06/11/2019 PROJECT DATE 06/11/2019 PROJECT DATE 30/10/2019 PROJECT DATE 06/11/2019 PROJECT DATE 04/12/2019 PROJECT DATE 25/10/2019 PROJECT DATE 06/11/2019 PROJECT DATE 06/11/2019 PROJECT DATE

The Lasers will be running as usual. Slots now will be 50 minutes to allow time for cleaning between users, and you’ll need to clean keyboards and keypads before and after use with the wipes we provide. But the machines are available and running as always. Do please make good use of them.

1. Complete Laser Essentials


Complete your Laser Essentials. Without this you cannot move forward and use the machines.

2. Create your geometry to Cut.


Download the template file and draw what you want to cut.

3. Program


Set up the Digital Machines Template file for the machine you want to use. Place each operation onto the correct layer of the Template file

4. Book


Book the machine you want to use. Remember they are not all the same size and they cut different materials.

5. Come in for your booked slot


Arrive 5 minutes early, wait outside the Laser Lab. Cut you parts and take them home for assembly.




check area


It will only take about 20 min to read through the theory and 10 min to watch the videos.



Depending on you CAD skills this could take between 30 min and a few hours. But remember you are learning to use CAD. This is a foundation you will build on throughout your education and career.


This part is very quick. It should not take longer than 10 minutes to come in and cut your 7's Challenge.


Laser cutters use an extremely fine beam of light at a very high temperature to burn through material. This fine beam allows you to cut at a very high level of precision and detail. Laser cutters follow the lines of your CAD drawing, cutting as they go. However, laser cutters do not only cut through material, they can also engrave text, patterns, or even JPEGs; think of it as a monochrome printer.

With the ability to use the laser cutter you will quickly be able to incorporate a level of precision and detail into your work that you would not be able to achieve by hand alone.


We have five Trotec laser cutters, they are named Mies, Jorn, Alvar, Zaha and Liz. They have important differences:

Mies, Jorn and Alvar are all 60W, their bed size of 720mm x 430mm and they cannot cut 4mm thick Ply

Zaha and Liz are 100w and they are also bigger than the other three, their  bed size is 1000mm x 610mm. Their only limitation is that they do not cut MDF.

It is important that you remember the differences between each machine.


Due to the risks involved in laser cutting, with the potential for fire or for toxic fumes to be created you can only use the materials that we stock and provide. However, this is an extensive selection. From paper and card to acrylic and wood. There is a wide price range so that all your model making needs are supported. From quick sketch models made in card to more polished final models made from finer materials.

Inside the template file there is a list (in the layers) of all the materials each machine can cut.


The hazards involved with laser cutting can be great if proper safety measures are not followed, as you can see in the image above. The rules that we have set out for you to use the laser cutters have been put in place to minimise these hazards. For these hazards not to occur you must all take responsibility for following them at all times.


  1. FIRE - As the laser cutters use heat to cut the material, the possibility of fire is always present. This hazard is minimised by constant vigilance of the laser when cutting. At no point should you be unable to observe the machine.
  2. INHILATION OF TOXIC FUMES - A by-product of laser cutting is the fumes from the burning material. We have extraction systems fitted that insure all the fumes are extracted and filtered safely. However, if you lift the lid too quickly you may be exposed to a small level. To avoid this after the laser has finished always count to 10 then lift the lid.


There are 3 simple rules that must be followed at all times.


You must always keep a line of sight with the machine as it cuts. This means no phones, no laptops and no books. You must simply observe the machine as it cuts.


Due to the risk of toxic fumes you can only use our material, NOT your own.


When laser cutting there is always a Lab Assistant on hand to help, always ask if you need it. When preparing your file if you need help there is help available on our clinic between 12:00-13:00 Mon-Fri (click on the button at the top of the page).


