Laser - Fabric/clothes?

Hello Snapmaker world! I am a new Snapmaker user.
I am running into issues with my laser printing/etching on fabric. I can upload the image and I have tweaked the setting a lot of different ways and it still doesn’t work.
Can someone could help provide me with the setting that would be used to do this image on a tote bag and/or other fabric???


Thanks for the help in advance!

“Doesn’t work” isn’t really a lot to go on. Do you mean that the Snapmaker is doing absolutely nothing, is trying to etch but leaving no marks, or is trying to etch and leaving marks, but not producing the results you want?

What happens if you try to etch the design into paper or cardboard? If it can’t manage to mark paper, well, there are a couple of people who have had issues with the laser’s power being turned down to almost nothing due to settings problems. Or you might have hit a Luban bug or a hardware problem.

What kind of fabric are you using (sticking with light-coloured cotton is probably a good idea, at least initially)?

What image are you trying to etch? A lot of photos need some pre-precessing to get good results.

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Hi ElloryJaye,

Thanks for replying. I am excited to get this conversation started.

Let me clarify my experience;
I have been successful using the laser module on bamboo and acacia wood, but the success from these materials is because they are a thicker material.
I have used a variety of settings, but every time I try on fabric it burns right through. I am currently using a light canvas fabric. I have tested both a simple image and complex one and I have experienced the same issue. I have searched a lot of videos on YouTube, but none show the Snapmaker being used with fabric.

My question;
Has anyone been successful using their laser module on fabric? If so, I would love to know more about their process and the settings used.

Thanks,
Amanda

Have you tried decreasing power and/or increasing speed?

Some materials do not darken well. Wood has a nice long linear region where as the laser energy is absorbed it gradually turns darker. Paper is not so generous - the material absorbs energy doing nothing for a while, then rapidly blackens and burns. Finding speed and power to burn a grayscale image onto paper is very difficult compared to wood, it’s sensitive to small changes.

The thickness of the material is not particularly important except for cutting. Engraving only affects the top of the material (within a reasonable heat affected zone).

It looks like Snapmaker’s demo was on a heavy canvas.

Whatever material you’re using you will need to perform a series of power and speed tests to identify where the material begins to darken, and when it reaches the black point you desire.

Hypothetically, let’s say at 300mm/min it begins to darken at 15% power and is dark enough at 50% power. Those settings would then be entered in software.

To come up with those settings you would need a power test grid and run at various speeds. Various people in here have their own methods for determining power and speed, I’m sure the search can locate some of them.

I’m going to start playing with this in the next couple of days. I’ll let you know what I find out.
My first thought is that trying to do grayscale seems like it would be problematic on all but the smoothest of materials because of the way it pulses and uses dots to create the image. I think vector or b&w will be necessary. That image looks like it might be grayscale, but I wouldn’t really be shocked if it wasn’t done on an SM either.
Whether it can or not I think starting with b&w is the way to go.

I think getting the balance of speed and power right is the key. Wood is fairly forgiving and generally you can get similar results going fast at high power and slow at low power.
The way I’ll probably approach this is to take a 15mm square sample of my image and repeat it in Luban 5 times. On most items I’m trying to run as fast as I can so I start with power as high as I can and test speed. On this I’m more interested in trying to figure out power so I’ll start at 400mm/m and set the power on each sample from 10 to 50%. See what happens with that and go from there.

-S

Okay, I finally had a chance to do some tests on some fabric. (It’s nice to be working again and not on furlough, but less chance to play with my snappy)

If you want to cut to the chase, skip to my summary at the end.

Test material: Basic canvas cotton bag I happened to have on hand .8mm thickness Looks very similar to sample on SM sight (No idea what the strength/weight of cloth was.)

I first needed to figure out a speed/power ratio. I created the word ‘test’ in luban and repeated it 8 times in vector with fill at max density, speed 1500mm/m. Then set power on each from 5 to 80%.


As you can see the 80% got a little well done.

(First time setting something on fire with my SM) If this was wood I probably would’ve gone with the 50%, but fabric was splitting on the ‘t’'s. So I chose 30% as my preferred setting.
I then ran the same test varying speed while adjusting power to keep around the same ratio.

