Instructional Fabrication FAQ
Can I reserve the laser cutter ahead of time?
Yes, you can reserve time on three laser cutters (the 60-watt is walk-in only). When available, the other machines can also be used for walk-in cutting. The laser cutters are available from 9:00 a.m. to 15 minutes before closing. Reservations, authorizations, and scheduled maintenance can affect availability.
When is the laser cutter available?
Generally, the laser cutters are available for use from the time the CDFS opens until 15 minutes before closing. Reservations, authorizations and scheduled maintenance can affect availability, please check with a CDFS monitor for full availability.
How many laser cutters are there? Are they different?
The CDFS currently has four laser cutters: (2) 150-Watts, (1) 60-Watt and (1) Multi-Wave Fiber Watt Laser. They are identical in almost every way except for the power of their respective laser tubes. All of the machines can cut through materials of up to 3/8". Aside from functioning as a regular CO2 laser, the Multi-Wave is also able to engrave onto most metals and ceramics.
What materials can I use on the laser cutter?
See the Approved Materials List for specific materials. Materials must be non-reflective and flat.
Does the CDFS provide materials for laser cutting?
No. Materials from the Approved Materials List must be purchased by the user prior to laser cutting, either from Resale or an outside supplier (see the Links page for references). Non-Resale materials must be labeled by the manufacturer or accompanied by an invoice stating what the material is. Please keep in mind that many sheet materials will have to be cut to fit on the laser cutter's 18"x32" bed.
Where can I get materials for laser cutting?
Materials for the laser cutter can be purchased at the CDFS through Resale. Materials can also be purchased from outside suppliers, including art supply, hardware and industrial supply stores. Please see the Links page for references to preferred suppliers.
What's the thickest material the laser can cut through?
All of the machines can cut through materials of 3/8" and for some materials 1/2". Cuts on thicker material have a tendency to be slightly angled. Also note that thicker materials can still be engraved as long as they are flat and able to fit in the cutting bed.
What's the biggest sheet size that will fit on the laser cutter?
The laser cutter bed is 18"x32". It is recommended that larger sheets be cut to slightly below these dimensions to ensure a proper fit.
Can the laser cutter cut through metal?
No. None of the CDFS's laser cutters are powerful enough to cut through metal. However, the Multi-Wave Fiber Laser can engrave onto most metals.
I want to cut a material that's not on the Approved Materials List. Can I?
Maybe. New materials can be added to the Approved Materials List if they are safe to cut. To determine a material's safety factors, you must submit to the CDFS:
- MSDS sheet for the material
Requests are usually processed in one to two weeks.
Please note that MSDS are very specific to each product, as different manufacturers can use different ingredients/processes to make the same or similar products. To speed up the evaluation process, please make sure MSDS are obtained from the manufacturer of the product in question.
Is there a charge to use the laser cutter?
Yes. There is a charge for making reservations as well as a charge for walk-in use. A flat fee is paid up front for a 45-minute reservation; walk-in use is charged per-minute from the time a user checks in with a lab monitor until they are cleaned up and finished cutting.
Walk-ins: $0.15 per minute
Reservations: $5.00 for 45 minute-blocks of time
These charges are in place to help cover cleaning and maintenance supplies for the cutters, as well as to discourage unproductive use. All payments are made via ARTICard through a lab monitor. Please see the Laser Access Policy page for details.
What file types does the laser cutter accept?
Illustrator (.ai) files are the most common file types used to print to the laser cutter. Files can also be sent directly from AutoCAD. Other programs, including Vectorworks, Rhino, and more are capable of exporting vector paths into Illustrator or AutoCAD, which can then be sent to the laser cutter.
How do I set up my file to cut on the laser cutter?