It's unlikely you'll create a perfect product straight away. It usually takes a prototype or two to get your design just right.
This means that you're best to start small. You might want to work out what elements are most important, then try those out first before making your whole project – particularly if you're using interlocking parts.
After a couple of tries, you'll be familiar with the design process and how to design for certain kinds of materials and projects.
Don't overlook the advantages of good old-fashioned paper! Print out your design – you could consider this a free and instant first prototype. It's the ideal way to spot sizing errors, see whether you've made holes big enough, and get a feel for what your final result will look like.
To make this even more useful, adjust the width/weight of your stroke lines to match the thickness of the laser cut before you print. This will help you identify any areas that are too finely detailed to provide a good result.
The laser cuts different materials at different speeds. As a rule it takes longer to cut thicker materials than thinner ones. The laser is also faster at cutting straight lines than it is at cutting curves.
One excellent way of reducing your making cost is to share cutting lines. If you have two or more objects in your design with parallel lines, you can lay them side by side and remove one of the now-overlapping lines. This means you're effectively cutting out two pieces at once. (See the Starter Kit for the software package you're using to find out how to remove the unneeded double-lines.)
When using raster fill engraving, you're best to keep all of your raster fill engraved areas as close together as possible. This is because the head of the laser will have to pass over the gaps between the areas to be engraved many times before the job is done. This can unnecessarily increase your making time and cost.
The outside of the orange border in our templates represents the size of the material. This can vary though as the machines that cut the material to fit in the laser cutter are not as accurate as the laser. This also means the sheet is unlikely to have the same high quality finished edge left by the laser.
So if you want to be sure where the edge of the material is and ensure a smooth even edge, we recommend putting an outside cutting line around the edge of the white area. That means the material will be an exact size and have a consistent laser cut edge.
The laser burns away around 0.2mm each time it makes a cut. This means any areas in your design where cutting lines come closer together than 0.5mm could be burned away entirely, and any gaps narrower than 1mm are likely to be somewhat fragile.
There are so many options for your engraving settings, it can be hard to know which will work best for your design. Absolutely nothing beats prototyping a few different options, but we've got a few resources which can help.
First, be sure to check out the engraving photos on each of the material pages in the catalog.
Second, you'll find some great information here and here.