There wasn’t as much difference as I expected in darkness but the 30% at 3000 caused less damage through the fabric than 30% at 1500. However all of the passes weakened the fabric. The 't’s on the 40&50 went all the way through and the 1500’s tore with little effort.
Maybe it would be possible with thicker fabric (like canvas duck cloth) but I wouldn’t recommend using vector (or b&w) with fabric. The repeated passes just cause too much damage.

I then decided to move on to trying greyscale. I was wondering if the way it uses dots and not a constant beam would be less damaging.
For the test material I used this picture (converted in GIMP from color)


I resized it to 50mm wide in Luban, Floyd-steinburg algorithm with default settings.
Repeated 3 times 30% @ 3000mm/m and varied the dwell time to 3, 5 & 8

Really happy with quality but you can see how much the image came through on the back and with very little effort the dark areas tear.

Then decided to see what happened if I reduced dwell to 1 and varied power 30, 20, 10%:


Definitely the least through damage and what you see was only after I pulled fairly hard. So for display it would be fine, but I wouldn’t want to be trusting it as an actual bag.

Lastly I did some tests setting the density to half. It really didn’t change much. To get the equivalent image darkness it needed twice the power and the fabric damage didn’t change while sacrificing detail (although on this test material it wasn’t that obvious).

Summary:
Yes it is possible to get results equal to those of the “Mr. Tiger” bag from the first post.
However the durability of the fabric is compromised and it may not be practical in real world use. (need to acquire some thicker material to verify this) At the very least fabric density and strength should be considered when choosing materials.
Faster speeds and lower dwell time causes less burn through/fabric damage.
The dots of grayscale are less damaging than the repeated passes of vector.

-S

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There are some things to consider:

  1. Don’t use B&W. It will cut the fabric! Grayscale will work. Maybe you have to change the format of your picture from vector (.svg) to bitmap (.png)…
  2. Don’t use a high resulution. It will cut the fabric! A resolution of 4 points should be enough.
  3. Find a good setting for the laser power. I suppose starting with 50% should be ok.

With these settings you have to find the best speed with respect to your fabric.
Good luck!

I found to my surprise (at least with the fabric I was using) this actually didn’t make a difference. To get the equivalent darkness I had to increase power an equivalent amount. So either I did a resolution of 5 at 50% or 10 at 25% and got the same exposure and same fabric damage.

I forgot to include that I also tried the grayscale “line - normal quality” and this had the same adverse effects as vector or b&w. And the output looked terrible. Even if you’re just doing a black image you’ll want to use grayscale dots on fabric.

-S


This is the result of my work…

3 Likes

Wow … I have no words - Looks great

What were your settings at last?

Thank you! Can’t wait to try this weekend!!!

Looks great…what were your settings please @MichaelS?

I Imported the picture as png-file.
The laser settings where:
Working speed: 700
Laser power 65 %
Density: 6 dots

The fabric had a density of 140g/m2.

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Just like most above posts mention, the laser cutting is in general rather damaging to any fabric.
I tried many of above mentioned workarounds, but found that there is simlpy no way to get a print like contrast without inacceptable damage.
However, lowering the laser strength down by any means got me result I could live with for now. This worked fine with

  • both B/W AND grayscale
  • a dewlling time around 5
  • density around 5 and
  • laser power at around 50%.
    Work speed and other factors were left at defaults.

The issue with using a laser is that it is a subtractive process that works by removing matter. Even when used at a low setting, your are still removing matter, just not as much. Since you are removing matter, you are weakening the fabric, lowering the durability, and reducing the number of times that it can be washed. If it’s for decoration only, then this probably doesn’t matter.

Have you thought about using the 3D Printer module instead? And using a very soft TPU that you can infuse into the fabric? I seem to remember some experiments a while back, with some having success. You need to find the right TPU, and you also need to find an adhesive that will hold the fabric to the heated bed. You can use something like a Brayer Roller, when adhering the fabric to the heated bed, to ensure that the fabric is spread evenly and flat. You might even use a powdered or spray adhesive on top of the fabric, like the kinds used with embroidery, to help it adhere to the filament.

Slightly different use case here, but my wife wanted to figure out if I could laser transfer patterns for embroidery. Tested a few different settings, and the fabric makes a big difference (as does the density of the pattern). These are both at 30% and 2000 mm/min:

If you zoom in on the bottom corner of the second one, you can see some of the test passes we did. It’s a huge pain to create these in Luban, since it seems like you have to create the toolpaths one object at a time…

It definitely damages the material, but hopefully not enough that it loses too much strength. See how they look when completed.