Laser Cutting with Illustrator: Basics

For this tutorial, we will take the example of a mosaic.

1_mosaique.jpg

There are colored parts, in acrylic, and the structure, which will be realized in wood. Each color is on a different layer.

2_mosaique.jpg

1.1. Anticipate the kerf

The lines of the wooden structure and of the shapes that will fit into it are overlapping perfectly. This looks the way we want our final part to look, but as a design for laser cutting, it's not optimal, since it doesn't take the kerf into account. The kerf is the thickness of the laser, the mark it leaves when it cuts or engraves material. You need to take it into account when designing, to be sure the parts won't be loose and move in the wooden structure. You have to :

1. Increase the dimensions of all parts : object > path > offset path, and offsetting all the lines outwards, by 0.2 mm

3_path_1.jpg

2. Add a curve in the corners : in the same window (object > path > offset path), a drop-down menu will allow you to to make the corners round.

1.2. Arrange elements in your file

1. Bring all the parts into the same layer: Now that all the objects are created in the selection, you cut and paste them in the same place, so they are together in one layer. You can invert the filling and the contour, so that only the contour line is left.

2. Organize the elements in space so that the parts take as little space as possible (to save material). You can place the parts manually. When you move the parts, it's important not to let them overlap. Otherwise, the laser would cut through them and we wouldn't get the result we imagined.

4_placer_pieces_1.jpg

3. Check the minimum space between 2 shapes: It's important to leave a minimum space between the lines, otherwise the laser might potentially leave marks by passing twice on areas close to one another. You can use the Measure Tool to check. We recommend a minimum of 1 mm space between two shapes.

5_mesurer_1.jpg

4. Check the dimensions of the file: Check if the size of the file is not too large for the laser cutting board. Here are the minimum and maximum dimensions that the laser cutting board of our machines can support:

Minimum dimension 15 x 15 mm
Maximum dimension 940 x 590 mm

5. Optimize the space: You can try to optimize even more the disposition of the different sketches, by pushing them side by side. You will have to delete the superimposed lines; check the next part of the tutorial to see how you can do.

6_side_by_side_2.jpg

1.3. Delete double lines

The problem when you only stick the parts side by side without any other operation is that, when there is a double line, the laser will pass over the line twice, and will generate overheating and marks. It can damage the quality of the part.

We specifically ask you to make sure that each line is unique . Here is how you can proceed:

1. Add an anchor point in the beginning of the double line, then delete the extra line with the white arrow.

7_anchor_points_1.jpg

2. Decrease the opacity of your lines by 50%, temporarily, to locate the zones where two lines superimpose. This will make the lines partly transparent, and it will allow you to see where the lines are still double.

1.4. Upload your file!

Now that your file is finished, you can export it in . SVG , as this is the best-suited format for our laser cutting service : file > export, and you can upload it on Sculpteo's website.

If you wish to learn more about our laser cutting beta offer before uploading your file, click here .