Laser cutters might primarily appear somewhat limited to you because they are only able to cut flat objects. Surprisingly, however, the capabilities and possibilities of laser cutting are endless.
In part 2 of this 2 part series regarding laser cutters, we will go over some cool ideas, design limitations, and different design techniques to familiarize you with laser cutting technology. You can cut a lot of things that aren’t flat surfaces by incorporating a few tips and tricks, such as using rotating holders to cut items like baseball bats from out of square stock.
Also, similar to routing, you can map out layers to coincide with the lasers different power settings, etching or engraving your material opposed to completely cutting through it. These illustrate a mere handful of the perks associated with laser cutting, let’s dig deeper.
Material Thickness and Kerf
When a laser creates a gap through the material it’s cutting, that gap is known as its kerf. The specific kerf of your laser cutter will determine the thickest level of material it can cut through. The kerf measures and depicts the speed and power distributed onto the material that is to be cut.
Potential for Fine Detail
The laser beam used in laser cutting tends to be extremely minute. Because of this, laser cutters can create very precise details and can be set to cut precise depths, allowing not just for through cutting, but also for kiss cutting of decals and other sticky backed materials while leaving the backing untouched.
Techniques for Jointing
There are a variety of different techniques used for jointing material. Finger joints are very basic, made from interlocking tabs located on mated sides. Tenon and Mortise joints are similar to finger joints, except that these fingers extend from a piece of material through the pre-made holes in a separate material, rather than directly interlocking with other fingers.
Jigsaw and dovetail joints are typically used to mount two different materials flush with one another during laser cutting. This is done evenly on top and bottom surfaces. Slotted joints are joints that connect two pieces with slots that are cut halfway through. They form an “X” like structure out of the material by sliding into one another.
The final type of joints is called bolts. By far the strongest and most secure, bolts are used for extremely heavy materials. Creating two holes, one that a bolt can slide through and the other a slot where a nut can be press fit in, it is easy to secure the joints of the parts after being cut by a laser.
While one method of manufacturing 3D shapes is to align the laser cut pieces at their edges, it is also possible to stack your laser cut pieces directly on top of each other to create a sculpture.
This produces the effect of a contour map because the entire shape is defined by different cut lines in between separate layers. One tip for stacking and designing your personal pieces is to label every piece that you make. This creates a guide which will drastically simplify the alignment and assembly process.
Potential for Flexibility
Laser cutting patterns and sections out of your material makes it possible to achieve a very high level of flexibility. Creating living hinges, or kerf bends, out of more rigid materials is an essential perk of laser cutting, increasing your flexibility with different materials.
Living hinges are situated along the area that you want to bend, and create a thin hinge out of the surrounding, rigid material. Another design technique creates snap-fit hinges, which can interlock different pieces.
For those working in manufacturing for the graphics marketplace, having laser capabilities on a traditional cutter or router can drastically expand workload and performance. Laser features can accomplish a variety of tasks, and eliminate the need to acquire additional space for a new, separate machine. Laser cutters also come equipped with a common user interface.