Laser Cutting and Engraving

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Laser Cutting and Engraving at Narwhal Labs

About our tools:

We have a Thunder Laser Nova 35 100W CO2 laser with a CW-5000 chiller, exhaust, and 2 stage air assist. It has an adjustable Z axis and autofocus. Lightburn has a camera connected and calibrated for image/material placement and tracing. We also have a RotoBoss roller rotary for engraving cups, water bottles, and more. This laser runs primarily on LightBurn for a software package, though RDWorks is available to use if you're more comfortable with it. A camera connected to lightburn makes aligning projects easier, and includes some tracing features. A laptop is always connected to the laser with necessary software available on it. Please use a flash drive for your files. Settings and files are not saved on the laptop.

The manual for the Nova 35 can be found here.

This laser and our software was generously provided to us by Thunder Laser USA. We appreciate if you can tag and mention them on social media when using it. It helps them know how much we appreciate their contribution to our space.

Laser Safety

  • Locate the emergency stop and type BC Halotron fire extinguisher
  • Be sure chiller is on and exhaust duct is open
  • Never leave a running laser unattended
  • Do NOT ever defeat or bypass safety interlocks*
  • NEVER cut/engrave PVC or other vinyl and unknown materials*
  • Make sure laser is in focus to your material
  • Preserve our tools! Run lower speeds at lower power when possible
  • Clean up and close exhaust duct when finished
  • If you don't know, ASK!

*Special note about PVC: When PVC is cut or engraved, it emits deadly chlorine gas, which in addition to being extremely toxic in even small amounts will nearly instantly corrode the internals of the machine. PVC is also known under many other trade names such as Sintra. Even common craft adhesive vinyl such is Oracal 651 is PVC based. If you think a material could be PVC based, do not even consider cutting or engraving it on any laser cutter/engraver. Putting ANY materials that you do not know the makeup of in the machine is strictly prohibited.

*Note about UV radiation: This laser emits highly concentrated UV light that can permanently damage vision and cause injury. While the lid and access panels are closed, the laser is safe to operate. Specialized UV laser radiation protective glasses are available if you want extra assurance. Defeating safety interlocks to run the laser with the lid open is strictly prohibited. Operating the laser with a pass-through panel open is permitted only with staff or mentor assistance. Operators must wear laser safety glasses if the pass-through is open.


Operating Notes

In our own testing, we found that it is better to "send" your job to the laser, open it on the LCD panel, and run it from the laser. Running the job directly from lightburn can result in some undesired results with the dual-stage air assist, and is not supported for the rotary engraver.


The laser head must be fully inserted prior to running autofocus. While autofocus on the machine works, please be prepared to hit the e-stop if you believe the laser head is about to crash into your workpiece. Crashes can result in time consuming re-alignment procedures needing to be performed. Make sure your workpiece is in line with the IR autofocus sensors. Manual focus by getting your workpiece close and manually adjusting the height of the laser lens using the supplied acrylic "puck" and tightening with the thumb screw is an easy and reliable way to focus the laser.


Laser tubes are a consumable and have a limited life. Tubes last on average around 3 years or 3000 hours. This time is severely shortened when running the tube at full power. If you can please run your job with multiple passes at a lower power, or a lower power and slower speed please do and help us keep the laser running as long as possible.

Material and Machine Settings

Main Article:Laser Materials and Settings