Spark settings

oh my! brand new user here!
How do I figure out the speed and power to cut and engrave my own uploaded files?

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Congrats and welcome :slight_smile:

Settings don’t care what your design is, just what the material is. There are lot of Proofgrade settings already loaded to your machine. Hopefully what you’re designing works on Light Plywood, paper, cardboard, or thin acrylic (there are more but those are some of the most used!)

Looking forward to seeing your work :smiley:

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To add to @deirdrebeth proofgrade materials are easy and simple since the settings are known and optimized and will automatically set themselves for you. But wait I hear you say, I need to make my project out of [insert laser safe material here]. You will find that if your material is close to a proofgrade material the proofgrade settings are a good starting point. In the PRU days (pre-release) there was no proofgrade and we had some base settings, (e.g. here are some plywood’ish settings) and you moved out from there. And I have to say pretty much ever 1/8” ply/MDF like wood works pretty well as a starting point so what many do is take a test sample and do it with the closest proofgrade setting and then go to manual and tweak up/down until you get your desired result. How to tweak? Well that is more of an art than science and often the balance of speed and power in a given material can be contrary to common sense.

Easier than all that of course is searching the forums, just be careful if the post you find is old, make sure it is in the current units! Early on before the settings looked like now the numbers were radically different (measured in @dan /square inch or something). And just understand that your material may not be exactly what someone else had. I just did a project cutting EVA foam (not for the feint of heart) and burned a lot of material until I got it acceptable. Dialing it in was very difficult, so like any maker I googled it, and found a great video from a foam shop, and their engineer was describing how they tuned it (turns out for a chemical engineer at a foam company not so easy, and made me feel better, and I understood a lot more about foam vs. laser, which explains dye cutting if at all possible). The point of that was he noted they made a giant dumpster full of scrap dialing it in.

Now don’t be concerned about using non-proofgrade, I mean it’s not like me and @jules way back in the PRU days didn’t have a “who can engrave the most absurd materials” which included Peeps [house smelled amazing, taste was even more vile than an unlasered peep], mustard seed, matzah [even worse than peeps], guacamole [now that was cool], Jules did a spectacular grain of rice. One of the most helpful things @dan ever commented here was that the laser isn’t burning so much as decomposing the compound at the molecular level. But with all of those crazy items and whatever you are cutting get the safety data sheet as any PVC (or chlorine combustion products are truly out! not from a toxicity standpoint, it makes hydrochloric acid and we as humans actually breathe than frequently [not good for us necessarily but our body has adapted since when we belch that’s what that acid taste is, well acid] but delicate laser bits do not survive acid attack.

There is also fire risk [duh it’s a laser] and so first make sure the thing isn’t extremely flammable and doesn’t produce flammable gasses (remember the metallic sodium in the bucket of water in high-school chemistry where first the water burned as the sodium tore the oxygen off the H2O and then a couple of seconds later there was a loud gas explosion over the bucket, was because we had fire that released pure gaseous hydrogen which then exploded.) now certain things are sort of inherently “safe’ ish” as a co2 laser can’t hurt them, piece of iron or aluminum yeah no fire risk or gas risk, because a 40W laser is just warming the surface without doing anything, so read up on the material and if it can be lasered someone has and see what they did. Like with the foam I learned when they had to make multiple passes their laser could adjust focus with each pass (they had a huge industrial laser which ran g-code and the head height was servo driven). Also helpfully on the forums you will find surface prep tips (like engraving slate works sort of as is, but throw some actual natural shellac on there and bam! Money! Or aluminum, use ceramark, or mustard? Or wet paper towels.

And of course if you try and get a spectacular failure don’t just come onto the forum and say it’s a terrible laser, or that @dan is a terrible person (he could be, I keep waiting for his kids in the video to blink a SOS to tell use they are under duress), but ask for assistance (if you are lasering crazy materials particularly use the beyond the manual section where we can all freely discuss your weird lasering cantaloupes from Costco - you freak!) and you will find a community of incredibly smart people with many years of serious laser experience and understand pretty much every phase of the project; I mean I am a total hack in illustrator but @Jules is a wizard, software troubles, even as a software engineer @chris1 is scary good, @marmak3261, @markevans36301 and @deirdrebeth have all helped me numerous times (as have many others and it will be too long to list everyone) when I get stuck and can’t figure it out. Just remember we all failed a lot to gain our knowledge but we all learned and shared both the failures (so we all can learn) and successes.

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