Laser Cutting with Sketchup: Manage and export 2D files

Summary​

  • 1.1. Materials for laser cutting
  • 1.2. Methods involving laser beam
  • 1.3. Be careful with 3D Files
  • 1.4. SketchUp tools for 2D design
  • 2.1. Install Plugins
  • 2.2. One .svg plugin: FlightOfIdeas
SketchUp efficiency is enhanced by the amount of plugins available for the software. Whether it is to help you with complex modeling operations or to offer you new export formats, it is highly advised to take a look at everything you can find. There are a few ways to install these plugins:
  • The Extension Warehouse in SketchUp itself
  • The SketchUcation Plugin Store
  • Direct Installation of a .rbz file
The Extension Warehouse can be directly accessed in SketchUp in the menu « Window – Extension Warehouse ». You will need to login with a Google account, but once it’s done you can easily install any plugin directly in the software. The SketchUcation Plugin Store follows roughly the same pattern. After creating an account, you will need to install the SketchUcation Toolbar, from which you will be able to download plugins from the store. Finally, you can find a lot of plugins directly on the Internet, such as on Github or Instructables. To install them on SketchUp, you will need to go to the menu « Window – Preferences ». Then select « Extensions » in the dialog box, and finally click the « Install Extension » button. Find the .rbz file in your computer, select it, and click on « OK ». These plugins will enable us to work directly on a design and then to laser cut it.

Right now, we highly prefer the .svg format for laser cutting, so you will need a plugin that enables you to export your design in this extension.

For this tutorial, we are going to use the plugin named FlightsOfIdeas. You can find it on Github (here). As explained above, install it on your SketchUp by going into « Window – Preferences ».

FlightsOfIdeas enables you to choose which face you want to laser cut, and create a .svg file that you will be able to upload on our platform.

FlightsOfIdeas 

If you successfully installed the plugin, a short toolbar with two buttons will appear on your screen. The one on the left is the one we’re going to use.

For this example, we are going to make a trophy base. The other part will be 3D printed, so we need a hole to fix it afterwards.

To do it, just use the Rectangle tool to make a first plane, then extrude it. The thickness is not important, as only one face will be exported. Finally, use the Offset tool to create a smaller rectangle within the first one. You should get this final result:

Offset tool

The greyish area is the one we want to cut, to make a hole.

The next step is to select the plane you want to work on. Do not forget any lines !

select the plane

If you were to select all the model, the .svg file would contain 6 faces, with 5 blanks. You can work on the .svg afterwards to remove them, with software such as Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape.

Now, click on the SVG button of our plugin. This window should appear on your screen.

plugin interface

This is the main FlightsOfIdeas interface.

  • The first group of options will enable you to select a name and a location to save your .svg (don’t forget to put the extension format at the end of your name)
  • The second group will take in charge the units and measurements of your design. Usually, you will work in millimeters. This is also the selected per default option.
  • The third group will enable you to select which lines you want to export, and how to distinguish them. You can change the width and the color of each category (for the latter, by entering a new hexadecimal code). It is highly advised to not get a width larger than 0,5 mm, otherwise the computer may consider the form as a thin rectangle, and not a proper line.

    FlightsOfIdeas differentiates 3 main types of lines : The outlines of your faces, the ones dissecting it, and finally the others. Use this distinction to help you see where to cut and where to engrave your design.
  • The last option will let you link this plugin with another software, from where you will be able to work on the new .svg

Once you are done with those parameters, click on the« Save » button, on the bottom left corner.

A new window should appear to tell you the export went well.

the export went well 

Now, if we take a look at it:

rectangle within a rectangle 

As written in the parameters, the line for the hole is red and thinner than the borderlines.

You can now upload this file on our website for laser cutting!