Imagine this – you spend hours creating a beautiful design for a customer or event. It’s a masterpiece.

Laser Cutting Paper
Rdworks Cutting Order

You then set the machine up.

Correct lens: Check.

Correct power and speed settings in RDWorks: Check.

You load your expensive, lovely material, and use ball bearings or bolts to space the material off the honeycomb and avoid any flashback: Check.

You then hit autofocus and the machine whirrs into life and sets the correct focal distance. Check.

This is looking good!

You hit start, and the machine begins to cut the outside profile first, and……. plonk.

That’s the sound of your part dropping onto the honeycomb bed. Before the machine starts to etch and cut the intricate inner details you have spent hours designing. With the part out of alignment. And out of focus……Fiddlesticks.

Q: What went wrong?

A: RDWorks Cutting order.

I am using a worst-case scenario for the purpose of illustration here. RDworks won’t leave you that high and dry and there are basic features built in to prevent this from happening.

However, it’s important to correctly set up the cutting order of your program as it can cause some serious headaches – especially as the complexity of your programs or production increases.

There are a couple of key reasons for this;

  • When the raw material is whole, its less likely to move on the bed so that your engraving and cutting will line up
  • As per example, cut profiles will “drop” and change the focal distance from the nozzle to material. This will affect the cutting performance and result as mentioned in our last blog post.

This is the importance of cutting order, and why it’s important to set up your program correctly to avoid waste of time and materials.

So what is the correct cutting order and how do you ensure that it’s set correctly?

Generally speaking, it’s best to work as follows:

  • Etching
  • Inner holes
  • Outer profile
  • Next part

It would be nice if there was a snazzy anagram for that (answers on a postcard please) but, for the time being you’ll have to make do with EION….

The reason for this is that you etch and cut inner holes with the part supported by the scrap material or skeleton, so that they are less likely to move. You then cut and finish the parts are soon as all the internal features are complete.

Cutting the finished parts from the material as soon as they are finished might sound a little backwards in the context of what we have just learned, however there is method to our madness.

Imagine if you were cutting a sheet with 50 parts on it. If you were to etch and cut all the internal features first, then go back and start cutting the outer profiles, what would happen if the material had shifted?

Maybe you work next to a trainline or have very heavy neighbours, and the machine has experienced a vibration as train or neighbour has passed and shifted the material slightly between etching and cutting.

The entire sheet would be out of alignment and all 50 parts would likely be scrap.

Cutting one part out at a time ensures, that, if your machine does experience a wobble, you might lose one or two parts but not all 50.

Again, this is an extreme example, but hopefully one that serves the purpose to illustrate the benefit of cutting out parts as they finish, rather than running all the etching and inner holes first then going back to cut the outer profiles from the start.

So what’s the quickest and easiest way to set this up? Or do I have to select every element in program and individually set the cutting order?

Once again, we turn to our Tame Superuser for the tips and tricks you need to keep you running as efficiently as possible.

Some say that cutting order is like feng shui for the laser, and, that if you were to look at his programs, they would resemble the manufacturing equivalent of a Japanese rock garden.

All we know is that he is called Russ.

How To Use a Laser Cutter – Lightblade Learning Lab 08 Setting the Processing Order

Big thanks to Russ as always with the production and editing of these videos. If you are unsure about any of the topics covered in our blogs or in these tutorials, please request a call back or, talk to one of our laser marking specialists by going to our contact page – link below.

Contact Us for Laser Engraving, Marking & Cutting Advice (thinklaser.com)

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