Laser Cutting for Hairspray

Today I’m laser cutting cue card templates for Hairspray. Even though cue cards are often hand written, I think these will read better from stage if they are printed so that they can be bigger and bolder than human handwriting. If I like how the stencils look and our directors approve, I’ll use the stencils to letter white poster board with black spray paint. I’ll be working on PCC Sylvania’s Universal Laser Systems 60 watt machine.

Example handwritten cue cardBefore settling on a font and size, I’m going to create a test stencil using my favorite font in three different sizes. Here’s the file I created in Adobe Illustrator.

Adobe Illustrator file

When creating files for the laser cutter, there are a few important guidelines that must be followed. Note that these stipulations can vary from system to system.

  1. For lines that should be cut (not engraved), set the color to RGB R: 255, G: 0, B:0.
  2. For lines that should be cut, stroke width must be .001 pt.
  3. When working from Adobe Illustrator, save as a .ai file, not a .svg file.

I hit a bump in the road when project completion time was estimated at 25 minutes. Normally this would be fine, but I was working during open lab hours and other people were waiting. I could already tell the 36 and 48 size fonts were going to be too small, so I deleted them, leaving the size 72 font test. This estimated at five minutes 24 seconds.

I calibrated the machine using our shop’s material database list then used calipers to fine tune the z-axis setting. Ready to print.

Machine cutting

Cut in progress

The process is so enchanting to watch. Here’s how it came out.

Finished test

Not too shabby. If anything I think the font could be even bigger. I’ll check with our directors, Dan Hayes and Julianne Johnson, to find out.

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