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CNC cutting

CNC cutting is a widely used manufacturing method where a certain shape is cut from a sheet of material such as wood, metal, or plastic. CNC cutting begins after a set of steps, called toolpath, is generated from a group of planar curves.

In most cases, a laser, waterjet, or plasma cutter does the cutting depending on the applied material and the desired finishes. The shape the machine will follow can be created in many different ways, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Export your model for CNC cutting

In Shapr3D, you can create the contour for generating the toolpath for CNC cutting by creating a layout of the 3D bodies of your model. Follow this guide to learn how.

Step 1: Create a copy of your 3D bodies

Create a copy of the 3D bodies you want to export for CNC cutting. This will be the body you can manipulate to create your sketches that can be exported for the toolpath.

To copy a body:

  1. Select the body and then turn on the Copy badge.
  2. Using the gizmo, drag the arrow to create the copied body.
  3. To finish, select an empty area of the grid.

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Step 2: Move the copied bodies to a new Items folder

For easy visibility, move your copied bodies to a new Items folder.

To move items to a new folder:

  1. Select your copied body.
  2. Create a new folder with your desired name in the Items Manager.
  3. Drag the selected items into the new folder.

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Step 3: Hide your original bodies

Hide your original bodies in the Item Manager to make it easier to focus on your copied bodies.

To hide items:

  1. Open Items Manager.
  2. Click/tap on the visibility icon beside each body you need to hide.

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Step 4: Create a closed reference sketch planar to the XY plane

Draw a closed sketch that is planar to the XY plane (Top view). The closed sketch serves as your reference for repositioning the bodies.

To draw a reference sketch planar to the XY plane:

  1. Activate the XY planar view by pressing the Space bar key or clicking Top on the Orientation Cube.
  2. Use the Rectangle or Circle tool to draw a reference closed sketch on the offset plane.
  3. To finish, select Exit Sketching.

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Some 2D tools can only recognize planes that are parallel to the X-Y plane. If the exported curves are aligned to a different plane direction, the contour may be distorted or completely missing.

Step 5: Align your bodies to your reference sketch

Use the Align tool or Move/Rotate tool to lay or align the parts of your bodies to your reference sketch.

To align parts of your bodies using the Align tool:

  1. Select a part you want to align.
  2. From the adaptive menu, select Align.
  3. Select your reference sketch to automatically align the part.
  4. Use the arrows to organize the part to your desired layout.
  5. To finish, select Done.
  6. Repeat the steps for the remaining parts.

To align parts of your bodies using the Move/Rotate tool:

  1. Select a part you want to align.
  2. From the adaptive menu, select Move/Rotate.
  3. Using the gizmo, move the part to align it to your reference sketch.
  4. Organize the part to your desired layout.
  5. To finish, select an empty area of the grid.
  6. Repeat steps 1 to 3 for the remaining parts.

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Step 6: Delete or hide your reference sketch

Once the parts are organized according to the reference sketch, you can delete or hide the reference sketch.

To learn how to delete a sketch, visit Delete (Sketch).

To learn how to hide a sketch or item, visit Items Manager.

CNC-step-6.gif

Step 7: Add an offset plane for your repositioned parts

Use the Construction Plane tool to add an offset plane from your repositioned parts. The offset plane serves as a reference for the next step.

To add an offset plane:

  1. Select the top face of any part from your repositioned parts.
    Note: For easy reference, you can choose a part located at the center of your layout.
  2. From the adaptive menu, select Add Plane.
  3. Use the arrows to drag your offset plane upwards.
    Note: In the next step, you will project your parts to the offset plane so ensure that there’s enough distance between your parts and the offset plane.
  4. To finish, select an empty area of the grid.

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Step 8: Project the bodies to the offset plane

Use the Project tool to project the top faces of your parts as sketches to the offset plane. These projected sketches will be the reference for your toolpaths for cutting.

To project the top faces of bodies to a plane:

  1. Select the top faces of all your parts.
  2. Select the offset plane.
  3. From the adaptive menu, select Project.
    Note: The selected face to be projected are highlighted in blue while the offset plane where the items are to be projected is highlighted in purple.
  4. To finish, select Done.

CNC-step-8.gif

Make sure to only select the top faces for the projection. Projecting an entire body results in duplicate curves which may not be handled properly.

Step 9: Show your original bodies and hide unnecessary items

Now that you have your projected sketches, you can show your original bodies again and hide items you no longer need.

From the Items Manager:

  • Hide the offset plane, your repositioned/copied bodies, and other unnecessary items.
  • Show your original bodies.
  • You can also rename your projected sketches for easy reference.

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Step 10: Isolate your projected sketches

Isolate your projected sketches to prepare them for export.

To isolate your sketches:

  1. From the Items Manager, select your projected sketches.
  2. From the modes menu, select Isolate.
  3. To finish, select an empty area of the grid.

You’re now ready to export your sketches for your toolpaths.

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Step 11: Export your projected sketches

Export your projected sketches in a DXF, DWG, or SVG format.

To export your sketches:

Windows:

  1. From the menu, select Export.
  2. Go to the Sketch tab.
  3. Select your preferred sketch format.
  4. Save the exported file to your desired location.
    To learn more about exporting, visit Export.

    CNC-step-11.gif

iPadOS/macOS:

  1. From the iPad top bar, go to Settings > Export or from the Mac menu bar, go to File > Export.
  2. Go to the Usage tab.
  3. Select Sketches.
  4. Select your preferred sketch format.
  5. Save the exported file to your desired location.
    To learn more about exporting, visit Export.

    CNC-step-11mac.gif

You’re now ready to generate your toolpaths.

You can create a drawing in 2D Drawings to scale your toolpaths to a specific sheet size. However, we recommend that you use the Sketch Export tool if you don’t need blueprints.

Step 12: Generate your toolpath from your exported file

Load your exported sketch file to your CAM software or CNC machine to generate the toolpath.

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