Laser Cut Pepakura Files

Introduction: Laser Cut Pepakura Files

Pepakura is an amazing program that unwraps 3D models and turns them into flat 2D nets, with the appropriate fold signs and flaps. These can be printed out with a standard printer and assembled back into a 3D model. The only downside is that you get a large set of 2D plans that need to be cut out and scored before assembly. What if there was a way to combine the power of Pepakura with the power of a laser cutter?

This instructable shows how to convert pepakura plans into a set of files that can be passed through to a laser cutter so you don't have to spend hours cutting and scoring.

You will need:
Pepakura, the demo program will suffice but a full version will allow you to save your work in progress.
A vector editing package, I'm using InkscapeCute PDF, or a similar pdf printer and access to a laser cutter.

Download and install cute PDF http://www.cutepdf.com/. I'm sure other pdf printers will also be acceptable. This will allow you to print directly from pepakura to a vector based format. The full version of pepakura does allow you to export to vector formats but so far I've found all of them to be incompatible with inkscape or not suitable to lasering (dotted lines made of a solid line and painted to look like a dotted one). Printing to pdf creates a file ready for conversion with no more effort.

Load up Pepakura and import your 3D model. Perform the unwrap and adjust the layout of your item until you are happy with the arrangement.

Others->Texture On/Off, allows you to export a smaller plain item.
Settings->Other Settings, allows you to change the spacing on the dotted lines
File->Print and Paper settings, has a setting to 'print lines clearly (vector)' this should be selected to ensure the file is printed as lines rather than a raster image.

When you're ready, go to File->Print and select cute pdf from the drop down box, save the output directly to pdf. Now your file is ready to be imported to inkscape or another drawing package and be converted to your laser cutting format. My laser takes in dxf files so I simply save the file as dxf and it's ready to go across to the laser.

Alas the laser can only cut the files out, all the assembly has to be done by hand but it has saved a boatload of time already.

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    16 Discussions

    0
    MarkS13
    MarkS13

    4 weeks ago

    The Glowforge Laser cutter has the habit of converting dashed lines into solid lines when it uploads a PDF file. It doesn't always do it, but it does give a warning when it does. The other major defect in the machine is that you have to be on the internet when you use the machine as the laser cutter's user interface is cloud based. While it is nice that you can use the cutter from your phone, it means you can not use it from Adobe Illustrator or any other program.

    0
    drgnflyz
    drgnflyz

    5 years ago on Introduction

    wow this would be such a huge time saver! I have never heard of a laser cutter. Are they affordable for home application or is this a commercial type machine? Thanks for the tutorial!

    0
    brightled
    brightled

    Reply 6 months ago

    There are 2 types of laser cutters.A laser diode and co2,for this project a laser diode cutter will work just fine provided the user has the knowhow to set it up and run it and you can purchase off ebay and amazon as low as $100 -$400 depending on the power rating of the laser itself now do not expect to plug and play(pray) be prepared to learn and learn and experiment for the first 6 months for someone with no experience with any type of cnc machine.Also remember you have to experiment to find the correct settings for each material you want to us.I started out years ago doing maintance on a 100 watt co2 laser @Vishay in Malvern ,Pa.

    0
    brightled
    brightled

    Reply 6 months ago

    One thing I forgot and it is the most important you must have the correct laser SAFETY glasses for your machine or you could lose your SIGHT in a flash.SAFETY FIRST.

    0
    iacon
    iacon

    Reply 4 years ago

    Check if your community has a makerspace. Many have laser cutters that you can access. I don't know how close this is to you, but they have one. http://tampahackerspace.com/our-facilities/

    0
    drgnflyz
    drgnflyz

    Reply 4 years ago

    Thank you!

    0
    jorge.stark.79
    jorge.stark.79

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Laser Cutters are over $10K lol I've never heard of a cheaper one or "smaller" to be used like if it was a printer.

    0
    msraynsford
    msraynsford

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    You can get them for $500 on ebay, I wouldn't buy one of those though if you like safety

    Our cheapest machine is about $3K (UK equivalent)
    http://www.justaddsharks.co.uk/

    0
    msraynsford
    msraynsford

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Since I wrote this instructable we started a company selling laser cutters to hobbyists and makers. They're a little bit expensive to be purchased on a whim but with some ingenuity they can be made to pay for themselves.

    justaddsharks.co.uk

    0
    JosephB89
    JosephB89

    4 years ago

    Pepakura Viewer for Silhouette Cameo has an option to export as PDF.

    0
    moufal
    moufal

    4 years ago

    on inkscape that is

    0
    moufal
    moufal

    4 years ago

    how do I select the lines I would like to cut instead of it just cutting out all of the lines?

    0
    jedigak1
    jedigak1

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Also, my print lines clearly (vector) doesn't seem to outputting vectors. My PDF's will only print as raster, and it is way too slow.

    0
    jedigak1
    jedigak1

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Is there any way to have the laser etch the tab numbers/fold lines and cut the solid lines?

    0
    sparten11
    sparten11

    6 years ago on Introduction

    i am doing this already with thin sheets of plastic instead of card stock to give the model more strength. works like a charm and i can stack and glue layers to thicken the substrate to hold up better than the normal card stock.