LightBurn Tutorial 11 – The Cut Planner

The Lightburn Software Series

The Lightburn Software is probably the best generic laser cutting software available (I use it for almost all of my laser work). This series has tutorials, hints and tips as well as the occasional speed comparisons between it and RDWorks. In this LightBurn Tutorial, we take a look at the Cut planner.

My thanks to the team at Lightburn for allowing me to embed their videos.


This video demonstrates the various options in the new cut planner, and shows how and when to use them.

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Lightburn tutorial using the cut planner
Lightburn Tutorial Using the Cut Planner

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial Cut Planner

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0:03 so I’ve been wanting to do a video

0:06 talking about the new cut planner for a

0:09 while so let’s jump in for anyone who

0:12 doesn’t know what the cut planner in

0:14 lightburn does or what it’s for it is

0:17 the part of lightburn that decides what

0:19 order to cut your project in so if I

0:22 create a bunch of things in a fairly

0:25 arbitrary order now I’ve actually made

0:28 this bad intentionally if I don’t have

0:31 the cut planner active then like Burton

0:34 just cuts these shapes in the order that

0:36 I created them in and that is rarely

0:38 what I want you can see all of these

0:41 really long travel moves in between

0:42 things that are pretty terrible so if I

0:46 have the default settings enabled which

0:51 are ordered by layer cut inner shapes

0:53 first and reduced travel moves now these

0:56 are the optimization settings and these

0:58 control how the cut planner orders the

1:01 things in your project so if I have the

1:04 default settings on you can see that now

1:08 it’s cutting these things in a fairly

1:10 logical order and the amount of travel

1:14 that it’s making is minimized

1:16 that’s usually what you want so there

1:21 are also a couple of options that

1:22 control other parts of this one of them

1:26 being cut inside shapes first if I were

1:30 to cut the outside square here before

1:34 cutting the inside circle and I had my

1:38 workpiece elevated above the bed on pins

1:41 like some people have cutting this

1:43 outside shape would mean that the whole

1:45 square would fall and I would never have

1:47 the chance to cut this inner circle if

1:49 you cut the circle first and the circle

1:51 falls out you don’t really care because

1:53 the outer square is still held in place

1:54 and when it gets cut it will drop and

1:57 it’s already done so having the cut

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial Cut Planner (Cont…)

2:00 inner shapes first setting on is

2:02 generally what you want and so you can

2:06 see here it cuts the inner circle then

2:09 moves on to the outside square cuts the

2:10 inner circle does the outside square and

2:12 so on

2:16 also available are some slightly more

2:20 interesting options so if I do this

2:26 light burn by default has scan all

2:30 shapes at once set and so with the

2:33 default options you’ll see that it does

2:36 its cutting the cuts first because I’ve

2:40 told it to and that’s bad so let’s fix

2:44 that so now I’ve got my scans first so

2:48 the scan is going to happen first and

2:50 that’s good but it’s scanning everything

2:52 all at the same time and then going

2:55 after the fact and doing the outline

2:57 cuts if your machine is well tuned and

3:00 fast this is ideal scanning everything

3:04 all in one swoop is a good idea and it

3:08 gets you the most efficient use of your

3:11 machine time for for people who have

3:13 fast machines if you have a slower

3:15 machine or a diode based machine this is

3:17 probably not what you want and if your

3:21 machine is a little bit loose or skip

3:24 steps occasionally or anything like that

3:26 doing all of these scans together and

3:29 then going back and doing the circles

3:31 around them mean that if your workpiece

3:34 shifts or you lose some steps along the

3:38 way when you were cutting the outlines

3:40 at the end they’re probably going to be

3:42 shifted and that means you’ve lost all

3:44 of these pieces so there are some new

3:46 options available number one you can say

3:49 scan groups together now I’ve set up

3:52 this file so that each of these objects

3:54 is a group and that means that by saying

3:59 scan groups for example here use this

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial Cut Planner (Cont…)

