Maybe you’ve spent the summer scrolling through Pinterest and collecting a whole folder full of projects you want to attempt, knick-knacks you want to make and business ventures you want to start. Perhaps you’re a business owner or creative that would like to take your work one step forward. We live in a maker society and the Internet is chock full of inspiration. So, we picked out 11 DIY ideas to get you started on CNC.
We’ve rounded up simple projects that involve taking a regular image such as a JPEG or a scan of your sketch and converting it into a vector CAD file that can be fed into computer-controlled CNC machines. In our opinion, this is the easiest way to start. Off we go then! From branding materials for your little business to accessories to refresh your home, the projects ahead are perfect for beginners dipping their toes into CAD and CNC. In our opinion, this is the easiest way to start. Off we go then!
In the world of traditional art, artists start out by choosing a technique and a medium. In the world of CAD, you have a whole array of computer-controlled machines and materials that you can employ for your DIY project. Here are a few examples:
1. Laptop decals
All you need is a vinyl cutting machine and some basic computer skills. The vinyl cutter works very much like a printer would, except that it uses a small knife to create the picture. Once the design is cut, you can just peel away the parts that you don’t want, remove the transfer film and stick your decal. Laptop decals today, car decals tomorrow!
Stencils are used in a wide variety of projects: painting, graffiti art, sandblasting, sign making, airbrushing, silkscreen printing.
3. Laser cut jewellery
Do you know how Tatty Devine, the popular laser-cut jewellery company started out? Founders Harriet Vine and Rosie Wolfenden discovered sign makers selling little acrylic shapes in New York. Once back in London, they found a model maker with a laser cutter machine to help them transform these acrylic blocks into jewellery! Today, they’ve received MBEs for their contribution to fashion! For all you know, your entire designing career is ahead of you.
4. Wooden plaques
A few months back, we wrote a quick tutorial on how to make a laser-etched wooden plaque using Scan2CAD.
You could make signs for shops, exhibitions, point of sale, props… you name it. Having signages laser cut or engraved also adds a professional finish to your business. By avoiding the traditional printing route, you’ll definitely stand out from the crowd and showcase your creative prowess. In the picture below, designers Alphabetical Studio engraved their artwork onto melamine veneered MDF to expose the wood underneath.
6. Branding and marketing material
The main reason why people go down the DIY route is because of the ability to customize. This is especially important when you’re showcasing your personal brand. You could bring your entire brand strategy to life with custom made packaging, promotional signage, point of sale display and so on; all marked with your company logo. Here’s an Instructable to make your own laser-cut cardboard packaging.
7. Business cards
The guys at North Street Labs milled their company logo and URL onto thin acrylic sheets. Then, they added a space for a button cell battery and a RGB LED, which illuminates the card from the side. All for only $1.50 a piece! Watch this video to see how it’s made.
8. Wooden coaster
Why settle for a commercial coaster off the shelf when you can make your own? All you need is a pattern and some beginner-level CNC know-how. It’s the perfect project to get started with CNC machining too. To learn more, check out this easy step-to-step guide by Makezine to create your very own carved wooden coaster.
9. Burning pictures onto wood or metal
Want a special way to preserve a memory? Try burning pictures onto wood or metal. You get an artistic effect by converting your raster image into thin vector strokes or blocks of vector fill. You can also replicate this project on metal materials such as anodized or lacquered metal, where the laser will engrave away the top coating to reveal the metal finish below. Here’s a complete Instructable guide to get you started.
Artist, David Mayne starts his creative process with a sketch. He then scans his sketch and refines it using Photoshop, before using Scan2CAD to convert his drawing into the required vector file for laser cutting. Read our interview with David Mayne to learn more about his work.
11. Laser cut fabric
High-end designers are jostling to adopt new technologies into their pieces, and laser cutting is one of the most popular. You could cut intricate lace designs, engrave leather and let your imagination run wild.
All of these projects require you to produce your design in a vector image format. A vector image is a set of mathematical instructions that dictates how an image is rendered. These instructions are fed into the CNC machines, which will control the laser beam or cutter. You can create vector images from scratch in CAD drawing software like Adobe Illustrator.
Alternatively, you can also convert regular JPEG and PNG images into vectors using raster-to-vector conversion software like Scan2CAD. Try out all of our features for free with our 14-day unlimited trial.
If you’ve had your fill of CNC projects, you could always check out Scan2CAD’s top 20 3D CAD models (part 1)!