Inkscape, CAD Software and CNC

What is Inkscape ?

Inkscape, CAD Software and CNC is our topic today. Inkscape is a free and open source vector graphics illustrator software. It’s uses are editing or creating vector graphics illustrations, logos, charts, diagrams and much more. The primary vector file for Inkscape is Scaleable Vector Graphic or SVG. Many other formats are available for importing or exporting. It’s capabilities are closely to those of its paid counterparts, Adobe Illustrator, Coreldraw, Freehand, or Xara X.

This article isn’t a step by step tutorial of Inkscape but rather how it helps in the world of CNC. Inkscapes ability to export several different vector formats is what caught my eye. The cross compatibility Inkscape has makes it ideal for the use in the CNC world. The fact that it’s free makes it the perfect choice for smaller shops starting out. Inkscapes located here for download.

Inkscape, CAD Software and CNC

What is CAD ? What is CNC ? Where does Inkscape fit into all of this. CAD or Computer Aided Design is software that ability’s include creation, modification and optimization of a designed item. CAD software increases productivity of not only the designer but the quality of any given design. It also produces a database or library for the manufacturing process itself.

drillingCNC or Computer Numerical Control is the automation of a piece of machinery that’s given commands by a computer. Designs in CAD are interpreted through controllers in a computer to make commands to equipment. This in turn makes the fabrication process possible.

Where’s Inkscape come in again ?

Inkscape, CAD Software and CNC all share intercompatibility. The files created in Inkscape are for use in CAD software programs. This free open source software also converts other file sets into usable files for CAD. Raster images are converted into a vectorized images for CAD. These converted images now read in CAD software. Toolpaths functions are programmed, fabrication begins. This is one of Inkscapes many capabilities.

I’ll discuss with you what Inkscape can do for you. The lessons in Inkscape are usable in other CAD programs. The Inkscape tutorials imported into Vcarve Pro. From here CAD software utilizes the Inkscape file into a workable toolpath. Now the fabrication process begins.

Inkscapes User Interface

INKSCAPE-MARK-UP

Inkscape, CAD Software and CNC have User Interfaces. All software has some form of a User Interface. The user interface in Inkscape is no different to navigate than most. Inkscapes user interfaces learning curve is as simple or difficult as the user’s requirements. Most cnc individuals will never use this software to its full potential. For the purposes in my shop, Inscape works flawlessly, Let’s now discuss all the icons on the user interface.

Menu Bar

At the tip top of Inkscapes User Interface is the Menu Bar. It displays the File, Edit, View, Layer, Object, Path, Text, Filters, Extensions, and Help menus. Let’s go into greater detail on each of these items.

  • FILE: Contains the file commands to the actual file such as saving, opening, importing, exporting, as well as the documents properties.
  • EDIT: Contains the commands undo, redo, cut, copy, paste, duplicate, and selection tools.
  • VIEW: This enables users to change screen view as well as grid, guide and snap features.
  • LAYER: Options for managing layers is found here.
  • OBJECT: Selecting objects, grouping, ungrouping, flip and rotation commands are found here.
  • PATH: All path properties are contained within this folder. Bitmap tracing, pixel art tracing and path manipulation.
  • TEXT: The properties specific to text , font, spelling, and placement of text on a path.
  • FILTERS: Many effects that can be added or removed from a design or text.
  • EXTENSIONS: Many multiple effects that expand the overall capabilities of Inkscape itself.
  • HELP: A full Inkscape manual for reference is found here. Project tutorials, current installed version and F.A.Q. are located here.

Commands Bar

Inkscapes command bar is below the Menu bar. It contains the most commonly accessed options from the above menu. We’ll discuss these icons from left to right and their uses.

