Using KiCad for laser cutting? (Ponoko)


#1

I’ve been doing some laser cutting using Ponoko. They accept SVG, DXF, or EPS files. So far, I’ve been using Inkscape to create SVG files. Blue lines indicate where the laser should cut, and red lines indicate where the laser should engrave.

I would prefer to create my laser cutting designs in KiCad rather than Inkscape. Something like using Edge.Cuts to show where the laser should cut, and Dwgs.User to show where the laser should engrave, for example.

There are several reasons I would prefer to use KiCad instead of Inkscape:

  1. KiCad seems more powerful than Inkscape.

  2. I’m more familiar with KiCad than Inkscape.

  3. Often, I want to create a piece of plastic with holes that match the mounting holes that I’ve created on a PCB. Being able to do both things in the same program means less duplicated work and less chance for error.

Has anyone ever tried using KiCad in this way? Is there a way to do it? Thanks!


#2

Certainly not for normal graphics. Try e.g. FreeCAD.


#3

I too am more familiar with kicad than with inkscape, after having looked at tutorials on how to import inkscape-generated svg files into kicad.

However, kicad makes pdf files. So can you just find a program that converts a drawing in a pdf file to one of the three file formats you are looking for?


#4

OK, I should have qualified that. I’m not doing normal graphics; I’m designing pieces of plastic (or other materials) that should have a certain shape. This is very similar in spirit to creating a board outline. And it needs to have precise dimensions. For this sort of work, KiCad seems better than Inkscape (at least in my experience).

Part of my goal here was to avoid having to learn yet another program. I use KiCad frequently enough that I have muscle memory for it.

Actually, if you go to “File > Plot” in PCBNew, KiCad can create SVG, DXF, and Postscript files in addition to Gerber or PDF. But it’s more a matter of the details, like the fact that cutting lines need to be red and engraving lines need to be blue. And they need to be in one file, while it seems like KiCad wants to put each layer in a separate file.

I may need to write some sort of program to massage the SVG files produced by KiCad. I was just curious if anyone had gone down this path before, and could advise me of the pitfalls.


#5

Libre cad might be a better choice for pure 2d design.


#6

Since pcbnew allows for Gerber, Postscript, SVG, DXF, HPGL, and pdf options, I can see your need being quickly reduced to a question of “How do I superimpose two graphics files with images drawn in two different colors into one graphics file that preserves the two colors ?” Since FOSS KiCAD mainly uses text files that you can edit in any text editor, I am guessing this is a task you will quickly solve if you’re able to integrate two graphics images in two different files into one file whilst preserving the colors. Start by investigating whether KiCAD preserves colors in each of these files, or converts them into black & white. (FYI, Postscript is a file format predating pdf that did hi-resolution graphics for Postscript printers in black & white only – no color.) Also, I know .png preserves colors, because I scan multi-color documents to png and the colors show up true-to-life. I know pdf also allows for multiple colors, but I don’t think it’s a FOSS format. So maybe you’ll have better luck with one of the three formats your program accepts.


#7

I have used KiCad to create a DXF file that I provided to KELTECH and they created a laser cut template to align through-hole parts on a PCB designed with KiCad.

A guy that I knew had a commercial laser table in his garage that is as big as a small car. I provided him with DXF files for a few things that I had cut and engraved.

From this experience, it would seem possible that sending two seperate files, one as Cut.DXF, and one as Etch.DXF, would be workable by Ponoko. As far as the laser table is concerned, all that changes is power level and number of passes.