To create a part on the laser cutter, you need a computer-generated file that describes the lines for the laser to cut. Even though the parts are flat, complex 3D structures can be created by using tabs and slots to connect part edges to part faces.
As you are creating the computer file, remember that the typical kerf (thickness of cut) in thin acrylic can be 0.005 to 0.010 inches and is slightly tapered, so parts typically are slightly smaller than the designed form and the edges are not perfectly square.
You can use different colored lines in your drawing to control whether the laser cutter cut through or etches the line.
The best format for a cutting plan drawing is DXF with millimeter units and 1:1 scale. The key rule is that every line on the drawing will create a cut in the material, so make sure there are no stray marks, text, annotations, frames, or labels.
The DXF files are 2D drawings, so can be generated from drawing programs such as Inkscape, Sketch, or Illustrator, 2D CAD programs such as DraftSight, or 3D CAD such as SolidWorks or Rhino by creating the appropriate 2D drawing outputs. Each of these progams will allow you to save or export your drawing as a DXF file.
You may find the following Lynda tutorials useful. (Be sure you go to Lynda via the CMU portal; otherwise Lynda will ask you for money. The following links should work if you have already logged in through the CMU Web ISO page )
- Understanding Vector Graphics
- Adobe Illustrator
- Learning Sketch: Creating Vector Graphics
- AutoCAD 2D Design