Transforming your design into a tangible object requires a CNC machine such as a router, laser, or 3D printer.
A computer system takes in the SVG file and converts it into G-codes to perform the machining operation.
Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) is a design file that uses vector graphics to produce the required pattern/design.
These files are web-friendly and are used as the standard for vector graphics on the internet.
SVG files store information as coordinates, lines, and curves, that can be easily scaled to fit your application without affecting the graphic quality.
On the other hand, G-code (Geometric code) is a computer program that controls the tool movement of a CNC machine (CNC router, laser, or 3D printer).
It defines parameters like toolpath, spindle RPM, feed rate, nozzle/bed temperature, as well as operations such as coolant ON/OFF, spindle ON/OFF, the direction of rotation of the spindle, fan speed, etc.
So how are these SVG files converted to G-codes and what are the tools required for it?
In this article, I discuss the process of converting SVG files to G-code for 2D engravings and 3D models and listed a few software for every step of the conversion process.
Things to Note before Converting SVG to G-code
You should keep in mind that not all SVGs are perfect for converting to G-code. Also the type of machine to be used determined the list of G-codes suitable for the operation.
If you just want to engrave or cut an outline on your work material, you should choose an SVG with distinct outlines instead of one with multiple colors and shades.
There are various software like Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, Boxy SVG Editor, etc. that can be used to edit SVG files to fit your application.
If some elements of SVG design, like text or shapes, are not displayed properly, just select those parts and convert them to 'path' using your SVG editor.
You can also use an SVG optimization tool to tackle incompatibility issues.
Method To Convert SVG To G-code For 2D Designs
You can create your own SVG or download an SVG design template from the internet, and check whether the workbench and tool settings in the control software are as per your requirements.
Then scale the SVG graphic to fit the work area of your CNC machine.
After preparing the SVG file, you can import the file into the convertor software and generate the toolpath.
If supported by the software, you can run a simulation to verify the toolpath to ensure the safety of the process and avoid unwanted tool collision.
After verifying the toolpath and ensuring the best and most efficient path, you can save the corresponding G-code file and use it to execute the CNC process.
Software To Convert SVG to G-code For 2D Designs
|Free & Paid versions available
Best software to convert 2D SVG files to G-code
Jscut is a browser-based online software that can convert SVG to G-code.
It cannot be used to create an SVG file, but you can upload one from your computer, Dropbox, or Google Drive
Jscut provides the feature to verify the toolpath with the help of a simulation before saving the G-code.
CAD2CNC is another online browser-based application.
You can upload your SVG file, choose the appropriate settings, and CAD2CNC will convert that SVG into G-code.
CAD2CNC is also compatible with DXF formats.
Carbide 3D is an offline downloadable software. It has a paid version that offers comparatively more functionalities than its free version.
The paid version offers features such as creating 3D parts from vectors, combining multiple components, applying textures, and 3D rough & finish machining.
You can create 2D and 3D vector graphics using this software. You can even import DXF and SVG files and convert them to G-code.
Carbide 3D also provides a 5-day free tutorial course to get you started on CNC machining.
Inkscape is a free offline downloadable software that you can use for editing your SVG.
It also provides a G-code extension, which can be downloaded and installed to add the functionality of converting SVG to G-codes.
The G-code extension can be installed by moving the G-code extension files into the 'Share' folder of your Inkscape directory.
After you have created your SVG using Inkscape, simply save it with ".gcode" extension and Inkspace will convert the design into a G-code file.
Method To Convert SVG To G-Code For 3D Models
The process of converting a 3D SVG design into G-code is similar to the process followed for 2D design files, with one additional step.
This step converts a 2D design file into a 3D object by extruding the design along the Z-direction.
The SVG file first needs to be converted to an STL file, which can eventually be converted to G-code.
There are various online and offline software that can be used to convert SVG to STL.
What is STL?
STL stands for StereoLithography or Standard Triangle Language or Standard Tessellation Language and is most commonly used in 3D printers.
An STL file defines the surface of an object by breaking it down into extremely small triangular elements. The higher the number of triangles, the higher will be the resolution of the design.
However, it does not contain any information regarding the color and texture of the object.
Software To Convert SVG To STL
SVG 2 STL
SVG2STL is an online browser-based SVG to STL converter.
It can extrude your 2D SVG to make a 3D printable design. The process is very simple and fast.
You can also view your STL before downloading it.
Any Conv is also a browser-based software that can convert your SVG to STL.
You can upload the SVG file and the application will convert it into a ready-to-download STL file.
However, you can't view your STL file before downloading it.
AUTODESK Fusion 360
AUTODESK Fusion 360 is one of the premium CAD software used for preparing designs for CNC machining.
You can create a sketch or upload an SVG into the software and convert it to STL for your 3D printer.
It is a paid software, with a one-year free trial only for students.
Converting STL to G-code
After you have created your STL file, it is time to convert it to G-code.
This is done by a process called slicing, where the 3D shape is sliced into multiple 2D layers along the XY plane.
The thickness of each 2D layer can be individually modified, however, it is generally maintained between 0.004"-0.015" for all layers.
The CAD is extruded in the Z-direction by printing one layer on top of the other until your model is complete.
Software to convert STL to G-code
There are various software that can be used to convert STL to G-code. Here I have mentioned a few good software than can get the job done.
|Free & Paid versions available
Best software to convert STL to G-code
Cura is an open-source free software developed by Ultimaker that can run on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms.
Although it was originally designed for Ultimaker 3D printers, Cura has developed multiple plug-ins to provide support for other machines as well.
It is compatible with file formats like STL, OBJ, X3D, and 3MF, along with image file formats such as BMP, PNG, JPG, and GIF.
It provides estimation for important features such as printing time, material usage, and toolpath.
However, it must be noted that the estimated printing time may vary from one application to another and cannot be accurately estimated.
Ultimaker has an official forum where you can get assistance for troubleshooting or experimenting with new settings.
PrusaSlicer is also an open-source slicer software and is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms.
It can be used with FDM as well as SLA/DLP 3D printers.
PursaSlicer has 3 modes - beginner, advanced and expert which makes it suitable for all kinds of users.
You can create custom supports wherever needed or use the automatically created supports in detected areas.
PrusSlicer has a collection of 3rd party 3D printer profiles and can be used with various different 3D printers.
It has a large userbase with active discussions and queries on various forums, making it easy to get started with the software.
3DPrinterOS is a cloud-based software that can be used on your browser or you can download the desktop application.
The paid version offers various additional features, like unlimited storage, custom APIs, a private cloud, and customizable AM workflows.
It also has 3 modes- simple, advanced, and expert, for users with different levels of proficiency.
3DPrinterOS provides different apps- Slicer 2, MakerBot slicer, and Cloud Slicer, that support a wide range of 3D printers, such as 3D Dexter, Dexbot, MakerBot, Creality, Prusa, and Ultimaker.
Additionally, it provides features like cost estimation of the print and mesh repair.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between STL and G-code?
STL (Standard Triangle Language) is the file type that defines a 3D design. It is used by 3D printing slicer software for the purpose of converting your part into a physical model. G-code is a set of instructions generated by CAM software that controls the movement of a CNC machine, laser machine, or a 3D-printer.
What file formats are used in CNC machines?
The file formats used by CNC machines are STEP, SLDPRT, IPT, IGES, SAT, 3DM and X_T.
Can a raster be converted to vector image?
Yes, raster can be converted to vector image. You can vectorize the image and convert it into a SVG or DXF format. This can be done by various software available online like Scan2CAD.