CNC Guide: How to Convert DXF to G-Code

Updated Oct 17, 2019
CNC cut paper design held in front of mountains and river

If you’re unfamiliar with CNC (Computer Numerical Control), it enables machines like laser cutters and water jets to transform computer-based designs into physical products. For example, fancy creating a new sign for your store? All you need is your chosen design and a CNC machine. In order for the machine to read the file, however, it must be in the form of what is known as ‘G-Code’.

Converting your files to G-Code does not have to be a complicated process. If you’re starting out with an accessible file type like DXF, it’s actually really easy. No need to learn code—just use software that can do the work for you.

This article explores what DXF and G-Code actually are, and how you can convert from one to the other in a few simple steps.

Table of Contents

What is DXF?

DXF icon

DXF is a vector graphic file type that has become the standard format for data exchange. Indeed, the full name for this file type is actually Design eXchange Format. Created in 1982 by Autodesk, it’s particularly useful for sharing designs across different CAD programs. The files have an open source format and enable people to access AutoCAD drawings, for instance, without the need to use Autodesk applications. DXF files are a sound choice if you’re working with 2D vector images, and a great starting point if you’re looking to convert to G-Code. 

What is G-Code?

G-Code is a programming language made up of letters and digits. It’s largely associated with CNC machines, but can also be used in 3D printing and photoplotting. In terms of the former, G-Code tells CNC machines where and how to move. Using what are called Cartesian coordinate locations, the machine is fed instructions including direction, speed and depth—thus enabling it to create products from a computer image.

G-code sample

An example of G-Code within a CNC editor. As you can imagine, it’s not easy to write the code yourself unless you’re an experienced CAM programmer!

The G-Code itself looks quite complex and can be intimidating if you’re new to CNC. Don’t let that put you off, though—you certainly don’t need to be a code breaker to work with these tools! Rather than writing the G-Code yourself, or attempting to modify existing G-Code, you have the option of using CAM software or CAD editing programs to produce the code.

Why Convert DXF to G-Code?

CNC projects can be fun, satisfying and educational. Plus, they allow you to create a huge variety of useful products. Tools, furniture, machine parts and even jewellery can be made using CNC machines. The possibilities are almost endless!

If you’re new to CNC, or want to simplify the process of using CNC machines, DXF files are a particularly useful place to start. Designs saved in the DXF format don’t need to be vectorized, so you can export them directly to G-Code using programs like Scan2CAD and they’ll be ready to cut!

Wondering where to begin? Have a browse through these 13 sites with free DXFs. You can also receive free DXF packs directly from Scan2CAD—simply enter your email in the box at the bottom of the page to sign up and get exploring. Use the designs as inspiration for your own work, or start experimenting straight away!

Using Scan2CAD to Convert Your Files to G-Code

We’re going to show you how to use Scan2CAD to convert your files to G-Code. There’s no need to start stressing about learning a new programming language—in a few simple clicks, the job can be done for you.

Scan2CAD makes it easy to directly export a vector image to G-Code. All you have to do is open up your DXF file in Scan2CAD and save it as G-Code. You have three options when it comes to the G-Code file extensions Scan2CAD supports: .CNC, .NC and .TAP. Make your choice based on which one is compatible with your particular CNC machine. The three listed are some of the most popular types, so you shouldn’t have any trouble. Transfer the files to your machine and production can begin. Simple!

If you need to get specific with the export settings, no problem—Scan2CAD’s CNC Export dialog presents a range of settings that you can tweak to meet your requirements:

  • G-Code Bezier options – use cubic splines, arcs or polylines
  • Arc and Circle Rotation – rotate clockwise or anticlockwise 
  • Z Settings – Set the Z Offset, Z Max for Passes, Z Limit per Pass and Z Retract per Pass
  • Scaling – set the required scale, either via the Menu or when prompted to upon saving.

As you can see, the conversion process can be as simple or detailed as you want it to be, depending on your CNC knowledge. So, whether it’s a new hobby or something you want to use to benefit your business, explore the potential of CNC today!

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