For your Essentials you will need to draw a plaque to very specific criteria. The outer perimeter needs to be 77mm square. Inset within the perimeter are four internal squares measuring 7mm square, they are to be set in 7mm from the perimeter. You must have your name, group and date within the plaque. It must consist of separate parts, that when cut, create an architectural element.


Below is a photograph of past examples. This should give you an idea of what is expected. The laser cutter is a machine that cuts. Use it to its best advantage. You must have parts that are cut out and assembled. Not just a picture engraved.

Sketch out your idea on paper, work out how it fits together then separate it out into its individual parts. this sketch will help you draw it in Rhino.


The software - Rhino3D

All our digital fabrication machines are controlled by a CAD program called Rhino, if you are new to CAD we recommend doing a few tutorials first. University of Westminster give you free access to linkedin learning which has some great resources:

linkedin learning - Rhino to become familiar with the layout and how to use the layers. (login via Westminter


Our Laser Cutters have been setup to run directly from Rhino. This makes them easy to use and more likely to produce good, predictable results. You must use the Rhino Digital Machines Template for any use of the machines. They won't work with any other file type.

The Template file is extremely rich and includes a host of information in the 'USER GUIDE' layers. It also represents the beds' sizes of our different machines and the materials' sizes that we supply. We recommend that you:

- Always work from the latest Template file, which you can download below

- Do not change the file, apart from adding your own drawing into the appropriate layers

- Do your drafting in a separate Rhino file or whatever other software you like, and then copy/import what you want to cut into the Rhino Digital Machines Template

- If at any time your Rhino file becomes corrupted or confused, just download a fresh, up-to-date copy and start again.

- If you have any questions or want your file checked before using up your booked time, you can connect to the Clinic and ask for help.

1. Open the Digital Machines Template file

You can either delete the text that appears or hide the layer 'QUICK START GUIDE' (it is a prompt to remind you every time what you need to do).

2. Choose a machine

Expand the layer '1. CHOOSE A MACHINE'. Switch on the light bulb of the machine you want to use. Remember Liz and Zaha do not cut the same materials as Mies, Jorn and Alvar. You can change machines later if you change you mind, but familiarize yourself with what materials each machine can cut.

3. Choose your stock

Decide which materials you want to use. Expand the layer '3. CHOOSE YOUR STOCK', expand the sublayer 'Essentials', these are the materials you can use for the essentials. In future projects be awear that all the materials vary in size. You need to know the size of the material so you can make sure your parts fit. For the essentials they are all uniform.

4. Use the guide for help

The template file comes with help embedded into the file. Use it for understanding the different operations such as score, cut and etch, and to see examples.

5. Draw your plaque

You might need to do some basic Rhino tutorials online to get started. The 7's Challenge plaque is a 'Rectangle' that is 77mm x 77mm with 4 'Rectangles' that are 7mm square set 7mm from the edge.

Double click on the Layer 'Cut Second' to draw the 77mm rectangle, then double click on the 'Cut First' layer to draw the inner rectangles. Make sure you have your snapping points switched on.

The commands you might use are: 'Rectangle', 'Move', 'Mirror'

6. Add your Name, Studio/Course, and the Date

'Text' is an editable text. You can only etch text as it is made up of pixels not curves.

'TextObject' is a geometry made from curves, surfaces or solid polysurfaces. Make sure you choose 'Curves'. This can be then scored or cut. We recommend against cutting as you will loose the centre of you O's, P's, B's, etc.

The difference between etching and scoring

Etching uses pixels in much the same way as a printer. Scoring users curves that the laser follows, partially cutting through the material.

7. Nesting

When you arrange your drawing in the template ready to cut, this is called nesting. You want to arrange the drawing in such a way that it wastes as little material as possible and cuts in the fastest time. As a general rule you space your parts as the thickness of the material. Your drawing should be up against the dashed line.

8. Check


What you should have is:

- A file that has curves that join up to create 'Closed Curves' (select a curve and look in the properties panel)

- No duplicates or overlapping lines.




