The following guidelines give a detailed step by step overview of how to set up your drawings for in AutoCad Software. You can download a demo copy for free that you can use for up to 30 days.
How to set up a file in AutoCad®
- Using our drawing templates
- If using your materials or not using a template
- Configuring units and scale
- Laser cutting lines
- Vector engraving / scoring lines
- Raster engraving
- Converting text for vector engraving / scoring
- Nesting & minimum cut widths
- Maintaining continuous vector geometry - Joining lines
- Maintaining continuous vector geometry - Joining Polylines (Pedit)
- Drafting curves - circular arc segments
- Reducing points / removing overlapping lines (Overkill)
- Saving your file
Using our drawing templates
If using our materials, we recommend using our drawing templates, they help to verify scale and material type. Materials come in all different sizes depending on the maximum sheet size supplied from the manufacturer.
Templates for AutoCad can be downloaded from the corresponding “material page in the materials gallery:”/laser-cutting-materials-laser-engraving-materials. Once downloaded, select and open the sheet size that is large enough for your components.
Working with the drawing templates
Multiple files from same material
If you want all your parts cut / engraved from the same material, arrange into multiples of the same template.
Multiple files from different materials
If you want parts cut / engraved from multiple materials, use the corresponding templates for chosen material.
Try and use templates that suit best the scale of you drawings. i.e if your components can fit within a 1000mm x 500mm template, don’t position your drawing on a 2000mm x 1000mm template with lots of excess.
If you have lots of small components from the same material, it’s best to draft these on a series of smaller templates approximately 1000mm x 500mm rather than on one large template. Cutting & engraving densely populated files over large areas can cause the material to warp during the process.
If you have elements of your drawing that will only fit onto a large template but don’t need to use a whole sheet, just leave the remaining areas blank. We’ll only charge you for the amount of material you need.
If using your materials or not using a template
- Select Format > Units > Type: architectural / Units mm
- Draw a referance rectangle at 1:1 scale to match the size of the material in mm
- Makes sure your reference rectangle is in on the 0 layer, so it will not be cut or scored or engraved
- Offset a 5mm border from the sheet size of the material
- You can draft multiple rectangles on one file if setting up different files to be processed from the same material type, sheet size and thickness only.
Configuring units and scale
- Draw all components at a scale of 1 unit = 1mm
If adapting architectural drawings from a real scale, they will most likely dwarf the reference border rectangle. You’ll need to scale the drawing down via the correct scale factor.
To do this:
- Find the scale factor of your drawing using the following equation:
1 / Drawing print scale x Unit conversion factor = Scale factor
You will get a decimal number.
- Select all the elements of the drawing you want to scale and activate the scale command
- Select the base point and drag cursor to the right to select all of your drawing
- Enter the decimal number you just calculated
You will most likely need to search for the scaled down drawings on your screen . Once you have found them, place within the template / reference rectangle.
Laser cutting lines
For everything you would like to have laser cut you’ll need to put all these lines onto a seperate layer and set to the following specifications:
- Make a new layer in the layer menu
- Re-name the layer “Cut”
- Set the stroke to True colour *Red This should be at the RGB value of: 255,0,0
- Set the Line weight to 0.05mm or as thin as you can make.
Vector engraving / scoring lines
For everything you would like to have vector engraved / scored you’ll need to put all lines onto a seperate layer and set to the following specifications:
- Make a new layer in the layer menu
- Re-name the layer “Vector / score”
Vector engrave / Score depth
For all materials, we have established optimized settings. In vector engraving terms the marking is cosmetic. Our optimum settings are fairly shallow and typically a balance between legibility and cleanliness. (The Strokes & Fonts sample (0.25pt) on the material pages demonstrates the clarity achievable on each material.)
- Set the stroke to True colour *Blue This should be at the RGB value of: 0,0,255
- Set the Line weight to 0.05mm or as thin as you can make.
It is rare to raster engrave from drawings drafted in AutoCad but it is possible. As it is a purely vector based program no lines can be raster engraved. Make sure all your lines you require to be engraved are set to vector engrave.
Set all all portions you want to have raster engraved to:
- Solid hatch fill
- Black: RGB: 0,0,0
Arrange parts economically
When arranging artwork for engraving that have a few components on one sheet, it’s best to keep all of the raster engraving as close together as possible and in horizontal row. See more on nesting components for raster engraving
Raster engraving standard appearance & depth
We have established optimized settings for all materials. In raster engraving terms the marking is cosmetic, shallow and typically a balance between legibility and cleanliness. The Strokes & Fonts sample on the material pages demonstrates the clarity achievable on each material.)
Bespoke depths / treatments:
If you would like to achieve a deeper result or an engraving a little heavier let us know your specification. In laser terms depth is usually specified in microns. Our standard engrave is approx 0.25 microns (depending on material) and has excellent legibility.Up to 2mm is considered deep for most materials!
