From theoretical knowledge to high-level tips and tricks on using your Snapmaker, here is everything you need on your way to mastery of creating.
3D Printing
  • What Is TPU Filament and How Can I Use TPU with Snapmaker?



    Characteristics of TPU filament

    TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) is a soft resin that is resistant to bending, tension, and friction. And

    it also has excellent chemical resistance. TPU is one of the most commonly used materials in 3D printers, because it can be used to make parts with rubber-like elasticity and impact resistance.



    • It is relatively inexpensive, easy to handle, and can produce parts with softness that cannot be obtained by the SLA printing method.
    • Adhesion between layers is strong. By adjusting the wall thickness and infill, it is possible to make parts with various characteristics.
    • Depending on the application, you can make soft parts like rubber tires or strong, unbreakable parts like gaskets and seals.



    • TPU is a material that easily absorbs moisture. Moisture absorption can cause bubbles or poor flow during printing, which can have a negative impact on products. Therefore, it requires more attention to storage and drying than other materials. For more information, check out this article: 3D Printing Filament Storage and Drying: Why and How.
    • As explained in the next section, printing is technically more difficult than PLA. Supports are difficult to peel off, so it is necessary to create shapes that require as little support as possible.
    • Like PLA, heat resistance is not good, so care should be taken.




    Why is printing with TPU so difficult?

    Differences in difficulty between different types of extruders

    Proper pressure must be applied from the extruder to feed the filament out of the nozzle.

    Bowden extruder used in some 3D printers has the advantage of having a small and lightweight head. But the long distance from the extruder to the nozzle makes it difficult to extrude TPU filament, which is soft and cannot be tensioned. Therefore, it is challenging to print TPU on a Borden-type 3D printer. Generally, higher temperatures, slower speeds, and avoidance of retraction are used.

    The direct extruder used by Snapmaker allows the extruder and nozzle to be in close proximity to each other, allowing the proper pressure to be applied to even the softest TPU filaments. As a result, temperature and speed settings can be set to fit TPU, and retraction can be performed to enhance the quality of products. But still, printing with TPU is not easy.




    Difficulties arising from the wide variation of TPU filaments

    Like other filaments, TPU filaments come in a variety of types. In particular, Shore hardness is a characteristic measure of TPU. Generally, a smaller Shore hardness indicates softer material and a larger Shore hardness indicates harder material.

    Even with the similar TPU materials, it is more difficult to print well than generic PLA because settings must be adjusted over the characteristics of the filament.


    Troubles and solutions when using Snapmaker

    Cannot extrude

    Snapmaker direct extruder uses a combination of a single gear and opposite roller to extrude the filament. Soft TPU may bend in Snapmaker extruder and cannot be extruded properly, causing filament jamming.

    • Lower the Printing Speed and Retraction Speed to increase the flow.
    • It is recommended to use Polymaker TPU95-HF for TPU printing due to its high stiffness. 
    • Carbon residue in the inner wall of the nozzle can lead to greater resistance. You can change the nozzle regularly.

    Depending on the types of TPU filaments, Snapmaker may not be able to solve the problem. If the problem persists, please refer to the Snapmaker forum. You may find solutions from other users.




    Deformation during printing

    The flexibility of TPU allows for deformation during modeling due to the thin-walled structure of the structure and its own weight.

    • It is recommended to modify the structure or add infill.
    • Increasing the flow rate may prevent deformation. In this case, the molding object will be slightly larger.


    Ragged object

    Insufficient amount of extrusion tends to cause this problem. As well, too much or too fast retraction can cause a ragged object due to bubbles.

    • Increase the extrusion flow. 
    • Slow down the printing speed to secure the amount of extrusion per unit time.
    • Reduce retraction distance and speed.

    Note: Although it makes the product slightly stiffer, use the infill pattern gyroid for hollow structures to reduce the possibility of retraction.





    Stringing is one of the most common problems that occur when printing with TPU. It is difficult to completely avoid it due to its characteristics, but there are ways to reduce it as much as possible.

    • Slightly decrease printing temperature.
    • Accelerate travel speed.
    • Enable Retract at Layer Change option.

    Note: Increase retraction distance and decrease retraction speed are common answers, but they are inapplicable to Snapmaker due to mechanical differences, which would increase the possibility of filament jamming.




    Unable to detach from the build plate

    TPU has strong adhesion to the heated build plate. Depending on the print settings, it may be difficult to peel off the object from the print sheet.

    • Use the Z offset to move the nozzle an extra distance (about +0.1 mm) from the build plate.
    • Detach objects while the build plate is still heated with Pallet Knife. Be careful not to touch the hot surface of the build plate.
    • Decrease initial build plate temperature.
    • Use duct tape or masking tape to the print sheet.

    Note: Generally speaking, a new print sheet provides stronger adhesion.


    Snapmaker Luban settings

    Here are some specific settings for Snapmaker Luban to solve the above problems.

    Note: It is recommended to use Polymaker TPU95-HF for TPU printing.


    Material settings

    • Printing Temprature: 225℃
    • Fan: ON
    • Build Plate Temperature: 50-60℃
    • Extrusion Flow: >120%
    • Retraction Distance: 2.5mm
    • Retraction Speed: 15mm/s 

    Printing settings

    • Layer Height: 0.1-0.3
    • Initial Layer Height: >0.25
    • Initial Layer Line Width: 150%
    • Shell Thickness: >0.8
    • Infil Pattern: Gyroid
    • Printing Speed: <25mm/s
    • Travel Speed: >70mm/s

    Note: Typical settings can be downloaded here. Use these .json files on Snapmaker Luban. Click on the gear icon at the upper right, then click on the import icon in the bottom left corner of the settings. Check the image below.




    Printing samples

    Depending on your ideas, TPU has unlimited possibilities. Please enjoy Make Something Wonderful!






    Toy Parts



    Fitted Lampshades



    Flexible Toolbox             Speaker Sealing



  • How to Turn 3D Printed Parts into Concrete Masterpieces




    For many, the ability to print out nearly any object one could imagine from the comfort of their home is equal parts astonishing to inspiring. Now imagine if you could transform those relatively robust plastic creations into rigid long-lasting masterpieces. Well, I’m here to tell you that the process is surprisingly easy, and I’ll help guide you along every step of the way. Let’s get right into it, starting with the process overview, which details the key aspects of converting plastic 3D printed components into their concrete counterparts.




    CAD Modeling: Turning the concept of your project into a three-dimensional object.

