View Full Version : From ipad to Laser Cutter using cheapo apps.

Martin James
01-05-2014, 3:02 PM
This is a thread about using inexpensive ipad apps as tools to simplify workflow from idea or drawing into a laser cut product.

To cut with a laser I need a vector outline of the object I want to cut.

Right now I am testing an ipad app called iDraw. The app costs US$9.00.

I take a picture of an object or drawing with the ipad camera, open the picture in iDraw and trace the object or drawing with one of the vector tools. Then I send the .svg file by email to the next program in the workflow.

For many laser professionals the next program would be corel draw.

I have several decades experience using Photoshop, but now that I am getting ready to build a new laser cutter computer system I don't think I will be sending adobe another $1000.

Using the ipad is simply faster, easier and more fun for getting the basic design into the system.

To outline a simple shape with the pen tool in iDraw, then send the .svg vector outline out in an email, takes about the same time as Adobe Illustrator wastes bouncing in the dock upon start up.

This is faster, this is easier, this is better.

If you have comments about how this might fit your workflow please let me know

Cheers Marty

Dave Sheldrake
01-05-2014, 4:02 PM
Hi Marty,

For many laser professionals the next program would be corel draw.

Most mid size to bigger industrial laser users tend to go with DXF as that's the native format for many of the pre processors and nesting software. Tends to be more toward AutoCAD than anything else but Solidworks is quite popular too.



Dan Hintz
01-05-2014, 5:14 PM
If you're sending it to CorelDraw anyway, why waste time with another program in the workflow? Open it in CorelDraw first, vectorize it there, and continue with your normal procedure. The only reason one might have in adding the extra step is if they were not happy with the vectorization capabilities of CorelDraw (in some cases that holds true), but it sounds like you're hand-drawing the outline anyway, so I don't see any benefit, just another step that takes extra time.

David Somers
01-05-2014, 5:32 PM
I am guessing Dan, but I think part of Martin's thinking is the cost of updating Adobe products. And you could certainly use some free programs to convert from SVG to a format your laser software can take and avoid Corel all together as well. I can see where this would be attractive for someone adept at developing on an iPad rather than using a mouse or graphics tablet. I can't say I am adept at either, but I have watched some skilled people with an affinity for an iPad do some amazing things.

Aren't you supposed to be playing with that spiffy new Trotec and not fussing about with us?? <teasing grin>


Dan Hintz
01-05-2014, 6:59 PM
If his intent is to do away with paid programs altogether, then yes, this is a valid approach (I prefer Inkscape and Paint.NET as my vector and raster freebies)... but my reading of his post suggests he wishes to keep CorelDraw within the loop, and that would be a wise move. At least with ULS (anxious to try it on the Trotec), I found issues with printing text from in-program... unless I converted text to curves first, the kerning between letters varied based upon the resolution I printed at. That's a major issue.

Martin James
01-09-2014, 3:36 PM
Hi Dave, Thanks for the input. I only mentioned corel draw because it seems like many members here use corel draw as their interface for running a Chinese laser. If Autocad is a better way for designers that need nesting then I am interested in that. I just looked on ebay and it looks like one can purchase a used laptop with autocad installed for cheaper than the software discs. Is that piracy? I doubt it, anyone who pays $1000 for a program like that probably gets the new version every other year.

What would be the cheapest usable autocad plus nesting setup?
Thanks Marty

Craig Matheny
01-09-2014, 3:47 PM
Marty if i follow correctly you are using a tablet for all this correct? if so Dan Corel can not run on a tablet i think this is the issue

Martin James
01-09-2014, 4:20 PM
Thanks for the comments.
Recently on this forum I read a number of posts where members expressed the wisdom of not upgrading their Windows operating systems. These posts were from people who make things. The IT guys all like Windows 8, but the people who cut or engrave on a daily basis seem to recomend, in mass, that it is good business sense to stick with the operating systems and software titles that have a proved bug free track record.

I am with that. The Chinese controller boards run on Windows 2000. I will probably go with a Windows 7 and corel draw x5 on a new laptop with 4 gigs.

But there is a reason Autodesk has spent many millions developing these new tablet based Apps. The reason is the future, the future of computing, and their company's future as a viable competitor in the market.

I think the best strategy, at least for me, is to firmly put a foot in both camps. One foot with the tried and true running my machines, and the other foot over there in the future.

When I download a free app from Autodesk I don't think automatically that they designed the release for the free coffee drinkers. Rather I think they are looking to snag young influential lifelong customers.

