Recommended Software for Laser Cutting

recommended-software
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Whether you’re looking for a new design software as a solo engineer or you’re wanting to move your business to a new program for product design, SendCutSend has several that we recommend for all uses. 

We have optimized this list to include CAD software and illustration software that we recommend for laser cutting and machining.

CAD Software

CAD (computer-aided design) is the process of using software to create, iterate, or analyze a design prior to manufacturing. Parts modeled using CAD are 3D and scaled to their actual dimensions. These are referenced by manufacturers to ensure the parts they fabricate are to spec. 

In the context of laser cutting, CNC routing, and waterjet cutting, products modeled using CAD should be exported as a DXF in a flat, 2D file. Only export the face of the part that’s being cut, and do not leave any notes, borders, or dimension marks on the file before uploading it to us.

While there are innumerable CAD software, here at SendCutSend there are a few we recommend above all others. 

SolidWorks

Duo tone 3D red block with a white "S" and a white "W" for Solidworks.

This is the industry standard, and SendCutSend’s top rated and most preferred design software. It’s great for parts with bends, multi-part assemblies, and prototypes. 

Solidworks is not the most affordable option, but they do offer both a standing license and an annual subscription. There is also a reduced cost option if you are a student. Most educational institutions offer Solidworks student and instructor licenses.

Send us a 2-dimensional, 1:1 scale DXF (preferably inches or mm units), with no notes, borders, or dimensions.

Exporting to DXF from SolidWorks


Fusion360

Variegated orange background with a geometric "F" and orange "360" in the foreground.

Fusion360 is another of our top rated softwares for sheet material cut designs. Fusion360 is an all-purpose CAD software, which is both beginner and seasoned veteran friendly. We have a lot of great resources for designing with Fusion360. 

Fusion360 is also the most affordable 3D CAD software, with a free hobbyist license available for non-commercial design. There are also several affordable packages for businesses looking to have SendCutSend manufacture their products.

Send us a 2-dimensional, 1:1 scale DXF (preferably inches), with no notes, borders, or dimensions.

Exporting to DXF From Fusion360


AutoCAD

Multi-tone red geometric capital A

AutoCAD is a valuable tool for engineers that easily transfers 3D models into 2D drawings perfect for manufacturing. With online workspace sharing and customized toolsets, AutoCAD is also great for businesses looking to increase their design output. 

As far as pricing is concerned, AutoDesk and AutoCAD is one of the few CAD programs that have both subscription and Flex pricing. If you don’t need to CAD parts very often, the Flex program allows you to purchase and use tokens instead of paying for a full subscription. 

Send us a 2-dimensional, 1:1 scale DXF (preferably inches), with no notes, borders, or dimensions.

Illustration Software

Illustration software is different from CAD in that you often can’t create 3D models using it. These programs are vector based, meaning the final design is created and exported using geometric patterns based on mathematical formulas. This is contrary to raster graphics (PNGs, JPEGs, etc.) which are created with pixels and thus not scalable. 

Vector graphics from illustration software are great for laser cutting because the file is already 2-dimensional. 

Inkscape

A black and white mountain graphic with ink spilling onto the ground beneath it

Inkscape is one of our preferred software for 2D designing because of its accessibility and affordability. Inkscape is open source so it’s continually updating based on user reviews, making it one of the best open source software available. 

Inkscape is the most affordable software on this list because it’s free for all users. This software is most comparable to Adobe Illustrator without the cost. There are fewer bells and whistles in Inkscape as compared to more expensive options, but it’s perfectly acceptable for simple designing needs. 

Always send us the eps file, and make sure it’s to scale, with all the shapes merged in one layer.

Designing for Laser Cutting in Inkscape


Adobe Illustrator

Capital orange "A" and lower case orange "i" on a brown square, with an orange frame.

Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard for 2D design files. It’s professional and intuitive, with simple tool packages that make designing easy. To make it even simpler to design in Illustrator, we have educational resources to cover everything you need to know. 

Although far from the most affordable option, Adobe offers several different cost options to best suit your needs, ranging from monthly subscriptions to paid upfront yearly options. Many educational institutions also offer discounted instructor and student licenses. 

Always send us your original ai file, with all shapes merged, contours closed, and in a  single layer.

Designing for Laser Cutting in Illustrator


QCAD

Pencil drawing black lines for a manufacturing drawing, inside a variegated gray and blue circle.

QCAD is an open source design software that’s simple to utilize. Unlike Inkscape, it’s intended specifically for technical drawings. It’s highly trusted and used by SendCutSend’s own application specialists. 

It is free to all users as well, and compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux. Its UI is one of the more intuitive available when it comes to 2D software as well. 

Send us a 1:1 scale DXF (preferably inches or mm units), with no notes, borders, or dimensions.


Now that you have the software…

Before you start designing in your new software, be sure to check out our design guidelines to ensure your parts can be successfully laser or waterjet cut. 

We update our list of recommended software for laser cutting as we find new programs that work well with our process, so check back here regularly. We are also continually adding to our software tutorials for new and recommended software. If you have specific questions about designing in your chosen program, these tutorials will be the best resource. 

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.