Epilog Helix 24

From Idea Shop Wiki
Epilog Laser in the Idea Shop Prototyping Lab

The Epilog Laser is a CNC laser cutter that is capable of cutting, rastering, and etching a variety of materials in two dimensions (along the X-Y plane). The Epilog uses color mapped vector files to cut material up to 1/4" (5mm) thick.

Steps to use the laser:

  1. Prepare your file using one of our our templates
  2. Send your file to the laser from the Assembly Space
  3. Add your name to the queue
  4. Use the computer in the Maker Space to cut your file.

Note: Use of the laser is first come, first served. You must first send your file to the laser cutter (prepared using our template) to be added to the queue. When there is an active queue, users have up to one hour to cut their job. Any jobs longer than one hour will be stopped after 60 minutes and the user added anew to the end of the queue.

General Stats:
Material : Acrylic, Wood, Foam Core, MDF, ABS (in limited quantities), Paper, Cardboard, Leather. (See Laser Cutter Materials for permitted/prohibited materials.)
Maximum Part Size : 457.2mm x 609.6mm (18in x 24in)
Maximum Material Thickness for Through Cuts : 1/4in

  • Quickly cuts through a variety of materials
  • Uses AutoCAD or other vector file formats for true to size accuracy .
  • Good for creating quick prototypes out of different materials
  • Restricted in size to 18" x 24" bed
  • Restricted to cutting 2D geometries
  • Long Queues

1. Preparing Your File

Preparing a File in AutoCAD

Main Article : Preparing a Laser File in AutoCAD

All computers in the Assembly Space have AutoCad installed and are pre-loaded with our template. This template has a designated area the size of the laser bed, as well as layers for different laser settings, such as cut first (for interiors), cut last, raster, score shallow, and score deep. File type is .dwg, but .dxf files may be imported.

For assistance or tips with preparing your file, don't hesitate to ask Idea Shop staff, who will be happy to help you. Refer to the Preparing a Laser File in AutoCAD for more detailed instructions.

Preparing a File in Illustrator

Main Article : Preparing a Laser File in Illustrator

Coming soon!

2. Sending Your File to The Laser

How your print screen should look before sending a file to the laser

1. Select the “Print” button from the top left corner.

2. Make sure the “Epilog Laser/Engraver” is the selected printer.

3. Change any other settings so that the that the print screen matches the picture to the right.

4. Click the “Select Window” button to select whichever 18”x24” rectangle contains your part.
 a. Plot Area > “Window<”
 b. You will be brought back to the drawing screen.
 c. Select the top left corner and the bottom right corner of the rectangle itself. Do not simply select an arbitrary area containing your part.

5. Make sure the plot scale ratio is set to 1:1
 a. Plot scale > Scale:

6. Select “Preview…” and make sure everything including the layer colors looks correct.

7. Click “OK” to send your file to the laser queue.

3. Laser Queue

Use of the laser is on a first come, first served basis, reflected in the queue system. Once you've sent your file to the laser, notify a staff member to be added to the queue. The queue is a list of names in purple ink on a white board next to the laser cutter.

  • Only Idea Shop staff may edit the queue.
  • Users are added to the queue only after their files have been color mapped and plotted to the laser.
  • Only one team member from a project may be in the queue at any time.
  • If there is a queue, users have up to one hour of laser time. If after one hour the a job remains incomplete, users will be asked to stop their job and then be added to the end of the queue. If there is no queue, users can take as long as they need!
  • If you are not present when your name is called you will be removed from the queue.
  • The queue resets everyday.

4. Using the Epilog Laser Cutter

Preparing a File in Epilog Job Manager

Home Screen View of Laser Computer

In the Epilog job manager, find your file in the queue. Double click to open your job.

  1. Rename your job. Double click the job name on top and name it something short and distinct. When the file is sent to the laser cutter, this helps in distinguishing your job from previous jobs. (if all jobs started with Z:\ it can be difficult to differentiate them)
  2. Set the power settings according to your material. On the bottom right of the job popup screen, click the folder with the arrow button to open the "Material Settings" menu. Select the correct material from the left column (Acrylic, MDF, Wood, etc...) and then choose the thickness of the material being cut. Be sure to double click the appropriate thickness. This will set the recommended speed and power. Click "Save" to return to your job.
  3. If you have manually focused the laser, ensure that Auto Focus is set to the "off" option.
    Review and Modify Laser Cutting Settings on "Job Information" Screen
  4. Preview your job. Select the "Preview" tab on the "Job Information" screen to see a scaled image of the file. Check that this is correct. If you need to move the placement of your artwork, you can click the pencil icon at the bottom left of the screen to edit placement.
    Preview Screen Example
  5. Select the "Information" tab to return to the "Job Information" screen. The file is ready be ready to cut. Select the print button in the bottom left corner to send the file to the machine. Confirm that your file has been sent to the laser by checking the file name on the LED display on the laser.

Preparing the Laser for Cutting

Load your material into the laser bed. If your material is less than the full size of the bed, place your material in the upper left hand corner of the bed.

