Introduction: Laser Cut Giraffe

In this tutorial, we will be making a 3D giraffe model out of 2D pieces. Please download the attached file 'giraffe parts' (either the .ai and .pdf file work, depending on your software).

First, I would like to give credit to YahooJAPAN from thingiverse for the CAD model of the giraffe I used to make the design. It can be found here:

The CAD model of the giraffe was 'waffle-ized' using a software called 123D Make, for those of you interested in making similar projects. It is a free software by Autodesk that can be downloaded here:

I have a tutorial on my profile on how to use 123D Make, so check it out if you are interested in making your own models like this one.

Required tools:

CNC Laser Cutter


Required materials:

A piece of 1/8" plywood 18" x 18"


Step 1: Preparing the File

I chose to use a piece of scrap plywood that measured ~.120" thick. It's important to note that the thickness of your plywood will dictate the size of the giraffe. If the thickness doesn't match up with the size, the slots will either be too small or too big for the pieces to fit together.

Use the calipers to measure the thickness of your plywood. The file I provided is meant for plywood that is .120" thick. If you use wood of a different thickness, the entire design file will need to be scaled by: (x/.120) * 100, where x is your material thickness. For example, using wood that is .135" thick, my scale factor would be .135/.120 * 100 = 112.5 %. This is a critical step, otherwise your pieces will not fit together.

The method for scaling will vary based on the software you are using. In illustrator, select everything and go to object-->transform-->scale. If you are using a different software with a different laser, I will assume you know how to operate the software and scale the file.

Note: Each type of laser is different, and yours may use slightly different settings than mine, resulting in a different kerf. This could make the pieces not fit together appropriately. If the pieces are too loose, consider scaling down the file by about 5% and trying again. Likewise, if the pieces are too tight and don't slide together, scale the file up by about 5% and cut the pieces again.

Step 2: Laser Cutting the Parts

This tutorial assumes you have access to and operator's knowledge of a CNC lasercutter. As each machine's software and interface are drastically different, I'll have to assume that you know how to operate the laser cutter you will be using. The laser I used accepts illustrator files, which is why I uploaded the design as an .ai file. However, I also uploaded the .pdf for people who use a different software. Open the .pdf file in your laser's software, as pdf's are very standard file types and should be accepted by your laser's software.

Go ahead and cut out the parts using your laser, and head over to a work able where you can assemble them.

Step 3: Assembly, Step 1

First, grab the main body piece of the giraffe. This is the one with the tail. Begin by sliding on the small nose piece followed by the face piece (with ears). Next, the two more narrow ellipses go on the neck (see the photo). Following the neck, add the front legs. Proceed to add the two torso pieces (order shown in the photos), and finish this step by adding the hind-quarters piece.

After your model matches the last image for this step, proceed to the next step.

Step 4: Assembly, Step 2

Next we will add the 2 body pieces that don't have legs. They are the inner body piece, whlie the ones with legs will go on the outside. After the two inner body pieces are added, slide in the leg pieces. Note that it may take some patience to get these pieces on. You will need to line up many slots, and then keep all the pieces perpendicular to the piece you are adding. If it is too tight, see step 1 for what to do.

Congrats, and enjoy your giraffe model. If you like this type of model, check out my profile for similar instructables, and feel free to comment if you have a specific animal or object you'd like me to create a waffle model of.

Makerspace Contest 2017

Participated in the
Makerspace Contest 2017