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Useful Tools for DXF file making

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If you want to get stuff CNC'd or Laser Cut then the machine shops generally work from dxf files (autocad). But autocad is not the cheapest software and most people don't have access to it.

What the shops need from you are files that are in vector form and can be scaled up and down. While dxf is one type of file for this, others can easily be imported into the programs cutters use and formats such as .SVG (scalable vector graphic); .cdr (Coredraw) and .ai (adobe illustrator) are used and are easily converted in house to .dxf.

While Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw are commonly used commercial programs, there are though some ways to make your designs more cutter friendly at no cost and these can help save you money that you can better spend elsewhere.

Here are a couple of tools I found useful that are free. Inkscape and Front Panel Designer.

Front panel Designer: http://www.schaeffer-ag.de/index.php?id=3&L=1

Inkscape: http://inkscape.org/download/

Both of these are available for OS X as well as Windows.

Inkscape is well known and there are lots of tutorials on the net. If you can make stuff in Inkscape and save it in plain SVG format then your favorite cutting shop will love you.

Front panel designer was made especially for the german firm who produce it to let their clients make designs and order directly from them. However, there is nothing to stop you using the software and then using their export function to output fully fledged SVG or DXF files. Also, it has some useful features in that there are standard object outlines in the program such as fan profiles with grill design and correct hole spacings etc. so you can drop elements into your designs.

Download these prog.s and have a play. You never know when you might want to get something cut and approaching a machine shop/ laser cutter with a file to show them what you want means they are more likely to get back to you and it will save you design time as well as costs.
 
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