This PDF document is an attempt to cover every step and procedure you need to follow to use the laser for routine work. If you have taken the class and still feel unsure about all the steps, this document might help. There should always be a copy of this document in the laser room.
- Comprehensive checklist (last updated 2015/02/28)
Here are some reference documents for the laser equipment. Please note that just because a procedure is described in these documents, you might not be authorized to try it! If in doubt, please ask.
- Laser instruction manual
- Software and operation manual
- Lens installation guide
- Alignment procedure video
- Z table adjustment guide
There is a computer in the laser lab, which already has the necessary software installed on it. If you want to install the software on your own computer, you can. You can use it at home to familiarize yourself with the software. In the lab, you may prefer to connect your computer to the laser (via Ethernet) instead of using the lab’s computer.
The software runs on Windows XP or later, through at least Windows 8.1. If you have XP, you really ought to upgrade, but in the meantime you need to install the Windows XP Prerequisites first, then RetinaEngrave3D. If your Windows is newer than XP, you just need the main RetinaEngrave3D package.
Most of the above files are from Full Spectrum Laser, and are to be used only with the equipment at Colab.
You can draw with any program you like. CorelDraw is popular with makers for lasers and other CNC machines, but it’s expensive and only for Windows. Inkscape is a good vector graphics drawing program that’s free, and it’s available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
If you want to work with photo engraving, you can work directly from an image file in XPS, BMP, JPEG, PNG, or TIFF formats, but you’ll probably need some photo editing software. Photoshop is great if you’re already using it, but expensive and notoriously difficult to become proficient with. There are lots of alternatives. Take a look at Paint.NET or the GIMP, both of which are free.
If you need to cut parts for a three-dimensional design, you might want to use a 3D CAD program to design them, then export them in a 2D format CorelDraw can understand. If you aren’t already experienced with a 3D CAD program, try out OnShape (fully online, runs in the browser) or Fusion 360 (Mac or PC). Both programs are incredibly full featured and free for individuals. It’s a golden age.