Laser Cutting Design Guidelines

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

Best File Formats for Laser Cutting

Files Accepted by Our Instant Quote System:

Adobe Illustrator .ai
AutoCAD .dxf
CorelDraw .eps
Fusion360 .dxf
Inkscape .eps
Solidworks .dxf

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

If you design your parts in non-CAD software (Adobe Illustrator), please send us the original (native) ai file. We’ll take care of the conversion on our end.

We accept STEP files from common CAD programs such as Solidworks, but these are not eligible for instant online quoting. Please note that we cannot accept or process STL (mesh) files or raster-type (JPEG, TIFF, PNG, BMP) files. For STEP or PDF files, please request a custom quote and we’ll get back to you right away.

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

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

File Requirements

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

Artwork should be correctly scaled

Your art should be sent to us at the exact size you want it cut (1:1 scale). We will not adjust your design based on written dimensions in the drawing, they are ignored by our system. Also, we prefer to work in Imperial Units (inches) when possible, but metric units are acceptable.

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 laser should follow for cutting. Notes, quantities, etc. can be noted on your order. We’ll contact you right away if we have more questions.

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

In Summary:

One part per file, no pre-nesting

We know you might be tempted to include many parts per file to assist us with efficient nesting (arrangement), but please don’t do this.

As a best practice, only include one part design per file.

We’re sure you know what you’re doing, but the fact is that our proprietary processes are streamlined for the greatest possible efficiency within our facilities. So, something that you think is saving us both time, could actually cost a great deal of it. It’s better to let us handle it for you. We like being helpful anyway.

This is also true in the case of multiples. If you need multiples of the same part cut, you’ll adjust the quantity in your cart to reflect how many you need. Crowding your file with the same design is going to complicate production, guaranteed. Don’t do this.

In Summary:

Convert all text to shapes/outlines.

If your vector design has any “active” text boxes, the CNC laser cutters won’t be able to process the cut properly. To include text in your cut, simply convert active text boxes into shapes or outlines, a process that is extremely 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 or loose 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.

If you are fine with many small, loose parts, just let us know in your order notes and we’ll take care of it. We just want our customers to be prepared for the installation or mounting process.

In Summary:

Shapes, holes or cutouts are at least 50% material thickness

Holes or interior geometry that are smaller than 50% the thickness of your material are unlikely to be cut accurately by the laser. This is because the laser “pierces” the material to begin cutting, which requires a certain diameter allowance for holes and other internal shapes.

As an example, if your material is 0.100” thick, the smallest hole you could expect to cut would be 0.050” in diameter. A safe rule of thumb would be to keep all geometry greater than 1/2 material thickness, and no smaller than .015″.

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

Avoid intersecting or common lines

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

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 laser will follow the path of your shape. If your shape stops, so does the laser. Viewing your art in Outline or Wireframe mode in your design software is a quick and easy way to find these issues.

In Summary:

Software Specific Tutorials

If you need software specific help for designing, check out one of the tutorials below. We’ll add more tutorials soon.

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.

View More Guidelines

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Bending & Forming Guidelines

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CNC Machining Guidelines

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