Can I use QCAD for laser cutting MDF?

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Can I use QCAD for laser cutting MDF?

Postby John87 » Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:34 pm

Pretty much what the title says, I am pretty much new to CAD work, I took one class of it in college before I decide it was monotonous. but that was 6 or 7 years ago.

Mostly what I want to do is make 2D images to engrave into MDF board, basically 1 inch square tiles for Science Fiction models. Is it possible to create a file with QCAD that allows a laser to cut at different depths?


Thanks John

going to start fooling around with the demo version for a while.
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Re: Can I use QCAD for laser cutting MDF?

Postby Clive » Sat Mar 09, 2013 2:08 pm

Hello John and welcome here to the forum.
John87 wrote: I am pretty much new to CAD work, I took one class of it in college before I decide it was monotonous. but that was 6 or 7 years ago.

John you will find QCAD a very intuitive 2D cad program to use, the QCAD book is a valuable resource for getting to grips with QCAD and indeed the basic concepts of
2D CAD in general :wink:
http://www.qcad.org/en/qcad-documentation

In addition feel free to ask as many questions as you need here on the forum, there are plenty of experienced people who are willing to help.

John87 wrote:Mostly what I want to do is make 2D images to engrave into MDF board, basically 1 inch square tiles for Science Fiction models. Is it possible to create a file with QCAD that allows a laser to cut at different depths?

Using QCAD 3 pro is an ideal tool to draw up designs for sending files to a laser cutter and is very straight forward - the 'key' here is to set up different layers in QCAD for relating to different Vector (cut) or Raster (engrave) requirements!

Laser cutters can cut/score and etch (engrave) materials at different depths according to what settings the operator inputs using the laser cutter 'dashboard'.
* Settings are usually - Speed, Power and Frequency according to each machines requirements.
Again most laser cutters will have the option to choose which mode - Vector Cut or Raster (engrave) to run a specific job or layer in!
So in your case probably you would need to first run the machine in 'Raster' mode for your engraving and then finish your final cuts in a 'Vector' mode.

In my example below you will see that I have a simple design where I want to completely cut out the outline and have 2 inner paths (Red and Cyan) only scored to 2 different depths. Normally most laser cutter machines will allow you the option to either send one layer at a time with specific settings (Speed, Power and Frequency) or 'Map' layers so that automatically the machine will read and cut/score all the layers one after the other continuously until the entire job is done.
So in my example I could send this file to the laser cutter and keep all the layers visible (turn on/off layers with 'eye' symbol) and map everything so the machine does the whole job in one hit or as I say I would more likely with this particular file send the layers through one at a time - starting with the score layers and then finishing with the final cut layer!

My settings would be something like:

For say 2mm MDF:
Complete cut through - Speed 65%, Power 35% and Frequency 500%
Light engrave/score - Speed 100%, Power say 8% and Frequency 500%
Heavy engrave/score - Speed 100%, Power say 20% and Frequency 500%
settings obviously differ according to what material and thickness used!


Set- up layers for laser cutting.png
Set- up layers for laser cutting.png (5.99 KiB) Viewed 2518 times


I find often that if you only have one or two layers in a particular job that sending the layers individually is the best way because it gives you more control over what the machine does and 'mostly' in normal practice you will want to send all your score/etch layers first anyway and then finish with any complete through cuts.

Hope this helps :D
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