This is kind-of hard to say as there are a series of
variables that must be taken into account. For example, a
25W laser will take longer to cut the same piece of material
than a 50W or 100W laser. In the same fashion, the
material width will play a role. If you want to laser-cut a
piece with a 1/8” width, it will take less than the same
piece but with a 1/4” width. Then comes the material itself.
I have found that MDF is a little bit more time-consuming
than say acrylic. There are other materials you can laser-cut
such as lexan, ABS, and foam core, each of them taking
different amounts of time to process.
The only way to get around this is to request a quote
and compare rates. There are a great deal of laser shops
out there and their rate tends to be in between $60 to
$120 an hour. Each shop will have their own ways of
charging for setup, design, and actual job rate, so feel free
to ask around and stay with whoever gives you the best
62 SERVO 02.2010
Drawing It into the Laser
If you are going to rent laser cutting services, I
recommend that you draw your own artwork. You can
submit all sorts of drawings and schematics, even on a
napkin. However, if the laser shop operator has to spend
time re-drawing the artwork and making it laser-ready, you
will have to pay for it. Instead, get a few hours behind your
computer and draw your part following these guidelines:
Use a vector-based program. Paint Shop, Photo Shop,
or any one of those bitmaps software suites will not work.
BMP files can be exported into vector-based SW such as
Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator but results are poor and
lots of work needs to be done on the resulting artwork.
You might as well just hand draw them on a napkin! You
can also draw in AutoCAD and submit DXF or DWG files.
They should be able to easily import these into their
The CNC laser is not only a powerful tool, it is also
highly versatile. Thanks to its ability to carefully follow any
intricate shape path, we can develop our own robot parts
such as bases, panels, mounts, etc. Because it is computer
controlled, it makes it very easy to build multiple parts of
the same item with very little to no extra effort.
Although it is not a 3D CNC machine, there are ways in
which we can be innovative and come up with our own
ways to add depth to the projects at hand. The tool is
available, all we have to do is get busy! SV