The IDeATe fabrication facility in Hunt room A5B includes three Rabbit Laser cutters, model RL-80-1290, from Rabbit Laser USA. The laser cutters have 45-inches by 33-inches of usable bed area. The laser cutters have laser tubes rated for a maximum output of 80 watts.
Laser cutters are intrinsically two-dimensional tools: a focused beam of infrared laser light (invisible to the human eye) moves on an XY gantry under computer control to trace out curves and lines. The beam is turned on and off to start and end lines during cutting. Laser cutters can also engrave images by sweeping quickly in a pattern and modulating the beam power to vary the depth of cut. Many people appreciate the speed with which you can test an idea: you can conceive a part, create a 2D drawing, output a DXF, and cut material to make a functional part within minutes.
The fundamental laser cutting process is melting or burning a line using the heat resulting from a material absorbing the energy of the light of which the laser beam consists. To assist the cutting action, a compressed air jet blows into the cut area to help move melted material out of the cut before it can re-solidify. The laser table can be moved up or down prior to cutting in order to locate the top plane of the material at the focal point of the laser.
IDeATe’s laser cutters cut flat materials such as cardboard, fabric, paper, MDF, plywood, and acrylic. The IDeATe facility limits laser cutting to a limited selection of materials known to be safe. A detailed listing of safe and prohibited materials may be found here.