Monday afternoon I took the Safety and Basic Use class for the Trotec laser engraver at TechShop. The class consists mostly of “lecture”: going over safety considerations, the machine’s controls, and how to use the software (CorelDraw or Adobe Illustrator) to prepare files for sending to the engraver. It was mostly a demonstration with very little hands-on time.
So last night I went up to TechShop and reserved the laser engraver for two hours. The class instructor recommended spending some time doing simple things like cutting out basic shapes or engraving text on scrap material, but I figured I’d do a more ambitious project: engrave a picture onto something.
Having never used Illustrator or CorelDraw before, I spent a couple of hours fiddling with them prior to my scheduled time on the laser. I prepared the picture I was going to engrave and also spent some time just poking around in CorelDraw trying to get familiar with all it can do. I think it’s going to be a steep learning curve.
I also collected a few pieces of cardboard and a small piece of hardboard (Masonite) from the scrap pile. I figured I’d practice on scrap before doing this on an expensive piece of material.
The idea was to reproduce this picture on the laser engraver.
I first converted the picture to grayscale and ran it through a “pencil sketch” filter to create this:
Then I put a piece of cardboard into the laser engraver and printed the picture. It took several passes, including fiddling with the speed and power settings between passes. The result was somewhat curious. This is what it looks like when viewed from directly above.
Aside from that curious effect, though, the picture still isn’t great. But my time was running out and I was annoyed with the cardboard anyway. I suspect that I had the engraver going too fast. I’ll reduce the settings from the recommended value the next time I try to print on cardboard.
Having successfully engraved the cardboard without destroying anything or starting a fire, I put the Masonite in there, input the recommended settings for that material, and printed again. The result was even lighter than on the cardboard. So I reduced the speed from 50 to 20 and re-printed. That produced a very nice picture:
I’d call it a successful experiment. I learned a bit about how to use the software, and I got a neat picture of Charlie engraved on hardboard. Might have to hang that one on the wall.
Now, for my next project . . .