When working with laser cutting or other CNC (Computer Numerical Control) processes, it’s essential to consider the kerf—the amount of material that gets removed during cutting. Failing to account for kerf can result in inaccurate cuts and ill-fitting parts. In this tutorial, you will learn how to adjust for kerf in Adobe Illustrator, ensuring your designs come out as intended. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Set Up Your Document
- Launch Adobe Illustrator and create a new document by selecting “File” > “New” or using the shortcut Ctrl/Cmd + N.
- Set the appropriate dimensions and units for your project. Consider the material’s thickness and the laser cutter’s kerf value. For example, if your material is 4 mm thick and the kerf is 0.2 mm, you may need to adjust your design by reducing it by 0.1 mm on each side.
Step 2: Create Your Design
- Design your artwork as usual, keeping in mind that you need to adjust for the kerf.
- If your design involves intricate cuts or joints, it’s recommended to create separate paths for each piece or segment that will be cut. This will make it easier to adjust their sizes individually.
Step 3: Apply Kerf Adjustment
- Once your design is ready, select the path(s) or shape(s) you want to adjust for kerf.
- Go to the “Object” menu and select “Path” > “Offset Path.” Alternatively, use the shortcut Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + O.
- In the “Offset Path” dialog box, enter half the kerf value you need to compensate for. For example, if the kerf is 0.2 mm, enter 0.1 mm.
- Choose a suitable join type and set the “Miter Limit” if necessary. Experiment with different options to find the best fit for your design.
- Click “OK” to apply the offset path. This creates a slightly smaller or larger copy of your original shape, depending on whether you entered a positive or negative offset value.
Step 4: Adjusting Interlocking Parts
- If your design includes interlocking parts, such as puzzle pieces or tabs and slots, select the corresponding paths.
- Repeat Step 3, but this time enter a negative offset value. This will create slightly larger copies of the interlocking parts to compensate for the kerf.
- Adjust the placement and alignment of the interlocking parts to ensure a snug fit when assembled.
Step 5: Finalize and Export
- Review your design to ensure that the kerf adjustments adequately compensate for the material removed during cutting.
- Once you are satisfied with the adjustments, you can proceed to save or export your design as a suitable file format for laser cutting, such as DXF or SVG.
- Provide the adjusted file to the laser cutting service or open it in software compatible with your CNC machine.