    3D Printing: Converting the STL file into a tangible part, via additive manufacturing. 

    Silicone Molding: Casting a negative silicone mold of the 3D printed parts.

    Concrete Casting: Filling the negative silicone mold with concrete. 

    Decorating: Arranging modular planters and adding decorative plants and materials.


    How to Video

    How to Video:


    Concrete Planters

    Project Introduction

    When I started this project, I wanted to design a modular planter that was able to be quickly configured into different arrangements. The design would have to be relatively minimalistic to ensure ease of 3D printing, silicon molding, and concrete casting. In addition to these design constraints, I wanted certain components to be stackable, adding another level of modularity to the system. 


    Design Considerations

    When I started the design of this project I wanted to have the ability to quickly rearrange the planters and pavers to create different layouts. I achieved this modularity by sub-dividing the base shape which was an elongated hexagon into 3 unique shapes. The main shape is a pentagon, which has three different configurations, depending on the application of that component. For example, if you wanted to create a vertical stack up, you would start with a base planter and then add as many hollow planters as you would like. Because these shapes are derived from the base elongated hexagon, they can be added in a repeating pattern to create new and unique shapes.




    Figure 1.0: Base Shape constructed using four hexagon pavers.



    Figure 1.1: Two examples of the different configurations that are possible with the modular components.


    Bill of Materials

    • PLA Filament
    • Mold Star 30 Silicone
    • Quikcrete Mix
    • Potting Soil
    • Decorative Filler Rocks
    • Decorative Moss
    • Succulents
    • Hot Glue Gun
    • 3D Printer
    • 330-Grit Sandpaper
    • 220-Grit Sandpaper
    • Plastic Sheet
    • Mixing Bowl
    • Mixing Stick


    CAD Modeling

    The first step is turning the concept of your project into a three-dimensional version, which will allow us to export as an STL. This STL can later be processed by the slicing software, and we will get into that in the next step. 


    Slicing and 3D Printing

    Before we can begin printing, we need to first convert our STL file into G Code. This is carried out by the software Snapmaker Luban, which “slices” the models into thin layers and creates tool paths in the form of G Code, allowing the printer to interpret the data and turn the compilation of individual layers into a printable part. For a more detailed explanation of slicing and G Code, check out this article: Slicing and G Code: The Bridge Between 3D Model and 3D Printer



    Figure 1.2: Slicing the hollow planter component in software Snapmaker Luban.


    Post Processing

    Once the printing process is completed, we can begin post-processing the components. Due to the geometry, most of the parts don’t need support material during printing and therefore most of the surfaces on the print are smooth. The only exception to this was the hollow planter, which could be printed in an orientation that would allow for no support material. However, I wanted the parts all to be oriented the same to ensure the fillet on the top surfaces was consistent. I started by sanding the parts using 220 grit sandpaper, this removed any major surface blemishes and gave the parts a relatively smooth finish. From there I applied filler primer to all the parts and let them dry. The filler primer did an excellent job filling in any small voids or gaps between layer lines. From there I sanded the parts once again, this time using 330 grit sandpaper, resulting in an almost perfectly smooth surface finish. Although sometimes tedious post-processing these parts is a key step in this project to ensure a high-quality finished product. Since the silicon mold will capture any small blemishes in the part, which will in turn be reflected in the concrete casted parts. 



    Figure 1.3: Sanding filler primed hexagon paver with 330 grit sandpaper.


    Mold Setup

    Since I used a trial bottle of Mold Star 30 silicone I had to optimize the shape of the mold shell. I started by arranging the components I planned to cast in CAD and then designed the shell around them. Making sure to leave enough space between components to ensure the silicon mold hard rigid enough walls to support the concrete during curing. The mold shell was also 3D printed although, I didn’t post-process it at all since the surface finish on the perimeter of the silicone mold wasn’t important. The next step was to hot glue the post-processed prints to a base, I used a plastic sheet from an old picture frame. Then I placed the mold shell around those components and hot glued it as well. It’s important to make sure there are no gaps between the mold shell and the base, otherwise, the silicone will slowly leak out since it’s not very viscous. I didn’t use any mold release spray for this project, but you could use some if you wanted to ensure easy removal of the 3D-printed parts once the silicone cured. In my case, I was able to remove the parts with minimal work even without any release spray. 



    Figure 1.4: All components and mold shell layed out and hot glued to plastic base.


    Mixing Silicone

    There were a few reasons I chose Mold Star 30 silicone for this project. The primary reason was that this specific silicone rubber doesn’t require a vacuum for degassing and has a low viscosity, which allows it to easily flow into small areas. To prep, the platinum silicones are mixed 1A:1B by volume, meaning no scale is necessary. I chose to pour each bottle into a common container and mixed them until a homogenous solution was achieved. Once the silicone was ready to be poured I slowly began filling the Mold shell, making sure to fill in all the little channels between the components and the shell. The last step in the silicone molding process was to agitate the silicone. This is a very important step, which removes any trapped oxygen bubbles within the silicone. If bubbles aren’t properly evacuated from the silicone, it will likely impact the surface finish on your final concrete parts once you cast the silicone mold. This could have been avoided had I used a vacuum chamber to degas the silicone, although I didn’t have one at my disposal. In the end, the features that were generated in the concrete parts due to residual trapped air bubbles ended up being a surface feature I came to appreciate and enjoy in the parts.   



    Figure 1.5: Filling the mold shell with Mold Star 30 silicone. 


    Component Removal

    I started the component removal process by pealing away the flexible plastic base followed by pressing the silicone through the mold shell, leaving just the silicone mold with the entrapped 3D printed parts. From there it was as simple as pressing the 3D printed parts out since most parts were glued directly to the plastic base. Except for one part, which required me to add relief cuts to the silicon mold. These cuts would prove to be extremely useful once it came time to remove the concrete cast parts.



    Figure 1.6: Silicone mold, once all 3D printed parts have been successfully removed.


    Mixing Concrete

    There is an expansive list of potential concrete mixes one could use for a casting operation like this. I opted for the Quikcrete sand/topping mix since the powder was relatively fine and I was able to easily source it from my local HomeDepot. The first step in mixing the concrete was to pour an appropriate amount of concrete powder into a mixing bowl, then added water. The general rule of thumb is to get the concrete to a consistency similar to that of oatmeal. You want the concrete to be wet enough to flow into the silicone mold nicely, but not too wet. When concrete is mixed with too much water it dries weaker, overly porous, and is more prone to cracking. 



