About Epilog Laser
The epilog laser is a machine that is capable of cutting, rastering, and etching a variety of materials in a quick and easy way. The laser is limited to performing these actions in the 2D X-Y plane. This machine uses files printed from AutoCad to cut these parts, and files can be sent from any shop computer in the lab.
- General Stats:
- Material : Acrylic, Wood, Vinyl, Foam Core, MDF, ABS, Paper, Card Board, Leather. (See Laser Cutter Materials for what isn't allowed.)
- Maximum Part Size : 457.2mm x 609.6mm (18in x 24mm)
Preparing a File
All of the computers in the shop have either AutoCad 2016 or 2017 software and can be used to create files that will be laser cut. In AutoCad, your file should only consist of 2D geometry and should use the preset layering system the shop has in place. Yellow is used for lines that will be cut first, while purple is for lines that will be cut second. Red is for rastering, while green and blue are for scoring shallow and deep respectively. White lines are not read by the laser. It is important to note that these are not colored lines, these are lines set to the specific colored layers. Once the drawing is complete, it should be placed inside the laser bed template on one of the computers. No part of the drawing should go outside of the 18in x 24in laser bed. Make sure to place parts within 1/16in of each other in order to reduce the waste of material. Double check your drawing paying attention to and deleting all duplicate lines, points, and other unnecessary segments. This step will produce cleaner cuts and a better finished product. Once you believe your file is ready to send to the computer, call over a shop supervisor to take one last look at it before it is sent.
Sending a File to the Laser
- Main Article : Sending a File to the Laser
To send a file to the laser, click the print icon at the top of the program. The page that appears next should match the screen pictured to the right. If it does not, change the appropriate settings so that it does. Once the settings are correct, select window, as circled in the example screenshot. Selecting window will bring you back to the drawing screen. From here, select the top left corner, and the bottom right corner of the entire bed you are going to cut. Do not just select the part you are going to cut, select the entire 18" x 24" bed. Once this is selected, make sure that plot scale ratio is 1:1, select print preview. If everything looks correct with the cut, including all of the geometry being set to the correct color layer. After double checking the preview, select print. This will send the file to the computer by the laser cutter.
Prepping the Laser
Once, your file is sent to the laser computer, have a staff member walk over to the computer with you to begin cutting. Place your material into the laser bed. IF you are using acrylic, peel off one side of the protective paper. The Epilog application should be open on the computer, if it is not, open it. Under the jobs tab, select the job you want to print. Once a job is selected, a screen detailing the specifics of the job will be shown. From here, select the material you will be cutting from the material tab in the bottom left corner of the screen. Usually, this is all that needs to be done for an average job. If your material is not listed, enter the settings if you have them under the colors tab. You must also manually focus the laser, so turn off autofocus in the top right corner of the screen. To manually focus the laser,. place the manual focus on the laser head and raise the bed until the material is just barely touching the focus. Once your material is selected, name your file so that it is easy to identify on the laser.The last step is to preview the file and press print; this will send the file to the laser.
Focusing the Laser
- Main Article : Focusing the Laser
The Epilog Laser Cutter automatically focuses itself depending on the material being used. For extremely precise cuts, it may be safest to manually focus the laser. To manually focus, use the triangular focus tool stored near the machine and press the "Focus" button on the cutter. Place the tool on the laser and use the arrow buttons to raise the bed until the tool and material just barely touch. Once you are satisfied with this, removed the tool and press "Go" to begin your cut!
Using the Epilog Laser Cutter
- Main Article : Using the Epilog Laser
Before cutting the part you sent to the laser cutter, make sure the air compressor is turned on in order to reduce the amount of fumes and smoke coming from the material as it is cut. You should see the name of your job on the screen of the laser cut. Do not press go until the data LED has stopped blinking, if it is still blinking this means the laser is still receiving data on your file from the computer. Once you are ready, press the green go button and the laser will begin to cut your part. While the laser is cutting, the door of the laser must remain closed, otherwise the job will be stopped. 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. Once a job has finished, the laser will home and beep, then it is safe to remove the material. IF the laser has not cut all the way through the material, depending on the material, it may be easier to cut it out with an x-acto knife. If you wish to try to use the laser to cut it out, place the material back in the bed as close to the original position as you can, and run the job again. If before a job you are confident the laser will not cut all the way through on the first pass, set the material in the Epilog program to be thicker than the material you are actually cutting.
Strengths and Weaknesses
- "Main Article : Strengths and Weaknesses"
The Epilog Laser Cutter excels at inexpensively and quickly cutting 2D geometry out of a variety of materials. It should usually be the first machine to consider when thinking about how to create a prototype. Even though the laser can only cut 2D geometries, it can still create 3D parts either by using acrylic solvent to bind acrylic or creating parts that fit into each other. However, if one solid part needs to have depth or 3D aspects, the laser cannot be used. Also, the laser is restricted to the 18" x 24" bed, as compared to 48" x 96" bed size of the ShopSabre. It is very simple to create files to cut in AutoCade, and they can quickly be sent to the laser computer and cut. However, there are oftentimes a long queue to use the laser, and during these times each slot in the queue is 1 hour long, so it can quickly add up into very long wait.