Converting an SVG to DXF for Laser Cutting
We use DXF files to enable instant quoting for our laser cutting service - our software reads the file and uses it to generate a laser cutting program, and then uses it to price your custom parts. When you order your laser-cut parts, we use your DXF to program our lasers.
A DXF is just a vector file that tells our lasers where to cut. If you are new to the industry, it may be unfamiliar to you, but DXF files are commonly used by CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) programs like Fusion 360, AutoCAD, SolidWorks, and others. Of those, we usually recommend Fusion 360 - it's free for hobbyists and small companies, and if you do need to buy a license, it's very inexpensive compared to other options.
Art-oriented software like Adobe Illustrator can export to DXF format, but it doesn't always do a great job creating drawings that we can use to program a machine, or quote a laser cutting job. Instead, you can use an SVG (another, much more commonly used file format) and then clean up the drawing in Fusion 360. Since it's often easier to produce an SVG instead of a DXF, here's a simple tutorial that describes how to do the conversion.
This isn't an automatic process, since we'll be working on the file a little to make sure it can be cut with a laser. But once you've done it once, it's quick, and it does a great job every time.
1. Find or Make Your SVG
You can do this in Illustrator, or find an existing SVG to use. As a general rule, your SVG doesn't have to be perfect (a lot will be fixed during the conversion process in Fusion 360, which we'll describe shortly), but your SVG should do a good job of outlining the part that you want to cut.
2. Import your SVG into Fusion 360
In a new Fusion 360 project, create a sketch, and import your SVG.
3. Extrude the SVG to create a solid object
An "Extrude" is an operation that takes an outlined area and creates a solid object out of it, as if you were grabbing the flat pattern and stretching it. Extruding your SVG into a solid object will automatically clean up intersecting lines and collisions. Don't worry about the extrusion thickness. We aren't going to use the 3D model at all, except to create an outline in the next step.
Fusion 360 will only allow you to extrude your part if it finds a totally enclosed area (when you hover your mouse over the part, as in the video above, outlines that fully enclose a space turn black when you hover over them). If there are gaps in the outline of your part, those gaps will need to be fixed before you can extrude the part. Similarly, if there are gaps on any internal features, those internal cutouts won't be preserved when you extrude the drawing.
* Also of note, if your SVG is already perfectly clean, as the one in this example video is, you can skip this step and the next step, and just export the new sketch as a DXF (jump from step 2 to step 5). Extruding and creating a new sketch from the 3D body's surface does guarantee that if there are any intersecting or duplicate lines, that they are fixed, so we recommend it if our web app tells you there is a problem.
4. Create a clean part outline by making a new sketch on the part surface
Fusion 360 makes it easy to create a sketch outlining a part. Just click the "Create Sketch" icon, and instead of clicking a plane to put the sketch, click on the surface of your part.
Fusion 360 will open the sketch for editing after you create it, but you don't need to change anything. Just click "Finish Sketch". Your new sketch should now contain just the outlines for your part, which is exactly what we need in order to quote your part for laser-cutting, and exactly what our lasers need to cut it out.
5. Export your DXF
Right-click the new sketch and click "Save as DXF." The file this creates is what you should upload on our instant quoting system.
And that's it! The DXF you just exported is prepped and ready to go. You can upload it on our instant online quoting app to get prices, and place an order whenever you are ready!
Incidentally, this is also a fantastic way to clean up an existing DXF to prepare it for laser cutting, and we do this a lot when we need to clean up files submitted in our system: instead of importing an SVG to your sketch, you can import a DXF, and then extrude it to clean it up in the same way described above.
And if you design a part from scratch in Fusion 360, it's often nice to wait until the end and create a new sketch, instead of trying to make a laser-cuttable drawing all in 2D: you can use construction lines, mirror features, extrude, add edge radii, and anything else that you'd normally do when creating a 3D CAD model. Then you can create a new sketch on the finished geometry, and export to get a DXF that can be used for laser cutting.