Frequently asked questions
The following are those initial questions you may have about laser cutting, different effects, materials you can use, burning, we cover quite a lot here but please do use the contact link if we can help further.
What is laser cutting?
Laser cutting is an extremely accurate method of cutting a design from your chosen material. The three most common forms of laser are CO2, Nd and Nd-YAG. Our equipment are CO2 machines. Using your artwork as a guide the machine fires a laser which follows the vector line, this then cuts through your material. You can achieve a variety of effects, even partly cutting through the material, this is what is called laser engraving. We mostly cut paper and card but are also able to cut and engrave plastics (acrylic/perspex) and wood.
What do Laser Bureau need to cut my design?
There is a detailed artwork guide available but for now you just need to know that the machine follows a vector stroke, so we can use a file created in illustrator for instance as long as it is line only.
How much does laser cutting cost?
Laser cutting was considered an expensive print finish, with the improvements in technology projects can be completed faster than they once could so the costs are far less prohibitive. We base our laser cutting costs on the complexity of your design so there is no easy answer to that question, you send the artwork and idea of quantity and we’ll run a test and let you know.
Do I have to do anything to my artwork to allow for different weights of paper?
Laser Bureau chooses the best machine to run your order on having considered run length, paper weight and design. We can then adjust the settings of the laser to an extremely fine degree to optimise the cut.
Doesn’t laser cutting burn the paper?
In it’s simplest form laser cutting is cutting paper with fire, the equipment we use, care we take and recommendations we can make regarding design and material choice will mean we will always get the very best result possible. Although you can’t guarantee any burn showing it’s amazing how little shows, you’ll be surprised how much laser cutting has moved on.
My design isn’t paper, can you cut other materials?
You can laser cut quite a range of materials, our machines mostly laser cut paper and card but we are able to laser cut and engrave acrylic, wood and leather for instance. We can’t cut metal or PVC. We have laser cut stone and even laser cut food. It’s always worth asking as we like a challenge. Just get us as much information about the material as you can including ideally the manufacturer so we can check the COSHH data sheet.
Can you personalise using laser cutting?
Yes, using a CSV. file we can add variable data fields to your design. Every copy could have a different guests or recipient's name laser cut of out it. A unique ticket number, cloakroom number or even a combination of both as you can add multiple fields to a design. You just have to choose a stencil cut font if the project is going to be completely laser cut out.
What about engraving, can you do this?
Yes, laser power can be adjusted so it only partly cuts through a material, you may hear this referred to as raster engraving, this is a really great effect and works particularly well on wood and plastics. This can add a really interesting look to your design, always worth asking us to try if you have something you want to experiment with. Some papers when they are laser engraved reveal a really interesting core colour, this is an amazing effect.
What is the largest sheet size you can cut?
We have laser cut a sheet of paper that was over 3m long in one pass but like anything it really is dependent on design, It’s really worth sending us a visual as we can tell straight away if we can cut it (usually we can, we just have to have a little creative thinking to make it work) but more importantly the most cost effective way to cut it.
Are some papers better for cutting than others?
Where possible we would always recommend using a good quality uncoated material. Obviously it’s not possible to specify that on every project and we’ll test papers before running just to check on the finish. We can laser cut coated, varnished, laminated and even metallic paper have all cut really well so please ask for help at the planning stage.
Can I use laser cutting as a security feature?
Yes, laser cutting would be a great addition to a project to make it harder to duplicate. You could add a completely laser cut section or engraved details. You could even add laser cut variable data so every copy is named, or numbered.
Can you laser cut a photo or image?
You can laser engrave a photo, it really gives a cool effect. The set up is just different on the machine as you have to read tones instead of a line. Black areas burn the most while white will not burn at all, then every shade in between becomes the shading. It’s actually quite an under utilised feature so if you want to do something different we should run some tests for you.
Can you laser cut laminated sheets?
Yes you can, like any laser cutting project we will always recommend a test but usually it is just the case of finding the right settings for the paper weight, film and adhesive. There is also a real advantage with laminated material, especially for heavier weight materials. If there is any smoke generated from the cutting process that marks the sheets you can just wipe it off.
What else can you use laser cutting for?
Laser cutting can be used in all sorts of ways, you can laser cut natural materials such as cotton or leather to use for fashion applications. Laser cut and laser engrave wood and perspex (acrylic) for architectural model making. Laser cut plywood for arts and crafts applications. You can also laser cut wood and acrylic to make jewellery and badges. We have applied laser cutting to smaller items like hotel door hangers, menus, key fobs and also laser cut and engraved large items like signs, art pieces and backdrops for events and intricately laser cut shop window displays and point of sale. Laser cut book and brochure covers, anywhere where you want to make an impact, even laser cut direct mail, where you need produce a piece that grabs attention and make the recipient take notice laser cutting is a great print finish to do this.
What if I can’t produce my own artwork?
We have highly skilled designers and art workers that can help with that process, from refining your artwork to make it laser ready right through to turning your sketch on a piece of paper into an artwork file that turns your laser cutting idea into a finished project.