15 – Cardboard Engineering – Part 1 (30:16)

The Lightblade Learning Lab with Russ Sadler

The Lightblade Learning Lab is a series of videos that Russ did for Thinklaser Limited based on using the Lightblade 4060 Laser Cutting and Engraving Machine. Thinklasers Lightblade 4060 has a 400 x 600mm bed size and was supplied with a 60W EFR laser tube. In this session, Russ takes us through a cardboard engineering project for a gift box, and utilises the pre-ionisation zone of the laser to ensure there are no burn marks on the card.

Cardboard with a laser cutting machine
Cardboard with a Laser Cutting Machine


  • (Making a cardboard gift box as an example.)
  • Mix of engineering and art
  • You can find lots of projects on the following websites:
  • Cardboard is inexpensive but a cheap source is cereal packets
  • First project – a small gift box
  • Different parts of drawing – outside, holes and perforations
  • Relationship between power and current – high frequency mode that Russ uses for cutting cardboard
  • Grouping objects and ordering the cuts
  • Saving the files
  • Cardboard should be flat because the non-standard 1.5” lens that Russ uses here has a very short focus range
  • Experiments with a piece of scrap material using the honeycomb bed
  • Focusing using a step gauge
  • Increasing the speed to reduce burning of edges
  • Use maximum air flow with cardboard, wood or other organic materials
  • Flatness (and consequent de-focusing) causing cutting issues
  • Folding a first attempts at the model using double-sided ‘VHB’ tape
  • Changing the bed to get the material flatter
  • Using a folded sheet steel bed to use as a base for the pin bed
  • Making washers to act as spacers to make the steel bed flat
  • Mounting the pin bed and using a steel block and magnets to keep the card in place
  • Folding the final model

My thanks go out to Tom at Thinklaser for giving permission to embed these videos on this site. If you are looking for a new laser machine from a quality supplier, then I would suggest you check out their website: www.thinklaser.com.

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Transcript For Cardboard Engineering With A Laser– Part 1

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0:14 Well welcome to another Lightblade learning lab, today is a fairly cool day

0:21 outside um you may notice that we’ve got some rather nice glowing red lights in here

0:28 um.. my temperature system down there tells me it’s eight degrees in here at

0:33 about nine degrees i have my heating system coming on to make sure that this machine never gets anywhere near

0:38 freezing point we’ve been rather gloomy in the past few sessions about looking after yourself looking after the machine

0:45 making sure that it’s working well all the things that might go wrong with the machine don’t get me wrong they are

0:51 unlikely to, but if they do then it’s best to be prepared today we’re going to

0:57 go into something slightly lighter now my background is engineering I’ve always

1:03 worked with metals wood glass plastics electrics hydraulics i accidentally

1:11 stumbled upon cardboard engineering when I needed a project for my other machine over there to test and demonstrate

1:19 ordering of cuts now we’ve already done some ordering of cuts but today we’re

1:25 going to go back into cardboard engineering and we’re going to use ordering of cuts again in a quite a big

1:31 way cardboard engineering is absolutely a fascinating subjects a mix of

1:38 engineering and artistic talent now i

1:43 have to admit to having almost zero artistic talent i might be a designer as

1:51 such but being a designer and being an artist are poles apart today what we’re

1:58 going to do is create some cardboard vehicles for moving forward to learn

Transcript For Cardboard Engineering With A Laser– Part 1 (Cont….)

2:03 about engraving putting pictures onto various surfaces and it’s a springboard

2:09for the future now if you want lots and lots of projects this is not the site to be on

2:16we will be doing quite a few projects and we will be doing them in depth if

2:21you want to rush ahead with some projects you can go and look on various other websites like you can go and look

2:26on the Trotec tech website you can go and look on the Epilogue website you can go and look on Monicas

2:33creative room which is a fantastic website for producing cards and all sorts of things there’s pinterest

2:41there’s there’s a whole world of craft and creativity out there on the interweb

2:46cardboard is not an expensive material but if you find it is too expensive than

2:53hey there’s lots of free cardboard around you might want to engineer your project initially in a a cheaper form of

3:02cardboard and such a cheap form of cardboard is the inside surface of

3:07cereal packs the cardboard used for cereal boxes just about the right weight so hey it’s a very cheap commodity to

3:15start cardboard engineering with ok that’s enough chat let’s get into RDWorks and start doing something we’ll be

3:22back here shortly to do some cutting okay well he’s a little first cardboard project it’s basically a little gift box

3:30so this is nice and plain and simple at the moment but we will decorate it

3:35later on but what we’ll do first of all is we’ll go and make sure that the box itself works we can’t get both of

3:43these out of the same piece of card so we should delete that this whole project

3:49designed around A4 size cards which you can easily buy a quick look at this

3:54project tells us that we’ve got an outside shape some holes

Transcript For Cardboard Engineering With A Laser– Part 1 (Cont….)

