CNC machine
cnc machine guide

How do I know what part of an image the CNC machine will cut?

cnc-production 

CNC cutting machines, or computer numeric controlled cutters, are exciting to play around with. They can allow a person to cut out any design that they want on pieces of wood, plastic, and even metal (depending on which type of CNC machine is being used). These machines take in the designs that you input to it as digital files and slice them into bits for the CNC machine to create specific cuts on the desired material.

the cnc machine only cuts inside the shape

If you have a circle it will cut the area inside that circle. If you have a square it will cut the area inside that square. If you have a rectangle it will cut the area inside that rectangle. It’s easiest to think of it as if you drew with a marker on a piece of paper and then cut out the shape with scissors. Whatever is left is what would be removed by the CNC machine.

CNC cutting machine

you can see a preview of the preview of the shape in an editor

For example, if you import your image into Inkscape, it will convert the image to black and white. All of the white parts will be cut out. If there are any parts that are not connected to anything else (and surrounded by white), those will be skipped. You can delete them after your first cut, so they don’t interfere with the rest of your image.

As always, you want to make sure that you save your file as an SVG (with a .svg extension). Once you have that file saved, you can upload it to Easel and start cutting!

inside in red or green

Historically, engraving and cutting were done with the same tool. Horizontal milling machines would do both. The cutter was turned 90 degrees to either cut or engrave.

The modern process of engraving with a CNC machine is usually done with a diamond drag bit. It’s one continuous motion so there are no lines. You can also use a V-bit for lines, but it’s not recommended for text on metals because it tends to break easily.

The way you would know what part of your image will be cut is by using a CAD program (I prefer Inkscape) to draw the area you want to cut in red and the area you want to engrave in green.

look on the image editor to see which part will be cut.

I’ve never seen an image editor that will tell you which part of the image will be cut, but most do have a way to show a grid. I don’t think this was mentioned above, but if you have Photoshop:

Click View > Show > Grid

and then adjust the gridlines so they make a line that is the width of your kerf. Then you’ll know exactly where a cut will land.

The machine will cut the vector part of an image.

Whenever you create a new file, you can use the Trace Bitmap option to convert the image into a vector.

The machine will follow the black lines in your bitmap. If you want it to cut them out of the material, you must create a closed path. Also, if your image contains any white areas that need to be cut out of the material, you must delete them and instead create another vector path for those parts of your design.

The cnc machine will cut the vector part of an image.

The CNC machine will cut the vector part of an image. If you want to know more about engraving, there are two basic things you should know:

1. Vector images- these are lines that are programmed with a thickness and the CNC machine will follow that line like a pencil. The computer shows you what part of the image it will cut and you can edit the image in many ways, including changing the thickness and shape of the line.

2. Raster images are like photographs, where there are many tiny dots which when added to each other create an overall picture. The CNC machine can only read black and white, so you have to convert it first into a vector image (which is pretty easy).

he second factor to consider is the CNC Machine itself.

The first factor is the image, itself. Do you have an image that contains light and dark shades or do you have a black and white image? The lighter shades in an image will cut deeper than the darker shades in an image. The second factor to consider is the CNC Machine itself. Each machine has its own set of speeds and feeds which determine how quickly it can cut a material. For example, if you have a super-fast machine, it may not be able to slow down enough to differentiate between dark and light shades. Also, depending on the speed of your machine, it may not be able to turn corners sharply enough to maintain crisp edges. You will have to experiment with your machine to see what it can do.

The CNC program for the machine is the first factor that decides what part of an image will be cut.

If the CNC program is written to cut directly from a bitmap file, then the CNC machine will follow exactly what it sees in the bitmap file. Bitmap files are not always a good choice for CNC programs, but they can be used successfully if you know how to prepare them.

If the CNC program is written from a vector drawing, then the drawing needs to contain information about which lines or contours should be cut. The drawing may also contain information about which lines or contours should be engraved or cut at different depths.

Finally, the material that you are cutting is a secondary factor to consider.

The laser cutter will cut along any line or curve that you create in your design. It does not matter whether you created that line by drawing it, tracing over a photo, or converting the photo to a halftone or other pattern. The laser cutter will follow all lines and curves, regardless of how they were created.

If you want to cut a specific part of an image, you must convert the image to a vector drawing (using Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator) and then draw lines around the shape that you want to cut.

Finally, the material that you are cutting is a secondary factor to consider. A laser beam can only be cut through some materials: wood, acrylic, and paper are easy to cut; glass is impossible, and cardboard is somewhere in between.

A combination of the CNC machine, material, and program determines what part of an image will be cut.

Every CNC machine has a different set of capabilities. Some machines can only cut clean lines, while others are capable of etching and embossing. The capabilities of the material being cut also play a role in determining which parts of an image will be cut. Materials like wood and metal have a grain that needs to be taken into account when designing the image, especially if it features fine details or extremely smooth edges. While there are general guidelines for how to design images for different materials, it’s important to note that no two pieces are exactly alike, so trial and error is often necessary to get just the right look.

Once the material and machine have been chosen, the type of program being used also plays a role in what parts of an image will be cut. While some programs give users more freedom over customization, others are more restrictive with their cutting patterns. For example, some programs might only allow cuts along specific lines while others give users complete control over where they want their cuts to go.

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