5. File setup instructions

We use CorelDRAW to prepare your previews and laser-cut parts, which can handle a variety of vector and two-dimensional CAD drawings:

File types we can use File types we cannot use
CDR (CorelDRAW) SLDDRW (SolidWorks)
AI (Adobe Illustrator) SLDPRT (SolidWorks)
EPS (Adobe Illustrator) SLDASM (SolidWorks)
DXF (must be 2D) PSD (Adobe Photoshop)
DWG (must be 2D) STEP
PDF (cut objects must be vector-based) STL
Bitmap images (JPG, PNG, TIF, etc.) can be used for engraving only (not for cutting) STP
SVG files are acceptable but often have scaling issues, sending an EPS or PDF is preferred Any other 3D format file

Laser cutting file set up instructions

Here are some basic instructions for preparing your file for a quote. Additional tutorials and tips can also be found on our blog.

  • Use thin lines with a stroke width set to “0”, “hairline”, or <0.003″.
  • Use different colors or layers to separate cut lines, score lines, and engravings. We prefer:
    • RGB Blue lines less than 0.003″ wide for cutting.
    • RGB Red lines less than 0.003″ wide for scoring.
    • RGB Black color-fill, or lines greater than 0.003″ wide for engraving (note: all engravings are surface-etched unless you specifically request for a deeper engraving).
    • Green for notes and reference objects that you do not want us to cut (e.g., part or material size references, special instructions, etc.).
  • Include a size reference with a label, such as a 1″ square, so it’s easy for us to verify the size of your layout and quote it accordingly.
  • Convert all text to non-text objects to ensure that your design is preserved. Most programs use different terms for this operation, such as “explode text”, “convert to curves/paths/objects/outline”.
  • Avoid narrow features that are thinner than the material you plan on using as this can result in your parts breaking, warping, melting, or becoming very brittle.
  • Combine parts that use the same material into a single file, and avoid sending multiple files whenever possible.
  • Use layout sizes that work well with the material size whenever possible, while reserving a 1/4″ margin:
    • Standard plastic layout sizes:
      • 11.5″ x 11.5″
      • 11.5″ x 23.5″
      • 23.5″ x 23.5″
      • 23.5″ x 35.5″
      • 23.5″ x 47.5″
    • Standard plywood layout sizes:
      • 11.5″ x 23.5″
      • 23.5″ x 29.5″
      • 29.5″ x 47.5″
    • Note: We can handle larger layouts – up to 47.5″ x 47.5″ – but don’t usually stock sheets this large and prefer working with smaller, more manageable, layouts whenever possible.

Advanced file-setup tips

Adjust for the kerf width
You may want to adjust your cut paths to account for the approximate kerf width (the thickness of the beam), which is typically ~0.007″ – 0.010″, but varies based on many factors (see our capabilities and limitations page for more information). You can manually draw parts to be 0.007″ – 0.010″ wider (for exterior cuts) or smaller (for interior cuts), or use an automated line-offset or contour tool to do this for you.

Share lines to reduce cutting time for non-metal layouts
For most materials, you can nest parts right next to each other to reduce the cutting time and cost, but remember that you must delete one of the duplicate lines for this to be effective. Even though you might not be able to see them in the file, if you leave two lines stacked on top of each other, the laser cutter will recognize and cut both lines which can worsen the cut quality. We can accept line-shared layouts for most plastics, woods, foams, and rubbers, but we cannot use them for metals.

Round corners for stronger parts
If your parts include sharp corners, you might consider rounding them so they are less likely to crack upon impact – even adding a 1/16″ radius to a 90° angle can make a big difference!

Programs for drawing laser-cut parts

  • CorelDRAW (Corel.com) is what we use and love. It is available as a one-time purchase and as yearly and monthly subscriptions, and a free-trial period.
  • Adobe Illustrator (Adobe.com) is the most popular vector graphics editor available, making it easy to find online guides and tutorials. Monthly and yearly subscriptions are available, as well as a free trial.
  • Inkscape (Inkscape.org) is a free, open-source, vector graphics editor. While it works great for designing laser-cut parts, Inkscape’s default file format (SVG) often has scaling issues when opened with other programs. Please save your files as a PDF or EPS instead of an SVG when submitting your file for a quote.
  • LibreCAD (LibreCAD.org) is a free, open-source, CAD software capable of creating two-dimensional CAD files for laser-cutting.

Related Products

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