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Laser Cutting

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Laser cutting is a process that uses a laser beam to cut or engrave materials. The machine is computer-driven, based on design data generated by the user. Industrially, powerful lasers can cut thick metals. In the Product Realization Lab, our lower powered CO2 machines are designed to work with thin plastics, woods, and paper materials.

Complex 3D forms can be assembled from flat-pattern designs. Many students use SolidWorks, Fusion 360, or Adobe Illustrator to generate design data.

Machine Specifications

MachineUniversal Laser Systems VLS 4.60Universal Laser Systems PLS 6.120
Location(s)AMPS (Huang 036) & Machining Lab, Bldg 610Machining Lab, Bldg 610
Material Size18" x 24"18" x 32"
MaterialsAcrylic, thin woods, Duron, cardboard and paper materials (see below for more details)
Operation in the PRLRuns from Adobe Illustrator. Files require specific line formatting.
Tutorial DocumentsLaser Cutter Tutorial
Getting Started with Illustrator


Samples of the following allowed materials are available in AMPS:

  • Acrylic (mirrored, textured/frosted, opaque, transparent)
  • Duron
  • Some Hardwoods (Black Cherry, Pine, Poplar, Walnut, Ash, Maple, Basswood)
  • High-quality Birch plywood
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Felt
  • Matboard
  • Chipboard
  • Silicone
  • Cork
  • Various papers
  • Foam core
  • Cotton fabric
  • Anodized Aluminum (etching only!)

The following materials are NOT allowed on the laser cutters:

  • Any hardwoods NOT explicitly listed above
  • PVC
  • Polycarbonate
  • PTFE
  • Delrin
  • Carbon fiber
  • Transparency sheets
  • Camera gels
  • Polypropylene
  • Polyethylene (HDPE, LDPE, etc...)
  • Styrene
  • Laser-engravable rubber stamp material

See a CA if your material is not listed!! Do NOT assume that it is allowed.

Demo Files

Get Started - T-Rex

Tabbed Construction - Basic Basswood Box

Kerf Cutting - Teeny Lamp

Pattern of slits allows a flat sheet of material to bend
Captured nuts with screws hold components together so that they can be disassembled easily.