Picture of Designing Vectors for CNC & Digital Fabrication

Creating designs and artwork with an eye towards digital and CNC fabrication is different from producing work that will be printed or posted online. This checklist can help you prepare designs you’ve downloaded or received from other designers. It can also help you develop a clean workflow that will result in “CAM ready” geometry that goes smoothly from digital idea to physical thing.

Here is the list

1. Place Part Geometry on a Separate Layer
2. Reduce Line Weight
3. Geometry Should be Composed of Joined Vectors
4. Convert Specialize Curves into Standard Lines
5. Convert Fonts Into Curves
6. Simplify Overly Complex Vectors
7. Search for Irregular Vectors and Correct

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Step 1: Place Part Geometry on a Separate Layer

Picture of Place Part Geometry on a Separate Layer

Separate the part or object vectors from embellishment or raster information. You should create a layer where you have isolated the geometry that defines your object or part.

The two collections above have the same vectors, but the fill data on the left hides the underlying geometry. The same guideline is true for vectors that are only for visual effects.

The design on the left has additional vectors to help create
the illusion of an interwoven knot. For CNC geometry we want to isolate the vectors that describe our part.

Step 2: Reduce Line Weight

Picture of Reduce Line Weight

You should also assign the thinnest line weight supported in your drawing/drafting software to your part geometry. This will not only reduce visual confusion, but some of the drivers for our CNC tools use line weight to distinguish cutting and etching in their tool paths.

The circles above are all the same size, but the varied line weights can add confusion.

Step 3: Geometry Should be Composed of Joined Vectors

Picture of Geometry Should be Composed of Joined Vectors
Trimmed Primitives.jpg

It is important that our geometry is comprised of joined vectors.

We can use four independent lines to represent a rectangle, but even if it looks like a rectangle, it is still four separate objects. Drivers and CAM software interprets each as an independent operation rather than one object.

This is also true for more complex geometry created from basic shapes where intersecting vectors have been trimmed. We still need to combine the vectors and join intersecting points for the vector be treated as a single piece of geometry.

BitsC9 months ago

thank you for posting this!

As a graphic designer i've always liked vector working, now that I have a CNC business, i notice the lack of knowledge of many designers when it comes to vector based art. Sometimes we receive documents for cutting in our plasma, the client says its "vector" and when I go to my CAD-CAM and open it...I get this beautiful almost fractal design, loops and open lines everywhere, it makes me cry.

This instructable has made me think of coming up with literature for handing out to those designers.

Thank you


I think some details and caution notes would be really helpful for newer designers like me..


Following you. Please keep posting CNC based instructables.


BrettBlack1 year ago

Great information. REALLY hope people follow your advise.

shalomo1 year ago

Very helpful info. Thanks for posting!