Instructables
This Instructable will show how to use the SketchUp > to > Inkscape > to > Ponoko Laser Cutting pipeline with a little plugin that I've written. Meaning that all of your exact calculations in 3D can be preserved as a vector format in 2D for LASER CUTTING.

I've developed this SketchUp plugin for the enthusiast designer (somebody who can't justify expensive software for a hobby). It will allow you to use the 3D design package SketchUp (available free), along with a Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) editor like Inkscape (open source), to create 2D shapes for laser cutting or milling.

Please be aware that I'm a novice designer and Ponoko user. As I learn... you learn... Hopefully the laser cutting experts can give us novices some advice and guidance.

NOTE:
The Instructable - Designing for Ponoko Laser Cutting with SketchUp and Inkscape (a study in cubes) - is now available as the final installment.
 
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Step 1: Introduction - What You Need

When I first started using Ponoko I found that there weren't any specific tools to enable me to export my SketchUp 3D designs. It is really hard to design in 2D and visualise a 3D result (unless you're an architect or do this for a living); that's why I wrote the SVG plugin.

Let's start the tutorial process with some modest goals. We'll start with a SketchUp cube, create parts that can be laser cut, and then export these 3D parts to SVG (as 2D) by concentrating on SketchUp object faces.

The SVG file can then be imported into a Ponoko template in Inkscape, an EPS can be saved, and then uploaded to the Ponoko website for laser cutting.

You will need:
Some terminology:


If you're interested in the backstory as to why I developed this plugin, then feel free to visit me at Flights of Ideas

fatheeym1 month ago

it doesn't work for Sketchup 2014 :/

rinconics11 months ago
Incredible... it was just what I was looking for. I really apreciate your work.
sola00051 year ago
Can we use an updated version of Sketchup?
action pig3 years ago
Just found this - super helpful! Thanks!
endolith6 years ago
I can't wait until the days when we all have 3D printers in our closets and can make any product we can dream up. :)
yea
oskay dombeef6 years ago
Me three.
flightsofideas (author)  oskay6 years ago
Me four - I'd settle for one of these in the middle of the lounge room for now:


What we all dreamed the RepRap would turn into!

And the dream of MakerBot owners everywhere...
Whooooa
yea that will be cool
raidengl4 years ago
My hard drive crashed and I lost all my installed stuff. So after buying a new HD and reinstalling everything I installed Sketchup 8 which is the newest version that's come out. Then I installed your plugin and no go. Sketchup 8 doth not like it for some reason. I hope you'll have a fix out soon because I have a new Ponoko design that I'm going to be starting on here right after I finish typing this. Thanks again for the great plugin it helped greatly on my first design.
flightsofideas (author)  raidengl4 years ago
Sorry - haven't had any free time to look into this. Testing on my design files in Windows shows the plugin working with SketchUp 8. Not sure about MacOS though...

If the problem your having is related to the installation - have a look at this updated page: http://code.google.com/p/sketchup-svg-outline-plugin/wiki/InstallPlugin 

Otherwise just post the issue on http://code.google.com/p/sketchup-svg-outline-plugin/issues/list and include as much detail as you can.

Thanks.
Even though this was a clean install of both Sketchup and your plugin the error was from me not installing it properly all is now well at least as far as I can tell :) muchos gracias.
FazJaxton4 years ago
It looks like this dialog has changed significantly in 0.99. It would be very helpful if you have some time to update this instructable. Thanks!
justtosha4 years ago
I'm not familiar enough with the SketchUp so, cuold you help me pleas? Ho do you mark the "material thickness"? Just draw the imagine intersection lines? - I could not find any menu in the SketchUp to do it automatically.
Yes, you are just drawing the lines to create the outlines of the 6 surfaces of the cube. First create all the boxes like in picture 4, then erase edges to make it like picture 5. You want to mark the material 3mm (or whatever your material thickness is) in from the edge. There are several ways you can do this. You can create guides by selecting the tape measure, clicking the edge, moving the mouse into the plane of the surface to draw on, typing "3mm" and pressing enter. You could also just create a 3mm offset from the outline of the surface. I highly recommend at least running through the 4 introductory google sketchup videos before starting (http://sketchup.google.com/training/videos/new_to_gsu.html). Understanding how it works makes a big difference in making it easy to use.
flightsofideas (author) 5 years ago
Inkscape (prior to version 0.47) has a funny way of importing SVG files (it's as if if converts to pixels using a different DPI). The good news is that this bug has been fixed and you can download Inkscape from here:
http://downloads.sourceforge.net/inkscape/Inkscape-0.47-3.exe

For a quick work around without downloading new software - select your design once it's imported into the Ponoko template then goto Object->Transform (from the menu). Scale your design by 283.465% for both width and height. This should scale your design to the correct size.
scale.jpg
Kaiven5 years ago
Question mark? How do I install the plugin? I downloaded it, but now I am stuck...
flightsofideas (author)  Kaiven5 years ago
Hi - hopefully the instructions at http://code.google.com/p/sketchup-svg-outline-plugin/wiki/InstallPlugin will help :-)
Knochi5 years ago
roundings and holes are exported as many line segments looking very ugly. Can i do something do join these segments back to a shape?
InkscapeRnds.jpg
flightsofideas (author)  Knochi5 years ago
Unfortunately SketchUp approximates curves with line segments, so there is no easy work around. You can increase the number of line segments that SketchUp uses for a curve, or you can replace the line segments with a Bezier using a 2D SVG editor. Hope this helps.
askjerry6 years ago
Interesting tutorial.

