Intro: Laser Cut a Notched Box With BoxMaker
Boxmaker is a simple tool that can take a lot of the tedious work out of digital design. We find it extremely useful to jump-start projects using laser cutting technology.
A custom-sized box can be the foundation for countless creative ideas.
This set of instructions will walk you through the steps required to make a simple notched box using the
http://boxmaker.connectionlab.org/ website, a vector drawing program like Adobe Illustrator, and a laser cutter.
Step 1: Design Your Box
Navigate to http://boxmaker.connectionlab.org/
The main screen asks you to choose units, dimensions and material thickness. For this exercise, set the units to Inches.
Boxmaker asks you to enter three external dimensions, width, height and depth. If you multiply these three numbers, you get the cubic volume of your box design.
Before pressing the Design It button, be sure to define the thickness of the material you will be making your box from. Since this is in decimal form, you may need to convert a fraction. We use 1/8" plywood, so 1/8=.125
Step 2: Open in Adobe Illustrator
After you have pressed the Design It button, the program will calculate your box design for you, and create a PDF file of the required parts.
Open the file with a vector drawing program like Adobe Illustrator.
The next steps will walk you through preparing the file for laser cutting.
Step 3: Prepare Your Design for Laser Cutting
The file generated by BoxMaker needs a few adjustments before cutting.
First, using the Selection Tool (black arrow) delete the text box containing size information. You will find the text box in the lower left-hand corner of your page. This just cleans up the file a bit.
Then, each of the individual box parts must be grouped so they can be moved more easily. Use the selection tool to carefully click and drag selection box around one part of the box. (Image 2, above). Once the part you wish to group is highlighted, find Group under the Object menu.
Next, Move each of your grouped parts into a snug configuration. To do this, you may need to rotate some of them. In the Object menu look for Transform > Rotate... 90 degrees.
Finally, select your entire file and take a look at the stroke weight in the tool bar. Our Epilog machine requires the line weight be .1 pt to recognize it as a vector line for cutting. If it indicates that, great. You are done with your basic box! If not, adjust the value to .1 pt, easy peasy. Save your file as an Adobe Illustrator (.ai) file for this example.
You now have a basic box ready to cut with the external dimensions you specified in BoxMaker. The file you created can be opened in your laser cutter's firmware, where the intensity, and speed of the laser can be set for the materials you choose.
Step 4: Customize Your Box
A simple box often fits the bill, but just as often you might need extra holes, or
features on your creation.
You can make these using the other tools in Illustrator. Image 1 shows a speaker housing made this way. Image 2 shows another project in Illustrator. Explore the tool bar on the left side of your screen in Illustrator. You'll notice a Line tool, a Shape tool (it may look like a rectangle or an oval, click and hold to see all the options) and a Type tool. These can be used to create almost anything you want!
Note: If you want the features you draw on your box to be cut like the outside will be, make sure the line width is set to .1 pt. If instead you want to add graphic features like writing or artwork, make sure the line is WIDER than .1 pt.