4:00and some perforations now all of those things are going to be cut and we’ll be

4:08able to do that all with the same setting so we can do that on one layer

4:14we can have a look at the cut parameters i will show you how i go about actually finding the right speed when we get onto

4:23the machine i’m going to guess at the moment and say that we could probably do this it around about it depends on the

4:28thickness of the cardboard it depends on the lens that I’ve got fitted to the Machine and I know that I’ve got a

4:34one-and-a-half inch lens which is quite a scalpely type lens it’s pretty good piercing through things with a fine cut

4:40so I think that we should probably have a speed of about maybe let’s start off

4:45at 15 millimeters a second because it the card is a little bit thicker than i would normally use and we’ll have a

4:53power now power is a funny thing because there’s a strange phenomenon that occurs which

4:59you’ve heard me talk about before it’s a hissy characteristic that the beam has at low currents the beam isn’t properly

5:07formed and it goes into a high-frequency high-power cutting mode and I exploit

5:15that a great deal for card cutting so we’ll make it fifteen 15 and at some

5:20future date i’ll explain more about this high frequency impact engraving mode

5:26that i’m using here it’s not something you can define it’s something you’ve got

5:31to find out for yourself with your particular tube okay we’re happy with that now all we got to do is order the cuts

5:38well if we take a look up here at the moment I’m going to take you to this little

5:43edit cut property if we click on there we shall find we’ve got hundreds 105

5:51elements that make up this drawing let’s do cancel and what we’re going to

5:57do is first of all we’re going to click on the outside shape so that’s the outside should we check the

Transcript For Cardboard Engineering With A Laser– Part 1 (Cont….)outside

6:02shape is red continuously all the way around which it is and we’ll put that into a group now we don’t really need to

6:09put that into a group because it’s just one item but the reason we’re putting it into a group is because we’re going to do this next we’re going to mark the

6:17whole lot very simple but then i’m going to hold down the shift key and i’m going

6:23to subtract the outside shape by clicking on it like that so now we’ve

6:29got everything that we didn’t mark in the first group and we’re going to put that into another group which is the

6:35second group ok let’s now go and have a look at our cut properties right so what we need to

6:41do is make sure that we do the perforations first so we mark the

6:46perforations by clicking on that group and that’s element number two will use

6:52the two hours at the top there and transfer that element across to a new list and then we’ve got this item here

6:59which we can transfer across the list as well so we know we’ve cut the perforations first and the outside shape

7:04second okay we’re happy now i’m using this offline computer at the moment

7:11still so we’ve saved that to you file and there will backtrack as I’ve shown

7:16you before with controls aid and will step back several steps until we get

7:22back to the original drawing and now we can delete this item

7:28we can program these now if these are

7:33made out of the same material we’ve already got the cut settings up there so we don’t need to worry about that but we

7:39need to do is to sort out the order now again we can see that we’ve got outside shapes and we’ve got inside shapes we

7:45want the inside shapes to cut first so what we do will click on the outside

7:51shape here hold down the shift key and click that outside shape as well because that’s nice and simple to do so now we

7:58collected to outside shapes and we’ll put those into a group and now all I’ve

Transcript For Cardboard Engineering With A Laser– Part 1 (Cont….)

8:04got to do is click on the whole lot hold down the shift key and remove the first group and there we go

8:11so that’s everything else now collected into a second group and we happy with that

8:18so let’s go and look at our cut properties and we need the holes cut

8:26first so let’s check that will put those across into a group and then we’ll do

8:31the outside shape put that across into a group and we done so programming is as

8:37simple as that and we’ll save that to you file and we call that box too ok that’s gonna cut those okay well here

8:47we are machines as i promised you were going to be using them scrap cardboard to do outside work with

8:55now we’ve got two types of cardboard here we’ve got some great stuff and white stuff now they feel about the same

9:03thickness but when they’re going to cut the same we can’t really say so to try and find out we’re going to use the

