Cutting paper in the laser can be challenging. The stock has to be held down uniformly across the surface, particularly if you are cutting small pieces out entirely. Otherwise, the air assist can move the cut-out bits around and, they can interfere with other cuts.

I mostly have been using Seklema hold-down mats for this. They have a sticky gel layer that holds the paper down without transferring any residue. They work really well but, they ablate with use and, are a bit expensive.

With some laser cutters, you can get a vacuum tray that holds lightweight materials like paper down with controlled airflow. There isn’t one of those for the Glowforge. So, I made my own.

This is heavily inspired by several other vacuum trays made by other Glowforge owners in this forum thread.

I designed this in Inkscape. I used a tabbed box generator for the two main bodies: the tray and the fan box. I modified the output to break the pieces into sizes I can cut in the Glowforge and, to add additional features like holes for the fan and electronics and channels for air flow.

The tray is 1/4” thick MDF. I lined the bottom with aluminum foil for extra protection in case any stray lasering gets through. It’s probably overkill but, I sealed the seams with silicone caulk to reduce air leaks. The cutting surface is a piece of perforated stainless steel plate sandwiched in an MDF frame. That is held down to the rest of the tray using magnets, with an EVA foam gasket to help with air leaks.

The fan box is 1/8” thick MDF with press-fit holes for the power connector and switch. The fan is bolted on to the end opposite the switch. This uses a 12v fan and a standard 12v power supply. The cord hangs out through the front of the lid of the machine.

I painted all the MDF black so it would look more finished and less cobbled together.

Cutting the plate steel without access to a shear was a new adventure for me but, worked out really well.

It works great, as you can see in the 1.6-minute demo video below.

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