UNSW Making

Laser Cutting Basics

Essential tutorials, information and resources to understand the Laser cutting workflow and start working with the equipment available in the UNSW Makerspace Network
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For this learn module, you will need:

  • A computer that can run Adobe Illustrator or Rhino
  • (Highly recommended) Competency in Illustrator or Rhino

Quick Links

Getting Started


All you need to know about laser cutting at UNSW Makerspaces!

Laser cutting is a digital fabrication process that uses a thin, focused, laser beam to cut and etch materials into custom designs, patterns, and shapes. This non-contact, thermal-based fabrication process is ideal for several materials, including wood, paper, plastic and leather.

There are two main types of laser cutting technologies widely available, Fibre and CO2. For this module we will be focusing on the CO2 laser, which we use primarily for woods and plastics.

Laser Cut Process-02 Access to ENG Access to DFL

Don't have the right badge to access the makerspaces? View upcoming badge training and get inducted!

Laser Cut Process-03 Flatten Surfaces in Rhino Rhino Commands Guide

Jump to Template Files here.

Key considerations:

Is your file curves only? (not surfaces or meshes)

Have you removed duplicate lines?

Have you joined all curves where possible?

Laser Cut Process-04 ENG Shop DFL Shop

Make sure you are aware of which material can and can't be laser cut! You can view materials that are safe to cut or banned from cutting here.

Laser Cut Process-05 ENG Opening Hours DFL Opening Hours

Please note: Bookings are required for use of the Laser Cutters in the DFL.

Laser Cutter Guide-01.png
Laser Cutter Guide-02.png

So how do you choose which laser cutter to use?

  1. What material are you planning to cut?
    Timber, plastics, cardboard, leather, felt, cork etc. can be easily cut on our Trotec laser cutters
    Cutting metals? The Kern metal laser cutter is the one for you!
  2. How big is your material/design? Take a look to the right at the bed size guides for the laser cutters we have on campus!
Laser Cutter Guide-03.png

Materials v2-01.png
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Module 1


File Preperation

File Preparation Instructions

  • Place your design in the laser cutting template provided
  • Instructions are provided in the template file
  • Templates are available in Rhino (.3dm), AutoCad (.dwg) or Illustrator (.ai). You can import many file types into these templates (.dxf, vectorised .pdf, .svg etc)
  • There are different templates for each different laser cutting machine, make sure you use the correct template for your laser cutting booking
Laser Cutter Guide-04.png


Trotec Speedy 360

Bed size: 800x500mm

Illustrator Template - Speedy 360 Rhino Template - Speedy 360

Trotec Speedy 400

Bed size: 1016x610mm

Illustrator Template - Speedy 400 Rhino Template - Speedy 400

Trotec Speedy 500

Bed size: 1220x700mm

Illustrator Template - Speedy 500 Rhino Template - Speedy 500

The Making Centre - Makerspace

Paddington Campus

Illustrator Template - Speedy 100/400

The Lowdown on Lines for Lasers

Laser Cutter Guide-05.png

Module 3


Tips, Tricks and Projects

Using the 'Flow' Command - Rhino

Make2D - Rhino

Array Curves - Rhino

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Other Resources


Resources to enhance your laser cutting experience and knowledge!


Work smart, not hard

Trying to make a laser cut box? Need a custom enclosure for your Arduino Mega? Want to create a custom engraved box for a gift? There's a web app for that: MakerCase

This web app generates laser cut-able files from the specific dimensions you need - feel free to download the file and adjust it with engraves, holes and any other features you may need!

Grinding your gears

If you're in need of any gears for your robotic arm or want more torque out of your small hobby DC motors, use this Gear Generator to create laser cut gears!