9:10great with Bobby’s it’s not really very flat and flat is something that we need

9:15to be if we’re going to be using a one-and-a-half inch lanes because the one-and-a-half in flames has only got

9:22focus range of around about a millimeter or millimeter and a half but before we do that we really want to try and find

9:29out what the cutting parameters are and a quick way of doing that is to use a

9:36scrap piece of material and i’m going to load up onto the machine here 40

9:41millimeter test square programmed into here but the parameters are wrong at the moment we’re going to change the cutting

9:47speed to we say 50 let’s take it up to 20 and see what happens

9:53and now we’ll just set the height correct now I’ve got a couple of gauges

9:58here which are step pages one of the measures in half millimetres and the other one

Transcript For Cardboard Engineering With A Laser– Part 1 (Cont….)

10:05 measures in millimetres so this one for instance that step is five millimetres and on this one the step is 5.5 so I’ve

10:14 got one which steps up in millimeters and another one which is half a millimeter bigger which gives me the increment in between for the

10:20 one-and-a-half inch lens are gotten here i need to have a six point five millimeter gap underneath it and then

10:27 we’ll just select the schedule button and we’ll take the take it down the

10:33shade and there we have six and a half liters simple as that no just a frame just test

10:41it we go

10:53let’s cut that nicely it’s got a black age on it as you can see which means that we’ve got some

11:00burning taking place as well as cutting so we can still go fastest so does that

11:07mean to say we can go to 55 let’s try 55 that’s a hell of a lot different than we

11:12started with


11:28now just try the test again

11:33now we’re getting virtually no mark off eh

11:39so this is the real test when you get a nice clean cut

11:44you know that you’ve nearly rich the maximum speed that you can we’ll try 65 but I think 65 is going to

11:53file on the basis of what I’ve just seen

Transcript For Cardboard Engineering With A Laser– Part 1 (Cont….)

12:0265 still drops out we’ve got a very nice eh on it it’s

12:09hardly burn at all now you can’t see that but what I will do as I would put it

12:15onto a piece of white card so that we can see what happens

12:22look at that virtually no market at all just the merest hit one mark and then

12:28the age goes clean so even at 65 we’re still not at the

12:34limit let’s try 70

12:40and now it doesn’t drop out it does just about but it didn’t drop

12:46out so I think we’ve reached more or less the limit let’s just check what the edge condition

12:53is virtually clean

13:00so what do we do that we run the risk of running at 75 or do we stay safe and go

13:06to 65 president because any real question here is it will drop it back to 65 knowing that it’s gonna work

13:12perfectly well so they’re the settings that were ideally looking for now fifteen percent 50-percent 65

13:18millimeters second now that’s the first thing that we need to do and this this procedure that I’ve

13:24got here a gradually increasing speed checking the age finish until it doesn’t

13:30drop out is the standard procedure for trying to find the best cutting speed

13:35that you can I’ve got another variable here which is the air now if i turn the air down it

13:42could change these seconds at the moment because i’m cutting cardboard all words

13:48or any other organic material you need the most air that you can possibly get

13:53if this was a critic then the rules would be different but i need maximum airflow at the moment for this

14:00particular arrangement we’ll go into doing the same sort of tests for checking other materials in

14:07another session but i thought i would just show you that procedure to start i’m using this bait at the moment

14:12because this is only a prototype I would normally cut card on a pin bait

14:21we set the pin bigger to do the job for real towards the end of this video but my

14:28well causes another problem which will do with as we approach

14:37so later on when we come to do the real box will set up in big but we’re just

14:44trying to do a quick prototype at the moment it doesn’t matter if we get marks on the back of the box anyway we’ll set

14:50the origin there will check the frame

14:57that works so we’ve done for it they can hear the

15:02hissing noise

15:09at some stage you may hear the noise go quiet when it’s doing the outside

15:22oh that last little bit went quiet hopefully we’ve got this right

15:32just on the verge of breaking through or not and that’s because of the other

15:38possible problem that mean way we may well have encountered with this machine but we struggled to get this car down

15:44over this corner here which probably means that there’s something bitter with

15:49the flatness at the table over this corner the table might not be level because remember i told you that this

15:56this particular lens is very sensitive to height let’s put some folds in here

Transcript For Cardboard Engineering With A Laser– Part 1 (Cont….)

