Introduction: 3D CAD to Laser Cut

About: Programmer, Inventor, Rapid Prototype, and a Student

Lately, I have seen a lot of of my peers wanting to 3D Print simple geometrical shapes (rectangles, flat extrusion, cylinders, etc). These pieces can easily be done with the Laser Cutter and today I will address how to turn your 3D model into a laser cut model.

Why is this important?

Because of physics!! 3D printers use hot plastic to deposit layers on top of each other to form a model. Because of the open bed in the Ultimaker 2+ and many other printers, cold air circulating from the AC unit tends to mix with our part. When plastic cools down too quickly and the plastic has not been adhered properly to the platform the model tends to warp. Warping is the #1 print failure at the Invention Studio. We have transitioned from ABS to PLA plastic and our warping issues have decreased by 75%; however warping persists when printing such large flat parts. This problem also wastes plastic, money, and *time*.

Another reason why this is important is mainly because here at the Invention Studio we have the goal to teach our peers to become better makers. Meaning, assist our peers to use the proper tools for the proper job. Which teaches them a new skill for their next internship, job, or project. Overall this is a Win-Win.

Step 1: Ingredients

Now that I have your attention and you have chosen to accept this mission all you need is the following items:

  • 3D Model of your part.
    • 3D CAD Software.
      • Inventor, Fusion 360, SolidWorks, etc.
    • Inkscape (free)
      • This free software is great to manipulate sketches, easy to use, and is the one that we use at the Invention Studio.

    Once you have gather all ingredients you can now follow me to the next step.

    Like always, the comment section is the best way to ask me questions about this project and other tips.

    Step 2: CAD Software

      • Open your model with your CAD software.
        • I will be using a Fidget Spinner I designed for the Fidget Spinner competition.
      • Edit the main sketches.
        • I designed every extrusion in a single sketch so I will only have to edit one sketch multiple times.
        • In the picture you can notice that my model has 2 face extrusions and 1 face thru cut. Which implies I need to generate 3 sketches.
        • The goal in editing is to isolate the different depth faces. Use pictures for reference.
      • Save your sketches as DXF
      • Repeat as many times as necessary.

      Now that we have all of our sketches we can go to the next step.

      Step 3: Inkscape Software

      • Open Inkscape.
      • Import your DXF.
      File > Import 			Shortcut: ctrl+I
      • A window will open and this is important.
        • If your model is in mm scale by 1.
        • If your model is in inches scale by 25.4.
        • If other: scale by proper unit to mm ratio.
      • Your sketch will show up, but this is a trap! We have to modify.
        • Click on the part and ungroup it.
      Object > ungroup 		Shortcut: ctrl+shift+G
        • Now you should have a lot of objects. Refer to picture for reference.
        • Select them all and do a Boolean combination.
      Path >Your_Pick

      Your_Pick means that it depends on your part and what do you want to accomplish. Refer to pictures for reference. It will show how I accomplished mine.

      • Repeat steps for all your DXFs.
      • Align your sketches with the snap tool or other ways.

      That's all! Now you are ready to laser cut!

      Step 4: Laser Cut and Enjoy

      At this time you should be familiar what to do next. After all, this tutorial is meant for those that has a laser cutter available. Now, you can enjoy a new skill and enjoy your 3D Model in the lasers.


      This particular project only took ~30 minutes from prepping to making. If I have printed this at the lowest possible quality it would have taken ~3 hours plus some extra time to remove the supports. An advantage of laser cutting vs 3D printing is precision and manufacturing time.

      As mentioned in the beginning, this works well with simple geometric pieces. You can go more complex if you can divide your model in simpler shapes and then glue it together.

      If you want to support me a little more, please vote for my Tornado and Triforce designs.

      Enjoy, Favorite, and Subscribe for more. If you have more questions, or you just want to share what you make let me know in the comments! Happy Cutting Guys!

      Makerspace Contest 2017

      Participated in the
      Makerspace Contest 2017