It is achievable, but the laser has to run slowly meaning the concentrated heat build up makes the material appear quite burnt / heat scorched. It is also more expensive to process. Raster and vector engraving is not an absolute science in terms of depth specification and therefore not suitable for making mechanical grooves or any features requiring precise depths. Achieving a certain depth is balance in variation between the laser power and speed. A depth of engraving will always be within a tolerance of +/-0.2mm.
Converting text for vector engraving / scoring
All text used for labelling purposes will need to setup to be vector engraved / scored. To do this, you’ll need to make sure the font you use is not bold or solid hatch filled font:
- Use a single line font e.g an .txt font where possible
If using a bold solid hatch filled font such as Arial and you are using a PC you can use the Express tools command to retain the font
style in outlines. To do this:
- Select the text you would like to explode.
- Select Express tools > Text explode.
The command is not perfect and you might need to delete any stray lines within the outlines:
- Activate the regular explode command to break polylines into line segments
- Delete exploded lines as required
Nesting & minimum cut widths
- If compiling a file with lots of components on one sheet of material, make sure there is a gap of at least 2mm between the components.
Small details / cut widths:
- * The laser burns away a portion of material which ranges from 0.1mm – 0.4mm depending on a lot of different factors. This means any areas in your design where cut lines come closer than 0.5mm together they could burn away entirely. Any details narrower than 1mm are likely to be very fragile and in some cases can cause the material to warp whilst cutting. You need to be aware of this when drafting your drawing.
- As a benchmark, we recommend that minimum cut widths be no smaller than the thickness of the material. E.G. If cutting from 3mm acrylic, its best not to allow cut widths less than 3mm. We can go smaller but we can’t be held responsible if you your components become fragile for you application. You can browse the minimum cut width tests in the materials galley.
This is particularly important when scaling architectural drawings from real scale using a scale factor. Be sure to check your cut widths on your scaled drawing before sending. Something drawn in real scale (e.g a window frame) might scale to a width that will not hold together when laser cut. You might need to adapt these details slightly as a compromise.
Maintaining continuous vector geometry - Joining linesTry and draw in polylines if you can to maintain continuous vector geometry. If drawings are drafted with lines from more than one path, make sure that they are joined.
Joining lines – (note this will only function for single lines that are co-linear)
- In the command box type J for Join
- Select source object or multiple objects to join at once then press enter
- Objects to join and press enter
- Lines will now join to form complete lines
Maintaining continuous vector geometry - Joining Polylines (Pedit)
To Join multiple polylines use the Pedit command
- In the command box type PE (pedit) for poly line edit
- Press M to Select multiple lines, poly lines
- Select each line (object) as prompted one by one. Once selected they will appear dashed.
- Once you have selected all the lines press Enter you will get a set of options drop down and in the command line.
- Select the Join command to join lines / poly lines together.
Drafting curves - circular arc segments
All curves must becircular arc segments.
You can’t use bezier curves, elliptical arcs or ellipses. Also make sure no curves are formed from very short, straight lines or vector masses. This will make the the cutting very messy and take a long time to process. You might need to re-trace your curves, if you come across this.
Reducing points / removing overlapping lines (Overkill)
When drafting your drawing ensure that there are no duplicate vector strokes stacked up on one another. If you don’t get rid of them the laser will cut / score these lines repeatable, ruining the material and damaging the laser bed.
You will also need to draw with the least amount of points possible without sacrificing the appearance. If you can reduce them, we suggest you do. The machines will read your drawings better.
To delete duplicate lines and reduce points within Polylines you can use the Overkill Command. (Delete duplicate objects)
To do this:
- Type Overkill into the command box
- Select the objects you want apply the tools to. (try it in sections first, to see how it affects your drawing.)
- Check box Optimize polyline segments (for points)
- Check box Combine co-linear objects that overlap
- Check box Combine co-linear that are end to end
- Check box Maintain associative objects
- Click ok and wait for the command to finish
Adjust the commands to suit your needs.The “Numeric Fuzz” is the “Fuzz factor” that is set to 0 (zero) by default. This function analyses how closely objects are overlapped. For example if two lines look to be overlapped, but one is very slightly off – you can increase this “fuzz factor” and overkill will look for objects that are more minutely overlapped.
Saving your file
- Select File > Save As
- File Format AutoCAD 2004/LT 2004 DXF (dxf)* or earlier IMPORTANT
Save your files in the following named format, replacing the fields with the relevant information:
The material drawing templates already have the material category name and reference rectangle dimension by default, you will just need to enter your individual material specification and drawing name. Make sure you give easily identifiable names to your drawings:
BIRCH PLYWOOD_3MM_1200x600MM_ARCH MODEL1OF5