    Figure 1.7: Concrete mixing process, just before adding water and stirring the mixture.


    Concrete Casting

    When casting the silicone mold with concrete, it’s important to pour slowly. This helps to limit the number of air bubbles that are trapped within the mold. To aid in the evacuation of trapped air, I once again agitated the silicone mold by vibrating it. This brought the vast majority of air bubbles to the surface, although there were still some trapped lingering bubbles. These air pockets ended up giving a unique surface finish on the final parts and became something I liked.    



    Figure 1.8: Carefully filling the silicone mold with the concrete mixture.


    Post Processing

    Once the concrete had dried completely I removed the parts from the silicone mold. The next step was to sand down the small amount of “flash” on the bottom surface of the parts. This is caused by the silicone mold not being filled all the way with concrete. When this happens the concrete experiences capillary action, which causes the concrete to stick and rise on the perimeters of the mold. Additionally, I sanded a few regions on the hollow planter parts to ensure they would have a slip fit with other components when stacked.   



    Figure 1.9: Sanding concrete hollow planter with 220 grit sandpaper block.



    With our post-processed components completed, it's time for the fun part. I started by laying out an arrangement that I liked. From there I decided which areas would have plants and soil, and the areas which would only have rocks and moss. The stack-ups of the hollow planters were filled with soil, to help provide nutrients for the succulents I planted within them. As a finishing touch, I added some small rocks around the succulents and filled a few other areas with rocks and moss. I opted for a succulent and moss-themed design, but there are many other styles one could choose. For example, a desert-themed planter with cactus and sand.  



    Figure 2.0: Adding small river rocks to cover the soil surrounding the succulents.


    Finished Product





    Alternate Applications

    The process of turning 3D printed parts into a silicone mold and then using it to cast in another material could be applied to a wide range of projects. Although the complexity of these 3D printed parts is somewhat limited, there are design choices that can be made to overcome these limitations. Additionally, the material you choose to cast with can vary as well, for example, you could replicate this project but use chocolate instead of concrete. The possibilities are nearly endless. If you’re interested in trying out this manufacturing process but aren’t sure where to start, here are some project ideas to get you started:  

    • Concrete Vases
    • Desk Organizers
    • Concrete Coasters
    • Candle Holders
    • Phone Stands
    • Business Card Holder



    At first glance, it probably seemed like a daunting task to produce a consumer-quality concrete component from a few 3D printed parts and some silicone. But once the manufacturing process is broken down into its fundamental steps, it becomes a much easier project to comprehend. Hopefully, as you’ve progressed through this article you’ve developed a better understanding of how to turn 3D printed parts into concrete masterpieces and found some inspiration for your own DIY projects along the way.


    Now go out there and Make Something Wonderful!



  • Print Sheet Maintenance: Useful Tips You Should Know


    Hello, Maker!

    As known to all, initial layer adhesion is critical for FFF 3D printing, on which we would spend a lot of effort, such as tuning the slicing parameters or using various tools. That’s also why Snapmaker specially designed a detail-rich print sheet to minimize the troubles. Now, let’s take a look at this product and learn some basic daily maintenance and cleaning skills.___.png

    Design & Material

    The print sheet of the Snapmaker 2.0 machines consists of two parts: the steel plate and surface stickers on both sides.

    The steel plate is made of carbon steel with high toughness and strength. Though the print sheet can be bent slightly, it will immediately return to its original flatness once the force is stopped, thus ensuring that the entire printing platform can always be kept flat during printing. At the same time, its magnetic design also provides great convenience for removing prints and replacing the print sheet.


    Although not fixed with screws, the strong magnetic attraction between the print sheet and the heated bed helps them stick firmly together. Without intended human force (which must be very strong, actually), the print sheet will not move during printing.


    The sticker of the print sheet is made of polymer materials, of which the surface is specially processed to further improve the adhesion effect of the initial layer. Though named as “sticker”, it is highly flame-retardant, oxidation-resistant, as well as heat-resistant. 


    Thanks to its material properties, the print sheet sticker can effectively accelerate the cooling process of the extruded filament when the initial layer is printed, making it adhere to the print sheet faster and better, and also reducing the possibility of wrapping. Internal tests have shown that our specially designed sticker can effectively improve the initial layer adhesion of a wider variety of filaments, compared with the Polyetherimide (PEI) stickers or coatings used in many other printing platforms.

    Moreover, the print sheet of Snapmaker 2.0 has stickers on both sides. This not only ensures the flatness of the steel plate when heated, but also increases the utilization of the print sheet. You can switch the front and back sides at will to use, thus reducing the frequency of replacement.


    How to Avoid Print Sheet “Injuries“

    Traces or marks may be left on the print sheet due to various reasons over repetitive use. If not handled in time, they can affect the printing quality. For example, filament residues on the print sheet may negatively impact the initial layer adhesion in the next printing. What’s more, if filaments of different colors are used over two successive printings, the bottom of the latter print is likely to be branded with an undesirable “gift” from the former print, as shown below.


    Also, dented traces pressed out by the nozzle on the print sheet may leave some “3D tattoo” on your future prints.


    Some of these traces are reversible and can be erased by later cleaning, while others are permanent. Therefore, before we proceed to cleaning methods, let’s go over some preventive measures and precautions that can help you avoid such “injuries” to the print sheet.

    1. Don’t set the Z height too low.
      Many Makers, including myself, tend to set the Z height as low as possible during the heated bed leveling or after the printing starts, so as to reduce potential problems that can happen to the initial layer adhesion. However, the nozzle can easily leave dents on the print sheet in doing so. At the same time, the extruding of filament may be hindered or even stopped if the nozzle is too close to the print sheet, which could give rise to discontinuous lines, uneven surfaces of the printed object, or even nozzle jams. A failed printing process can be restarted, a jammed nozzle can be cleaned, but the dent left on the print sheet is irreversible. What’s more, an excessively low Z height may cause the filament to stick too much to the print sheet, bringing about more troubles in the cleaning process afterward.


    2. Don't take out or elevate the print sheet when the machine is still working.
      Sometimes when the printing of the initial layer is not going well and thus you decide to remove the filament and start over, you might just take out the print sheet directly without pausing the machine. In this case, the distance between the nozzle and the print sheet will suddenly decrease, and the nozzle may leave dents or traces on the print sheet as a result.