  • For thicker materials, the bed may need to be lowered. To do this, press the Focus button, then use the up or down arrows to adjust the height of the bed.
  • For extremely precise cuts, it is best to manually focus the laser. To do do this, press the "Focus" button on the cutter to bring the head forward. Place the triangular focus tool (located in the cup next to the monitor) on the two pins on the laser head and use the arrow buttons to raise the bed until the material just barely touches the bottom of the tool. Once you are satisfied, remove the tool and press reset to return the laser head to the home position. Be sure that auto-focus is disabled in the Epilog Job Manager (resend your file to the cutter if necessary).
For a detailed step by step guide, see: Focusing the Laser

Cutting Your Material

Ensure that your job name is displayed on the LED display on the laser. Then, press the green GO button to start your job. Once a job has finished, the laser will home and beep. After the beep sounds, you may open the lid and remove your material.

Helpful Tips

  • Make sure the ventilation switch (in the wall by the monitor) is turned on in order to reduce the amount of fumes and smoke coming from the material as it is cut.
  • Do not press go until the data LED has stopped blinking. If the LED is still blinking and the display does not yet show the correct job name, this means the laser is still receiving data. Files with raster data may take up to a minute to completely send to the laser cutter.
  • While the laser is cutting, the door of the laser must remain closed.
  • If at any time you want to pause the job, press the red STOP button. Press the green go button to resume the job. If you want to end the job, press the reset button.


If you are consistently having trouble cutting through on the appropriate settings, you can try a number of the following:

  • If the laser has not cut all the way through the material, do not remove your material. Close the lid and press GO to run your job again.
    • Depending on the material or the degree to which material has been cut through, it may be easier to cut it out with an x-acto knife.
  • Re-focus the laser to the center of your material
  • Reduce the cutting speed (see a staff member for help).
  • Set the material in the material settings to be thicker than the material you are actually cutting

Fire Safety

When using the laser cutter, a small flame that follows the laser is always to be expected. However, if the flame remains after the laser has moved on and begins to grow in size, users should take steps to contain and extinguish the fire.

  • Attempt to extinguish the fire by snuffing it out with the welding blanket
  • If fire cannot be extinguished with the welding blanket alone, progress to the dry CO2 fire extinguishers
  • If the fire cannot be contained by the use of the CO2 extinguishers, progress to the wet chemical extinguisher located in the wall behind the glass.

Machine Proficiency

In order for an individual to advance in machine proficiency they must demonstrate ability to perform certain actions or tasks. All levels include abilities and concepts from lower levels.

This section is primarily for student workers.

Troubleshooting info and more can be found on the Epilog website: http://support.epiloglaser.com/knowledgec.aspx?cid=8205

Adjusting table level: http://support.epiloglaser.com/article/8205/11959/

Aligning the laser beam: http://supportsystem.livehelpnow.net/article/8205/12189/

Level 0

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Plotting a prepared AutoCAD vector / hatch raster file to Epilog Job Manager.
  • Selecting the correct material in Epilog Job Manager.
  • Determining whether manual or auto focus should be used.
  • Determining whether the exhaust fan and air assist compressor are operating.
  • Locating the fire retardant cloth and fire extinguisher.

Individual understands the concepts:

  • What materials are unsafe to cut or engrave on the laser.
  • Adjusting power and speed settings to cut slightly different material.
  • Application of cut first versus cut last and scoring versus rastering.

Level 1

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Preparing a vector / hatch raster AutoCAD file for laser cutting.
  • Manually focusing the laser.
  • Identifying materials that are safe to cut / engrave.
  • Clean the accessible mirrors and lens.
  • Recovering from an auto focus bed crash.
  • Replacing and cleaning the laser bed.
  • Adjust power and speed settings to cut slightly different material.
  • Switching the job between combined, vector only, and raster only.

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Engraving on anodized metals.
  • Creating hinged parts on the laser.
  • Knowing when it is safe and applicable to turn off air assist.
  • Engraving images.
  • Optimizing laser files to minimize wasted material and job time.
  • Selecting an appropriate laser bed.

Level 2

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Realigning and resuming a moved part using visible red laser alignment.
  • Replacing and recalibrating the auto focus.
  • Cleaning and lubricating guide rails and pulleys.
  • Changing the XY focus location.
  • Making jigs to engrave irregularly shaped items.

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Laser Cutting Kerf.
  • Using chemical agents to engrave on metal.
  • Understanding and identifying the effects of an un-level bed.
  • Knowing whether to change material settings or rerun a job which is not cutting through.
  • Using additive layering to create 3D models

Level 3

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Extinguishing a fire.
  • Leveling the laser bed.
  • Focusing the laser mirrors.
  • Creating new material settings.
  • Ability to edit and prepare an image for optimal engraving.

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Impact of laser frequency.
  • Bottom-Up versus Top-Down engraving benefits.
  • Differentiation of image dithering algorithms.
  • Using additive layering to creating models with moving parts.


Epilog Laser in the Idea Shop Maker Space