16:03remember put some three bins in here like this

16:12and then across the bottom we need to follow the bottoms up like that 90 degrees

16:18you’ve got to glue voltages together let’s go and do that

16:25with some double-sided tape well here we got some very strong and double-sided tape is industrial quality

16:31and call VHB tape and as you can see it’s made by a company called tester or

16:36teaser page they’re cut the excess off and then we need a small piece on here

16:46well that’s a double-sided tape attached there now it’s just peel the backing off

16:52a little bit will put a tab on it like that we folded across at 45 degrees and

16:58put a tab on it will take this one off I put the tap the wrong way is forward

17:04to tap out the other way like that because what i want to do is fold the

17:10whole thing flat and lay it together they’re like that where it’s not

17:16sticking make sure everything is lined up and then we’ll go to the other end where the glue is we can press that down

17:25now we know that everything’s lined up what we can do is we can pull this out and everything’s nicely stuck together

17:37now the first thing we’ve got to do is a bit of a tricky job because we’ve got to get these for overlapping get this get

17:47this little rosette shape on the top there and then we should be able to push the whole lot together like that right

17:55now that’s the ideal situation that you want but the neatest solution would be

Transcript For Cardboard Engineering With A Laser– Part 1 (Cont….)

18:01to have all of that inside which all these four places in words like that

18:07mm and you can see how we’ve got like an internal rosette they’re ok they’re all

18:14nicely lined up with each other okay so now we’ve got a little rosette and the inside there

18:19what we need to do is get something round and flat on the end and here we’ve got pen with a nice big top on it and

18:28I’m i will block the view for you but I’m trying to put pressure in the center there

18:33and push it down and there we go now

18:39pressed it down when we look at the bottom the bottom is nice and neat so

18:46that’s the first part done and now what we’ve got to do we’re gonna go around these parts and we’ve got to fold these

18:52in words like this and ultimately we’re going to finish up is doing this but

19:03several things I notice first of all these pieces haven’t come out here so

19:15the game we think we got the speed right but we haven’t got the focusrite so i

19:22think we ought to go back and take a look at the focus issue before we do the real thing we’re not going to remove the

19:29honey candidate what’s underneath is this far table so what I like to do

19:36is to use this to face for an alternative

19:42and this is something that I have made and it’s nothing more than a piece of folded still the great advantage of this

19:54is it produces an even flat surface for me to put my pin bed on but before I put

Transcript For Cardboard Engineering With A Laser– Part 1 (Cont….)

20:00the pin based on what i’m going to do that to check the flatness of this

20:08and there we go look up made that so that’s just a snug fit under 15

20:15millimeters and it doesn’t go up onto the 16

20:2014.5 still got something like about point2

20:27under the 14.5 with a point to gap makes it about 14.7 15 is what we’re looking

20:36for and you believe that 15 is what we got to say that

20:42forget that 14.3 so that’s what a table looks like now when we were doing this

20:50you might remember that i pointed out this corner over here was a problem corner and sure enough it is a problem

20:57corner not terribly so I mean I had about 45 millimeter offset from my

21:03chinese machine when i checked the table so this one is pretty near perfect but not quite so what we’re going to do

21:12we’ve got some material here which is points7 of a millimeter thick and I’ve got some cardboard here which is point

21:20three of a millimeter thick your names are perfect dimensions for me to make a washer great advantage of having a lazy

21:27you can do your own fixes

21:34one workshop two washes points7

21:46and one washer points3 about that okay well hopefully with no fixed the

21:53problem so here’s the back corner and I’ve set that to 15 and that is you can

Transcript For Cardboard Engineering With A Laser– Part 1 (Cont….)

22:01hear from the way the air is stopping of just about got that corrective 50 near

22:07the front corner here

22:17outside us within probably about point 1 to point to a minute later fear correct and this front corner here i’d say

22:25that’s probably within point one in the back corner i would say that this spot

22:31on so it basically got 15 15 minus point 2 minus point one so i don’t think we

22:38really going to worry too much about that that’s near enough as perfect as we can get a table but one thing we didn’t

22:45do is to check the middle of course 50 spot-on

22:52now the reason I need the table set so perfectly it’s because i’m going to be using these

22:59but this is my pin table which i always used for cutting card I much prefer to

23:05have the card sitting up in the air so that any of the debris Falls right the way through and if you look carefully on

23:11this surface here you’ll see that it is slightly pockmarked and that’s because the excess energy that passes through

23:19the card gets absorbed into this surface here and does not reflect up and produce any burn marks on the back of the card

23:26so here we’ve got some dowel pins here 33 millimeters long I’ll sit those around the age to support

23:35the card that’s pretty good

23:40there’s a slight tendency fins to move just a little bit in the home because no matter how could you get holes

23:45they’ve got to be absolutely perfect to stop the pixar movie so we don’t really

23:50want the card to be moving around in space

23:56so what we do have a couple packing pieces there

Transcript For Cardboard Engineering With A Laser– Part 1 (Cont….)