    3. Use masking tapes on the print sheet.
      As one of the favorite tools among Makers, masking tapes can improve the adhesion of the initial layer. Every time before a new print, you can just conveniently tear the old tapes off and apply new ones. More importantly, they won’t damage the print sheet. If your print sheet already has traces that can affect printing quality, you can cover them with masking tapes to minimize their annoying effects.

      There are things you should pay attention to when using masking tapes:
      • Do not overlap masking tapes, for the nozzle may lift the overlapped part of the tapes when printing the initial layer. Beyond that, take special care when sticking the edges of masking tapes. When the 3D printing module finishes heating and moves from the bottom left of the print sheet to the target area, it may easily scratch up the edges of masking tapes.
      • The area covered by masking tapes should be larger than the printing area; otherwise, the nozzle might also scratch the edges of the tapes.
      • Level the heated bed again after applying the masking tapes before printing. This is because the tape itself has a certain thickness, so printing without a second leveling may cause extra problems.
    1. Apply washable glue to the estimated printing area on the print sheet before printing.
      Note that one or two thin coats of glue are enough, and make sure the glue is applied evenly to avoid lumping. When the printing is completed, you can easily remove the glue traces with water and a towel. Besides,
      it’s better to clean the glue immediately after printing when the heated bed has not cooled down, or you can clean the glue with warm water.

    2. Set the Line Count to 3 or above if you choose Skirt as the Build Plate Adhesion Type in the slicer.
      Setting the build plate adhesion type helps enhance the initial layer adhesion, but when you select skirt and set the line count to a value smaller than 3, there are chances that some filament residues would stick to the print sheet and be difficult to remove.

    Cleaning Tips

    We have collected some practical cleaning tips from our colleagues and forum, which can be roughly divided into physical and chemical ones. When there are filament residues or grease on the print sheet, you can try some of the methods below.

    Physical Method

    You might be wondering: Nobody cooks on the print sheet, so where does the grease come from?

    In fact, our skin produces natural grease that might stick to the print sheet while we operate the 3D printer. Besides, dust from the air can also fall on the print sheet. The accumulation of grease and dust over time will inevitably affect the adhesion performance of the print sheet. Therefore, we need to clean the print sheet regularly, even if there is no filament residue. If you print frequently, it’s best to wipe the surface of the print sheet with a clean towel after each printing.

    The simplest and most effective physical method to remove filament residues is as follows.

    1. Heat the heated bed to a temperature above 70℃ (gloves are suggested to protect your hands).
    2. Clean the print sheet either with the palette knife in the Snapmaker tool box, or with a similar plastic tool.

    Be careful about your force in the process so that the palette knife doesn’t damage the print sheet. It’s recommended that you hold the front part of the knife with great care, concentrate the force of your fingers, and slowly clean the residues.

    The palette knife might leave some tiny scratches during this process, which are tolerable as long as they don’t affect the flatness of the print sheet.


    Chemical Method

    Actually, we don’t recommend that you use the chemical method. As mentioned before, the surface of the print sheet sticker is specially processed for better adhesion performance. However, the chemical solvents may damage the surface. Therefore, use the chemical methods as a last resort and with caution even if they can help sometimes. Only when the physical method doesn’t work and you have no other print sheets for replacement can you try the chemical ways.

    According to tests, the 70% (or above) isopropyl alcohol (IPA) may help remove filament residues yet must be used in a well-ventilated area with protective measures. Additionally, ensure the heated bed has cooled down when using this method because the IPA is highly volatile.


    It should also be noted that for filament residues accumulated for a long time, neither physical method nor chemical method is of much help. Therefore, it’s better to clean the print sheet after each use.

    If one side of the print sheet cannot be used anymore, switch to the other side. If the damaged side is uneven with filament residues, you need first remove the residues before switching, or the flatness of the print sheet could be influenced. If both sides of the print sheet are damaged, you can place an order at our official store for a new print sheet with a few clicks!


    We hope this article could be useful for you!

    In the future, Snapmaker Academy will bring you more fun topics, so stay tuned!

    If you are interested in other content of 3D printing, feel free to contact us at or leave your message in the community.



    All the methods in this article are for reference only.

    Snapmaker does not assume responsibility for loss, injuries, damage, or expense arising from or in any way connected with the methods in this article.

  • 3D Printer Nozzle Jam: Main Causes and Cleaning Methods


    Hello, Maker!

    Did the nozzle jam ever happen to your 3D printer?

    I printed a model a few days ago and walked away for a while during the printing. When I came back, I just found my 3D Printing Module was moving back and forth while no filament was not extruded out, and the module was happily going farther and farther away from the model under my eyes...


    It turned out that the nozzle was clogged!

    After going through relevant information and asking for help from our Engineers, I finally made the nozzle work again and completed my printing. In this article, I will share the method with you in case you are bothered with the same problem someday.

    Why It Happens

    There are actually many reasons for nozzle clogging, but they are mainly related to the following three factors:

    1. Filament degradation
    2. Improper operation
    3. Component malfunction

    Filament Degradation

    The nozzle is the only way out for the filament during printing. Therefore, if your nozzle is clogged, it has something to do with the filament you use in most cases.

    The filament quality is the first thing to consider. As 3D printing becomes ubiquitous, the filament market is booming with a dazzling of different brands, features, and colors. But their quality varies. Poor-quality filaments often contain impurities beyond standard limits, which accumulate over time and are likely to clog the nozzle. Moreover, such filaments usually have inconsistent diameters, which can also lead to nozzle jam. Therefore, have second thoughts on cheap filaments since they might result in a lot of maintenance costs in the future.

    But will good filaments solve the problem once for all? The answer is negative.

    The storage of filaments also matters in that moisture and dust that accumulate on the filament are also common causes of nozzle jam. After wetted (due to poor storage), the filament will gradually become harder and more brittle. It may easily break in the module and hence cannot be extruded smoothly out of the nozzle. In addition, wetted filaments have a higher melting point, which can also lead to nozzle jam. When the filament is extruded out from the nozzle, the dust with it will not be melted and extruded together. On the contrary, they will accumulate at the nozzle outlet, and clog the nozzle over time. For more information about filament storage and drying, see 3D Printing Filament Storage and Drying: Why and How.

    Improper Operation

    Many of your habitual operations will unknowingly cause nozzle jams. A few typical ones are listed as follows.

