Laser + Vinyl Cutting Workflow

Students are often in a rush to create something on the laser cutter or vinyl cutter. I get it, they’re cool. However, it’s very important that you learn about and understand the workflow outlined below: Plan your Idea –> Create the Vector –> Make final adjustments in the necessary –> and finally Send to the laser or vinyl cutter.

1. Plan Idea

Before jumping into the vector software, you should always start with an idea. Create some basic sketches and more detailed diagrams that include measurements. It is strongly recommended that you do all measuring and design work in metric (cm/mm) if you are going to use the laser cutter! In the Design Lab class, this will be mandatory. The vinyl cutter is made in America and therefore uses inches. The better prepared you are before getting on the computer, the easier the process will be. If you are designing in class for a client, show them this work and get feedback before moving on.

The laser cutter has a max cutting size of 33 cm x 48 cm (13″ x 19″) but most of our good materials are a bit smaller at 30 cm x 45 cm (12″ x 18″).

The vinyl cutter can cut designs up to 12″ x 12″. It is possible to accommodate 12″ x 18″ sheets, but we do not currently have any in that size.

Laser Cutter Materials

The laser cutter can cut/engrave a variety of materials, but our classroom currently only uses three materials: cardboard, plywood, and acrylic. Each filament has different properties and is used for different purposes. All prototyping is done with cardboard first. The final product could then be created with 1/4″ birch plywood, 1/8″ clear acrylic, or 1/8″ black acrylic. If there’s another material you would like to use, you would need to bring it in yourself.

Vinyl Cutter Materials

The vinyl cutter can technically cut a variety of thin materials, but our classroom currently only has card stock paper and vinyl sheets. All prototyping is done with card stock first. The final product could then be created in vinyl. If there’s another material you would like to use, you would need to bring it in yourself. We do not have any iron on transfer material, so if you wanted to make an iron on decal for a shirt, you would need to bring that in yourself.

Design Lab Cutting Policy

The goal is to provide students with access to the laser cutter, vinyl cutter, and consumable materials, as long as they design the graphic. If students just want to cut out a decal of a logo they downloaded for example, they must provide their own materials.

Vinyl sheets can be purchased at a craft store such as Michael’s or Jo Ann’s Fabrics. Plywood and acrylic can be purchased at home improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s.

2. Create Vector

Unless you are simply downloading an image from the Internet, the next step is to design the vector graphic. Gravit Designer is a free, online program that lets students create vector illustrations using mathematical expressions with points, lines, and curves. This software can be accessed on any computer with an Internet connection, but it does NOT work on an iPad unfortunately.

Laser Cutter Final Steps

A follow up course will explain steps 3-4 for the laser cutter more in more depth. That course will teach you how to use the Lightburn software and operate our Boss 1420 Laser Cutter.

Vinyl Cutter Final Steps

A follow up course will explain steps 3-4 for the laser cutter more in more depth. That course will teach you how to use the Cricut Design Space software and operate our Cricut Maker Vinyl Cutter.