choose “Relative” for the Position Mode. This allows us to start the laser cutting at the position that we manually set in Step 4.8. i.e., “relative” to our current laser position.

Step 6. Start the cutting job and monitor the cutting process.

6.1. Now we are ready to start the cutting job. Before starting, let’s have the following check:

  • The air filter is on.
  • The acrylic laser cutter is on and the air pump is working (you can hear the fan’s noise).
  • The door of the acrylic laser cutter is closed.
  • The settings done in the previous steps are intact.
  • There is no debris and scraps inside the laser machine. There are no small pieces under the grid from previous cuttings. The debris are very dangerous and may cause a fire hazard if not removed.

6.2. Click Apply and then Print in the software, 

6.3. The machine panel would indicate ‘File order + File name’.

If you cannot see it, you may press F1 to back to the main panel and you will see the file name.

6.4. Trial run without the laser 

  • Switch off the laser key to perform a trial run without a laser.
  • Press ‘Start/Stop’ to start a trial run.
  • The laser cutter will start running a path without laser
  • Inspect and check the path to see if the settings are correct

6.5. ATTENTION: In case of any accident or abnormal situations, press the Emergency button to stop the machine and report to on duty tutors and technicians at once

6.6. Real laser cutting

  • Switch on the laser key
  • Press ‘Start/Stop’ to start cutting

6.7. Monitor the entire cutting process.

ATTENTION: User is required to monitor the entire laser cutting process and has the responsibility to report any accident or abnormal situations.

Note that if the cutting and engraving effect is not good enough (e.g., too deep or too shadow), you may need to back to Step 5.6 and do some adjustments for the SPEED & POWER for the Pen for the best cutting/engraving results. 

After the cutting is finished, DO NOT OPEN THE MACHINE DOOR IMMEDIATELY. 

Wait for 30 seconds and let the air pump and filter remove the smell. 

6.8. Retrieve the item.

  • Open the door
  • Manually move away the cutting pointer to the top left corner of the cutting platform to avoid hitting and damaging the cutting pointer when retrieving the acrylic board.

6.9. Take out the acrylic sheet together with the figure cut. Again, beware of the focusing tip of the pointer when taking out the sheet

After collecting the object, please show this to the technical manager (Seto) for recording the completion of this tutorial.

Innovation Wing tutors please put this badge inside your tutor badge when you are on-duty 😉

Step 7. Switch off the machine and clean up the workspace for the next user

Please power off the acrylic laser cutter, filter and pump.

Please clean and tidy up the workspace for the next user.

Please put the used acrylic sheet in the “free to use” box for the other users. Thank you so much 🙂

Acknowledgement
  • This tutorial is prepared by our tutor Boris Lee and John Lu from the Innovation Tutorship Training Scheme on Dec 2020.
  • This tutorial is edited by CS Seto (technical manager of Innovation Wing), Edison (technical staff of Innovation Wing) on Jan 2021.
  • Materials from this tutorial include some recap of the official user manual from GCC LaserPro Spirit. With some additional materials added by our staff.