Introduction: Laser Cut Pepakura Files
Pepakura is an amazing program that unwraps 3D models and turns them into flat 2D nets, with the appropriate fold signs and flaps. These can be printed out with a standard printer and assembled back into a 3D model. The only downside is that you get a large set of 2D plans that need to be cut out and scored before assembly. What if there was a way to combine the power of Pepakura with the power of a laser cutter?
This instructable shows how to convert pepakura plans into a set of files that can be passed through to a laser cutter so you don't have to spend hours cutting and scoring.
You will need:
Pepakura, the demo program will suffice but a full version will allow you to save your work in progress.
A vector editing package, I'm using Inkscape, Cute PDF, or a similar pdf printer and access to a laser cutter.
Download and install cute PDF http://www.cutepdf.com/. I'm sure other pdf printers will also be acceptable. This will allow you to print directly from pepakura to a vector based format. The full version of pepakura does allow you to export to vector formats but so far I've found all of them to be incompatible with inkscape or not suitable to lasering (dotted lines made of a solid line and painted to look like a dotted one). Printing to pdf creates a file ready for conversion with no more effort.
Load up Pepakura and import your 3D model. Perform the unwrap and adjust the layout of your item until you are happy with the arrangement.
Others->Texture On/Off, allows you to export a smaller plain item.
Settings->Other Settings, allows you to change the spacing on the dotted lines
File->Print and Paper settings, has a setting to 'print lines clearly (vector)' this should be selected to ensure the file is printed as lines rather than a raster image.
When you're ready, go to File->Print and select cute pdf from the drop down box, save the output directly to pdf. Now your file is ready to be imported to inkscape or another drawing package and be converted to your laser cutting format. My laser takes in dxf files so I simply save the file as dxf and it's ready to go across to the laser.
Alas the laser can only cut the files out, all the assembly has to be done by hand but it has saved a boatload of time already.