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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
File is a two-dimensional vector format file. If you're designing in Adobe Illustrator, please send us your original .ai file.
File is built at a 1:1 scale, preferably in inch-units
All text has been converted to outlines or paths
Cut-out text (reversed text) has bridges or has been stencilized
All stray points, duplicate lines, empty objects and text areas have been removed
No shapes have open contours
All shapes have been united, combined or merged
All objects are on the same layer
All holes and cutouts are at least 60% material thickness