Waterjet Cutting Design Guidelines

To waterjet cut your parts as quickly and accurately as possible, please make sure your files meet our guidelines. The better the file, the better the parts!

Best File Formats for Waterjet Cutting

Files Accepted by Our Instant Quote System:

Adobe Illustrator.ai

For waterjet cutting, we only accept vector files. This includes DXF (Preferred) AI (Adobe Illustrator), EPS, and DWG (more coming soon) in our automatic online quoter.

If you design your parts in Adobe Illustrator, send us the original (native) ai file. We’ll take care of the conversion on our end. Please note that we cannot accept or process STL (mesh) files or raster-type (JPEG, TIFF, PNG, BMP) files.

Stuck with only a raster file (JPEG, GIF, PNG)?

We have tutorials to help you convert your art to a vector format in Adobe Illustrator and Inkscape.

File Requirements

We’re here to help you every step of the way in designing your waterjet cut parts. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Shapes, holes, or cutouts are thick enough for the chosen material

The minimum hole size in waterjet cut parts changes depending on the thickness and type of material. Be sure to check the material page for your chosen material to ensure your design exceeds the minimum geometry size. 

As an example, if you are designing a part out of 0.063″ carbon fiber 50% of this material thickness would be .0315″, however, the minimum hole size is 0.07″. This means that any interior geometry, hole, and cutouts must be equal to or greater than .07”.

In the example above the red circles would be too small to cut correctly.

Keep in mind that, similar to the CNC router, all corners will be radiused due to the shape and size of the waterjet stream. The corner radii will be .032”.

Artwork should be correctly scaled

Your art should be sent to us at the exact size you want it cut (1:1 scale), in either inch units or mm units. We will not adjust your design based on written dimensions in the drawing, they are ignored by our system. We prefer to work in Imperial Units (inches) when possible, but metric units are acceptable as long as you remain consistent between your file units and the units you input for quoting.

Please note: If your design is in metric units, we only accept mm. We do not support cm or meter units.

Please don’t do this:

If you’ve converted your file from a raster file, please be sure to verify dimensions. Printing your design at 100% scale may help you confirm dimensions and scale.

In Summary:

Files should only contain your parts/cut-paths

To save time (and possibly money), be sure to remove any instructions, dimensions, notes, borders and unused objects from your file. You should only be sending us the actual cut-path that the waterjet should follow for cutting. Notes, quantities, etc. can be noted on your order, not in the drawing itself.

Please note: “Student Version” lettering is automatically ignored by our systems. No need to worry if you are a student using Solidworks.

In Summary:

Your file should not contain empty objects or open contours

“Open contours” is a fancy way of saying your shape is not connected all the way around. The waterjet will follow the path of your shape. If your shape stops, so does the waterjet. 

Viewing your art in Outline or Wireframe mode in your design software is a quick and easy way to find these issues.

Avoid intersecting or common lines

Check your design to make sure no two parts are touching or sharing a line. You also want to be sure that no lines overlap or intersect with each other. The waterjet will not interpret these lines correctly, and the parts will not be cut. To quickly spot these issues, view your part as a wireframe or in outline mode (Illustrator).

In Summary:

Convert all text to shapes/outlines.

If your vector design has any “active” text boxes, our automated system won’t be able to process the cut properly. 

To include text in your waterjet cut parts, convert active text boxes into shapes or outlines, a process that is easy to do in most design software.

Not sure if you have any active text boxes? Hover your cursor over the text, and if it is editable as text, then it needs to be converted into a shape. In Illustrator, this is called “converting to outlines.” In some CAD software, it might be called “explode” or “expand.”

Shapes and fonts/type should be stencilized or connected with “bridges”

In the example below, all the shapes marked in red on the right will be lost because they are not connected to the outer shape. If that is intentional, that’s fine, but it can make installation challenging if you are designing a sign or using a lot of text. You can remedy this by creating “bridges” as seen below. 

When possible, think about your design as a stencil. This will reduce the number of “loose” pieces that would need to be considered during installation.

In Summary:

Software Specific Tutorials

If you need software specific help for designing, check out one of the tutorials below. We’re always adding new tutorials for different software, so check back regularly.

Pre-flight Checklist

Before you upload your design files, be sure to go through our pre-flight checklist:

Start your first SendCutSend project today!

Upload your CAD design (DXF, DWG, EPS, or AI file) and get a free instant quote on your custom laser cut parts, all delivered to your door in a matter of days.

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