Make Prototypes for Laser Cutting at Home

Quickly and easily make paper prototypes with a CNC paper cutter.

Everyone who uses laser cutting for projects eventually encounters the same problem. You carefully double check your files, making sure that all the measurements are just right, send them to the cutter, get back the cut pieces, assemble the project . . . oops. Something isn’t right. Now you have to fix the files, send them back to the cutter, and wait.

Making prototypes can drastically reduce how often this sort of thing happens. For simple projects cutting out paper or cardboard with an X-ACTO works just fine, but this can be aggravating for more complicated project.

The ultimate guide to prototyping

Everything you need to know about prototyping your product ideas.

Get it all here

I came across a handy little device for automatically making paper prototypes while researching the Sketch Chair post. Unlike a laser cutter, these home-grade CNC paper cutters are affordable for someone in a home workshop with prices from only $250 up to around $1200. They use digital vector files like a laser cutter, but instead of a laser they use a small blade to cut the material. While they only cut materials like paper, card stock, or vinyl, they would still vastly simplify the process of making prototypes and models.

Read an overview of different types of CNC paper cutters after the jump.

Silhouette SD (picture at top of page)

This is a basic, inexpensive model made by Graphtec. (Note: This model appears to be a new version of the basic CraftRobo.)

  • Maximum cutting width: 7.75″
  • Maximum blade pressure: 230 grams
  • Materials: paper, cardstock, vinyl etc.
  • Price: $250-$300 depending on source

CraftRobo Pro

This is a more powerful model by Graphtec.

  • Maximum cutting width: 15″
  • Maximum blade pressure: 300 grams
  • Materials: paper, cardstock, vinyl etc.
  • Price: $1000


This company offers three different models with different cutting widths.

  • Maximum cutting width: 13″-24″ depending on model
  • Maximum blade pressure: 950 grams
  • Materials: most paper, cardstock, posterboard, fabric, vinyl, etc.
  • Price: $600-$1200 depending on model

Here’s a video of a Klic-N-Kut in action:

For more detailed information on these CNC paper cutters and more here’s a handy chart. To purchase a paper CNC try Paperthreads or the manufacturers’ sites. From what I can gather, these machines are primarily sold for scrapbooking, so the websites that sell them tend to be scrabooking-oriented.

And of course, once your prototypes are just right and you’re ready to make your final project, Ponoko Designmake has everything you need.

Via Google

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Donna Hawk

It’s great that you are promoting this option for prototyping! I actually have an early KNK (nearly three years old now) – got it before I had ever heard of Ponoko. You can go beyond just prototyping and really complement the Ponoko service with your cutter plotter. Think in terms of cutting parts from fun foam that actually have some thickness to them and can be assembled (you might have to run the machine through several passes to cut all the way through).

The KNK can also cut inexpensive acetate sheets (window ‘glass’, skrink plastic, fabric (from heavier felt to clothing weight), vinyl (as specified before), etc. There are several forums for users to share tips and tricks and while they are heavily skewed towards scrapbooking, there are many other artists there who are creating sliceforms, Origamic Architecture, fabric sculptures and other art.

With the newer machines coming out, you can pick up an older model at a very reasonable price!

Guy Blashki

Great info, I wonder how the lower-end machines hold up in real world usage. What a great gift for a design student!

Having something like this that could cut through 3-6mm cardboard would be amazing! Until then… I can only dream of either one of these or an industrial laser cutter.

Jon @

Taylor Gilbert

As far as I can tell these types of machines can’t cut corrugated cardboard. While I haven’t seen any information saying they can’t, I also haven’t seen any saying they can. I suspect the blade would get caught on the corrugations. Perhaps someone who owns one of these can confirm one way or the other?

I have the craftrobo (AKA Silhouette). It is a fantastic way to augment laser cut work. Mostly I use it for vinyl graphics that I apply to acrylic. It is capable of cutting cardstock, but you may need to make 2 passes. You will go through quite a few consumables if you do a lot of thick paper work (my wife makes cards and invitations, so we know), but its a great product for less than $300.

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