Introduction: Designing Vector Graphics for Machining

Hey everyone! Welcome to this week's Forge tutorial.

In this video I'll be walking you through the basics of preparing a design for the Forge's CNC cutter/router and laser cutter/etcher.


• Computer

• Vector editing program, for this tutorial I'll be using Illustrator because that is what we use in The Forge but here are some other options:

Affinity Designer, regularly runs on sale (right now it’s only $25) and is a one-time purchase

Inkscape, is a free open-source editor

• CNC router

• Laser etcher

Step 1: Step 1: Understanding Vectors

A vector graphic is a type of image that uses x and y coordinates to draw an image, verses a raster image that displays absolute pixels.

In this image, you can see a vector circle is drawn by four points and arches that connect by those points.

The raster is a series of squares that, when arranged in specific patterns and colors, give us the illusion of a circle. The fewer squares, the more pixelated the image appears.

So what does that mean? Since vectors plot coordinates (instead of pixels) we can manipulate an image to a high degree of specificity without any loss of resolution.

When you zoom into a vector image, it doesn't pixelate because the computer redraws the image based on coordinates. In a raster image, the pixels are absolute and fixed, which is why you can get a pixelated image.

More importantly for us, since the CNC router and laser etcher use x and y coordinates we will use vector graphics as the basis of our machining files.

Step 2: Step 2: Constructing Files

The above Forge image is the vector file I'll use to make a wooden sign on our CNC router and a chipboard sign on our laser etcher.

I'm going to construct a simplified shape to show you the essential tools in illustrator you can use when designing your project. follow along in the above photos.

I think of working in illustrator more like constructing, rather than drawing, because a file may visually look the same but can be built differently, and depending on the type of machining you're doing, you may need to construct your graphic in a particular way.

Step 3: Step 3: CNC Router Considerations

For the CNC router, you want to design with the type of router bit you'll be using. If the bit is 1/8 inches you cannot design a detail or a turn that is smaller than that 1/8 inches.

Step 4: Step 4: Laser Etcher Considerations

for the laser etcher. If you want to laser to follow your vector line you will need to make sure you have no fill on any of your shapes and that the stoke line is set to the thinnest width possible. I typically set it to .001 pts.

Step 5: The End!

Thanks for walking through our basic tutorial on how to properly setup your vector file for our CNC router and vector cutter.

There's a lot more worth learning, but these tips will get you started.

Keep on making!