One of the greatest risks to the laser cutter is duplicate or overlapping lines. This is often done by copying and pasting too many times. The laser cutter will cut what is there not what is seen. If you have 10 curves the machine will cut 10 times and potentially set the material on fire.


To find duplicates type 'SelDup' into the command line of Rhino. This will highlight all duplicates so you can delete them. This will only find identical geometries and not lines that overlap. For overlapping lines the only way to make sure you have none is to make sure your lines join up.



A rectangle, for example, can be made up of four separate curves or one continuous curve. The advantage for joining the four separate curves into one continuous curve is that you save time. It takes longer for the laser cutter to jump from one curve to the other than it does to cut a single continuous curves.


Select the curves you want to join and type 'Join' into the command line of Rhino. Be careful not to join curves on a separate layers as it will transfer the geometry onto that layer. A good practice is to select everything on your score layer and join that, then move onto the other layers and do the same.

9. Complete Design

Your 7's Challenge should be made up of individual pieces that when assembled create a 3 dimensional architectural object. You can use up to 2 different materials. It must be more than just your name and a 2D pattern.

10. Separate template files

When it comes to laser cutting it is easier to have one file per material. That way you can simply open the file, check it, and send it to the machine. Cut and paste from one template file into a fresh file. This way you have all the components to be cut from paper, for example, in one file and all the parts cut from acrylic in another.

11. 'SaveAs'

Save each file onto a USB stick with a specific file name convention. DSxx__w1234567_JoeBloggs_LE1
-DSxx = your studio or course. For example: DS23 or DS3.5 or BAIA_Y1 or AT_Y3
w1234567 = your student number
JoeBloggs = your name
LE1 = Laser Essentials file 1, Your could have LE1 and LE2 if you have two materials to cut.

Once you have completed drawing and preparing your 7's Challenge you are ready to test your knowledge, have you files checked and book into the practical.

Once you are happy with your 7's challenge, it is all on the correct layers and you have checked for any errors (Duplicates, non-joined up curves), you are ready complete the quiz below. Once complete, you will be given a link to send your file for checking. Once checked, you will be sent a link to book into the practical.

If you want to progress further please register or login first!

Book your Essentials Laser Cutting Practical

For your Essentials practical, once you have had your 7's Challenge checked you will be notified that you can proceed. You will be able to book using the button below.

There are rules to booking:

  • You can only book for yourself and not your friends.
  • You can book up to 4 days in advance.
  • If you want to cancel you must cancel 12 hours before your slot begins. If you do not, you will be charged the £5 for the slot.
  • Slots are non-transferable. If you do not want your booked slot you cannot give it away to a friend.
  • For every hour there are 4 slots, each one is for a different machine. Book the machine you want to use as you will not be able to switch!
  • Your slot is 50 minutes cutting time.

If this button is greyed out then your 7's challenge has not yet been approved. We aim to contact you with 24 hours of submitting your 7's challenge. Please be patient.

There are 6 videos to watch.

When you come in for your practical exercise you will be expected to be able to use the machine unassisted.

If you cannot complete this unassisted you will not be able to progress. Watch these videos as many times as you need to. Feel free to take notes and take them along to your practical slot.


LASER CUTTERS START FIRES you must watch these videos carefully.

1. Arriving safely

2. Sending your Rhino file to Job Control.

3. Prepare the machine

4. Job Control

5. Using the machine safely

6. Sign Off

Book a Slot

If you are not able to book a slot (greyed out button) and you have completed your Laser Essentials last term or earlier, please contact us at



Material Purchase

Materials are purchased directly in the Laser Lab when you come to cut, to check the stock please refer to the Laser Lab materials list.



Bed size of 720mm x 430mm. Can cut everything we stock.


Can cut almost all the material we stock except 4mm plywood.


A smaller bed size than Zaha and Liz.




Bed size of 1000mm x 610mm. Do not cut MDF.


The largest laser cutter we have and the most powerful.


Does not cut MDF. Takes longer to extract so the time between jobs is longer.