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2D CAD and Laser Cutting

This workshop will provide an introduction to using CAD to design items you can make using the laser cutter. The laser cutter needs an input file of some sort; these can be created using an art-oriented package such as Inkscape, or using a CAD package. Art oriented packages such as Inkscape are typically faster and easier, and usually have a nice user interface. What they don't offer is accuray, and for anything that will be assembled with something else, this accuray is key. This is where CAD comes in.

There are a number of CAD packages you can use - the only requirement for any package is that it can export a .DXF file. This is a common CAD interchange format, and is supported by the vast majority of CAD or vector-based design packages.

This course is based around FreeCAD. FreeCAD is a free and open source 3D CAD package, still under development but already very powerful. It is available for Linux, Windows and Mac.

If preferred, you can complete this workshop using an alternative CAD package, however all hints and keyboard shotcuts assume you're using FreeCAD and you will need a basic level of competence in your chosen package before starting.

Alternative CAD programs which Hackla members have experience of are:

  • DraftSight - a free, but propriarty, 2D CAD package by Dassault Systemes. It is available for Linux, Windows and Mac.
  • Solid Edge Free 2D - a free, but propriatary, 2D CAD pacakge by Siemens. The current release is only available for Windows Vista or later, but earlier releases will run on earlier version of Windows, if you can find them.

A scrollwheel mouse is highly recomended. If you don't have one then please ask; there are some spares around the lab.

This workshop is designed to let you work at your own speed. We'll stop periodically to talk over new material, but the tutorials contain all the information you should need. The day will be spent working through the tutorials below, but don't worry if you don't make it all the way to the end.

When you're ready, proceed to tutorial 1 below. Note that a list of common keyboard shortcuts is shown below the tutorial links - you may wich to keep this window open as a reference.

Keyboard shortcuts

  • Curser keys to move the view left, right, up and down
  • Ctrl-minus to zoom out
  • Ctrl-Shift-plus to zoom in


  • Highlight the element you want to select (it will highlight yellow) and left-click. Once selected it will be green
  • Shift-B then left-click and drag to select multiple elements with a box
  • Hold Ctrl and left-click to select multiple elements


  • Lines,circles, arcs, polygons and others
  • Hold Ctrl to snap
  • Hold Shift to constrain movement to an axis


  • Move, rotate, scale and others
  • Hold Ctrl to snap
  • Hold Shift to constain movement to an axis
  • Hold Alt to make a copy (don't hold it to modify the original
2dcadworkshop.txt · Last modified: 2015-10-05 15:55 (external edit)