Designing for Laser Cutting in Inkscape

In this tutorial we'll cover all the basics for designing for laser cutting in Inkscape.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

Before you begin, here’s some things you should do consider when creating your file:

Display and document units are set to inches
Document size is equal to your material size


As you are designing, I recommend periodically viewing your document in the Outline display mode. This will make it easier to find empty objects and stray points.

OBJECT SIZING

Individual parts should have an overall size larger than 0.5” x 0.5". Since each individual part will have a microtab (a tiny link to the nest to keep objects from falling into the abyss), having parts smaller than 0.5”-1” makes them difficult to separate from your material. You risk distorting your objects and quite possibly a lot of frustration.

Be aware of your material thickness when creating your objects and type. Keep all holes and cutout areas (including type) a minimum width of 1.5x material thickness. Any cutouts smaller than material thickness will not be accurate and may not be possible to cut.

COMMON ISSUES

Avoid sharp angles and details smaller objects. Details and small features should never be smaller than the laser beam width (.008"-.010"). Again, using material thickness as a minimum size for details would be a good rule of thumb.

If you’re cutting type out of your design, like a stencil, be sure to use a font with stencil properties, or be sure to manually create "bridges" to the holes in your letters.

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Be sure that none of your objects have open contours or non-continuous geometry. In other words, all shapes should have a fully connected outline. An easy way to find these openings is to view your design in Outline display mode.

If you do find open contours you can join or close the nodes. To do this, use the Use the Edit paths by nodes tool (F2). The nodes are the gray boxes you see around the outline of your object. Select the two nodes you want to join. They will turn blue when they are selected. 

Click the Join selected endpoints with a new segment button. This will connect your nodes and close your contour.

Be on the look out for multiple shapes overlapping each other. When you find these, use the Boolean Operations in the Path menu to combine or exclude your objects. You will use the Union, Division, and Exclusion tools often while designing.

Make sure your design does not have any intersecting lines. Intersecting lines or lines that cross each will yield in unexpected results. You can find these once again by viewing your design in Outline display mode. Intersecting lines can be removed by using the Break path at selected nodes button.

ARRANGING YOUR OBJECTS

When arranging multiple parts, there are some important things to keep in mind.

  • Be sure to refer to your material thickness when arranging your objects on the sheet.
  • Your parts should be separated at least 1.5x material thickness from each other.
  • Make sure no two objects share a common line.
  • Check that all your objects are on the same layer.

CLEANING UP YOUR FILE

Before you export your file to upload to us, be sure to remove everything that is not to be cut. Move your main objects slightly and then view your document in Outline display mode. You will quickly see any empty or duplicate objects.

Make sure all your objects are on the same layer. If you've downloaded one of our templates, you'll want to delete the "INSTRUCTIONS - DELETE BEFORE EXPORT" layer. This layer comes locked, but before you delete it, click the visibility icon to make sure you haven't accidentally put any of your artwork on this layer.

EXPORTING YOUR DESIGN

We've set everything up on our end to make exporting and uploading as painless as possible. All we ask is that you save your files in DXF format. I would suggest making sure both the ROBO-Master spline and LWPOLYLINE boxes are checked and your units are set to inches.

As always, before you export go through the usual pre-flight checklist to make sure your file is ready to be cut.

My file is 2D
My file is built at a 1:1 scale
All my type is outlined
Reversed type has bridges
I have cleaned up all stray points, empty objects and text areas
All my objects are on the same layer
All holes and cutouts are at least 1.5x material thickness
No feature or detail is smaller than 0.010"