Generally speaking, flat designs are pretty easy to use on a wide variety of materials. However, when making pieces that fit together to form a 3D shape, there are considerations that have to be made.
Sometimes when making 3D pieces, the design may not have the exact width for your material. Not to fear! If you are comfortable with using vector software, this is something you can remedy relatively easily. I will explain the basics of how to adjust 3D designs for your laser. Please note that this instructional does not get into the specifics for your software. There are lots of different vector programs out there.
To state it simply, the size of the slot needs to be just slightly bigger than the width of your material, so the material can glide in without having to aggressively force it. If it’s slightly large, you can use glue to secure the pieces together. However, you don’t want it to be too large, that would make it difficult to keep in place.
- Measure the width of your material. If you are doing more than just one layer of paint or paint and sealant, I recommend measuring a small piece after it is “finished” (meaning painted, sealed and has whatever additions you plan to make to it prior to assembly).
I highly recommend calipers (manual calipers and digital). I purchased my digital calipers at Harbor Freight and they were less than $20. I’ve also seen a few options on Amazon for less than $10 with good reviews. If you don’t have calipers, for many projects, a ruler can be used with success if you are willing to do a little extra trial and error work, if needed.
- Open the design file in your vector software.
I primarily use Adobe Illustrator. Many people use other vector software with success and ease. This is really a choice of personal preference (and cost is sometimes a factor). I have also used Silhouette Studio Business Edition, which is an inexpensive option that works for many people.
- Adjust the width of the slot to just slightly larger than the width of your material. This may take a little trial and error.
Do not resize 3D files with slots without adjusting the size of the slot! I actually did this once by accident. My file in the Glowforge dashboard got adjusted slightly by accident, and none of my pieces fit together! I hope you can learn from my error and avoid making it for yourself. 🙂
Are you new to using vector software and not quite comfortable? Please comment below and let me know! If there is a large interest in assistance with this type of instruction, I will look into adding some basic additional instructions to help where possible. Jennifer Maker has a wonderful course called “A Cut Above” which is how I re-learned to use Illustrator (after not using it for a decade and forgetting everything I knew). I highly recommend considering this investment to help you become comfortable with editing vector designs and creating your own.
(Please note that I do not have any affiliation with promoting Harbor Freight or Jennifer Maker’s course! I just love sharing great resources.)
I hope this has helped with learning how to adjust your 3D designs. Let me know what questions you have!