The Makery

Laser Cutter

Important: Watch the video before making your reservation!

The laser cutter is one of the more versatile machines we have here in the Makery at Elmhurst Public Library. It also is one of the more complex. Therefore, it is important to arrive prepared in order for your projects to turn out. The video above and the information below will help you prepare.

The Makery Staff reserves the right to refuse any unprepared projects or material that does not meet guidelines on the website or guidelines contained in this video.

What is it?

The Full Spectrum Pro-Series 20×12 laser cutter is a CNC machine with a CO2 laser that engraves and cuts materials. The laser cutter shoots a beam into the material to either raster (aka “engrave”) on the material or vector cut through the material. Designs are imported into Full Spectrum’s RetinaEngrave 3D software, which controls the laser.

What can I do?

It can be used to create signs, engraved cutting boards, customize coasters, engrave glassware, and more. Please review the Approved Material list below when preparing your project.

What does the Makery provide?

  • The Full Spectrum Pro-Series 20×12
  • Friction Wheel Rotary Attachment for glasses and circular items
  • A computer with access to:
    • RetinaEngrave 3D
    • Internet
    • Microsoft Office Suite
    • Adobe Creative Cloud
    • Inkscape
    • AutoCAD

Note: Your design should be prepared before your reservation. The 2nd Floor Creative Studio have Adobe Creative Cloud and AutoCAD available for design preparation.

What do I need?

  • Material to engrave or cut (see Approved Materials list)
    • Maximum of 20″ x 12″
  • A digital design saved on a USB drive or cloud service
    • Maximum of 20″ x 12″
    • Raster engrave projects can use many file types: Word (.docx), JPG (or JPEG), PNG, PDF, SVG, DXF, TIFF, Photoshop, Illustrator, and more
    • Vector cuts require a vector design – the most common is SVG (.svg) created using Illustrator or Inkscape
  • A reservation between 30-minutes to 2-hours
    • We recommend first timers reserve 2-hours

There is no cost to use the machine. The library does not sell materials to use with the laser cutter. Always bring extra materials since laser settings are not standard for all materials.

What materials can I use?

Your material will depend on your project and if you plan to raster engrave the top layer or vector cut through the material. All materials and designs must fit on the laser cutter’s build plate of 20″ by 12″. For raster engraving, your material can be up to 10″ thick. For vector cuts, the laser will only cut through up to 1/4″ thick materials depending on material density. It does not cut through glass or slate.

Approved materials:

  • Natural Wood
    • Plywood has glue that makes it more difficult to cut
    • Recommended woods include maple, cherry, alder, pine, basswood, and birch.
  • Glass – both curved and flat.
    • It leaves a frosted appearance like a glass etching cream.
    • Recommended glassware: pint glass, drinking glass, pub glass, most wine glasses, champagne flutes
    • Incompatible glassware: crystal glasses, stemless wine glass, martini glass, mugs or glasses with handles, snifters
  • Cardboard
  • Cardstock and Copy Paper
  • Chipboard
  • Cotton fabrics
  • Cork
  • Delrin
  • Denim
  • EVA Foam – must have label or receipt for staff to verify material
  • Laserable Rubber
  • Leather
    • Must be real, authentic leathers
    • Synthetic and artificial leathers cannot be used in the laser
    • Leathers that have been dyed or embossed cannot be used in the laser
  • Slate
  • Grip tape or sand paper

Always bring extra material. The Makery is not a production facility. Most projects require testing and refining. Things don’t always turn out on the first try.

We will not cut the following:

  • Any and all material containing Chlorine
  • Any wood that has been painted, stained, or sealed, otherwise non natural
  • Acrylic
  • ABS, HDPE, or other types of plastics
  • Carbon Fiber
  • Epoxy and other resins
  • Fiberglass or Printed circuit boards (FR4, G10, anything resin-based)
  • Metals
    • Including anodized aluminum and powder coated stainless steel
  • Mirrors and other reflective surfaces
  • Pleather or artificial leathers
  • Polyvinyl shloride (PVC), Polyvinyl butyrale (PVB), and Vinyl (Sintra)
  • Polycarbonate (PC, Lexan)
  • PolyStyrene Foam (Styrofoam and foam core board)
  • PolyPropylene Foam
  • Polyurethane (including polyurethane sealants)

For safety concerns, if any material is questionable or unknown to staff, we will not attempt to cut it for any reason. If you have any questions on material, please contact Makery staff before making your reservation.

