Introduction: Workflow - Autodesk Inventor to Illustrator for Laser Cutting

I made it at TechShop - actually, I learned it there! It's probably not a best-practice workflow but it's working for me so I'm happy.

So I am getting into laser cutting, but why Autodesk inventor? I wanted to draw very precisely because I was making a box that could be snapped together with no glue. Yes, I know that Inventor is built for 3D, but I didn't want to mess with another Autodesk app or any other for that matter because, well, I like Inventor! I just learned Inventor in the last few months and have done many 3D designs. Doing a 2D drawing was even easier. *note that I actually use Inventor on a PC and then jump over to Illustrator on my Mac.

The idea is to draw in Inventor and get into something you can laser cut. The below steps are easy, so follow along.

*note that I'll be annotating with red ovals and red text

Step 1: Step 1: Draw Whatever You Want in a Single Plane in Inventor

I usually just use the XZ plane and draw as if I were making something I would extrude or do something else to. Some important sub-points in this step are:

  1. You can create multiple sketches, but be sure to lay them out so they don't intersect
  2. If it helps, draw an 18 inch x 24 inch square construction line so you know how much space you're working with
  3. Draw away, but ***be sure to delete or hide all construction lines once you've completed your design*** (if you don't they will show up as regular lines when exporting - but, don't worry about dimension indications that may be present in your design)

Step 2: Step 2: Place Your Drawing Into an Autodesk Inventor Drawing File (.idw)

This part is pretty easy but there are a couple key points:

  1. Create the file, save it accordingly
  2. Select 'Default Border' and 'ANSI - Large' on the right browser column, right click and delete them
  3. Right click on 'Sheet: 1', then and select 18 x 24 inch option in the size drop down
  4. Click on 'Place' and be sure to select your Inventor file, and select the Top view at a 1:1 ratio
  5. If you want to rotate your drawing, right click and select absolute, then enter the deg. of rotation like 180

    6. Move it so it lines up correctly

Step 3: Step 3: Tweak and Export As PDF

After you like what you have, you need to export as a PDF:

  1. Save your file again to be safe
  2. Click on File -> Export as a PDF
  3. Click on 'Options' and make sure to check the boxes for 'All colors as black' and 'Remove object line weights'. Also be sure to make it 600 DPI
  4. Save wherever you want

Step 4: Step 4: Open in Illustrator, Tweak and Fix Minor Errors

Now open Adobe Illustrator, tweak, correct minor errors and choose proper settings:

  1. Save your file as a .AI file
  2. Double click on the drawing to get into the group - note that your drawing has been imported as a group.
  3. Click and drag to select all of the lines in the drawing - be careful to only select on the art board, otherwise it can be frustrating as what you're trying to select doesn't take.
  4. Give all lines a .001 line thickness
  5. Without unselecting the lines, click on the color selector to make sure all lines are pure black (hexadecimal 000000)
  6. Zoom way in especially on the curves of your drawing to make sure lines are properly connected. If not, re-connect them using the path tool in Illustrator
  7. Make sure the file is in RGB mode

And that's it! Now you can save your file and use it to cut using a laser cutter!