LightBurn Tutorial 11 – 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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0:03so I’ve been wanting to do a video

0:06talking about the new cut planner for a

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

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

0:14like burn does or what it’s for it is

0:17the part of life burn that decides what

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

0:22create a bunch of things in a fairly

0:25arbitrary order now I’ve actually made

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

0:31the cut planner active then like Burton

0:34just cuts these shapes in the order that

0:36I created them in and that is rarely

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

0:41really long travel moves in between

0:42things that are pretty terrible so if I

0:46have the default settings enabled which

0:51are ordered by layer cut inner shapes

0:53first and reduced travel moves now these

0:56are the optimization settings and these

0:58control how the cut planner orders the

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

1:04default settings on you can see that now

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

1:10logical order and the amount of travel

1:14that it’s making is minimized

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

1:21are also a couple of options that

1:22control other parts of this one of them

1:26being cut inside shapes first if I were

1:30to cut the outside square here before

1:34cutting the inside circle and I had my

1:38workpiece elevated above the bed on pins

1:41like some people have cutting this

1:43outside shape would mean that the whole

1:45square would fall and I would never have

1:47the chance to cut this inner circle if

1:49you cut the circle first and the circle

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

1:53the outer square is still held in place

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

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

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial – Cut Planner (Cont…)

2:00inner shapes first setting on is

2:02generally what you want and so you can

2:06see here it cuts the inner circle then

2:09moves on to the outside square cuts the

2:10inner circle does the outside square and

2:12so on

2:16also available are some slightly more

2:20interesting options so if I do this

2:26light burn by default has scan all

2:30shapes at once set and so with the

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

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

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

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

2:48the scan is going to happen first and

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

2:52all at the same time and then going

2:55after the fact and doing the outline

2:57cuts if your machine is well tuned and

3:00fast this is ideal scanning everything

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

3:08gets you the most efficient use of your

3:11machine time for for people who have

3:13fast machines if you have a slower

3:15machine or a diode based machine this is

3:17probably not what you want and if your

3:21machine is a little bit loose or skip

3:24steps occasionally or anything like that

3:26doing all of these scans together and

3:29then going back and doing the circles

3:31around them mean that if your workpiece

3:34shifts or you lose some steps along the

3:38way when you were cutting the outlines

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

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

3:44of these pieces so there are some new

3:46options available number one you can say

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

3:52this file so that each of these objects

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

3:59scan groups for example here use this

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial – Cut Planner (Cont…)

4:03ambulance as an example if I say just

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

4:09scanning all of these pieces together

4:11that make up this ambulance in one go

4:14and then doing the outline if I have

4:17scanned shapes individually set what

4:21happens is each of those pieces the

4:24little light on top

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

4:29get scanned individually and that’s

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

4:35groups together then because I have all

4:37of these pieces grouped it does this all

4:41in one shot and then does the outline

4:43and that’s what I want

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

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

4:53new option in the optimization settings

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

4:58order by layer and just say order by

5:00group I also have cut inner shapes first

5:03and because these scans are all inside

5:07these outer shapes this is probably just

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

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

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

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

5:23it’s finishing each fully grouped item

5:26before moving on to the next group item

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

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

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

5:35usable part so if the machine skips or

5:39something happens it’s really going to

5:41only affect that one piece not

5:43everything else in the cut if you have

5:47cuts that are a lot of small individual

5:50pieces this works really well if your

5:52cut is one large giant piece that all

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

5:58out of luck

5:58and you need a well tuned machine but

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial – Cut Planner (Cont…)

6:00this will help another of the options

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

6:09different file if you say reduce

6:17direction or sorry I pardon me choose

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

6:21show you what this does without normally

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

6:28of the object based on how that object

6:31was created so these used to be squares

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

6:36that it’s going to start on

6:38the corners of them and the circles all

6:41start from the same point they’re

6:43modeled from here and so on so every

6:46circle starts from this side and goes

6:48around this way and every square starts

6:50at the upper corner and goes down that

6:52may not be the best starting location so

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

6:57starting up here at the origin moving

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

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

7:04setting to choose the best starting

7:07point which improves that so now you can

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

7:12the other side of this circle it starts

7:14close to the upper corner and then jumps

7:18immediately to the nearest point on this

7:20shape and travels around it and so on

7:23this is significantly faster and you can

7:26see that my travel moves here are 2112

7:31millimeters or about 21 seconds if I

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

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

7:41millimeters and 26 seconds so it takes a

7:43little longer and I do a little more

7:44traveling the problem with this is that

7:47if your machine has any backlash at all

7:49and you start somewhere in a shape that

7:55is arbitrary particularly on curved

7:59shapes so these for example these bowed

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial – Cut Planner (Cont…)

8:03squares if I start in the middle here

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

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

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

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

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

8:21is now an option to say choose corners

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

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

8:32still choose an optimal starting point

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

8:37arbitrary starting point on the circle

8:38and then chosen the closest corner on

8:41this ship and it will choose the closest

8:44corner on the next shape and so on

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

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

8:58to cut things from top bottom left or

9:00right so without this enabled you can

9:04see that this cut progresses somewhat

9:07randomly it starts down the side bounces

9:10back up again then does these parts then

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

9:17necessarily wrong with that

9:19some people happen to like things to

9:22progress in an orderly direction so if

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

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

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

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

9:39things from the left side toward the

9:41right side this can be important if for

9:44example your machine exhausts over here

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

9:52before you move to the side where the

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

9:57blowing over freshly cut parts of your

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial – Cut Planner (Cont…)