I have an Epilog 35W laser here at the house, it's pretty kool. I got it to do odd jobs and such so my wife could work at home. The beam width is about 0.004 so if you allow that much you are fine. In reality... for wood it doesn't matter as the glue fills the pieces in well. For that matter, even in Plexiglas it doesn't make much difference unless you want the part to hold water.

If you want something cut let me know, I'll give you a good rate. (I charge about $1.00 to $1.25 a minute.) You can stop by my web page at http://rutherford-robotics.com or check out the Epilog site at http://www.epiloglaser.com/ where I got it.

I use Corel Draw to make parts, you simply set the speed and power, then hit PRINT like you would for any printer. You can also import AutoCAD files like DWG or DXF and it can also use PDF files if you have Adobe. If you need a CAD program, try this (free) one http://www.cadstd.com which will also read/output DXF if you need them.

If you are interested in some of the robot stuff we do, go to http://robomo.com and take a look. The laser is fun... you can do all sorts of stuff. (It won't cut metal however... sorry.)

Jerry
If all goes well i will someday use a laser cutter for my line of work but right now I am quit happy with using our school laser cutter. I'm jealous of your laser cutter :(
Did you get your laser straight from Epilog or did you get it used somewhere else? I've been interested in getting my hands on one since I left the job I used to work where I used one every day...Are you leasing or did you purchase? I'm interested!
I purchased the 35W mini new ($16,400) by taking a loan out, It was expensive but worth it. It costs me about $216 a month... and I make $180 to $250 doing odd jobs... so it works out in the end. And... I have a lot of fun... so it was a good choice. Jerry
flightsofideas (author)  askjerry6 years ago
Thanks for all of the info! Does your laser cutter finish like the video in "step 9" despite the really small beam width? (i.e. the parts falling away from the scrap material) Also - any reason for Corel Draw over Illustrator? I don't know the pros and cons between the major software vendors for 2D parts design. I'm sticking with Inkscape for now because it's open source (and I like it - I even used it to design my website header art).
Yes, I pick up the plastic/wood and the parts are still on the table. The company recommended Corel Draw... Illustrator has some issues because of how it handles printing. Eve and I have had success with it... but it takes some tweaking. To me, Corel is a bit easer. She is an artist type and prefers Illustrator even with the tweaking. I have not tried linkscape yet... I'll see if I can download it and try it. Jerry
n8man6 years ago
This is featured by ponoko as the way to use google sketch-up to create designs. Great Job!
flightsofideas (author)  n8man6 years ago
Thanks n8man,

Yes, Ponoko found out about my plugin back when I was entering their competitions. They were really happy that I made it open source and provided some Instructables.

I've made a few different pieces since my early attempts with this Instructable. Have a look at my show room (one day I'll make an Instructable on one of my designs).

2983213071_97a8a9b71c_showroom_image.jpg1_showroom_image.jpgks2_showroom_image.jpg
zjharva6 years ago
awesome! was just going to make some sort of a cube, and now i can with sketchup and inkscape!
flightsofideas (author)  zjharva6 years ago
What's the cube for? - also just a warning - I'm a newbie laser cutter so don't trust my designs just yet :-)
some sort of graduation present for my brother ( hes going to mit). i think now i might make a puzzle from ponoko, theres a tutorial on here
flightsofideas (author)  zjharva6 years ago
I told you that I'd update you on vector etching - have a look at http://flightsofideas.com/?p=90. I highly recommend the Eurolite (and it seems as though Ponoko now have smaller sizes for their wooden materials).

2628452828_c8b398212c.jpg
flightsofideas (author)  zjharva6 years ago
Yeah, I think I know the one: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-a-personalized-jigsaw-puzzle/
You don't even need SketchUp :-)

I would look at the price of raster vs. vector graphics though. Make a few different designs and upload them to get a feel for the prices. I tried a few pieces of vector art on the scraps I had for this project - let you know how it goes...

Nice present and congrats to your brother!
animes256 years ago
I preffer to use rhinoceros or maya and pepakura
flightsofideas (author)  animes256 years ago
I agree that all of those packages are really nice (I use Maya at work occasionally, and I've seen some impressive marine design with Rhino). The problem is that I (and others) can't afford to use these for hobbies - hence why I wrote the plugin and released it as open source. It's essentially a zero cost pipeline right up until the laser cutting or milling, etc. Pepakura is new to me though - and looks interesting and affordable, I'll have to check it out, thanks!
Patrik6 years ago
Wow - this is excellent! I've been playing around with various designs on paper so far. Once I really get to the design phase, this will make a lot of difference - thanks!
Sweet! I just tested this out and it worked fine on my Mac. Great job!