Laser Cutting File Setup in Illustrator | Golden Rules

We are often asked about the best way to set up your file for laser cutting. We include a checklist with the template downloads which covers a few technical things you need to take note of, and here are some other golden rules to follow. If you are new to laser cutting, take the time to read through these guidelines and it will all soon be second nature!

You can also download the illustrator template and instructions here.

Prefer to read the guidelines for .dxf and .3dm file formats?

Engraving and scoring

Engraving essentially ‘colours in’ the area within a bounded shape, therefore you must have a closed shape in order to engrave. For example a circle on the black engrave layer will engrave / colour-in the area within the circle. If you have ‘open’ linework on an engrave layer, this will be ignored by our laser cutting software.

Please also note that if you have one bounded shape within another the innermost bounded shape will be left un-engraved. e.g. inside of ‘R’

Scoring marks the material along a line. If you wish to have single lines scored on your material, use score lines. The open / unbounded lines on your file should be set to either light or dark scores, or made into closed paths and amended for engraving.

Vector Paths

Continuous lines: make sure your paths are made up of single, continuous lines. Joined lines are much faster (therefore more affordable!) to cut than lots of individual lines, therefore where possible connect separate paths together using ‘join’.

Path simplification: simplify your paths where possible by reducing the number of points used. This will decrease the time needed for our software to interpret and cut your designs which reduced the cost of your laser cutting job. Without losing the integrity of your design, simplify paths by using object > path > simplify.

Spacing: cut lines in your design should not be closer than 1.5mm and score lines should not be closer than 1mm.

Avoid duplicate lines: multiple lines stacked on one another will cut multiple times, ruining the material, damaging the laser bed and increasing the job time considerably.

Artboard vs Material size

Each artboard is set to our actual laser bed size at 1200 x 900mm. The first step is to decide which material you will use, draw the material boundary and then place your designs within the material boundary. Material that we stock and and the sizes it comes in can be found here.

First Vs Second cut

The difference between the first cut (interior cut) and second cut (boundary cut) is simply the order in which the linework is cut. As a general rule, put interior shapes on the first cut and bounding shapes on the second cut. The reason for this is that if you were to cut the bounding shape first, then cut interior shapes, there could be some very minimal movement as you are now cutting on a ‘loose’ shape. Although this is often very minimal, it is best practice here at The Laser Co.

When cutting dense linework on plastics, you can alternate these two cut layers to allow the material time to cool down. This just helps to avoid slight warping that may occur in very busy files.

Ungroup objects

Make sure there are no grouped objects as this can cause problems with translating your file.

Opacity

The opacity of all your artwork must be at 100%, otherwise it will be ignored by our software.