Email: makery@elmlib.org

Tips and Tricks

Glass Engraving

The laser cutter will only raster engrave glass and will not cut through glass. The glass engravings have a frosted look. Bolder and larger lettering is best. Thin, small script fonts are harder to see.

  • Any bulbed or curved glass such as a stemless wine glasses or snifters are discouraged because they are difficult to load in the machine and results can vary.
  • Crystal glassware retains heat making it harder to engrave and more likely to break in the machine.
  • Colored glass can be engraved but coated or painted glass cannot. Staff will need to scratch the glass to determine if the glass is colored or coated.

Words

If your design consists solely of words, whether for engraving on any material or vector cutting letters out of wood, a simple Microsoft Word (.docx) file with the words typed into it is all you need to bring with you. Please make note of what font you would like to use as the Library does not have every font you might have.

Other formats such as a PDF, Notepad, JPG,or PNG of word will also work for raster engravings. Vector cuts of calligraphy or script fonts should be prepared in software like Inkscape or Illustrator, since Word doesn’t blend the letters together.

Logos

For logo designs, please try to get as close to a single color logo as possible. The laser cutter recognizes black and white, so any colors get converted to black or white, which can reduce the quality of the logo. Any JPG, PNG, TIFF, or other standard photo file will work. The higher quality the photo, the better the picture.

If you are trying to cut the logo out of the material, you must have a vector file. The most common file type for this is a SVG (.svg). The laser will not automatically create an .svg out of a JPG or PNG. Adobe Illustrator and Inkscape are great for creating vector files.

Pictures

Photographs for raster engraving can be difficult for the same reason as logos with many colors. If engraving on wood, cardboard, or leather, the laser cutter has a “Simple Dither” and “Halftone Dither” feature that creates a photo-realistic engraving. However, this function does not work for glass or slate engravings.

Another option is to convert the photo into a line drawing before coming in to the Makery to use the laser cutter. This option works for all materials, but is best with photos of architecture. Photos of faces and animals don’t work as well. The guide below provides step-by-step instructions for Photoshop Elements, which is available in the 2nd Floor Computer Lab. Photoshop CC, Illustrator, and Pixlr can also be used to create line drawings. Please bring both the original and converted files in during your reservation.

Photoshop Elements Line Drawing Guide

Slate

The laser cutter will etch slate but is not strong enough to cut through slate. Slate requires a slower speed setting, which increases engraving time. For example, a 4″ x 4″ piece of slate could take up to 15 minutes to etch.

Learn

Free Resources for Creating Designs

  • Full Spectrum’s Projects website has free sample files to download.
  • Gravit is a free web-based or desktop vector program for creating graphics and vector designs.
  • Inkscape is a free desktop vector program for creating graphics and vector designs.
  • Pixlr is a free, web-based photo editing program.
  • Thingiverse is a file sharing website for mostly 3D designs but also laser cut projects.
  • TinkerCAD is a free, web-based application that creates SVG designs in addition to 3D designs.
  • Vectr is a free, web-based vector program for creating graphics and vector designs.
  • Adobe Creative Cloud and Autodesk’s AutoCAD is available at the 2nd Floor Creative Studios.

Questions about your design?

If you have any questions about a file you are trying to cut or engrave, please contact Makery staff. We will review your file and let you know how to proceed. You can email us the file along with the material you are planning on using and the size of the material at makery@elmlib.org and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Note: We do not save files or emails. You must bring it on a USB drive for the reservation.

To see full Makery equipment usage and rules, see the Makerspace Policy.

Reserve the Laser Cutter

Reserve the Laser Cutter

If you prefer call (630) 279-8696 and ask to reserve the laser cutter.

  • Reservations can be made in .5 and 1-hour blocks
  • Only ONE patron per reservation due to capacity limits
  • Maximum of two upcoming reservations – Limit of 1 reservation per day
  • Up to seven days ahead
  • Reservations are held for 15 minutes after start time
  • You will need an email address to make a reservation

Note: First time users will receive an email request to opt-in to receive email from the system. The link in this email must be clicked within 24 hours.