In my home we have an ipad, ipod5 (i speak she types) and my kids have older used iphones (with no simcards) as well as a 10 year old mac, a 2 year old macmini and a dell xp pro dedicated to the milling machine (no internet)
On all the newer macs, they SYNC together. If my wife takes a picture when she is 1000 miles away, it appears on my ipad a couple of minutes later. We don't sit at a desk when we use the ipad.

I am thinking of paying my 12 year old do do the idraw vector tracing. I already have him working on some designs in the autodesk sketchbook pro $15 App. He opens pictures, makes a new layer, traces outlines, creates a second layer and colors behind the traces. Those files I reopen in the Autodesk Pixlar photo app and apply a filter or 2. and what first looked like kids drawings, come out as publishable content.

The best way to learn about new apps is to ask a younger person what they use.
Cheers M

Dan Hintz
01-09-2014, 4:51 PM
But there is a reason Autodesk has spent many millions developing these new tablet based Apps. The reason is the future, the future of computing, and their company's future as a viable competitor in the market.

Well, let's be clear on what AutoDesk is hoping to achieve with their tablet apps. They do not expect heavy work to be accomplished on them, they expect these to be used in the field for quick (mild) modifications, showing customers or engineers drawings, being able to view a drawing of a work in progress, etc. This isn't about grabbing a new group of young engineers and pull them to their side before they know what hit 'em, it's about opening up usability in the field. Development of a project is still meant for a desktop machine, and the tablet stuff is for quick reaction changes and viewing.

Dave Sheldrake
01-09-2014, 4:52 PM
Hi Marty,

You can pick up AutoCAD 2000 for around 50 bucks these days on Ebay (perfectly legally) the latest versions are expensive (I pay about $30k a year in seats) but have a LOT of features Chinese lasers will never use. That said once you get a grip of it there is little you cannot do :)



Craig Matheny
01-09-2014, 5:06 PM
100% correct Dan

Mike Null
01-10-2014, 9:20 AM
I think you may have misinterpreted the information on Windows. There are indeed many naysayers and many including me who like the Win XP Pro as an operating system but most of the people I know in the business are preparing to move to Win 8/8.1. I just recently installed 8.1 on a Win 7 laptop to precondition myself to switching everything over to a new desktop with Win 8.1. Surprisingly, I am quite pleased with my first experience with Win 8.1 and Corel X5 seems to be a good fit.

As soon as I have more time I'll install some other programs. There is a learning curve but there are some very nice and handy features. It'll just take a little getting used to and it'll be superior to XP.

Martin James
01-10-2014, 2:28 PM
About 10 years ago I waisted a good amount of my free time learning adobe golive. I bought video training and spent a lot of time on it only to have adobe dump golive in favor of dreamweaver. As I see it, most of the major software titles have a steep learning curve and a large commitment of time one must make just to get the basics of the interface to work. This is not true on the app stores, as there is a great deal of consumer pressure to have an app work the first time you turn it on. Apps are rated on a daily basis and that means if a developer wants success then they have to provide an interface that is very easy to use. If a developer wants to add many features to an app, then the features must be integrated in such a way as to promote easy use of the app without the need for extra instruction. If an app is not easy to use then the ratings will suffer. The sales of an app are contingent on ratings. This means the developers have to listen to their customers. (Adobe never listened to me)

Dan is right in that most heavy duty apps reside on desktop computers. But times are changing. The voice recognition on my iopd comes to me from a distant super computer. My desktop never did that. (understand me)

So today I am trying iDraw, I am using my finger or a ipad stylus to trace vectors. I work in 3-5 minute stretches. It is easy. I am sure that others are also using apps as part of their 2d or 3d workflow. If you hear of any interesting apps that people are using, please let me know.

Cheers Marty

PS I am on my 3rd wacom tablet. But now my ipad, which costs about the same as a wacom, but has 12000 more uses, works better because I can see what I am working on.

Doug Novic
01-10-2014, 5:34 PM
Marty, you are right to work for the future. I too read about all of the woes so many suffered trying to upgrade to a new operating system. I took the old XP pc off of the machine, went straight to Windows 8 64bit. In a couple of hours I was running full bore. Most of that was reloading my software. Machine and Lasercut 5.3 did great. AutoCAD 14 64 bit works great with the machine. So does Corel X6. I still use my XP laptop as well. Going for a tablet app or apps to work with your requirements will be difficult but the rewards will be worth it and you will be a step ahead of the rest of us. I hope you will share your knowledge with us and I applaud you.