CREATING A VECTOR FILE
Use illustrator to create your vector file from scratch. Download the illustrator template HERE. Your can also create it with the following guidelines, size of 609.6 mm wide and304.8 mm high, and colour mode RGB. Your Project will fail if you use different settings.
WHAT IS A VECTOR FILE?
A vector file is a graphics file that contains a vector image, rather than a raster, or bitmapped, image. Shapes and lines make up vector graphics, which are fully scalable images, (you can make them HUGE without loosing quality) while raster images are made of pixels and cannot be scaled up without going blurry.
HOW CAN I TELL IF MY FILE IS VECTOR
Usually the easiest way is to zoom right in on your file, does it go all blurry? If so it’s not vector. If it stays a nice clean line then it’s vector.
Vector files need to be DRAWN in the vector program rather than just imported or pasted in there. A jpg, psd, bmp or png file is NOT vector and cannot be used. An AI, EPS, DXF, DWG or PDF file (if exported from a vector program) is an acceptable format. If you have a raster image that you need to convert to a vector you can get some pointers here.
HOW TO CREATE YOUR VECTOR FILE (IN ADOBE ILLUSTRATOR)
Draw your design using red, black and blue (explained below) The laser cutter only accepts 3 colours from your files: black = raster etching, red = cutting and blue = vector etching. Any other colours supplied in files will be ignored.
Here are some examples of different files (first line) and how it looks cut (second line)
CUT LINES – (RED)
CUT LINES – should always be shown as 0.001pt red stroke. This needs to be an RGB red stroke only.
The laser cutter will cut every red line in your file, even if you overlap them or hide them under another object. So make sure you don’t have 2 cut lines on top of one another as they will be cut twice (and you will be charged for the extra cut time too). You cannot cover or mask a cut line – if there is a red line in your file the laser cutter will find it and cut that line so make sure there are no hidden cut lines in there.
RASTER ETCH – (BLACK)
RASTER ETCH – (black) can be drawn as any combination of lines and strokes.
You can mask and cover black areas of your drawing because black artwork is essentially flattened as it’s sent to the cutter. Raster etching is created by the laser head going back and forth across the sheet like an inkjet printer would. When setting up your files with multiple pieces that need etching it is best to keep them all in the same area on the sheet and in horizontal rows where possible, this will etch quicker and therefore be cheaper for you.
The thinnest black etching stroke in your file should be no less than 0.5pt. Thinner than this doesn’t etch very well using this method. If you want a thinner clean line use the “vector etching” method (explained below).
Shading – If you want to experiment you can use shading or shades of black (greys) Lighter black will etch lighter and full 0 0 0 RGB black is the deepest etch. But please note we put protective paper on each piece – so a light grey will not etch through the paper, best to make shading at least 40% black. While you can do this as an experiment, we don’t really recommend using shades of grey.
VECTOR ETCH – (BLUE)
VECTOR ETCH – (blue) should always be shown as 0.001pt blue stroke. This needs to be a RGB blue stroke only.
Vector etching is a way of etching a continuous thin line with the laser cutter, this is shown in your files as a thin BLUE stroke and will result in a thin line the thickness of the laser beam on the surface of your design (usually about 0.1-0.2mm thick). In this method the laser head will follow the blue lines rather than etching back and forward across the sheet, so it can be a quicker and cheaper method for simple line art.
On acrylic this will create a thin line scoring the protective paper and leaving a faint etch line, on wood it creates a nice dark thin line. This is useful when you want light guide lines; if you want to just cut through the protective paper so you can use the paper as a mask when painting the underlying piece; if you want to line up a second layer on top of a base layer or if you just want some some clean fine line art.
Like red lines, you cannot cover or mask a blue vector etching line – if there is a blue line in your file the laser cutter will find it and etch that line, if you have 2 blue lines on top of each other it will etch it twice and you will end up with a darker line.
How to convert a Raster file into an illustrator vector file
Learn to Use Adobe Illustrator Here
a good tutorial on laser cutting a christmas ornament is available here
information edited from
more detail of lasercutting can be found below