K40 Laser Cutter

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The laser cutter is a CNC machine that uses a focused, high-energy beam of light to remove material. It can make very precise cuts in paper, cardboard, wood, acrylic, and other materials. See the section below for a full list of what works well.

K40 Laser Cutter Station


The laser cutter is available to members only. Non-members may operate this equipment only in direct collaboration with an active member.



  1. Ensure that the Laser Cutter and the Laptop are plugged into the power outlets behind the workbench.
  2. Connect the blue USB cable from the Laser Cutter to the Laptop.
  3. Power on the Laptop. It should log in automatically.
  4. Turn on the wall switch for the Laser Cutter and its exhaust system. You should hear the water pump running below the workbench. Do NOT operate laser if the water pump is not working.
  5. Power on the Laser Cutter.


All necessary software is installed and configured on the laptop at the station. You can either perform vector cuts with an SVG image or perform raster operations with a bitmap image (JPG, PNG, etc.). Operation of the Laser Cutter happens in two parts: preparing your graphics for the cut by converting it into machine instructions, or g-codes, and sending those instructions to the machine to control the laser.

Graphics Preparation

  1. Using the shortcut in the menu on the left, open Inkscape and load your image. The document is already sized to match the cutter area of the machine (300mmx200mm).
  2. Open the Layers dialogue by clicking on the Layer > Layers... menu or with Shift+Ctrl+L.
  3. Rename your layer in the following format, where the 10 represents the power level of the laser, 1000 is the feedrate, and 30 is the pulses per millimeter: 10 [feed=1000,ppm=30]. See the section below for recommended settings with different materials.
  4. Ensure that the image you wish to cut is on the layer that you just renamed and select it.
  5. Go to Extensions > Export > Turnkey Laser Exporter. Specify a file to export the g-code to (i.e. ~/lasercutting/gcode/<your name>.g) and click the apply button. A window will pop up showing what graphical objects are being exported and whether they will cut as vector or raster.
  6. Use the file you exported in the next steps.

Laser Operation

  1. Open the cover door of the Laser Cutter and position the material you wish to cut or engrave inside. Pay close attention to the location of your image on the cutting area in Inkscape and note that the cutting area is slightly smaller than the metal gantries.
  2. Close the door of the Laser Cutter. The laser should not fire if the door is open, but please do not sacrifice your eyes to test our safety equipment.
  3. Use the shortcut on the left to open Pronterface.
  4. Connect to the Laser Cutter using the Connect button at the upper left of the window. You should see some information about the machine print out on the right.
  5. Open your g-code file using the Load File button at the upper center and then begin the cut with the Print button.
  6. You may not be able to see the laser while it is cutting. If you have any doubts whether the laser is working, check the power readout neat the on-off switch.
  7. Wait for the gantry to re-home and stop before trying to remove your cut material.

If you have stop the cut before it is complete, power off the Laser Cutter before pushing Pause or Off then manually send an M5 command through Pronterface to stop the laser from firing even if all the motors are off.


  1. Power off the Laser Cutter, the exhaust system, and the water pump. Shut down the control Laptop.
  2. Remove all material from the cutting area, including any small waste cuts. Please be careful not to hit any mirrors or optics if you use the shop-vac.


For an idea of whether or not you should try to cut the material you have in mind, please see this comprehensive guide on the ATX Hackerspace wiki. There is also a small guide on this wiki that will help give you an idea of the appropriate power level to use. Keep in mind that every laser cutter is unique, though, and some experimentation may be necessary even for a 'known' material.

Material Result  %Power Cut Speed (mm/min) PPM Passes
Foamcore Mark 5 2000 30 1
Foamcore Score 17 2000 20 1
Foamcore Cut 23 2000 40 1
Paper Score 5 1000 30 1
Paper Cut 10 1000 10 1
3/16" PlyWood Cut 30 500 20 3
1/4" Acrylic Cut 40 250 40 1