    1. The most direct improper operation is actually not having the habit of cleaning the nozzle. If you want to reduce the chance of nozzle clogging, you must first remember to clean the nozzle to remove the residues left inside or outside after each printing (the specific methods will be introduced later). If not removed, the residues inside the nozzle will inevitably cause nozzle jam over time, and those left outside may prevent the nozzle from being heated up to the specified temperature. As a result, the filament cannot be fully melted and thus clogs the nozzle.


    2. The filament is not changed or unloaded according to regular procedures. If you directly cut it off or even roughly pull it off, you may find that the new filament cannot be extruded properly the next time you print.
    3. The printing temperature is not set correctly. The temperature is too low for the filament to be fully melted, which will lead to nozzle jam over time. Here is a tip: When the machine’s working temperature is low in winter, you can increase the printing temperature by 5-10℃. But remember, don’t set the temperature too high, either. Otherwise the filament will soften before it should. In this case, the gear will not be able to push forward the filament through the nozzle but chew a spot in the filament, which is known as “Heat Creep”. Furthermore, at an excessively high temperature, the filament may liquefy and stick to the outer surface of the nozzle more easily.


    4. If the nozzle is set too close to the heated bed during leveling, the filament will not be extruded out smoothly and will accumulate inside the nozzle,  causing jams after cooling. This is generally due to the inaccurate manual leveling of the Heated Bed, or the failure to calibrate the distance between the nozzle tip and the heated bed in the last step of Auto Leveling. If the filament is not extruded when the initial layer is first printed, this is likely to be the case.


    5. The print speed is too fast, and the filament cannot be melted adequately before extrusion. Over time, the nozzle will inevitably get clogged.


    6. Too much retraction or too much tension in the feeding gears will also increase the risk of nozzle jam.
    7. When the nozzle moves to the warped edge, it is likely to be topped by the raised part, and the filament that would have been normally extruded will also be temporarily blocked in the nozzle at that moment. If this happens more times, the nozzle may become clogged.


    8. Different types of filaments are switched frequently. If you first use the filament with a high melting temperature and then switch to use another filament with a much lower melting temperature, the residues of the first filament are likely to accumulate inside the nozzle to accelerate jams.

    Component Malfunction

    As we mentioned above, an excessively high or low printing temperature can result in nozzle jams. But sometimes, at a proper printing temperature, the nozzle still gets clogged. The reason might be that the heating component of the 3D Printing Module has failed to heat the nozzle to the specified temperature, or the cooling fan inside the Module has malfunctioned, leading to early softening of the filament.

    How to Identify

    A nozzle can be partially or entirely clogged.

    In the former case, the filament can be extruded from the nozzle, but it will show some unusual signs. For example, you find debris in the gears if opening the front cover of the 3D Printing Module; the nozzle extrudes much thinner filaments than usual; or the extruded filament has a rough surface.


    For the latter, it is much easier to tell if the nozzle is clogged. For example, as we described at the beginning of this article, the module idles and no filament is extruded out; or the filament has been inserted into the module, but no filament is extruded when you load the filaments after the nozzle is heated.

    How to Avoid

    You are lucky if your 3D printing module is free from the above abnormalities. But, you still need to prepare for a rainy day. The easiest way is to go against the causes:

    1. Buy filaments produced by qualified manufacturers;
    2. Protect your filaments from dust and moisture;
    3. Check if the filament will break easily before printing;
    4. Set a proper printing temperature for different types of filaments;
    5. Empty and clean the nozzle as soon as possible after printing;
    6. Remove the filaments and store them properly if the 3D printer will be left unused for a long time;
    7. Always turn on the printer and heat up the nozzle before unloading, changing, or loading the filament.

    How to Clean

    Here are some methods of cleaning your nozzle in printing routines and after clogging.

    Routine Cleaning

    1. Turn off the printer and wait for the nozzle to cool down, then disassemble the nozzle and clean its outer surface with a cotton swab dipped in anhydrous ethanol. Please take protective measures beforehand, such as putting on gloves.
    2. Start the printer and heat the nozzle, then clean it with tweezers after the filament on the outside of the nozzle is melted. Do not use wire brushes or similar tools, as they can damage the oxide layer on the outer surface of the nozzle, making it easier for residues to cling to the nozzle.


    3. If you do not want to turn on the printer, you can detach the nozzle and then heat it with a heat gun before performing the cleaning. But you need to be careful to prevent burns.

    Clogged Nozzle Rescue

    1. If the nozzle has been clogged already, first check if the nozzle tip is sealed by residues against its outer surface. If yes, follow the daily cleaning steps to remove the residues and see if the filament can be extruded smoothly.
    2. If the nozzle is clogged inside, first heat up the nozzle, unload the filament and then insert a needle slightly thinner than the nozzle inside to unclog it. You can also use a wire or guitar string as an alternative, as long as it can be inserted inside.


    3. If the type of filament that clogs the nozzle is known for sure, heat the nozzle and insert a harder filament with a higher melting point into the 3D Printing Module to unclog the nozzle.

    We hope this article could be useful for you.
    In the future, Snapmaker Academy will bring you more exciting topics, so STAY TUNED!
    If you are interested in other topics of 3D printing, feel free to contact us at, or leave your message in the community.



    All the methods in this article are for reference only.

    Snapmaker does not assume responsibility for loss, injuries, damage, or expense arising from or in any way connected with the methods in this article.


  • 3D Printing Filament Storage and Drying: Why and How


    Hello, Maker!

    Today we’re going to talk about a topic that is important yet easily neglected (and will surely bring you problems someday if so): Filament storage and drying. Ten minutes taken for reading this article, and troubles in the future saved!

    Why Serious About Filament Storage

    Have you ever bought many filaments at one time when there's actually not much need? Do you always tear their packings and try them all in the first place? And do you seldom use up a spool of filament before you start with a new one?
    If the answers are yes, I guess that most of the filaments you've purchased are left unused in some corner now, and some of them might have been “killed” by the moisture if you haven't paid any attention to the environment and methods for their storage and let them stay exposed to the open air.


    Almost all kinds of 3D Printing filament are hygroscopic, which means they can absorb the water from the air and end up wet sooner or later.

    "Being wetted" seems no big deal since it happens so commonly in our daily life, but things go different for 3D printing filaments in that it can bring about irreversible changes and lead to severe consequences in at least three ways as follows.


