Graphic Designer Help - Lines & Paths

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Path Direction, lift and drop are very important when laser cutting and determine the differences in cutting quality

Born amongst CAD (computer aided drawing), CNC routers and Sign Plotters, Laser cutting is latest technology manufacturing and requires certain understandings to achieve effective signage.

1. Path Direction and Minimum Nesting
2. Depth Controls
3. Material Knowledge
4. Lift and Drop (Start Points)

In this article we will describe the better 'set up' procedures to achieve path control when laser cutting.

Below describes the better method for cutting out a letter A from 3mm Anodized Aluminium. See also our Ezine article on Grain Direction

The letter or shape to be cut must follow a path of direction. You can not effectively process independent lines or curves that do not have 'joining' or control points that indicates the next movement. In effect, all lines and curves must lead to another.

Using a Graphics Program, find the the path direction of nodes. Occasionally the path will be incorrect in original files.

Select the image and break apart all node editing points and master control points

Reversing Direction Paths

Reverse the path direction to suit a 'smooth flow' path that a machine head can logically follow to suit the total project to be cut. E.g.. Do not have a letter move from one far side to extreme other side to cut single letters or lines. This may create heat and warp problems with materials.


Smooth Workflow

Achieve a smooth work flow for the entire letter. Additionally, this 'follow path' will assist any quotations for cutting. Precise times can be calculated (Processing Time / Gas, machine time, Plasma use etc.). This allows greater quotation accuracy
Lift and Drop

Set any internal cuts, angles or reversing of path directions. Use 'Bring to Front' or 'Take to Back' commands in this step. Once internal paths have been set correctly, combine the letter or shape into a single object. This will ensure accurate cutting and shelling (Shelling is known as the remaining uncut sections from sheet material).

Adding Start Points

Avoid unnecessary errors in cutting by adding additional paths such as Start Blast Points, Figure 8 turn points and tolerance for bevels, knockouts and shelling..
To ensure crisp corners and that heat is not over placed on sharp corners, set a path direction past the corner, then program the direction path to come back to corner along the same axis as the new leading edge angle

Achieving sharper corners

Sometimes, set the graphic path direction past the corner points in a figure 8 configuration so that the laser beam path comes back around past the end point of the corner. This method is particularly useful when cutting at a high speed for softer materials and avoids a slight rounding of the edges.


See this tutorial in action at the MyVideo page, you can watch the laser in action moving across the sheet, lifting and setting blast points.


how to laser cut

    How to laser cut



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Warp describes the movement created by heat onto an original flat surface causing the material to bend and flex in a permanent position. When heat is applied to certain materials or small sections are cut, some warping may be evident. Call the Production Personnel for technical advice / suitability before designing your signage.

Node: Nodes are also control points. In effect, nodes can be manipulated to change the incoming and outgoing directions of lines and curves. See Ezines Article located at MyHelp. Drawing lines and Curves.

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