Laser Cutter

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So Make It finally has one of the most important machines a makerspace needs; a laser cutter.

It can only be used by members who have completed the official laser training.

Due to the nature of the machine strict adherence to safety must be maintained and any transgressions with safety will be dealt with switftly and harshly. The machine is also the most expensive item in the unit so great care must be used to treat it well.

Organisation and acquiring and commissioning the laser was done on our trello board and much more information can be found there. A report on the purchase of the machine can be viewed here on our github repo.


There is a laser cutter risk assessment which should be read and understood by all laser operators.

Significant safety points to note

  • Before using the machine you must have a fire safety plan in case of the worst. This includes checking:
    • Checking the fire extinguisher and fire blanket are next to the machine
    • The area around the machine is tidy and clear of debris
    • The machine appears to be working and is clear of debris
    • You are aware of the makerspace fire safety rules
  • The laser must NEVER be left unattended.
  • The extraction system must always be used else the machine will be damaged. The switch is behind the machine on the wall.
  • Only those who have had official training AND who are members of the space may use the machine. If non members want to have something cut they can ask a member with training to do it for them.
  • You must only use materials that have been approved for use on the machine (see materials). If in doubt ask Dave Rowntree.

If in doubt of any aspect of the machine or you suspect something is not working as it should immediately contact the trustees for assistance and do not continue to use the machine.


It is important to only laser materials we are certain will not result in harm to yourself and other space users or damage to the machine. To this end in order to cut a material that SoMakeIt have not previously investigated you must follow this process:

  • Check we don't know about the material below and ask in the #laser-cutter channel on slack.
  • Do research to insure that this is a material other maker spaces have used successfully.
  • Insure that the byproducts of vaporisation will not be harmful to space users.
  • Insure that the byproducts of vaporisation will not damage the laser cutter.
  • Present this research to a laser trainer (ideally in the #laser-cutter slack channel).

OK to cut

Acrylic (a.k.a. PMMA, Plexiglass, or Lexan) up to about 6-8 mm; 10 mm is doable. Wood ideally 'laser' play or 'laser' mdf, oily woods are much more likely to burn so testing is advised. Card and paper can be cut with very low power, or pulsed laser control. Air assist will help prevent fires....but it is tricky. Natural fabrics and genuine leather.


  • Any material you have not researched and had cleared by a laser trainer (see above).
  • Fake leather (this may contain PVC).
  • Polycarbonate (it just burns and produces lots of smoke and fumes).
  • PVC, as it burns horribly and releases chlorine. Fumes will quickly destroy laser lens and mirrors.


Acrylic plastic, wood, slate, and glass can be engraved. Anodized aluminium can be engraved; other metals need to be coated with laser engraving spray or plaster/ipa mix (talk to Holly!).


Remembers the space does have a small vinyl cutter that can do thin pvc/vinyl and other stuff that should not be cut on the laser. This will actually do a good job on paper without any burning issues and should be considered as an alternative machine for paper cutting.

Machine Specifications and Manual

We have an HPC 1290 laser kindly donated to us by Southampton University


Manufacturers Specification

Cutting area 1200mm x 900mm (slightly reduced for engraving)
Engraving speed Upto 400/sec (Faster = less quality)
Laser source Water cooled CO2 gas filled glass tube
Cooling system Compressor Based water chiller
Z axis (table height) 230mm
Fume extraction Extractor to outside
Air assist compressor Yes
Connectivity PC or USB
Software Lightburn (Most vector and image types supported)


The process for getting laser trained:

  • Become a member of So Make It
  • Request laser training on Slack in the #laser-cutter channel
  • Wait for contact from your laser trainer.
  • See Laser Cutter Training for an overview of the training
  • Pay the fee


We are charging everyone a £20 upfront fee for starting to use the cutter paid at your training session. This does not go to the trainer but is to quickly build up a war chest of funds for inevitable part replacement in the future.

We are also charging 15p per minute of laser time, rounded up, you can see the preview to get an estimated cost. We are running this on an honour system same as the 3d printers; you can pay the fees in cash into the pink cashbox, via the card reader or via bank transfer. See Paying the space for more info.