Laser cut leaf

Lasergesneden blad - Snijlab

A decorative hybrid between nature and technology, and also a fun project: Create your own laser-cut leaf. Below is a short tutorial.

What do you need?

  • a picture of the vein structure of a leaf. The best thing, of course, is to find a nice magazine yourself and scan it (a well-lit photo also works), or you can find a suitable picture on the internet.
  • Adobe Illustrator.
  • Optional: a CAD program such as autoCAD, Rhinoceros, LibreCAD or draftsight.
  • A Snijlab account.

This is the scan of the sheet. For the next steps it is important that the contrast is as high as possible and that the resolution is sufficient to see the smallest veins. I opened the photo in Photoshop, increased the contrast and saved the file again.

Now open the file in Illustrator. It is currently still a bitmap file, which is why you can see the pixels. Select the image and click on 'Image Trace'.

With the Image Trace function you can convert a bitmap (pixels) into vectors (lines). You can adjust the settings to get the best possible result. In this case I have set the Threshold slightly lower. Every time you change something in the settings, Illustrator creates a new preview. With large files like these it can take a while!

If the result is satisfactory, you can close the window and click 'Expand'. The bitmap is now gone and what you see on your screen are vectors.

To create one plane from all the separate planes, use the 'Pathfinder' tool. Select everything and click 'unite'.

At this point I continue in Rhinoceros. You can also do the final steps in illustrator, but I like to do a final check in a CAD program. Save the file (as .ai or .dxf) and open it again in Rhino.

In my opinion, the outside line was a bit too close to the cutouts. With the Offset tool you can move the line out a few millimeters to get a solid edge.

With the 'SelDup' command you can check whether there are any duplicate lines in your drawing. You can also use the CurveBoolean or the Make2D tool to remove unnecessary lines.

Finally, you can set the dimensions to your liking with the Scale command. I make the leaf approximately 600mm wide so that the smallest veins are at least 0.5mm. Anything thinner than that becomes too fragile.

Above: The final drawing is a neat picture, ready for laser cutting! At this stage you can save the file as .dxf and upload it to your account onsnijlab.nl

And below is the end result: the top cut in matte white acrylic and 2mm MDF.

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