Introduction: How to Make a Laser Cut Map

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We wanted some new artwork for the office walls when we move to our new HQ next month and last weekend I had spent the day with family at Highfields Park boating lake.

I decided this would make an interesting piece for a laser cut map as the contrast between the water and land is easy to show. The same technique could be used for any area with both water and land in it.

Learn how to:

  • Edit an area of a map ready for laser cutting.
  • Make a distinctive map of a lake near you.

Parts lIst:

You will also need the following equipment:

Step 1: Screenshot the Body of Water

Take a screenshot of your chosen area of water in Google Maps. I use the lightweight irfanview but you can use whichever method you prefer to take a screenshot.

Step 2: Colour Correction

Before we convert to .svg we want as few colours on the map as possible. Depending on the software you are using you can use the fill tool, magic wand or freehand select. I use the open source program with the manual colour correction plugin.

Step 3: Trace Bitmap

Once you have a two colour image it's time to convert it to something we can use on the laser cutter. For this step I used inkscape. (Image 1)

Under Path choose trace bitmap. (Image 2)

Under Multiple scans choose Colors and press OK. (Image 3)

Step 4: Adding Text/Legends to the Map

Add text. I just used the title of the park and the interesting information from Wikipedia.

Step 5: Exporting As DXF

Select the entire image and underneath Path choose Object to Path. Save as .dxf

Step 6: Laser Power & Speed

Import the .dxf into Lasercut 5.3. Select the text and change the cut colour to blue.

Put the blue line first with a speed and power of 35. For the black line, I used speed 8 and power 65 (40w laser tube).

Step 7: Cutting Out & Tidying Up

Cut out the shape on your chosen Veneered MDF.

If like me you had a couple of areas that didn't quite cut through you can use a craft knife from the back to just finish off the cut.

Step 8: Just Add Water

Glue the wood onto the Perspex.

Step 9: Placing Islands & Finishing Off

Use the cut-out shape as a guide to help you accurately place any islands.

Take the off-cuts back out and your laser cut map is finished!