View Full Version : New member with introduction and AutoCAD question

Wayne Morris
03-23-2008, 11:49 AM
Hello all,

I'm a new member here, having lurked for a while absorbing whatever info I could from all your posts for which I thank you very much

My laser experience has been entirely in hiring laser owners to cut/engrave some model structure kits for me. I'm happy to see familiar names and I recognize some members here as having cut or priced kits for me or having corresponded on the subject.

I'm planning to purchase a first laser for production work later in the year and expect to buy an Epilog or other US-made laser. (I'm not necessarily a "buy-American only" type but I'm having a problem with China's repressive government, but that's probably another thread.)

My career has largely revolved around my expertise in AutoCAD, having used it professionally for over 21 years and my experience in AutoLisp programming. This is only to explain that I know the ins and outs of AutoCAD and am wondering if there is a need to purchase and learn Corel before purchasing the laser sytem as is often advised here.

Can I print directly from AutoCAD to the laser and dispense with Corel entirely? I'm not afraid of the learning curve (I've often had to purchase, learn and prove to employers that cheaper CAD or graphics programs will not serve their needs,) but time is at a premium, what with my supervisory job, the new garden, the chickens, trips back home to see daughters and grand children and of course, trying to restart the laser-cut scale model business.

For those who know me, I'm no longer in my beloved Adirondacks, but now am living and working in the hills of western Maine. Until I finish saving my pennies for the laser, I'll be getting in touch with my old contacts to see about some more custom cutting to get the line rolling.

Again, thanks for all the info everyone here continues to share even with those of us lurking in the background.


Duane Parcells
03-23-2008, 1:10 PM
You can print directly from autocad for vector (cutting) only, It will not do raster operations. I am speaking about Epilog and their drivers. They supply a autocad driver for their machines. If you have been using autocad so long you should have no problems with picking up on Coreldraw.

Larry Bratton
03-23-2008, 1:22 PM
I would agree with Wayne. If you can run Autocad you would have little trouble with Corel Draw.

Richard Rumancik
03-23-2008, 2:15 PM
Welcome, Wayne.

When I got my LaserPro many years ago it was advertised as being compatible with AutoCad. But I was never able to get it to work properly with AutoCad and I was not able to get any support from the manufacturer on this issue. You may find the dealer does not have AutoCad either. Now, things may have changed for GCC, and I can't say how compatible the other brands are with AutoCad, but I quickly found that I was pretty much on my own. The lasers are generally optimised to work with CorelDraw. If you insist on AutoCad you may find yourself as a permanent beta-tester. Get used to hearing "you are the only person who has that problem." [Note to support people reading this: a comment of this nature does not make a user feel special.]

Also, few people here could address AutoCad issues, as the ones who use AutoCad don't necessarily run the laser from AutoCad.

When I use AutoCad I import into CorelDraw via dwg or dxf. You will find that CorelDraw can open both types of files. My suggestion is to do your design work in AutoCad. (You will not likely be satisfied with Corel as a design/development tool.) Then find a systematic way to convert your dwg or dxf files to CorelDraw-compatible files. This may take a bit of experimentation, but once you have a "system" it is not bad. You will need to find out how to "prep" the file to make it more CorelDraw compatible so it minimizes the clean-up time. In CorelDraw 11, I find that the geometry comes in fine but the parts are often grouped randomly so it takes a bit of work to fix up layers etc. But you may be able to fine-tune your process to minimize the work.

One downside of course is that if you make a design change you have to determine how you track it. That is, if you make the fix in CorelDraw, your AutoCad file is out of date. You may not want to re-import if you are just changing a hole size. But if you are not meticulous the change can get lost next time you go back to your original AutoCad file for a more major revision. As you come from a technical background I'm sure you know all about tracking drawing revisions etc.

You will probably want to do some rastering from time to time even if it is a part number in the margin or lot number etc. In CorelDraw you can add any text and also control cutting order. I really think you will need to get CorelDraw even though it is not optimised for technical work.

You might want to read the thread started by Bryan Cowan on "Vectoring and Corel". Lots of people have ideas of what tools to use to make the dxf more compatible. But I suggest you try yourself with the simplest files and see what works (try importing the dwg, dxf) and then iterate. You might have better results saving at a lower-level release. You may even be able to use your AutoLisp experience to write a routine to "prep" the file as a Corel-ready output file (dwg or dxf). Then when you have a "final" drawing in AutoCad, run your routine to generate a file, open the file in CorelDraw, and edit as needed (paper size, placement, etc.)

