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Here are some links that helped me get started with laser cutting. I was particularly interested in patterns to design 3D objects from 2D shapes, and the workflow for exporting a 3D model to individual 2D faces that can be sent to a lasercutter.

1) Nicely described projects how to go about designing a simple box using the…

– tab-in-slot method
http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-Anything-Using-Acrylic-and-Machine-Sc/?ALLSTEPS

– tooth-interlock method
http://www.instructables.com/id/Designing-for-Ponoko-Laser-Cutting-with-SketchUp-a/?ALLSTEPS

2) As laser cutters work in 2D, they require a 2D model of the object you want to build. If your object of choice is a 3D object, it might be easier to design / prototype it in 3D and then export to 2D, rather than designing it’s 2D components from scratch. This tutorial starts with a 3D model in Google Sketchup, then exports it to a 2D vector graphic ready for laser cutting.

Download the plugin used to export a Google Sketchup model to SVG here:
http://code.google.com/p/sketchup-svg-outline-plugin/

More links:
– Inkscape (Open Source vector graphics tool): http://inkscape.org/
– List of kerf sizes for different materials, and how to take kerfs into account when sketching slotting joints for different parts that are supposed to fit snugly together: http://blog.ponoko.com/2008/09/11/how-much-material-does-the-laser-burn-away/

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