Ponoko

Starter Kit: Inkscape

Starter Kit: Inkscape

Inkscape

What is possible with laser cutting?

Laser cutting is great for intricate designs like jewelry, coasters, homeware and many other things. 2-dimensional or layered designs tend to be the most successful and value for money for reselling.

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What materials are available?

There are over 100 material options available include acrylic, wood, leather and metal. See them here. See them ordered by price here.

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What sizes are available?

Download the Inkscape design template set.

We have 4 templates sizes available which match match the sizes of the materials available. Choose the size that best suits the size of your design. You can add as many designs as you like to maximize your material usage.

Not all of the templates are available for each material so you’ll need to know which material you wish to use before you start laying out your designs. eg: Black acrylic comes in P1, P2, and P3 sizes. Birch plywood comes in P1 and 24x12 sizes.

You can see on the right hand side of the materials page which templates you should use for that material.

Our material sheets themselves are always slightly larger than the template Safe Area, and are often cut out on a saw so they don't have nice smooth laser-cut edges.

If you have a product in mind that requires nice, clean edges, then we recommend adding a blue cutting line around the ‘safe area’ part of our templates.

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How much will it cost?

Our software works out how long your order will take to make based on the material you have selected and the number of lines in your file. We then multiply that time by a per minute making rate to get your making cost.

Simply upload a correctly formatted digital design file into your account, choose a material to make it form, and we’ll provide you with an instant price for making it.

We have lower per minute rates on bulk orders available for Prime members as well as loyalty pricing that gets lower the longer you are a Prime account member.

You can also upgrade your making and shipping speeds to ensure your design arrives by your deadline.

Read out 10 tips for getting the lowest price here.

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How do I get a quote?

Login to your account and go to ponoko.com/quote

Simply upload a correctly formatted digital design file into your account, choose a material to make it form, and you’ll see an instant price to make it.

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How do you design for lasers?

There are 3 design elements; cutting lines, area engraving, and line engraving

To cut a line

Then set the stroke style to a width of 0.01 mm:

And set the stroke color to blue with the 'Stroke paint' RGBA values of 0, 0, 255, 255:

To engrave a line

Then set the stroke style to a width of 0.01 mm:

And set the stroke color to red with the 'Stroke paint' RGBA values of 255, 0, 0, 255:

To engrave an area

Open the Object > Fill and Stroke window and set the fill color to black with the 'Fill' RGBA values of 0, 0, 0, 255:

It's that easy.

Want more engraving options? Check out our advanced engraving options here

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What is the smallest overall part size that can be made?

Designs should be bigger than 5mm/0.197". When we cut your design, your sheet of material sits upon a honeycomb-like bed. Very small parts (5mm/0.197" round/square and smaller) can fall through the laser bed during cutting and be lost.

This is something that cannot be avoided, so your best option is to add extra copies of your small parts to your design to account for those which may be lost. You can also tag your pieces into the surrounding material.

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What is the smallest feature that can be made?

Designs should not have features (eg ascenders or descenders on text) smaller than 0.04”/1.0mm. A small amount of material is lost as the laser cuts out your design, approximately 0.2-0.4mm, or 0.1-0.2mm either side of the line you draw. You need to make sure your design is drawn slightly larger than your desired result to account for this.

For durable designs we recommend that any positive features are not smaller than 0.04”/1.0mm so they don't bend or break in use or get damaged in handling.

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How do you design for mirror acrylic?

We cut through the back of the mirror sheet - through the reflective coating. Designs need to be reversed so when viewed from the front, any lettering, numbers or engraving will appear correctly.

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How do you convert fonts for laser cutting?

Any text you use in your design file needs to be converted to paths. This way the laser cutter will follow your design correctly, regardless of whether or not it has the font installed.

This is as simple as selecting your text and then choosing Path > Object to Path from the top menu. You won't be able to edit the text once you've done this so do it last, after your spell check.

You can create text using raster fill engraving, vector line engraving, or a combination of both.

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How do you convert images for laser cutting?

Our making system only registers vector artwork. It will ignore images inserted in other formats (such as .jpg or .bmp).

To get around this, you'll need to trace the image you want to incorporate in your design. You can do this by selecting the inserted image and using the Path > Trace Bitmap window. You'll see there are several tracing options so try out a few until you find the one you want. Make sure your traced shapes are a single solid color.

