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I'm designing the net of a cube that can be laser cut such that it fits together seamlessly. I know this can be done, and I've seen a couple of examples on the net.

I have made the net with a jig saw pattern, with the depth of the 'jigs' being exactly equal to the depth of the material, which is a 1.6mm acrylic plastic.

I just need someone to confirm for me that this net actually will fit together perfectly. It's the joins of three adjacent faces that are the problematic areas. The rest of it can sort of be done on autopilot, as you can see from the .AI I have linked to on my dropbox. I struggle desperately to visualize 3D objects, but thus far lack the mental capacity to do so.

Would it be best to model this in Sketchup or something? Loathe to spend a bit of money only to find I've botched the design in some way.

It will hopefully be fairly intuitive from my .AI how this all fits together - just like you would normally expect a cube net to.

Viewing the file with 1.6mm grids might help make it make more sense.

Thanks very much

Here is the file.

  • I don't know what you mean by 'net' in this context. That said, it sounds like you're asking about 3D engineering/modeling. That's sort-of on topic here, but I don't think you're asking about technique but rather asking a mechanical engineering question--which is off topic here. All that said, if the intent is 3D output, AI is the wrong tool for this. I'd definitely consider going with Sketchup for this. – DA01 Feb 6 '15 at 21:23
  • Hi, yes the goal is 3D output but Illustrator is simply a means to generate the pattern to be laser cut. The company I am using have specified a .AI file, so I think that's all good? – William Feb 6 '15 at 21:29
  • When I say 'net' I mean each face of the cube, like the ones here c1.staticflickr.com/5/4046/4689617147_6a222ee9e3_z.jpg this is a quite similar design to mine – William Feb 6 '15 at 21:30
  • OK, that photo helps. I'm not quite sure I understand the question, though. Are you asking how to make the tabs so they fit together as a cube? I don't think that's a GD question. I'd suggest prototyping it. Get some balsa wood and an xacto knife. :) – DA01 Feb 6 '15 at 21:32
  • Your ai file seems relatively correct (I didn't measure anything). basically you just need 6 equal pieces with tab variations on 2 sides of each piece. At least that's how I see it. – Scott Feb 6 '15 at 21:34
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Verify the interlocking edges by printing out the 6 faces' bounding boxes and taping them together before sending to the cutter.

Additionally it looks like the tabs on your edges are not an even subdivision of the edge's length. In the image you linked the tabs are nicely spaced, whereas yours change size on the corner. This can also cause a problem with the laser cutter, depending on how big the object is if the tiny tab turns out too small.

Regarding file formats: laser-cutting shops tend to use AI because it's a popular format and laser-cutting is a 2D process. I have laser cut lots of parts for these robots:

example

source: http://www.afterdark.io/

The parts were initially modelled in Rhinoceros, then laid out as a 2D pattern and exported to Illustrator for the laser-cutter shop.

If you are in the mood for learning a new tool, I strongly suggest looking at Rhinoceros 3D (Mac/Win). Model one side of the cube, and duplicate it an rotate in 3D until you have a box. That way you can verify your design without even printing it out.

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