Inkscape is a free open-source vector software available on Mac, PC and linux, available for download here. This is a very basic introduction on how to prepare your drawings for laser using it.
Using our drawing templates
If using our materials, we recommend downloading our drawing templates. They help to verify scale and material type. Materials come in all different sizes depending on the maximum sheet size supplied from the manufacturer.
Templates for Inkscape can be downloaded here: FLUX_Inkscape Templates. Once downloaded, select and open the sheet size that is large enough for your components and that is the correct size for the material you have or we stock.
Working with the drawing templates
Multiple files from same material
If you want all your parts cut / engraved from the same material, arrange into multiples of the same templates and draw as many as required all in the same file.
Multiple files from different materials
If using various materials and sheet sizes, please clearly label each rectangle with material, sheet size and thickness.
Try and use templates that suit best the scale of you drawings. i.e if your components can fit within a 450x600mm file, don’t position your drawing on a 600x900mm template with lots of excess.
If using your materials or not using a template
You’ll need to resize the page to the size of your material.
- Set art board to match the size of the material in mm
- Select File > Document Properties > Set width / size
- Allow 5mm from the border of the material.
Configuring units & colour mode
- Measurements: 1 unit = 1mm
- Draw components at actual size
- if copying and pasting vectors from another file, make sure that they are at the scale you require within the template
- Make sure you are working in RGB mode
- Select File > Document Properties > Colour Management
Laser cutting Lines
For everything you would like to have laser cut draw out your vector lines in:
- Red: RGBA: 255,0,0,255
- Stroke weight: to 0.10mm
Cutting and speed:
The laser cuts different materials at varying speeds. As a benchmark it generally takes longer to cut thicker materials than thinner ones. The thicker a material the more power is required at a lower speed. The laser is also faster at cutting straight lines than it is at cutting curves.
Vector engraving / scoring strokes
For everything you would like to be vector engraved (scored,) set the lines to:
- Blue: RGBA: 0,0,255,255
- Stroke weight: to 0.10mm
Raster engraving strokes & fills
While we can raster engrave thin vector lines, it’s advised that you vector engrave/ score them. All vectors you would like raster engraved must be indicated by a green outline engrave.
To turn a line into a filled shape in Inkscape:
- Set strokes to a minimum of 0.40mm (anything thinner wont engrave)
- Select your line and select Path > Stroke to path command
- Set all outline colours to: Green: RGBA: 0,255,0,255)
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 printer, 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.
Bespoke depths / treatments:
If you would like to achieve a deeper result or an engraving a little heavier let us know your specification.
Nesting components & minimum cut widths
- 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, ensure there are no ‘shared’ lines and that your separate parts are not touching each other.
Small details / cut widths:
- The laser burns away a portion of material which ranges from 0.1mm – 0.4mm depending on a lot of different factors. This means any areas in your design where cut lines come closer than 0.5mm together they could burn away entirely. Any details narrower than 1mm are likely to be very fragile and in some cases can cause the material to warp whilst cutting. You need to be aware of this when drafting your drawing:
- 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 we can’t be held responsible if you your components become fragile for you application and cannot guarantee their accurate cutting.
Maintaining continuous vector geometry
Try and make sure that all your vector paths are continuous, this is especially important for infill engraving. If a lines are constructed from more than one path, make sure that you join / close the nodes.
To do this, use the Use the Edit paths by node tool. The nodes will appear as grey diamonds
- Select the nodes you want to join holding down the shift key as you select them. The diamonds will turn blue
- Select the Join selected endpoints with a new segment button
- The nodes will join together and the path will be in one continuous vector line
Using text – converting to paths
All text used needs to be converted to paths.
- Select text, then select Path > Object to Path
This is to convert the text to vectors and preserve your font. If you don’t do this and we don’t have your font installed here, the file will open in default font Myriad or Arial. 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.
Cleaning up drawing / removing overlapping lines
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.
It’s also worth viewing your drawing in outline mode just to make sure you don’t have any white fills that are obscuring any hidden vector strokes. To do this:
- Select View > Display mode > Outline. This mimics how the laser cutter will “view” and process your drawing
Breaking nodes with in paths
If you have placed components directly beside each other you are likely to have parts of the vector shape with duplicate lines. In this case you will need to break apart the nodes manually so that they share the same line. In the examples the middle line between the rectangles will be broken and shared
- Select all vector strokes and fills. Select Path > Object to Pathto convert to nodes
- Select one of the shapes using the Edit paths by nodes to show nodes (grey diamonds)
- Select the node on one side of the line to be broken. (It will turn blue)
- Select the Break path at selected nodes button
- Select the node on the other side of the line to be broken from the path. (it will turn blue)
- Select the Break path at selected nodes button
- Select the middle of the line you have just broken from the shape and press delete
- One of the rectangles is now sharing a stroke from another. If you move the rectangle aside you can see this more clearly
Saving your file
- Select File > Save As
- Format Portable Document Format (*.pdf)
Save your files in the following named format, replacing the fields with the relevant information:
NAME_MATERIAL DIMENSION_THICKNESS & MATERIAL_DRAWINGNAME.pdf
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.
JOE BLOGGS_600x900mm_2mm MDF_Arch. Model June2015.pdf
Send us your file
Once the file is complete, email your files over to use: email@example.com, ensuring you provide us with the following information:
Your Full Name
Whether you are a student (we offer 20% student discount, but only with a valid student ID, or email from a student email account)
What material, thickness and how many sheets you require
Whether you are providing the material or using our stock
Collection or delivery? – we can offer affordable postage all over the UK and abroad if required.
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.