Laser Cutting with Sketchup: Design a good 2D file

1.1. Materials for laser cutting

While you create your design, please consider your material's specifications. These caracteristics will alter the minimal space between two lines for example, or the thickness of the final object. You will find all the information and design guidelines concerning each material in our Materials for laser cutting page.

1.2. Methods involving laser beam

There are a few processes that use a laser beam, the main two being laser cutting and laser engraving (we invite you to discover more about them here).

Depending on what you want to do, you may think about your design differently. So choose wisely which part of your design you want to cut, and which one you want to engrave only.

1.3. Be careful with 3D Files

Laser cutting is a process mainly used to work on surfaces. As such, it won't understand a 3D file. You may only work with lines and vectorial drawings, any volume will be translated into such, and the result may be different from what you expected.

pyramid

cross within a square

As we can see here, the pyramid was transformed into a cross within a square, as the model was not suited for laser cutting.

It is thus necessary to work on only one plane or separate ones, to avoid any difference between your design and the object which will be created. Depending on the plugin (we will talk about this later), your 3D model will be translated into one or multiple elements.

1.4. SketchUp tools for 2D design

By its functionalities, SketchUp is perfect to learn and start working on 2D designs. Whenever you want to create anything with this software, you need to draw it on a 2D plane first, then extrude it to form 3D models. Building a design for laser cutting follows the same pattern, without the extrusion.

Use a combination of the lines and forms tools to get the first shape of your design. Then, follow up with the Offset and Follow-Me tools, that will enable you to create more complex forms without any difficulties.

When you are done with your design, it may be time to export it for laser cutting.