4:03 ambulance as an example if I say just

4:05 cut selected graphics you can see it’s

4:09 scanning all of these pieces together

4:11 that make up this ambulance in one go

4:14 and then doing the outline if I have

4:17 scanned shapes individually set what

4:21 happens is each of those pieces the

4:24 little light on top

4:26 in the body then the wheels and the cab

4:29 get scanned individually and that’s

4:31 going to take more time if you set scan

4:35 groups together then because I have all

4:37 of these pieces grouped it does this all

4:41 in one shot and then does the outline

4:43 and that’s what I want

4:46 so with this file I have each of these

4:50 shapes grouped as I’ve said there is a

4:53 new option in the optimization settings

4:55 to say order by group so if I remove the

4:58 order by layer and just say order by

5:00 group I also have cut inner shapes first

5:03 and because these scans are all inside

5:07 these outer shapes this is probably just

5:09 going to do what I want and so now you

5:13 can see it’s going to scan each item and

5:16 then do the outline and move on to the

5:19 next one and it’s doing these such that

5:23 it’s finishing each fully grouped item

5:26 before moving on to the next group item

5:28 so if I had to stop this partway through

5:31 my cut everything that I’ve cut up to

5:34 the point that I stopped it would be a

5:35 usable part so if the machine skips or

5:39 something happens it’s really going to

5:41 only affect that one piece not

5:43 everything else in the cut if you have

5:47 cuts that are a lot of small individual

5:50 pieces this works really well if your

5:52 cut is one large giant piece that all

5:56 has to work together then you’re kind of

5:58 out of luck

5:58 and you need a well tuned machine but

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial Cut Planner (Cont…)

6:00 this will help another of the options

6:05 that is new I’m going to bring in a

6:09 different file if you say reduce

6:17 direction or sorry I pardon me choose

6:19 best starting point so we’re going to

6:21 show you what this does without normally

6:25 light burn we’ll pick the starting point

6:28 of the object based on how that object

6:31 was created so these used to be squares

6:33 and I bent the sides and so you can see

6:36 that it’s going to start on

6:38 the corners of them and the circles all

6:41 start from the same point they’re

6:43 modeled from here and so on so every

6:46 circle starts from this side and goes

6:48 around this way and every square starts

6:50 at the upper corner and goes down that

6:52 may not be the best starting location so

6:55 in this case you can see that we’re

6:57 starting up here at the origin moving

6:59 all the way across the shape to the far

7:01 side and then cutting around there’s a

7:04 setting to choose the best starting

7:07 point which improves that so now you can

7:10 see that instead of going all the way to

7:12 the other side of this circle it starts

7:14 close to the upper corner and then jumps

7:18 immediately to the nearest point on this

7:20 shape and travels around it and so on

7:23 this is significantly faster and you can

7:26 see that my travel moves here are 2112

7:31 millimeters or about 21 seconds if I

7:34 just say don’t choose the best starting

7:38 point you can see now I’ve got 2,600

7:41 millimeters and 26 seconds so it takes a

7:43 little longer and I do a little more

7:44 traveling the problem with this is that

7:47 if your machine has any backlash at all

7:49 and you start somewhere in a shape that

7:55 is arbitrary particularly on curved

7:59 shapes so these for example these bowed

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial Cut Planner (Cont…)

8:03 squares if I start in the middle here

8:07 and move around the shape and the end of

8:10 my cut doesn’t exactly match the start

8:13 of my cut you’ll get little offsets and

8:15 because you’re in the middle of a long

8:18 line they’ll be quite visible so there

8:21 is now an option to say choose corners

8:23 if possible and what that does is we’ll

8:28 start at a corner if it can find one but

8:32 still choose an optimal starting point

8:34 so you can see here it’s chosen the

8:37 arbitrary starting point on the circle

8:38 and then chosen the closest corner on

8:41 this ship and it will choose the closest

8:44 corner on the next shape and so on

8:49 so in addition to that we also have cut

8:55 in direction order so I can say I want

8:58 to cut things from top bottom left or

9:00 right so without this enabled you can

9:04 see that this cut progresses somewhat

9:07 randomly it starts down the side bounces

9:10 back up again then does these parts then

9:14 jumps down to the bottom there’s nothing

9:17 necessarily wrong with that

9:19 some people happen to like things to

9:22 progress in an orderly direction so if

9:24 you say cut in a direction from top now

9:29 it will do the top and travel along and

9:33 then fill it in the bottom if you say

9:35 cut from left it’s going to try to cut

9:39 things from the left side toward the

9:41 right side this can be important if for

9:44 example your machine exhausts over here

9:49 you may want to cut items on one side

9:52 before you move to the side where the

9:55 exhaust is so that you don’t have smoke

9:57 blowing over freshly cut parts of your

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial Cut Planner (Cont…)