Now close the ‘Trace Bitmap' window. The original image will still be behind your new traced image, so make sure you select it and delete it.

Next, click on the traced image with the ‘Edit paths by nodes' tool. If the trace has worked correctly, vectors should appear around all the individual parts of the traced image.

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How do you export your file?

Step 1: Use the File > Save as command and select the format as 'Inkscape SVG':

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How do you get the lowest price?

Sign up for Prime

Prime account members get the best pricing always.

Bulk pricing - is automatically calculated when you price up larger orders

Loyalty Pricing - Your making rate gets lower the longer you remain a Prime member.

A simple design = low price.

Each line you create in your design adds making time to your order. The less detail in your file the less time it will take to cut out and the less it will cost.

Prototype your design for free at home.

Print your design out on paper to spot any immediate problems with the design such as over all scale or parts that are too detailed. If your design doesn’t look right on paper chances are it won't be right for laser cutting either.

Read more here

Start with a small size material (P1) and test multiple simple prototypes.

Test your ideas on a small piece of material first. We recommend starting with a P1 for prototyping your design and testing multiple design variations in 1 order.

Experiment with different engraving types and sizes to see which will work best for your design.

Make a cardboard prototype. You won't regret it.

Cardboard is cheap and cuts fast. Prototyping complex interlocking designs in card is a good way to resolve any design issues before committing to making it in a more expensive material

Tile your designs to make the most of the material

Our 4 templates sizes match the sizes of the materials available. To make the most of the material you can copy as many designs as will fit inside the template. Leave 1-2mm of spacing between designs to ensure designs come out well.

Consider whether line engraving is a better option than area engraving

Area Engraving is a time consuming process, similar to how a dot-matrix printer works. For creating details in your design, line engraving might be a cheaper option.

Group designs with area engraving as close together as possible

For area engraving the laser head moves quickly back and forth on the horizontal axis, and slowly down the vertical axis a 0.1mm at a time. The less vertical distance the laser has to travel while doing area engraving the cheaper the design will be.

Removing double lines

If you place objects directly beside each other, it's likely you'll end up with cutting lines sitting one on top of the other.

You should be able to see these quite plainly as being a darker blue than your other cutting lines. You need to change these double lines into a single cutting line, otherwise the line will literally be cut twice – which is not the best for your material, or the machine.

Read more about how to remove double lines here.

Thinner material = Lower cost

Thinner material cuts faster than thicker material and therefore will have a lower making cost.

Curved lines vs. Straight lines

The lasers slow down dramatically on curves, ask yourself, are there any parts that you can take away curved sections without compromising the overall design? Several vector drawing programs allow you to either simplify linework down to straight lines. If not try to reduce the size of radiuses as shown in the image below.

Also if you have lots of long straight lines try to align them parallel with either the x or y axis - this means the laser's lens is only traveling in one direction at a time, it is slightly more efficient for the laser cutting

Read more about this here.

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What other tips should I know?

How to improve your engraving results

The laser cutter works like an old dot matrix printer except instead of dots of ink it uses pulses of the laser beam. The laser head moves back and forth on the horizontal axis This means vertical elements do not come out as defined as horizontal elements.

Where vertical elements, like the letter I or L measure less than 1mm the area engraving outcome is not very crisp. This is more noticeable the smaller the text gets.

One thing you can do to improve the quality of the engraving is to combine area and line engraving on your text or shapes to make them stand out better..

So if you want engraved text to come out super crisp,

Then set the stroke style width to 0.01 mm:

Set the fill color to black with the 'Fill' RGBA values of 0, 0, 0, 255:

And set the stroke color to red with the 'Stroke paint' RGBA values of 255, 0, 0, 255:

Converting strokes to fill colors

To turn a black stroke into a filled shape in Inkscape, select your line and use the Path > Stroke to Path command. We don't recommend converting lines that are less than 0.5mm in stroke weight. If you want a very thin engraving line, we would always recommend using line engraving instead of area engraving.

The black strokes will then turn into black fills.

How to self check your designs before uploading

If you have any trouble uploading your design file to Ponoko, you can self check your Illustrator designs pretty quickly using the Select > Same commands. We have put together a video which outlines how to do this.

Watch the self-check video/


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