Nesting for Laser Cutting
Nesting is the process of laying out your artwork for laser cutting in order to save money and material waste. Nesting is the process of closely placing your design elements together and if possible even sharing cut lines. Spending the time to nest your artwork as best as possible means that you get more use out of the material, saving time, money and the environment!
I can’t be bothered to nest my elements!
Good news, automated nesting is here! We use this great little online tool – to SVGnest developed by Jack Qiao. You will need to export your illustrator file as an .svg an upload it to SVGnest.
Adjust the settings to your desired preferences for your nest. In this example we are cutting on 6mm plywood, so we want at least 2mm between cut lines and we want to keep the grain in one direction for all the cut pieces. We entered ‘6’ for ‘space between parts’, as 1 SVG unit = 1 px = 0.3527777~mm. Therefore in order to achieve a 2mm spacing, we need approximately 6 SVG units. In order to keep the grain direction the same for all pieces, we indicated ‘1’ for ‘part rotations’ as we do not want to rotate elements on anything other than 180 degrees.
If we were cutting on acrylic, grain direction would not be an issue, so we could enter more rotations for higher nesting efficiency. However, part spacing is something to watch when nesting for acrylic. Acrylic is a plastic and heats up when being cut with a laser. Because of this we recommend leaving larger gaps between elements (3-4mm.
SVGnest.com processing the file:
SVGnest.com nesting results:
Automating nesting for DXF files
There are also a number of free online tools for nesting DXF files such as MyNesting and E-Nesting. They follow the same principle as SVGNest, where you upload your file, set your parameters and the software will produce numerous iterations for you to choose from.
When converting your downloaded nested file to be ready-to-cut in our laser cutting template, make sure that the scale is correct as different nesting softwares may vary in unit conversion. You will need to re-assign your line work to the correct line colours and weights as specified in our laser templates.
Of course another option is to manually nest your elements as even the smallest amount of nesting will reduce material wastage. Consider placing smaller elements inside bigger elements if possible, such as placing the dot’s on ‘i’ inside ‘o’.
For further information on general laser cutting, please check out our FAQs for some guidelines.