10:00 project there are other reasons that

10:04 people want to do this you may want to

10:07 cut from the bottom up from the top down

10:09 whatever and like Burton will now allow

10:10 you to do this choose best direction

10:14 allows lightburn to reverse if

10:16 necessary and I’ll show why or how

10:19 that’s useful let’s draw something

10:24 relatively simple so if I have a little

10:33 petal shape like a flower

10:40 I’m going to make a few of them if I

10:51 have my default settings enabled which

10:55 are Kutner shapes reduced direction

10:57 changes pardon pardon cut inner shapes

11:10 and reduce travel moves so these are the

11:12 defaults you can see each of these

11:16 petals has cut one at a time and as it

11:19 gets here to the end it slows down

11:22 changes direction to do the next one and

11:24 so we’ve got a lot of direction changes

11:27 at each end it reverses to do the next

11:31 one because they’re closed this isn’t a

11:33 bad thing but it’s maybe not the most

11:35 efficient way to do this if you enable

11:38 reduced direction and changes the cut

11:42 plan is a little different now you can

11:44 see that lightburn has decided that

11:46 it’s faster to jump across to do the

11:50 next shape than it was to pick one that

11:53 involved a direction change nearby there

11:57 is a threshold or a cut-off that’s

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial Cut Planner (Cont…)

12:00 built-in so it tries to pick things that

12:04 are smart but this if I were to run this

12:09 on my machine would take less time than

12:11 the other version because it’s not

12:14 stopping with each of these pedal cuts

12:16 it’s basically continuing at speed

12:19 moving across the shape finding another

12:21 thing nearby that’s going to be faster

12:24 and take less time than reversing

12:27 constantly so that option is useful it

12:31 may not be the thing you want all the

12:33 time but for things like this it’s very

12:37 very useful you can also see it in play

12:41 if I do something like this if I take

12:45 this shape and replicate it

12:49 a bunch until lightburn to cut this you

12:54 can see that because I started this from

12:57 here and drew it this way it’s going to

12:59 cut that line and then move to the next

13:02 line and move to the next line and so on

13:04 and it’s going to cut these in a zigzag

13:06 and you can see there it’s returning to

13:09 the starting point of the next line

13:10 cutting that line returning to the

13:12 starting point of the next line cutting

13:14 that line and so on this is actually a

13:17 little bit easier to see if I make this

13:20 a smooth path and Bend it just a little

13:25 bit so that you can actually watch the

13:27 cut happen so I’ll create an array of

13:32 these and so now you can see it cuts

13:37 that one scans across cuts this one

13:40 scans across cuts this one and so on and

13:42 so it’s cutting them all from left to

13:45 right now if I change the optimization

13:48 settings to reduce direction changes and

13:50 choose the best starting point and

13:56 choose the best direction in this case

13:58 that is important so choose the best

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial Cut Planner (Cont…)

14:01 direction means that for an open shape

14:03 lightburn is allowed to decide which

14:06 end to start it from and so in this case

14:09 you can see that rather than jumping all

14:12 the way across the shape to go here and

14:15 cut this way it’s decided that well this

14:17 end was closer to where I started so I’m

14:19 going to cut there and it’s going to cut

14:22 these in a zigzag which is a much faster

14:24 way to do this so you can see the number

14:27 of rapid moves here takes about four

14:28 seconds if I turn off the choose best

14:33 direction and choose best starting point

14:35 now you can see that the number of rapid

14:38 moves is very high and it takes about a

14:39 minute and 13 seconds to execute them so

14:42 much better to turn on the choose best

14:46 starting point and choose best direction

14:49 there’s also a new option that’s coming

14:53 this isn’t released yet but it will be

14:56 released in the 8:07 version and that

15:01 is remove overlapping lines so something

15:05 that happens often let’s do a simple

15:09 shape inside this so I’m going to make a

15:12 grid of these and I’m going to set them

15:20 to have no gap in between and so what

15:24 that means is instead of a space in

15:28 between all of these lines they are now

15:33 touching and that means that there are

15:35 duplicates so each of these squares is

15:38 now two lines or there are two lines

15:42 here overlapping one another and if I

15:45 cut this it’s going to cut every one of

15:47 those lines doubled now our D works has

15:51 an option to remove overlaps and it

15:54 works the problem with it is that it

15:57 affects cut planning and so if I want to

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial Cut Planner (Cont…)