24:04and i have a steel block we sit on top of those packing places

24:12now we got that card on top there now the middle of the moment is unsupported

24:18now because this is not a really complicated job but we do just put two

24:24or three pins in the Middle Ages to support the middle

24:31I just put the edge of that card on the steel block and hold it in place

24:40with a couple of magnets there we go so the card is now

24:45absolutely solid in space just set the debt 6.5

25:14he had he was gone quiet now this time we should find it

25:22just drop set so there’s a part 1

25:28part to it as well and part 2 which basically is the Beaufort the box will

25:33make it out of a pretty pink I’m not running this at the right speed

25:39this is running a very slow speed

25:51but will not turn this into it work surface with a piece of plywood you’ve seen how the first part works we need to

25:58fold the this is the outside here which is the hammer finish side so we’ll put

Transcript For Cardboard Engineering With A Laser– Part 1 (Cont….)

26:03some folds in there to start with we need to precrease these

26:13just put the beans in them now fold down the bottoms but before we do any more

26:20we’ve got to glue those two pieces together with some tape fourfold on that remove the other

26:27feedback intake completely check everything’s lined up hold up there because it’s not sticking and then the

26:34bit here which is sticky will push it down and then we’ll put this piece of tape out and stick the rest

26:43now we’ve got to just tuck these pieces into remember and then we’ve got to try and get them arranged so that they from

26:50they make that internal rosette

26:56so I hope you can see that they’re nice and symmetrically arranged into that nice little rosette and now we got to do

27:02is to go inside and push the center down

27:09never again it’s a beautiful job push these corners in

27:15and the whole thing falls in drops at fulton jumps out like that

27:21ok so that’s the box assembled now we got to do is these little pieces here

27:26now this is dead easy because all we got to do is fold them in half is a crease line across the middle before you put

27:32them together while you want to hold it with your fingers just spread them out a bit like that so that they’re separated

27:39now we do the same to the other one if we look at the easiest see they’re not

27:45quite the same one has got a slot in the top and the other one has got a slot in

27:52the bottom now the one that’s got the slot in the top needs to go on first

27:58what we’re going to do we’re going to close the whole box up we have clicked that should go into that slot like that

Transcript For Cardboard Engineering With A Laser– Part 1 (Cont….)

28:05and this one should go into this slot and then you should be able to do the same with this one because this one will

28:11now drop over the top will drop through there like that

28:20then we should go to put that one in that slot and this one in this slot and

28:25there we have a little presentation box but no we’ve made a little presentation box and I had planned to try and get it

28:33decorated and do a bit more with it today but sadly I think we’re running

28:39out of time and I think we should have to put this into a a part 2 which is good in a way because we should be able

28:44to squeeze a lot more into part two why don’t have time in part 1i think

28:51because i’m a bit of a finicky so-and-so it wasn’t absolutely essential to set

28:56that table flat and I have to just say that because there was no fault on the part of think places at that table

29:03wasn’t perfect it was not bad at all because the lenses that are supplied usually or 2-inch lens

29:10at a half-inch names and forage means now i’m using a one-half inch limbs

29:16which has got a particularly fussy depth sensitivity and I had to make sure that

29:24that table was set spot-on to do the job as you’ve seen it didn’t work quite in

29:29one corner because of slight variation in depth that does demonstrate the

29:35sensitivity of one-and-a-half inch lens but a one-and-a-half inch lens is a fantastic lens for cutting card you

29:42could do the same thing with the 2-inch lens and had I been using the 2-inch lens the table variation would have not

29:49mattered one little bit at all no blame for anything on think later or the

29:55chinese company to put this together and it’s just me being ultra fussy so thanks

30:00for your time today you need to think about the loved one that you’re going to give a gift to because we’re going to put some sort of

30:07presentation logo on this next time goodbye for nap

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