Laser cutting with SketchUp Pro

Lasersnijden met SketchUp Pro - Snijlab

In this tutorial you will learn how to turn a 3D SketchUp Model into a laser drawing. As an example we use a simple facade for an architectural model (scale model). SketchUp is a computer program that allows you to draw in 3D. It is a relatively cheap program compared to other programs and it is easy to learn. It is available for Windows and OSX. A 3D SketchUp model consists of a .skp file format but can also import and export .pdf and .dwg drawings.

There are different variants of SketchUp: SketchUp Pro and SketchUp Free .
SketchUp Pro has more features but, unlike SketchUp Free, it is not free.
SketchUp Free is an online version of SketchUp Pro, useful if you want to try out the program!

SketchUp is:

  • easy to learn (there are many tutorials available on the internet)
  • suitable for drawing in 3D and 2D

This tutorial uses SketchUp Pro.

Download our SketchUp template here . The layers and styles have been set up here so you can get started right away. Now you can sign!

  • Draw your 3D model in scale 1:1, or convert your existing 3D Model to scale 1:1 by scaling it. In this tutorial the model is drawn as it will actually look, including the thickness of the material to be lasered. This way you can immediately see what your model will look like.

  • Convert your 3D model from 3D to 2D. You can do this by rotating the different parts and placing them in a flat plane.

  • If you need different parts of the same material, you can combine them into one drawing (nest). Pay attention to the maximum size of the material you are going to use. You can draw parts all the way to the edge of the plate dimension.

  • When nesting, leave a small space between the parts: at least 2 mm (4 mm for foam).

  • Draw a frame of cutting lines along the edge of your drawing for a neat edge. If you do not draw a frame, we will position the drawing on a plate as we see fit. It is possible that the edges of the plate are sawn instead of lasered.

Tip: If you use 'Components' in the 3D model of the maquette and copy them to the 2D plane, you will immediately see the adjustments you make in the 2D plane reflected in the 3D model.

The distinction between cutting and engraving is made on the basis of colors:
Blue (RGB 0,0,255) lines are cut
Red (RGB 255,0,0) lines are engraved as a line
Magenta (RGB 255,0,255) closed lines are engraved as flat
Gray (RGB 128,128,128) lines are ignored (useful as guide lines, or help text)

Please note: unrecognized colors and layer names are automatically read as 'cutting'. These lines appear blue in the preview.

In order to be able to export the lines with a color, it is important in which layers the objects are located (see the drawing rules ).

  • Draw according to the drawing rules in the correct layers:

    Put cutting lines in the 'cutting' layer
    Place engraving lines in the 'line engraving' layer
    Place engraving areas in the 'surface engraving' layer
    Put all lines and 'faces' that do not need to be cut or engraved in the 'ignore' layer

  • Text must be converted to lines before it can be cut or engraved.

To display the colors of the lines from the different layers with the correct color, you will have to adjust the display settings in 'Styles'. A Style has already been created in the SketchUp template with the correct settings called 'Laser Cutting'.

  • Go to Window > Styles

  • Under Styles, select 'Laser cutting'

Check whether:

  • in the Edge Settings
    'Edges' is checked
    the Edge 'Color' is set to 'By material'
  • in the Modeling Settings
    'Color by Layer' is checked
  • Check whether the Layers have the correct 'Material Color' and the color of the lines is now correct.

  • Make sure the 'Camera' is set to 'Parallel Projection' instead of 'Perspective'.
    Camera > Parallel Projection

  • Set the 'Camera' to the 'Top View'.
    Camera > Standard Views > Top

  • File > Export > 2D Graphic…
    Under Format: choose PDF File (*.pdf)

  • Click on Options…

Check whether:

  • Image Scale the correct scale is set: 1.0 mm 'In Image' = 1.0 mm 'In Model'
  • Line Quality the Line Scale is at 0.5
  • Click OK

  • Click on Export

On our website, drag the .pdf file into the upload field.

Check carefully whether:

  • the size is correct
  • the colors of the preview match the intended edits

Blue = cut completely
Red = line/vector engraving
Magenta = surface engraving
Gray = no operation / layer to ignore

Please note: unrecognized colors and layer names are automatically read as 'cutting'. These lines appear blue in the preview.

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