    • Quality degradation
      The physical properties of the filament change as it becomes wet. For example, the filament will swell in diameter, not easy to notice with your naked eyes though. At the same time, it will also turn harder and more brittle, which makes them easier to break, thereby increasing the difficulty of use and maintenance.
    • Bad print
      When the wet filament is heated in the nozzle, the moisture contained in it will boil and produce many tiny bubbles. This gives rise to an unstable flow of the extruded filament, and therefore a rough and uneven surface of the print. What's more, after the printer has given the order for the nozzle to stop extruding, the filament is very likely to continue to run out of the nozzle since the moisture in it will be boiling for a while, which causes strings on the print, a real headache for many makers.

    • Printer damage
      Not joking, printing with wet filaments can bring damage to your machine. As we just mentioned, wet filaments are more prone to be stringy during the printing, and that will likely clog or even damage the nozzle. Additionally, the melting point of the filament will become higher when it is wetted. Thus, the filament will not be melt so well at the original temperature, which possibly causes the nozzle jam too. Beyond that, if the filaments are left unused in the machine for a long time, they will swell in diameter, as said before, and get stuck in the nozzle.

    Some may wonder: wet quilts can be easily dried if put under the sun, then how about the wet filament? Can we restore its quality by drying it?
    Research shows that drying helps, but the quality of the filament will still decrease by 33% even after it is perfectly redried, since its physical property has been changed more or less, which cannot be recovered simply by drying the moisture contained in it.

    So, how exactly does its physical property change?
    When the filament absorbs water, they react with each other. The filaments are polymer — until water molecules break up all the secondary molecular bonds and change them into monomers, and this is also the reason why wet filaments are harder and more brittle.



    If you have been long confused by problems like filament quality degradation, bad prints, or clogged nozzles without any clues, it's time to think about the storage of your filament.

    Appropriate Storage Conditions

    The temperature and the humidity are the two of the most key factors to consider here.
    Generally speaking, you should store your filament away from direct sunlight and where the temperature is not too hot or cold. Data show that filaments such as PLA, TPU, PC, Nylon, etc. are better stored between -20 ℃/-4 ℉ and 30 ℃/86 ℉. The humidity is better kept between 10% to 20%. If it goes higher than 50%, your filament is very likely to be wetted. Nevertheless, the most suitable conditions differ from filament to filament, and that's why most professional filament manufacturers generally include instructions or guides inside the packaging, describing in detail the properties and storage conditions of their filaments. Just remember not to throw them away at first!


    Ways to Store Filament

    Several things need to be clear before we talk about the storage methods:

    • Even if the filament can be stored for up to two years in an ideal environment, it's recommended that you buy just as much as you need
    • Try to use up the filament in a month after it starts to be exposed to the air;
    • If you have to leave it unused for the moment, don't keep it waiting for more than one year.

    Now, let me introduce the moisture-proof storage methods for filaments that are more popular (and economic) among makers.

    1. Put your filament in a sealed bag or box with enough desiccant packets inside or a whole layer of silica gel beads on the bottom. You can also put inside a cheap electronic thermometer that tells both the temperature and the humidity, which enables you to monitor the storage from time to time.
      You don’t need to buy the desiccant packets in particular—just collect them from the snack bags. Silica gel beads are also a good choice because they can be heated and dried for reuse at regular intervals. In addition, some makers said that it would be better to wrap the silica gel beads in cloth bags, because the cloth helps absorb water too.
      Although the household sealed storage box can meet the demand, many makers designed special containers for storing filaments. You can download the file and print one out directly, or make some adjustments and create the most suitable filament container for yourself!

      Filament dry box for 3-4 spools of filament

      Filament Storage Solution
      Build your own DIY filament box


    2. Try a vacuum bag, put inside again desiccant packets or silica gel beads, and force the air out of the bag with a pump. It's more suited to store the filament that will not be used very frequently.
    3. If you happen to have a cat and use the crystal cat litter, you can borrow some to store your filament. The crystal cat litter is made of silica gel, so it can work as the desiccant too. Just look out for one thing: don't let the cat mistake that you've got it a new toilet...
    4. Again if you have a pet, you can use the pet food container to store the filament. Generally speaking, such containers are made satisfactory in being airtight, for the pet food absorbs moisture easily too.
    5. Choose professional filament storage equipment. Several filament manufacturers have developed specially-designed containers for makers to best store their filaments. Although it might be a little more expensive than other methods, it saves you time and effort in the long run.

    How to Judge Whether Filament Is Wet

    Now, you have been clear about the importance and specific methods of filament storage. But before putting them into practice, probably you should first judge whether your filament has been wetted.
    Check the following ten descriptions carefully. If you get 5 or 6 hits, you'd better dry the filaments before storing them.

    1. The filament becomes harder, and easier to break.
    2. Abnormal spots or bubbles on the surface of the filament.
    3. The melting point of the filament becomes higher.
    4. There is steam coming out of the nozzle during printing.
    5. There are crackling and popping sounds when the filament is extruded out (the moisture is boiling and evaporating).
    6. Poorer adhesion of the first layer with the printing parameters unchanged.
    7. The printed lines are not continuous.
    8. Severe stringing or oozing.
    9. Fuzzy or complex textures or small bubbles on the surface of the print.
    10. The nozzle is often clogged.


    Ways to Dry Filament

    If you have found that the filament has been wetted, then it's time to dry them. As for the drying methods, makers have shown their strange yet effective wisdom.

    1. Use an oven that can heat at low temperatures (e.g., below 50 ℃/122 ℉). Since the actual temperature is not always the same as set, you can put a thermometer inside the oven to measure the heat difference before drying.
      If the filament is heated at temperatures that are higher than recommended, the result could be counterproductive. Therefore, frequent monitoring is also required.
      What's worth noting is that this method cannot be used to dry the filament that might produce toxic substances when heated, which will pollute the interior of the oven. The steps are as follows.

      1. Set the target temperature.
      2. After the preheating, put the filament inside the oven.
      3. Heat the filament for four to six hours (for reference only; depending on the filament types, the quantity, and other factors).

    2. Use a food dehydrator or fruit dryer. The recommended temperature settings are similar to the case of the oven.
    3. Use a pet hair dryer that can heat above 40 ℃/104 ℉. Considering the health of your pet, this method is not suitable for drying filaments that may produce toxic substances, either.
    4. Put the filament on the Heated Bed of your 3D printer, cover it with a box, then set the desired temperature, and leave it heated for about six to eight hours.
    5. Use professional drying equipment, which is safer and more efficient.

