Laser cutting for 3D objects

Craft & Design
Laser cutting for 3D objects

I’ve been learning some interesting things about laser cutting 2D materials to form 3D objects (thanks to the laser cutter I have on loan from Epilog).There are some traditional woodworking joinery concepts that apply, but since all of your cuts are made on a single plane, there are some that don’t (such as dovetailed corners).
Inspired by Raphael Abrams’ cigar box Arduino lab, I’m designing a mobile prototyping kit. To make the box sturdy, I’ve designed a pattern of intersections to lock the sides and bottom together, as seen here. The thickness of my birch plywood is 3/16″, so I’ve made 3/16″ grooves on the edges for a clean fit.




My good friend Tod Kurt had done a lot of experimentation in this area, which you can read about in his slides for a Sketching Conference talk entitled From 2D -> 3D.

10 thoughts on “Laser cutting for 3D objects

  1. Kai Howells says:

    I’ve uploaded an EPS file with some cutting templates using different sized cuts so that you can make interlocking box joins like this on a laser cutter.
    As the laser cutter burns away some of the material, if you want a nice tight fit, you need to allow for the kerf.

    I’ve got a file in EPS and SVG format that is designed for 3mm thick materials (however you can scale things as you need to for thicker materials) and it’s a series of test cuts that are all “oversized” by varying amounts

    Download these files for free from my Ponoko showroom:

  2. says:

    cool design, and raphael is gonna be stoked when he see’s it. would you mind posting this up on so other people can make it?

    also, if you scooted in a few of your pieces together you could do line-sharing on the notches which would reduce the cut time dramatically (and probably the price as well!)

  3. John Park says:

    Great suggestion Zach; it seems so obvious now that you mention it! :) Yes, I’ll put it up on Thingiverse soon.

  4. Tod E. Kurt says:

    What’s a good technique for doing line sharing? In the two vector programs I’ve used (Illustrator, CorelDraw), lining up two shapes to share a cut doesn’t actually save cut time because there are still two vector lines, just laid on top of one another. To make it one line, I’ve had to break apart both curves, delete the superfluous line, then rejoin. A big pain.

  5. Jason says:

    If you do line sharing on a project like this, you’ll run into the kerf issue mentioned by Kai in the first comment. You may want to run a small test piece first to see if the resulting fit is solid enough for your purposes.

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

John Edgar Park likes to make things and tell people about it. He builds project for Adafruit Industries. You can find him at and twitter/IG @johnedgarpark

View more articles by John Edgar Park
Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).