  • NEW DOCUMENT : Create new document.
  • OPEN DOCUMENT : Open existing document
  • SAVE : Save existing project
  • PRINT : Send project to printer
  • IMPORT/EXPORT BITMAP : Inkscape uses SVG as its proprietary file set. Images exported as PNG make for better use on the internet.
  • UNDO/REDO : Undo or redo a file command
  • COPY/CUT/PASTE : Copy an object, cut objects or paste an object.
  • ZOOM TO FIT SELECTION IN WINDOW : The zoom level is set to optimize the viewing of selected objects
  • ZOOM TO FIT DRAWING IN WINDOW : The zoom level is set to optimize the viewing of all objects
  • ZOOM TO FIT PAGE IN WINDOW : The zoom level is set to optimize the viewing of the whole page
  • DUPLICATE : Creates exact copy of currently selected item or object.
  • CLONE : Creates exact copy of currently selected item or object but receives same changes as source object.
  • CUT CLONE LINKS :  Converts a clone into a normal duplicated image.
  • GROUP/UNGROUP SELECTED OBJECTS : Combine or separate objects
  • EDIT OBJECTS : Edit objects color, gradients and fill & stroke properties.
  • TEXT & FONT : Adjust and edit text and font.
  • VIEW LAYERS : View and work in the layers section of a given project.
  • VIEW/EDIT XML TREE : View or edit XML code. XML coding is similar to HTML.
  • ALIGN & DISTRIBUTE OBJECTS : Opens the alignment dialog for adjustment and alignment of objects to the page that relate to other objects.
  • EDIT PROPERTIES : Edit properties of a document
  • INKSCAPE PREFERENCES : Inkscape system settings and preferences.

Tool Control Bar

Inkscapes tool control bar is the 3rd toolbar down from the top. This toolbar displays icons specific to the current tool you have selected. This allows the way the active tools changed fast and simple. The displayed icons will change as the selected tool function changes. These icons are listed below.

  • SELECT ALL OBJECTS OR ALL NODES
  • SELECT ALL OBJECTS IN ALL VISIBLE AND UNLOCKED LAYERS  
  • DESELECT ANY SELECTED OBJECTS OR NODES
  • ROTATE SELECTION 90 DEG. COUNTER-CLOCKWISE 
  • ROTATE SELECTION 90 DEG COUNTERCLOCKWISE
  • FLIP SELECTED OBJECTS HORIZONTALLY
  • FLIP SELECTED OBJECTS VERTICALLY
  • LOWER SELECTION TO BOTTOM
  • LOWER SELECTION ONE STEP
  • RAISE SELECTION ONE STEP
  • RAISE SELECTION TO TOP
  • X, Y, W, H AND MEASUREMENT SETTING( MM, CM, INCHES)
  • WHEN SCALING OBJECTS SCALE THE STROKE WIDTH BY THE SAME PROPORTION
  • WHEN SCALING RECTANGLES, SCALE THE RADII OF ROUNDED CORNERS
  • MOVE GRADIENTS ALONG WITH THE OBJECT(S)
  • MOVE PATTERNS ALONG WITH THE OBJECT

TOOLBOX

Inkscapes toolbox is on the left side of the User Interface. It contains 21 different tools, each with a unique purpose. Below we’ll go into greater detail of each tool’s function. Remember, when tools change the Tool Control function bar icons change also.

Inkscape-Toolbox
Credit: Wikibooks.org

 

 

 

SNAP CONTROL BAR

Inkscapes Snap Control Bars location on the right side of the User Interface screen. This toolbar enables the setting of an object for snapping modes. Snapping is the method for how accurate and symmetrical arrangement of objects are on the canvas. This control bars features will align objects in multiple ways. See more below………..

SNAP BOUNDING BOXES

  • ENABLE SNAPPING : Turn snap features off & On. Set to off and all snapping features don’t work on the snap Control Bar.
  • SNAP BOUNDING BOXES : Enable for secondary boxes
    • Snap to edges of a bounding box
    • Snap bounding box corners
    • Snap midpoints of bounding box edges
    • Snap centers of bounding boxes
  •  SNAP NODES, PATHS AND HANDLES
    • Snap to paths
    • Snap to path intersections
    • Snap cusp nodes, including rectangle corners
    • Snap smooth nodes, including quadrant points of ellipses
    • Snap midpoints of line segments
  • SNAP OTHER POINTS
    • Snap to centers of objects
    • Snap an object’s rotation center
    • Snap text anchors and baseline
  • SNAP TO THE PAGE BORDER
  • SNAP TO GRIDS
  • SNAP TO GUIDES

Color Palette Bar

At the bottom of Inkscapes User Interface is the color palette bar. The bar provides fill and stroke options. The color palette is simple to use. Drag the colors you want to the workpiece. No selecting anything.

Conclusion

Inkscape, CAD Software and CNC are all intercompatible. Are you looking for an Illustrator software that won’t break the bank ? One that has multiple capabilities in the graphic design field. With as many features as Inkscape has this is one open source program worth looking at. Does it compete with the larger priced paid software out there ? In my opinion, No. Inkscape limitations are there but the price can’t be beat.

Thank You for taking the time to read

~Steve

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