File etches in random order all over the print


I was printing my herb markers in hardwood and discovered it was doing something very odd. instead of etching from one end to the other in line, it was etching letters here and there moving back and forth around the bed. this is an illustrator file with text outlined (exporting to SVG wasn’t creating my font properly). all the text and art is on one layer. i have no idea why it was doing this.

it did eventually print everything properly, but the project took way longer than it needed to, obviously.


Do you have the objects combined in the design file or are they separate objects?

Text can be uncombined to a point that each letter gets treated separately in the motion plan.

Since it is all one color, I assume, in your design file and thus gets brought in as one operation, you can select the design and combine them. That can be done at different levels so that you can treat them all as one object or as grouped objects. Not sure what the terminology in AI is on these nor tool names.

Note the bottom info bar that says these are three objects.

Now after you combine them, they are one path. This should then engrave straight across rather than every square individually.

This might run into file size errors with your file, but I’ve done groups of tokens like this with more complications.


How do you know that?

In order to determine how long it “should” take if it had gone back & forth across the the entire you need to calculate the linear path in inches and then divide by the speed you were using. In this case it looks like you have about 15 inches long by 7 inches tall. Assuming 340LPI, the full back & forth approach would be 15x340x7 or 35,700 travel inches (assuming bi-directional firing where it fires on the left to right trip and then right to left and doesn’t do something stupid like returning to the left start before firing the next line).

So at 335 inches per minute (max speed IIRC) the job would take 106 minutes (1:46) if it ran true to speed. Did yours take longer?

Lots of lasers will actually do it that way. I find the GF’s technique of breaking up the motion path into chunks of discrete segments almost always beat the times on my other lasers - even though it’s a slower machine (335ipm is pretty slow for a laser).


i am a longtime user of AI and did try to use the Pathfinder > Unite command to collapse the text into one ‘shape’, but Illustrator still keeps the letters separate. (twirling down the arrow on the layer still shows all the individual letters)


wow, i appreciate you doing the math for me! it is very possible that GF does maximize the travel time, and the overall project time (45 mins) does seem like that may be the case. there was no loss in quality (far from it) and the project was completed the way i wanted, so it’s a win in the end!


Fact is, there’s some logic to the path it takes. Some of which we know (colors, operation order in the GFUI). Some we don’t. As an example of the latter I gave of exactly this the other day, in an engrave with objects that looked like words in a paragraph, it appeared to skip the “s” shape 50% of the time. And then it went back and did them all at the end! Looked totally bizarre and seemed completely illogical. But it’s clear there was some reason and logic behind it.


Perhaps after colour order it goes alphabetically but with an undocumented cipher to make it hard for competitors to copy :smiling_imp:

If we can work out what order it uses it should be possible to write a sorting program, which takes an SVG and reorders it so the the GF does holes before their surrounding objects and proceeds in a roughly top down left / right zigzag like all sensible CAM programs.


You want slow, you should see how long it would take on a CNC router vs a laser :slightly_smiling_face: Every new tool is a step up and the old tool seems sooooooo slow , “how did I put up with it”…


my take-away from this (it’s all a learning experience right now) is DON’T PANIC … take a breath and let the job finish. hehe


Let me say this… DON’T PANIC… take a breath and let the job finish. :wink:

When my “s” shapes weren’t appearing I immediately, and I think naturally, presumed there was an issue and posted about it here in this forum. Many people were just as confused as I was. Some suggested waiting until the end to see if it fills them in. Well, it was a 2.5 hour engrave so I didn’t want to waste the entire time. Turned out it wasn’t a waste at all. It all worked out perfectly. It just knew way more about what it was doing than I did.


yeah, when i first saw this my thought was to stop the print and not waste the time/material. but my BF suggested i wait and see. glad i did!


Thanks @jamesdhatch for doing the math.

Thanks for posting about this. I’m glad everything was printed.

If you have any more questions, please let me know in a new topic.

Happy printing!