One thing you did not ask but I will answer anyway. When you are getting demos of lasers, make sure you test how well the laser holds accuracy over the bed. Use some poster-paper and have them cut targets in the corners and then measure what you get using a 24" precision scale. If it does not cut correctly, have them demonstrate how to correct for the discrepancy. (My laser allows a correction factor in the driver but it is too crude to be useful.)

Do you need to use kerf compensation in your models? If so, you need to determine when it will be done. I usually do my kerf comp in AutoCad (yes, another file to track).

Good luck, and let us know what you decide and how you make out.

Rodne Gold
03-23-2008, 4:50 PM
The GCC 's work fine with directly off ACAD , so long as you have a version that uses a windows driver to print.
The only hassles with ACAD is that its not a graphics program like corel , corel allows more fancy layouts and works better with raster based stuff and fonts etc.
I often take acad drawings from architects and cut em for models. We have done some huge models (cutting not assembling) and the laser and my digital print and cut machine enable us to produce parts with fantastic realism.
Thing is , corel does a better job at some things , like rastering a tile pattern on terracotta coloured card for a roof. Acad is way better for lets say , compensating for wall thickesses and offsetting the wall outline. Complex acad drawing do not import well into corel.
It is , for example , easier to take a wall outline from Acad and superimpose a pattern form Corel and send that to the laser. So in essence if you want to do real fancy type stuff , you have to use both programs, but if you want simpler but more techical stuff , then acad is your choice.
We often use both to do various stuff , for example I can create a dial in seconds with acad and then import into corel for the logos , fanct fonts etc.
Here is a pic of a simple model we produced , just about every element was done with the laser
We have done far more complex ones. The real big money in this is to produce models for the developers that they use to sell off before the development is even started , they pay big bucks for realistic models.
we find that our digital print and cut machine enables us to print and cut vinyls as claddings. You can actually use a desktop printer to print on inkjet vinyl and then load this into the laser for kiss cutting or apply directly to the substrate and cut. We mainly use 1/2/3mm acrylic for the models as its easy to glue and paint and engrave and cut and it has some structural rigidity. If anyone is interested , mail me as I have a 21 page PDF file on how to use ACAD with your gcc laser


Wayne Morris
03-23-2008, 5:34 PM
Thanks for the replies. As I said, I have had a lot of kits cut by others and they all have imported my CAD drawings into Corel. I did get good at optimizing the AutoCAD drawings for importing and efficient use of the laser.

The projects all involve vector cutting and a lot of engraving. A typical 12x24 sheet of 1/16th inch birch plywood would have 8 to 10 kits so optimizing the drawings is essential. I will get a copy of CorelDraw and as suggested, I'll continue to use AutoCAD to do the design work and import into Corel while looking at the other features of Corel.

If CorelDraw is only being used primarily as the interface between AutoCAD and the laser drivers, would one of the previous versions of CorelDraw suffice? It would save hundreds of dollars over the newer release and that could move my laser purchase up a bit. (I am getting a bit antsy to get started.)

Attached is a sample of one of the kits I'm doing. The roofing is printed adhesive-backed paper. All the rest is cut and engraved. The kit is a model of a house that Sears sold as kits back in the early 1900's.



Rodne Gold
03-23-2008, 5:42 PM
Get the latest Corel , the earlier versions had hassles with ACAD imports/exports and the latest versions will also allow far more design flexibility. I wouldnt go below x3 tho.

James Stokes
03-23-2008, 5:43 PM
The house looks good.
The newer Corel Draw X-4 works the closest to autocad. You would probably have less of a learning curve with it compared to earlier version.

Kenneth Hertzog
03-23-2008, 9:03 PM

I have run DXF drawings to the laser from my cad program.
I draw the graphic twice
first I draw what I want to raster
second I draw what I want to vector
I run the first with the raster settings (quicker and no cutting done)
then I run the vector to cut out the outline of what I want.

Just what I have done with my machine.


Mike Mackenzie
03-24-2008, 2:54 PM
The ULS systems cut, mark, and Raster engrave all from the same driver that everyone uses, they also work with all current versions of Acad, the only version that did not work well was ACAD 2000, they since corrected the problems and came out with 2000i, that was 8 versions ago and we just set up a system running ACAD 2008, they Raster, mark & cut without any problems and can use Corel or ill with the same driver.

Sandra Force
03-24-2008, 4:13 PM
If you use AutoCAD then you are used to layering. If you seperate your vector and raster layers you should be able to do all of it in CAD. I used to have an Epilog and all of the work was done in CAD. I now use a combo of vector/plt from CAD and raster/tiff from Corel. There are some alignments that are a little tricky to start with but after 5 years of doing this it comes pretty easy.:D