Making Laser Cutter Designs Work in a 3D Printer

The main mechanical tools in a hacker’s shop used to be a drill press and a lathe. Maybe a CNC mill, if you were lucky. Laser cutters are still a rare tool to find in a personal shop, but today’s hackers increasingly have access to 3D printers. What happens when you have a design for a laser cutter (2D parts) but only have access to a 3D printer? You punt.

[DIY3DTECH] has a two-part video on taking a 2D design (in an SVG file) and bringing it into TinkerCad. At that point, he assembles the part in software and creates a printable object. You can see the videos below.

Honestly, on the face of it, this doesn’t sound very complicated. But like anything else, it isn’t always as straightforward as it seems. Watching someone work through the process will help you when you try to do it on your own. Keep in mind that while the laser-cut piece will fit with tabs, the 3D printed part won’t need them. There are other concerns he covers too, like aligning the infill to make the part stronger.

To demonstrate, [DIY3DTECH] devotes a video to converting a 2D fixture for holding wipes. The second video shows the printed result and gives some advice on the printing process. Laser cutters–for example–don’t usually warp, but that’s not true for all 3D printer material.

If you like watching someone work through their 3D printing design process, you can’t go wrong with the videos for a 3D printed vise. If you are pining for the wood that you would use in a laser cutter, maybe you need to try some exotic filaments.

18 thoughts on “Making Laser Cutter Designs Work in a 3D Printer

  1. Now, there needs to be an article to explain which 3D-printable designs are better when laser-cut, and how to modify them. There are many designs with parts that can be either 3D printed, using hours and hours of printing time and a lot of filament – or laser-cut in a couple of minutes from cheap materials. You really need to know both types of tools, and if you add CNC skills, you basically can do most of the small parts efficiently.

    1. very true.
      filament isn’t that expensive but printing time can really make some projects tedious.

      i wonder how much could be done using the fairly cheap routers sold as kits, with the proper bit i think a lot of materials could be cut using 2d files.

  2. What we actually need is a method to automatically handle this conversion. Doing it step by step is amazingly time consuming and full of ways to screw things up and is a perfect type of problem to solve in software.

    1. it is an extremely difficult problem to work out in software, and part of why discussion of expert systems replacing design-engineering (or other design activities).

      Simply put, the decision making process and spatial reasoning involved in evaluating a design and modifying it in the way needed to ‘convert for 3d printing’ is far beyond current AI/expert systems. It isnt something sensor input can reduce to simple motion commands, it isnt something a huge database can be consulted for.

      Design is creative. It is something only humans can do to any meaningful extent.

      1. part of why discussion of expert systems replacing design-engineering (or other design activities)… is fraught with hubris, and generally only seriously discussed by the naive or the popular media taking advantage of the credulous.

      2. 123dMake handles converting 3d models to slices for laser cutting. It is interactive so you can pick the method to use and choose the parameters with a visualization of the slices and model.

        1. I repeat, the steps to properly redesign a part for various manufacturing processes requires a human intellect.

          Whatever you are describing is not actually redesigning the parts for a different manufacturing process.

  3. That looks like the worst example of something to 3d print that’s just lazy fire-starting, a project like that could be done by hand in minutes including going and buying some sheets of material of your desire.

    POINTLESS PRINTY POINTLESS Put an Arduino in it to count how many tissues are taken to warn you to buy more tissues.

    1. Well, I am going to give you another perspective. I have written lots and lots of books. But I can only do that because of word processing. If I had to write in long hand or on a typewriter, I don’t think I could have done it. But lots of people did. Some people can paint or draw. I can’t. But I can do some art with some software tools. I have laid out PCBs without a computer in the old days and the results were… ahem… less than stellar. But with a PCB design program I have turned out hundreds of great-looking boards.

      Now… it is embarrassing to admit it, but here I am deep into middle age, and I have the shop class skills of an average 16-year old. And that, for me, is an improvement. While I’m handy with certain kinds of tools (like soldering irons, and some find detail stuff), I can’t handle cutting straight lines in wood and metal, drilling things in exactly the right place, etc. Now, I agree, that’s my fault and my problem. But… I can VISUALIZE a lot of things. And I can draw things in CAD and they pop out of the printer MUCH better than anything I could do with my hands. And, when I failed to get it right the first time, I make an adjustment, and print again.

      You are probably like most people and lucky enough to be able to do a lot of work with your hands. But, to me, it would be like an artist saying that ink jet printers are a waste because if you want an image of something you could just paint it. Well, yeah, you can. But there are some of us that the CAD/3D printer is an enabler.

      And I hate to admit it. I realize that while most people can’t paint great art, most people can cut some lumber and make a square box out of it without it taking 10 hours and looking terrible when it is done. But I do have some other skills ;-)

      1. Don’t hate to admit it. People with skills can make something look easy to do and for them it’s easy. It’s a curse of the gifted, they don’t see how it could be hard for other people. I’ve seen it recently when doing homework with my daughter, it requires some patience to not ask “how can you not understand how to divide”. Please read Eric Raymond’s post about Linus Torvalds for best example of this: http://lwn.net/2000/0824/a/esr-sharing.php3

  4. Wouldn’t it be better to quickly redesign it in 3dcad using 3d geometry for 3d printing ? Above example could be drawn In solidworks in 15minutes, giving a much nicer / stronger shape.

    Alternatively, not too so low to print only a few layers, and treat as if plywood…

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