Laser Cutter


3D Printer and Laser Cutter are the most commonly used equipment for fast prototyping and manufacturing. The former builds a model from scratch, while the latter chips away the excess materials. Therefore, the materials we put into laser cutter are often flat boards with certain thickness (e.g., acrylic sheet, woods, etc.).

The machine we have is VLS 3.60/75 from Universal Laser Systems, with a processing area of 24 x 12 in (610 x 305 mm). It is also limited by the type of materials and maximum thickness. Please ensure the material can be found in the database (will discuss more).


There are two types of software needed.

  • The software that can draw vector graphics (e.g., Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW) or can export/output vector graphics (e.g., AutoCAD, Solidworks). You will need to design the schematics in these software and print it using "VLS printer", just like printing a MS word document using a normal printer.

  • The Universal Control Panel (UCP) software to handle the schematics in printing queue (sent by vector graphics software) and send to the laser cutter after a few modifications. The software can be downloaded from its official website. Choose UCP Installer, and then download. During the installation, select the corresponding model VLS 3.60/75.


Step One

Draw the vector graph using one of the vector graphics software, and print it using VLS 3.60/75 printer.

  • Ensure the color is set to pure red RGB (255, 0, 0) or CMYK (0, 100, 100, 0) for all lines to be cut. See user manual for advanced usage of color (e.g., blue for marks).

  • Ensure the linewidth is set to 0.001” (.0254 mm) or less. (Only vector graphics software can have lines as thin as this much.)

  • If applicable, ensure the line is set to 100% opacity.

Step Two

Prepare the graph to be cut in UCP software.

  • Open UCP software, select file in printing queue, and adjust the position of the graph (often close to upper left). You may also duplicate the graph using the button on the panel.

  • Click Settings to select the correct material of the board. Please make sure it is supported and can be found in Materials Database.

  • In the page of selected material, set Material Thickness to be the thickness of the board plus 0.05 mm or 0.025 in (e.g., 0.150 in for a 0.125 in board). The redundancy is to ensure the laser can always cut through the board with clean edge. This value may vary from machine to machine, depending on the flatness of processing area. (Only need to change thickness; leave others as default.)

Step Three

Load the material and perform calibration.

  • Place the material on the cutting table of the laser cutter, close to upper left corner.

  • Connect the USB cable (from the laser cutter) to a Windows computer running UCP software, and then turn on the laser cutter and the ventilator. (Note: the machine can be turned on [by the power button] only if the USB cable is connected and UCP software is running properly.)

  • Calibrate cutting table and focus the laser system (because the thickness of the material can vary every time).

    • Move the laser focal lens to somewhere above the material, and place the focus tool on top of the material while close to the laser focal lens, as shown in the image.

    • Move the engraving table up or down in the Z axis as necessary until the wedge shaped notch at the top of the focus tool can be placed as shown with the edge of the carriage fitting in the corner of the notch. Laser processing results are very sensitive to focus, so pay close attention to the fit of the focus tool.

    • In UCP software, switch to System tab and click Calibrate under Cutting Table. After calibration, go back to the Viewer tab and the Z axis will be set to 0.000.

    • Tips: If engraving table reaches its maximum limit (e.g., it stops at -0.100 in Z axis), click Calibrate for Cutting Table once and repeat the above process until the focus tool fits perfectly.

Step Four

Double check settings and execute the task.

  • Double check the graph to be cut is indeed within the area of the material. Click a couple of points (on the boundary of the graph) in UCP software, and observe the position of the laser focal lens above the material.

  • Press the Play button to start vector cutting. Better not to directly look at the cutting point as it may produce invisible lights harming your eyes.


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