Introduction to Laser Cutting

What is a Laser Cutter? A laser cutter is a rapid prototyping machine for cutting and etching precise shapes out of wood, plastic and other rigid materials. Think of it as a printer, but with more firepower!


How will this class be structured?

Introduction and outline of class
Laser cutting in practice


Vector versus Raster files
Vector design software
Designing in vectors with Inkscape Illustrator
Review student designs
Review errors and ways to prevent them


Laser Safety
Introduction to components of the laser cutter
Overview of materials
Preparing the machine for operation
Understanding the Morn Cam Software
Safety review
Positioning the laser and workpiece
Navigating the laser UI
Begin cutting
Post-cut cleaning
Finishing techniques for wood pieces
Conclusion and Thanks

How should students prepare?
Students must bring their own laptops pre-loaded with Inkscape. Students should create or find a design that fits within a 4 inch square that they wish to cut. The test material will be 1/8th inch birch plywood (personal materials may not be substituted for this class). No additional tools or parts will be necessary.


What will you get out of this lesson?
By the end of the class students will have a general understanding of laser cutter design and operation and the basic skills necessary to begin cutting with the machine. After completion of the class, students will be able to attend supervised hours (Fab Labs) on Sunday and Monday afternoons wherein they may ask for assistance in design and operation. Unsupervised use of the laser cutter will not be allowed initially. After students have attended multiple Fab Labs and can demonstrate full knowledge of laser safety and operation will they be reviewed to gain independent access to the machine.


Attendance is open to the general public, however only full Hacker Lab members may attend Fab Labs for future laser operation.


Teacher Bio
DJ Harrigan is an interactive artist and educator who is passionate about empowering people to unleash their creativity through electronics and rapid prototyping machinery. He works for the Hacker Lab as the chief laser operator and helps manage the makerspace.


Space is limited to 6 students. You must sign up online to participate.

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  • phyllis

    Also I was thinking that some examples could be posted near the laser cutter - like a poster (fun project) Also a list of safety stuff and post this safety section should be in notes as well as posted by laser cutter. In future for time issues maybe cutting 1 or 2 graphics at a time will cut down the waiting - or switch workshop to 3 hours.

    If there anything you would like help with - I would love to help. Thanks again for the information workshop and cutting out our projects.

    October 30, 2013

  • phyllis

    DJ, how do we contact you? Email? Phone? What are requirements to use the laser cutter and cost? I understand you are working on a hand out. (can you email it to us?) I would suggest you show the materials in beginning of the class and pass it around. Need a list of materials (and any local recommendations where to buy) and step by step process for us to reproduce arrow project in inkscape. Sorry I was not prepared but somehow I never saw the list of what I need to bring (maybe email it to participants)

    October 30, 2013

  • phyllis

    Thank you for the intro - we took graphics and got to see the laser cutter in action. Our group did seem to hit alot of errors and even got to see a mini fire - but all helps in understanding what to do and *not* do while designing for the cutter. Thanks!

    October 30, 2013

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