Preparing Your Design Files
Types of cutting & engraving
Vector Cutting - This type of cut goes all the way through the material. It can be used to fully cut out shapes and letters and more. We ask that you separate the inside cuts form the outside cuts in your file by layer and color.
Vector Scoring -This type of cut is a quick and superficial mark that does not go all the way through the material, but can be useful to create marks where you intend to fold paper or cardboard. There is also a technique called vector engraving that involves outlining the elements in your design with a cut line that does not travel all the way through the material.
Raster Engraving - Engraving is a way to add logos and other elements to the surface of your material in a textured fashion. Raster engraving does not cut all the way through the material, but rather prints a recessed image into the surface of the material.
How to set up your design files
We recommend that you separate different cut types by layer and color:
red = vector cut, blue = score/vector engrave, black = raster engrave
We ask that you take a little extra time to make sure that your file is optimized and ready for the laser by doing the following:
- remove all double or stacked lines as they add unnecessary time to laser cutting
- Separate the inside cuts form the outside cuts by layer and/or color
- Areas that are meant to be raster-engraved need to be filled in with a solid fill
- Nest the parts of the file to reduce material waste
- Horizontal placement of objects in a file will engrave slightly faster than vertical placement
- Consolidate edges of shapes to reduce cutting time
As you're setting up your file, feel free to ask us any questions you have regarding our File Setup Recommendations.
Additional Design Tips
Line Width - Line width distinguishes curves from being used to cut through or to engrave. Set the line width as "hairline" for cuts when using CorelDraw or Rhino. In Adobe Illustrator the proper line width for cuts is 0.001 pt.
Type and Fonts - Fonts look great on your computer at home, but we may not have that font installed on our computer at the laser studio, therefore it will not show correctly. It is best to convert all type and font into curves from within your respective software before sending us the file. That way your font looks good at home and it looks good here too!
Stencil Fonts - When you cut out a letter, such as the "D", the inside of the letter D will fall out. To prevent this, the inside of the letter "D" needs to be bridged to the outside of it. There are fonts that already contain these "bridges", called stencil-style fonts. If you want to preserve the insides of letters, then your font needs to be a stencil-style font. Otherwise, you (or we) will have to manually insert the letter bridges, which will take extra time and cost.
Borders on Engravings - Yes, they are beautiful, but adding a border to an engraving can increase the engrave time considerably. Instead of adding a border all the way around, consider exchanging the border for decorative elements at the head and foot of the project.
Laser-speed - The speed that the laser moves around the project as it cuts your files is the chief determinant of cost. A large and intricate project can take hours to cut, while a small and simple one can be cut in a matter of minutes. It all depends on the size and intricacy of the project. Lowering the complexity of the project can greatly reduce the cutting time of the laser, hence providing you with a lower overall cost.
Masking - Have you ever seen our clean cuts? We create them by applying a layer of masking tape to the material prior to cutting. Without the tape, the laser creates cuts with charred and smokey edges. Masking incurs an additional cost but is recommended for most projects prior to cutting, depending on the final purpose of the project. We have a variety of sizes of masking tape (aka r-tape or applicator's tape) on hand ready for whatever you may throw at us.
Cutting thick materials - When cutting thick materials such as 1/4" acrylic, the laser must move slower than usual and intricate details can become problematic, causing a melted mish-mash of unsightly edges. If you are thinking of cutting through thick material, then reduce the level of intricacy of your project to accommodate the slow moving laser.
Step and Repeat - When sending us a file with a design you may wish to cut over and over in an array-like fashion, you only need to send us one instance of the object and we will step-and-repeat it over and over in the file, creating the array for you. Let us know any special requirements, of course, first.