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Software for laser profile cutting

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David Gosden10/08/2015 13:14:30
17 forum posts
4 photos

I am working towards building a loco - probably a 5" 0-6-0 diesel shunter and am considering having the frames laser cut. I intend to put this work out to a firm.

I usually scratch build straight out of my head 'as I go' or work off sketches on the backs of old envelopes in the best tradition but think I'll do some 'proper' drawings for this project.

Will someone kindly advise which CAD software format is used for machine cutting and is fairly easy to use. It would be useful if drawings can be output in pdf format too.

Thanks in anticipation.

David G

Bob Rodgerson10/08/2015 13:43:56
609 forum posts
174 photos


in the past I have had parts cut by jet cutting and also laser cutting using AutoCad. I know that the jet cutting was done directly from a DXF file that I sent to the cutting company.



John McNamara10/08/2015 13:46:40
1328 forum posts
122 photos

Hi David

Most laser cutting contractors can read multiple formats

The DXF format is pretty universal.
So is the DWG format.

You might want to try Draftsight (Free) from Dassault Systems a heavyweight company
It can export the formats you need. There is lots of support for it on the net.


PDF is not a good choice for laser cutting, it requires messy conversion. OK for printing on paper.

Many CAD programs will export to DXF files. If you have a choice choose an older version of DXF export. Some contractors do not have the latest software. You can ask them which version they can work with. Cutting files are just simple outlines no problem for older versions.

Most contractors prefer a separate file for each part to be cut from a larger sheet. Many prefer to do their own part nesting. Ask them to email you a sheet listing their preferred format and file structure. Make sure the drawings are ready to cut. If the contractor has to do it you will pay more.

Make sure the outline of the part contains properly joined but not overlapping endpoints, no gaps (a continuous line right around an object or hole is needed). Hole diameters should not be less than the thickness of the sheet or larger particularly when dealing with plate over 5mm. Contractors with later model cutting machines can better this but it is a good rule of thumb. Ask your contractor.

You can supply your own material or let the laser cutter supply. If you are buying steel sheet in smaller quantities you may find the laser cutters material somewhat cheaper. and you wont get stuck with material delivery charges and minimums.


Edited By John McNamara on 10/08/2015 13:55:37

David Jupp10/08/2015 14:24:49
790 forum posts
17 photos

Ensure your DXF or DWG drawing file is generated as if on a 'blank sheet' - any borders or title blocks will only have to be removed. Create the drawing file at full size (1:1 scale).

Check with the contractor - including one single dimension to allow verification of scale after import to their system may be a good idea; otherwise don't include any dimension annotation.

Once you have the drawing in your software, creating a PDF should be easy from any software - just print to any one of the many PDF 'virtual printers' that are available (many of them free).  You may want more dimensions showing on your PDF print - that is where 'layers' are helpful - you can turn visibility on or off as required.





Edited By David Jupp on 10/08/2015 14:27:38

David Gosden12/08/2015 10:21:15
17 forum posts
4 photos

Thanks for all the info.

I checked DraftSight but the current version does not work with Windows XP. However anyone wanting the XP or any other version can search

There is a dropdown list of many versions, sortable by operating system and variant - very handy!

The XP download is 117MB and it is the 2013 version of DraftSight. When installed it works sweetly.

David G

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