AutoCad is the software most commonly used by Architects to prepare files for laser cutting and CNC work, it varies slightly to Adobe Illustrator, but here are a few pointers on preparing your files.

Preparing the file
Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 13.44.06
  • Select Format > Units > Type: architectural / Units mm
  • Draw a rectangle for reference at 1:1 scale to match the size of the material you are using – Ensure this is in the 0 layer so it will not be cut or engraved.
  • Offset an additional rectangle 5mm from the edge of the rectangle as a border of the material.

Multiple sheets and different materials:

  • Create multiple of these rectangles for the multiple sheets.
  • If using various materials and sheet sizes, please clearly label each rectangle with material, sheet size and thickness.

    Configuring units & scale
    • Measurements: 1 unit = 1mm
    • Draw components at actual size.

If you are preparing the laser cutting file from real scale, you will need to scale it down with a scale factor.

1 / Drawing Print Scale x Unit Conversion Factor = Scale Factor

This will be a decimal number

  • Select all the parts of the drawing you want to re-scale and select scale command
  • Select the base point for the scaling and drag custom to select all of your drawing
  • Enter the decimal number calculated with the scale factor.

Laser cutting linesScreen Shot 2016-01-07 at 14.46.27

For everything you would like to have laser cut needs to be in a single layer and set with the following colour:

  • Make a new layer in the layer menu and re-name it: CUT

 

 

  • Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 13.32.55Set the stroke colour to Red, this should be RGB: 255,0,0

 

 

 

 

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  • Set the line weight to be 0.05mm or as thin as you can make it.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Vector engraving / scoring lineScreen Shot 2016-01-07 at 14.47.05s

For everything you would like to have laser cut needs to be in a single layer and set with the following colour:

  • Make a new layer in the layer menu and re-name it: VECTOR ENGRAVE

 

 

  • Set the stroke colour to BLUE, this should be RGB: 0,0,255Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 13.34.14

 

 

 

 

 

  • Set the line weight to be 0.05mm or as thin as you can make it.Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 13.34.24

 

 

 

 

 


Raster / Infill engraving lines and fills

While we can raster engrave thin vector strokes, it’s advised that you vector engrave/ score them, as this can generally be quicker and often have a better appearance. All vectors you would like raster engraved must be in a layer called RASTER/INFILL ENGRAVE, with Green Lines, RGB: 0,255,0

Ensure that shapes are joined

If you have drawn the shape yourself, ensure it is a sealed and joined shape, this can be done by selecting all parts and using the Join command

Arrange parts economically

When arranging artwork for engraving that have a few components on one sheet, it’s best to keep all of the raster engraving as close together as possible and in horizontal row, this is due to the way the the laser head moves horizontal side to side, like an inkjet printed, engraving one line at a time, from 0.05mm apart.

Raster engraving standard appearance & depth

In raster engraving terms the marking is cosmetic, shallow and typically a balance between legibility and cleanliness, not all materials can utilise raster engraves

Bespoke depths / treatments:

If you would like to achieve a deeper result or an engraving a little heavier get in touch to discuss the possibilities.


Nesting components & minimum cut widths

Nesting:

  • If compiling a file with lots of components on one sheet of material, make sure there is a gap of at least 2mm between the components.

Small details / cut widths:

  • As a benchmark, we recommend that minimum cut widths be no smaller than the thickness of the material. E.G. If cutting from 3mm acrylic, its best not to allow cut widths less than 3mm. We can go smaller but things can get quite fragile and in some cases can cause the material to warp whilst cutting. Anything thinner than the thickness of the material we cannot guarantee will be cut accurately and safely.

Maintaining continuous vector geometry

Try and make sure that all your vector paths are continuous. If strokes / closed shapes are constructed from more than one path, make sure that you join / close the paths.

  • To do this, type J for Join  in command box and select the source object or multiple objects you want to join and press enter, select object to join and press enter.

Converting text for vector engraving

The way that AutoCad deals with text, especially the formatting does not stay true when laser cutting. Fonts are often replaced with alternatives. We suggest checking the completed file in Adobe Illustrator and convert the font to vectors there.

Alternatively, if you are using a PC, you can use the Express tools command:

  • Select the text you want to convert to vectors.
  • Select Express Tools>Text Explode.

This function is not perfect and you may need to delete any stray lines within the outlines.

If the text is being fully cut our the middle islands of some letters will fall out when laser cut which can make the text difficult to read. If you would like to prevent this one option is to use a stencil font, alternatively you can add in ‘tabs’ and manually edit the vector.


Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 13.44.06Cleaning up drawing / removing overlapping lines (Overkill)

When drafting your drawing ensure that there are no duplicate vector strokes stacked up on one another. If you don’t get rid of them the laser will cut / score these lines repeatable, ruining the material and damaging the laser bed.

To delete duplicated lines and reduce unnecessary points on Polylines you can use the Overkill Command.

  • Type Overkill in the command box
  • Select the section of your drawing you want to apply it to – we suggest trying on a smaller section first, to check how it affects your file.
  • Tick:
    • Optimize polyline segments
    • Combine co-linear objects that overlap
    • Combine co-linear that are end to end
    • Maintain associative objects
  • Click OK and wait for the command to complete and check the file is still OK to be cut.

Saving your fileScreen Shot 2016-01-07 at 15.16.18
  • Select File > Save As
  • Format AUTOCAD 2000/LT2000 DXF (*.dxf) or earlier

File name
Save your files in the following named format, replacing the fields with the relevant information:

NAME_MATERIAL DIMENSION_THICKNESS & MATERIAL_DRAWINGNAME.dxf

If you are using multiple sheets of the same material and thickness, ensure they are all in the same file, but save the file including ‘x5′ if 5 sheets are required.

If multiple materials are being used, include those in the file name also.

For example:
JOE BLOGGS_600x900mm_2mm MDF_Arch. Model June2015.dxf


Send us your file

Once the file is complete, email your files over to use: hello@fluxlaserstudio.co.uk, ensuring you provide us with the following information:

  1. Your Full Name
  2. Whether you are a student (we offer 25% student discount, but only with a valid student ID, or email from a student email account)
  3. What material, thickness and how many sheets you require
  4. Whether you are providing the material or using our stock
  5. Collection or delivery? – we can offer affordable postage all over the UK and abroad if required.
  6. Deadlines – we usually work to a 24-36 hour turn around, although this may be slightly longer during very busy times of year, if you need it fast let us know as soon as possible.

With all of the information above, we will be able to provide you with an accurate price, we usually do this within a couple of hours and when we will be able to get it complete for. Once you are happy with your quote, we’ll need you to send a written email confirmation in response to the outlined quote you received. We can’t confirm quote’s over the the phone as we legally need to have something in writing. Do bare in mind that once a written email confirmation has been sent and received the confirmation is bound in a legal contract.