Creating Acrylic Letters with Sketchup and Ponoko

image

Yesterday I set about to have our new logo produced in acrylic.  I’ve made a few of pieces of a robot chassis out of acrylic using Sketchup (a software program) and Ponoko (a company that does laser cutting).  I hadn’t made letters before, and it turned out to be pretty simple.

To convert files from Sketchup to something Ponoko can use you need an plugin for Sketchup, a second software program called Inkscape  and templates for Inkscape provided by Ponoko.

In a previous blog I went through a step-by-step process to do the conversion.  If you want all of the details that blog post can be found here.

The first thing I did to get the logo into Sketchup was create the squares we now use.  Simple enough.  The part I was  little concerned about was getting letters with the correct font created.  Sketchup uses whatever fonts are loaded onto your system, so I added the text and made sure to unselect the “extruded” feature since my design is 2D.

image

The text is placed as a component. This means that all of the text is a single entity.  To break it into pieces you select the component (shown below), then click edit->component->explode

image

Now each letter should be a separate surface.  Just select each surface and press the Flight of Ideas SVG converter.  If installed correctly it should be on the lower left of your Sketchup side toolbar.

image

When the SVG converter window pops up select a location to save the file to and set the border and line width to 1mm.  Then launch Inkscape, open one of the templates for Inkscape provided by Ponoko, and import the SVG file you just exported from Sketchup.

image

The text will be jumbled and grouped when imported into the Inkscape template.  Select the group, right-click and select “ungroup”.

image

Once the text is ungrouped you can move it around and rotate it, and flip it, to try to fit it into the smallest template possible.  I was able to get “hardware made easy” in 2.5” letters into the P1 template.  You may notice that all of the letters are reversed.   You can flip them in Inkscape if it makes you feel better.  Most acrylic Ponoko provides is the same on both sides to it doesn’t really matter if it is reversed.  However, they do have a black that is flat on one side and shiny on the other.  If you decide to use that you should probably make sure all the text is either correct or reversed and pass them a note telling them which side is supposed to be flat.

image

Here’s a couple of last stage tips.  Ponoko laser cut lines need to be set to 0.01mm.  In Inkscape select all of your objects (left click mouse and drag the rectangle over them all), and then from the menu bar select object->fill and stroke.  A panel should launch and dock to the right side of your program window.   Under Stroke style tab set the width to 0.01 and the units to “mm”.   Your selected objects in the template will become really faint.  The width setting is required by Ponoko.  Next select the Stroke paint  tab, select the flat color button and set the bottom two RGB settings to 255.  This ensures your lines are solid blue, the color for a laser cut.  Other colors indicate to Ponoko things like engraving (see their web site for details).

image

Now just save your Inkscape file and upload it to Ponoko for fabrication.

It seems like a lot of steps, but once you’ve got it down the process to create acrylic letters of any font takes just as minute or two.  The cost to have the hardware made easy 2.5” letters cut was under $20, not including shipping. Our entire logo was under $70 in three colors, including 6” Solutions Cubed.

I initially planned to make a base out of white or frosted acrylic to glue the letter onto.  I was going to embed white LEDs in it so the logo would glow.  I stopped short of doing that because Ponoko only has acrylic sizes up to 31”x15”.  I may make a base out of wood, but I’m going to wait and see how these pieces turn out before I take the next step.

Speak Your Mind

*