16:01 cut inner shapes first but I have

16:05 removed all of those overlapping lines

16:08 then these shapes would no longer

16:10 actually be squares so as an example if

16:15 this was my shape let me turn this into

16:19 a path so that I can edit it and I want

16:23 to delete these so in our t-works if I

16:26 said remove overlapping lines this might

16:28 be the shape that I get like that the

16:33 problem with this is that this shape

16:35 doesn’t have an inside so this has no

16:39 idea whether it is inside this square or

16:42 not in order for it to know whether it

16:45 is inside something the something has to

16:48 actually have sides and so here it does

16:51 but now the problem is that these lines

16:54 are duplicates so in lightburn we’ve

16:56 added the option to remove overlapping

16:58 lines as part of the cut planner and so

17:01 the cut planner can figure out what is

17:04 inside of what and then go back and cut

17:08 the other pieces and so you can see here

17:12 that it

17:13 cut the inside shape and then it’s cut

17:17 whatever was left of the square that

17:20 used to surround it and so on and so

17:22 it’s going to do the right thing all the

17:26 way to the end we will have the option

17:33 to allow you to remove overlapping lines

17:36 as part of the project before too long

17:40 but having it integrated into the cut

17:43 planner means that the inside-outside

17:45 sorting isn’t affected and so I actually

17:47 thought it was more useful to do it this

17:49 way first in addition to being simpler I

17:54 think we have covered everything except

17:57 for order by priority and that is a new

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial Cut Planner (Cont…)

18:01 one which allows you to specify the

18:05 absolute order that you want things cut

18:07 in in lightburn so to demonstrate that

18:12 I’m going to do a simple shape let me do

18:19 this guy and I’ll just make small

18:24 handful of them so these circles I’ve

18:29 created they are all the same if I use

18:34 my default cut settings will go back all

18:37 the way down to just cut inner shapes

18:39 first and reduce travel moves it’s just

18:42 going to cut these in some order that

18:44 makes sense and that’s fine if let’s say

18:48 I wanted all of these wings cut first

18:53 and then these wings cut later I can

18:57 change the cut order property in here

19:00 and so these ones I want cut after the

19:04 other ones so I’m going to set them to

19:05 one and all of these ones are still set

19:08 to zero so that cut order in the

19:12 optimization settings if I say order by

19:14 priority

19:17 means that lightburn will do all of

19:19 those shapes first and then do all of

19:23 these shapes and still do all of the

19:27 other planning that I have told it to do

19:29 in addition to that and so if I wanted

19:32 to get even more specific and say hey I

19:36 want to cut these ones first I can make

19:43 those negative one I can make these zero

19:47 I can make those one and I’ll make say

19:52 these ones too it’s just a number and

19:56 basically a low number cuts first and a

19:59 higher number cuts later and so now you

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial Cut Planner (Cont…)

20:02 can see it’s going to cut that group

20:05 first and then that group and then this

20:09 group and then that group the benefit of

20:17 this is that it actually lets you go as

20:19 far as fully manual cut planning if

20:23 that’s honestly what you want to do so

20:25 if I wanted these shapes to always cut

20:28 in a very very specific order I can use

20:32 the shape properties and say I want this

20:34 to be number zero I want this one to be

20:37 number one I want this one to be number

20:41 two I want this one to be number three

20:44 and I want this one me to be number four

20:51 this is exactly what it’ll do

20:56 and again within that cut or during all

21:04 of the other things still hold true so I

21:07 can say I want to order by group and

21:11 then order by priority I can say I want

21:14 to order by priority first and then

21:17 order by group within that I can say I

21:20 want to order by layer first then by

21:24 priority then my group and so on and the

21:27 way that this works is it will apply

21:29 this first and then whatever falls out

21:32 of this is then passed on to the next

21:35 thing and so any whole group in here

21:40 will now get passed to the priority

21:42 thing so an entire layer at a time will

21:44 then get sorted by priority if I put

21:47 groups first for example then within a

21:50 group it would order by layer and then

21:52 within a layer it would order by

21:54 priority and so on so this gives you the

21:57 ability to do very very complicated

21:59 things with your cuts and it should

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial Cut Planner (Cont…)

22:03 allow for pretty much any possible

22:08 ordering that you might want

22:09 particularly when combined with all of

22:11 the other things like directional

22:13 ordering and so on that was a little

22:16 longer than I wanted

22:17 however hopefully you’ve learned

22:19 something and happy cutting

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Last updated August 26, 2021


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