10:00project there are other reasons that

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

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

10:09whatever and like Burton will now allow

10:10you to do this choose best direction

10:14allows light burn to reverse if

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

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

10:24relatively simple so if I have a little

10:33petal shape like a flower

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

10:51have my default settings enabled which

10:55are Kutner shapes reduced direction

10:57changes pardon pardon cut inner shapes

11:10and reduce travel moves so these are the

11:12defaults you can see each of these

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

11:19gets here to the end it slows down

11:22changes direction to do the next one and

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

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

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

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

11:35efficient way to do this if you enable

11:38reduced direction and changes the cut

11:42plan is a little different now you can

11:44see that light burn has decided that

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

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

11:53involved a direction change nearby there

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

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial – Cut Planner (Cont…)

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

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

12:09on my machine would take less time than

12:11the other version because it’s not

12:14stopping with each of these pedal cuts

12:16it’s basically continuing at speed

12:19moving across the shape finding another

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

12:24and take less time than reversing

12:27constantly so that option is useful it

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

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

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

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

12:45this shape and replicate it

12:49a bunch until like burn to cut this you

12:54can see that because I started this from

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

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

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

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

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

13:09the starting point of the next line

13:10cutting that line returning to the

13:12starting point of the next line cutting

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

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

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

13:25bit so that you can actually watch the

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

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

13:37that one scans across cuts this one

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

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

13:45right now if I change the optimization

13:48settings to reduce direction changes and

13:50choose the best starting point and

13:56choose the best direction in this case

13:58that is important so choose the best

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial – Cut Planner (Cont…)

14:01direction means that for an open shape

14:03light burn is allowed to decide which

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

14:09you can see that rather than jumping all

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

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

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

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

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

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

14:27of rapid moves here takes about four

14:28seconds if I turn off the choose best

14:33direction and choose best starting point

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

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

14:39minute and 13 seconds to execute them so

14:42much better to turn on the choose best

14:46starting point and choose best direction

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

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

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

15:01is remove overlapping lines so something

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

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

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

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

15:24that means is instead of a space in

15:28between all of these lines they are now

15:33touching and that means that there are

15:35duplicates so each of these squares is

15:38now two lines or there are two lines

15:42here overlapping one another and if I

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

15:47those lines doubled now our D works has

15:51an option to remove overlaps and it

15:54works the problem with it is that it

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

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial – Cut Planner (Cont…)

16:01cut inner shapes first but I have

16:05removed all of those overlapping lines

16:08then these shapes would no longer

16:10actually be squares so as an example if

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

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

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

16:26said remove overlapping lines this might

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

16:33problem with this is that this shape

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

16:39idea whether it is inside this square or

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

16:45is inside something the something has to

16:48actually have sides and so here it does

16:51but now the problem is that these lines

16:54are duplicates so in light burn we’ve

16:56added the option to remove overlapping

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

17:01the cut planner can figure out what is

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

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

17:12that it

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

17:17whatever was left of the square that

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

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

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

17:33to allow you to remove overlapping lines

17:36as part of the project before too long

17:40but having it integrated into the cut

17:43planner means that the inside-outside

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

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

17:49way first in addition to being simpler I

17:54think we have covered everything except

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

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial – Cut Planner (Cont…)

18:01one which allows you to specify the

18:05absolute order that you want things cut

18:07in in light burn so to demonstrate that

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

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

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

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

18:34my default cut settings will go back all

18:37the way down to just cut inner shapes

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

18:42going to cut these in some order that

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

18:48I wanted all of these wings cut first

18:53and then these wings cut later I can

18:57change the cut order property in here

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

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

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

19:08to zero so that cut order in the

19:12optimization settings if I say order by


19:17means that light burn will do all of

19:19those shapes first and then do all of

19:23these shapes and still do all of the

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

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

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

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

19:43those negative one I can make these zero

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

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

19:56basically a low number cuts first and a

19:59higher number cuts later and so now you

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial – Cut Planner (Cont…)

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

20:05first and then that group and then this

20:09group and then that group the benefit of

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

20:19far as fully manual cut planning if

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

20:25if I wanted these shapes to always cut

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

20:32the shape properties and say I want this

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

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

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

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

20:51this is exactly what it’ll do

20:56and again within that cut or during all

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

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

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

21:14to order by priority first and then

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

21:20want to order by layer first then by

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

21:27way that this works is it will apply

21:29this first and then whatever falls out

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

21:35thing and so any whole group in here

21:40will now get passed to the priority

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

21:44then get sorted by priority if I put

21:47groups first for example then within a

21:50group it would order by layer and then

21:52within a layer it would order by

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

21:57ability to do very very complicated

21:59things with your cuts and it should

Transcript for LightBurn Tutorial – Cut Planner (Cont…)

22:03allow for pretty much any possible

22:08ordering that you might want

22:09particularly when combined with all of

22:11the other things like directional

22:13ordering and so on that was a little

22:16longer than I wanted

22:17however hopefully you’ve learned

22:19something and happy cutting

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Last updated August 26, 2021


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