Laser cutting is a very fast production and manufacturing method that has one limitation. You can only cut flat surfaces! Well don’t let that stop you from creating 3D objects and sculptures with a laser cutter, Fusion360 has a great app for converting 3D models into slices suitable for a laser cutter. This is a great tool with a lot of features that save a huge amount of time when creating this kind of object. In this Tutorial we will learn:
- Get and install Slicer for Fusion360
- Preparing your model for Slicer.
- Five ways to Slice
- Preparing your files for Laser cutting
- Installing Slicer for Fusion360
Installing Slicer for Fusion360 is easy. Just download Slicer from Autodesk, and follow the install prompts. Once the install is complete restart Fusion360. Now you can find a link to Slicer in the 3D Print Menu.
Preparing your Model for Slicer
We had a lot of fun experimenting with Slicer, but one of the first roadblocks we ran into was artifacts and errors in our sliced design when it was exported from Fusion360. Something that is not immediately clear is that Slicer can only handle one body at a time. Slicer uses a .stl file just like a 3D printer does, and it can’t figure out what you want when you try to send multiple bodies at once. The best thing to do is to combine your bodies into a single body and then export it to Slicer.
Once your exported .stl is open in Slicer, the first step is to set up the Manufactures settings. You can save your own profiles, or press the setting “gear” and change them at the bottom of the screen. Slot Offset controls how much wiggle room will be in your slots. We leave this at .1mm and get a very tight fit. Tool Diameter is the cut width of your tool. If you are going to cut the slices on a CNC router this will obviously be much wider than on a laser. The average laser cut width is about .012mm.
If you're like us and you create models with Metric dimensions, you may get caught by Slicer's default dimensions – inches. Be sure to change the Object Size to be the proper units and check original size.
Five ways to Slice
The next step of preparing your model in Slicer is to choose your Construction Technique. There are five ways that you can slice up you model that are applicable to laser cutting:
Stacked Slices – This method lays sheets flat on top of each other to create the shape. You can add dowels that penetrate the layers to hold it together and keep everything aligned. We recommend using the Horizontal or Vertical slot option. This way the rods that will penetrate the slices are added to the cut. This is especially good for acrylic stacks since its unlikely that you will have perfectly sized acrylic dowels laying around.
Interlocked Slices – This method makes two stacks of slices spaced apart that interlock. You can control the number of slices on each axis, and the angle that each axis is aligned relative to the model. A simple shape can become quite abstract when the axes are placed at odd angles.
Curve – Very similar to interlocked slices except the plane of intersecting slices can be curved.
Radial Slices – Radial slices makes interlocking slices that radiate out from a central point. The centre point and angle of the axis can be moved around to change the shape.
Folded Panels – This method works best on models that have sharp edges rather than curves, and you would need to use a flexible material like cardboard or thick paper. It transforms the model into a foldable shape and lays it flat on the work bed. You can control element like the number of planes, add perforations to the bends and much more!
Preparing your files for the Laser Cutter
When you’re happy with the model you have created using slicer its time to export. Slicer allows you to export to EPS, PDF, and DXF. Slicer adds alignment marks and labels all the pieces with numbers to aid in construction. If the numbers and marks are going to be visible then you may want to remove them. This will need to be done in a vector editing software like Inkscape. The cut lines are blue by default, so doing a select by colour and selecting then deleting all red lines is a quick way to remove most marks. Slicer does a pretty good job at positioning the different parts close together but they sometimes can be moved in a lot tighter, Inkscape is also a good program for any repositioning of the different parts.
Now all you need to do is cut out your design and assemble it! Slicer includes an animator that visualizes the assembly steps of your final model. Your finished design should be ready for most laser cutter software! If you want to use our laser cutting service, change the stroke colour of all your cut lines to red, and make the stroke width .01mm. Change any engraved lines to black, and any etch lines to blue and .01mm. If you keep the numbers on the panels make them blue and the edges red.
If you want to learn more about laser cutting check out our Laser Cutting Tutorials! We also have great tutorials on 3D printing available online, as well as an online workshop! Remember to check out our laser cutting service that we set up to help support local makers!