    For reference only, here are some recommended drying temperatures for common 3D printing filaments:
    PLA: 40 °C–48 °C (104 ℉–118.4 ℉)
    TPU: 45 °C–55 °C (113 ℉–131 ℉)
    ABS, Nylon: 60 °C–80 ℃ (140 ℉–176 ℉)
    PETG: 60 °C–70 °C (140 ℉–158 ℉)
    PC: 120 °C–130 °C (248 ℉–266 ℉)

    Generally speaking, it is necessary to dry the filament as soon as you find it wetted. The longer it is being wet, the more difficult for you to dry it.

    Besides the moisture, filaments are also susceptible to dust if not stored properly, which is another cause of nozzle jam. Therefore, you should also dedust the filament before printing, like blowing (instead of collecting, because some dust hidden in the filament coil is difficult to be collected up but easy to blow away) it with a dust cleaner, or install a dust-cleaning clip on your 3D printer, ensuring that the filament is dust-free before loaded into the extruder. The following are some cleaning clips designed by makers in TG, go print one and say Bye to the dust!

    Universal Filament Filter and Lubricator
    Snap-on Filament Filter/Oiler
    Universal Filament filter or dust filter


    We hope this article could be useful for you.
    In the future, Snapmaker Academy will bring you more exciting topics, so STAY TUNED!
    If you are interested in other topics of 3D printing, feel free to contact us at, or leave your message in the community.



    All the data and methods in this article are for reference only.

    Snapmaker does not assume responsibility for loss, injuries, damage, or expense arising from or in any way connected with the data or methods in this article.

  • Slicing and G Code: The Bridge Between 3D Model and 3D Printer


    Hello, Maker!

    In Feed Your 3D Printer: 17 Awesome Websites to Download 3D Models, we’ve introduced to you 17 3D model websites in distinct styles, by way of which you can gain access to abundant 3D resources and take joy in being Maker without modeling by yourself. But there’s still one more step before your 3D printer can cast the zero-to-everything magic: Slicing the 3D model.

    To elaborate on the concept of Slicing, let’s first have a brief look at the rough process of 3D printing.




    As you can see, obtaining the 3D model is just the end of Step ①. For your 3D printer to start printing, you need to import the 3D model into the slicing software (hereafter slicer) and send the slicing outcome — G Code — to the 3D printer.

    So far, you might have wondered a lot: Why is slicing necessary? How does it work? And what is G Code exactly? Keep reading,  and answers are on the way!


    What is Slicing

    Essentially, slicing is a translating process.

    The 3D printing model we obtained in Step ① is a three-dimensional graphic file (such as the STL file). Such files contain geometric information, which is composed of triangular faces used to represent the contour shape of the object.



    However, your 3D printer is a mechanical device, of which the operation requires instruction information on How To Do, rather than geometric information describing What It Is. Therefore, a problem arises: the 3D printer cannot read and understand the geometric information in the model file, and the model file itself does not store instruction information. In this way, there is an information gap between the 3D printing model and the 3D printer.

    Slicing is the bridge over this gap.

    The role it plays is to "translate" the geometric information in the 3D model file into instruction information that can be read and understood by the 3D printer. In addition to the original geometric data, you can also add more auxiliary information (such as adjusting the temperature of the heated bed or nozzle, adding supports, etc.) through the slicer, so that the 3D printer can better build the model.

    We can compare this slicing process to cooking to better explain their relationship.

    With only a picture of a dish (3D model file), no matter how skilled a chef (3D printer) is, it is almost impossible to perfectly restore the taste of the dish in the picture. But if you make a corresponding recipe (generating G Code by slicing), describe in detail all the ingredients, the amount of each, the cooking sequence of this dish, and the special technique for each cooking step, the problem will be solved.

    In addition, if you have some knowledge of the computer numerical control, the relationship among 3D printing models, slicing software, and G Code can also be compared with reference to that among Computer Aided Design (CAD), Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM), and Computer Numerical Control (CNC).


    How Slicing Works

    After roughly explaining the role of slicing, we can take the example of Cura, one of the most powerful slicers, to briefly introduce the working mechanism behind slicing (otherwise known as the Engine), and several key concepts involved.

    CuraEngine mainly goes through the following five steps when slicing a 3D model file.



    Optimizing the 3D model

    When you import the 3D model into Cura, it will be optimized according to Cura's OptimizedModel.

    As mentioned above, the geometric information of the 3D model file is actually a description of the shape and position of the triangles that make up the model. Therefore, the optimization of CuraEngine is to analyze, establish, and store the relationship between these triangular faces, which is officially called the vertex-face relation. Put more clearly, it analyzes which triangles are adjacent.

    For example, suppose you are required to memorize a set of numbers: 8, 10, 12, 20, 25, 30. You can choose to simply memorize it, or you can memorize it based on their relationship: 8, 10, and 12 are respectively four times, five times, and six times as much as 2; 20, 25, and 30 are respectively four times, five times, and six times as much as 5.

    It's easier to memorize, right? Cura thinks so.

    Optimizing the model and establishing the adjacent relation among the triangular facets are the key prerequisites for Cura to quickly slice models and build Layerparts.

    Slicing 3D model into 2D layers

    The main task of CuraEngine in this step is to cross-cut the 3D model into 2D planes (imagine how you slice the cheese).

    Combined with the mechanical structure of the 3D printer, it can be understood as the 3D model is cut layer by layer with a certain Z axis height (layer height) by a 2D plane formed by the X axis and the Y axis. When the 2D plane intersects with the triangular faces that make up the 3D model, the corresponding intersecting lines will be obtained.


    The target of slicing is to get 2D graphics on 2D planes for the printer to print layer by layer. However, the cross-cutting result is just a bunch of lines. How do we know which lines form a closed 2D graphic?

    Here comes the adjacent relation of the triangular faces established in Optimizing the Model.

    If two triangular faces (like A and B) are adjacent and both of them intersect with the same X-Y plane, the intersecting lines (like the red line and the blue line) generated must also be adjacent, which means they can form a closed 2D graphic with other adjacent lines.


    Therefore, CuraEngine can quickly identify separate closed 2D graphics. At this point, the 3D model is sliced into 2D layers, and each layer consists of one or more closed 2D graphics.

    Building LayerParts

    In the last step, we've got closed 2D graphics on 2D layers. However, the number of graphics in each layer is not necessarily the same. Separate 2D graphics on a single layer are called LayerParts, which is an essential concept in CuraEngine.

    Quoting an official example of CuraEngine, If you slice a table with four legs, Layer ② has four LayerParts, while Layer ① has only one LayerPart.



    In this step, CuraEngine defines separate closed 2D graphics as different LayerParts. In this way, the G Code will be complied in units of LayerPart, removing the redundant information outside the Layerparts as much as possible to improve the printing efficiency.

    Marking areas

    After building LayerParts, CuraEngine marks areas of the LayerPart as Insets, Up/Down Skins Areas, or Sparse Infill Areas and plans respective printing modes.

    For the same LayerPart, the outer line area will be marked as Insets, and the area inside the line will be marked as Up/Down Skins Areas or Sparse Infill Areas. As for the specific parameters (such as outline thickness, infill density, pattern, etc.), you can set them separately in Cura. It should be noted that this step is only to mark different areas and plan corresponding printing modes, but not actual paths. When the G code is compiled in the next step, specific printing paths will be generated in different areas.

    Generating the G Code

    In this step, CuraEngine will collect the geometry and parameter information involved in all the previous steps, and then compile it into G Code to guide the 3D printer to print out the target model.

    As shown below, Cura's official document lists some important bits during this process:

    1. PathOrderOptimizer: As the name implies, the nozzle will select the nearest LayerPart to print when it moves to enhance efficiency.
    2. Infill: Print in the form of lines.
    3. Comb: To avoid stringing, the nozzle will try not to move without printing if there's another path to go.
    4. GCodeExport: The G Code generating process is divided into two steps. First, collect and summarize all the path information of each layer; second, compile and generate the G Code.


    How to Read G Code

    As the outcome of slicing, G Code instructs 3D printers to print. Because of its nature as a special programming language, G Code can be as readable as Java or Python. As long as you grasp the basic syntax, it's not difficult to judge the meaning of different G commands.


    G Code can be divided into two types: G-code and M-code.

    G-code (General code) focuses on geometric information, mainly describing instructions like guiding the 3D printer on moving. Seen from the naming, it is obvious that the G-code is the core of G Code (sounds like a tongue-twister).

    M-code (Miscellaneous code) is a non-geometric command used to specify non-geometric parameters such as the heated bed temperature or the fan activation status.

    The number immediately following the letter G or M indicates different actions. For example, G0 instructs the printing module to move quickly, and G28 instructs the printing module back to the home position.

    The remaining parameters generally consist of one or more alphanumeric combinations. Letters usually indicate the object that performs the action, while numbers indicate specific parameters of the action. For instance, the G0 X5 Y20 command instructs the printing module to quickly move to the position where the coordinate is (5, 20) by the movement of the X axis and Y axis. However, not every G command has specific parameters. For example, M84 simply means to disable the motor, in which case no other parameters need to be added later.

    For the meanings of more letters, please refer to the explanation on Wikipedia.

    It's worth noting that 3D printers with different core firmware may have different understandings of the same G command, and therefore perform different actions. For this situation, there are three solutions for reference:

    1. Try to choose the exclusive slicer for your 3D printer if any. For example, Snapmaker Luban is a tailor-made slicer for Snapmaker 3D printers, which will generate the most suitable G commands according to the firmware type of the Snapmaker 3D printer.
    2. If you have to use other slicers, try to find your printer model in the printer settings of the slicer. For example, you can select Snapmaker on the printer list of Cura.
    3. If your printer is not on the list, you can add/create a new printer setting in the slicer and select the correct firmware type. For example, the core firmware used by the Snapmaker 3D printer is Marlin.


    Great Slicers

    Based on the reputation, practicality, and price, we recommend six slicers as follows. Whether you are a professional or a newcomer, they are the first choice for most of your slicing needs.


    Name Price Supported OS Download Link


    Windows, macOS, Linux

    IdeaMaker Free

    Windows, macOS, Linux

    Repetier Free

    Windows, macOS, Linux

    PrusaSlicer Free

    Windows, macOS, Linux

    Simplify3D $150 Windows, macOS

    Snapmaker Luban Free Windows, macOS, Linux


    Common Parameters and Tips

    As known among Makers, no matter how perfect the 3D model file is, there will always be various unexpected problems in the actual printing process. In most cases, nevertheless, these problems can be alleviated or solved by adjusting specific parameters in the slicer. Next, let's talk about some commonly used slicing parameters and related tips.

    Layer Height

    The layer height refers to the vertical distance between layers when slicing. The lower the layer height, the longer the printing time, and the better model details can be printed out. Generally, we want the details, but the choice depends on specific scenarios. If the model does not contain many details or is of practical use, the layer height can be increased appropriately to save time and the filament.

    Outer Wall Thickness

    The thicker the outer wall, the stronger the outer skin of the model, and vice versa. It should be noted that the wall thickness is best set as a multiple of the nozzle diameter. Otherwise, the printing may be compromised. 





    When the 3D printing module travels, the melted filament in the nozzle will ooze downwards due to the gravity, resulting in strings on the print. What you need to solve this problem is Retraction.

    After setting suitable retraction parameters, whenever the 3D printing module travels, the filament will be retracted for a certain distance, thus offsetting the oozing distance. However, if you set inappropriate parameters, it will cause insufficient extruding when the printer continues to print or cause the filament clogging in the nozzle. Therefore, you'd better constantly adjust the settings according to the actual situation to avoid strings without generating other problems.

    Infill Density

    Infill density is generally expressed in the form of a percentage. If it is set as 100%, the target area will be completely filled. However, because the extrusion volume is sometimes unstable, setting an infill density of 100% is likely to cause the model to deform. 15%-30% is enough for most printing cases, which is both economical and time-saving.


    When the model has overhangs, the support comes on stage. The role of support is to serve as a printing base for the overhanging part. As mentioned earlier, the 3D printer prints layer by layer. Except for the initial layer, each layer is built on the basis of the layer below. If the overhang angle equals or exceeds 90°, nothing under the first layer of the overhang can support its printing. When the overhang angle exceeds 45°, printing problems will easily occur if no support is added. In Snapmaker Luban, in addition to the support position, you can also set the support structure (linear, grid, etc.), density, Z distance, and other support parameters.




    Initial Layer Adhesion

    As the saying goes, well begun is half done. Similar to building houses, a solid and reliable initial layer is crucial for 3D printing. If the adhesion of the initial layer is not so good, it might cause layer shifting or warping. Considering its importance, most slicers support setting separate parameters for the initial layer, such as printing speed, travel speed, layer height, etc.


    There is no perfect parameter setting for every maker or every model. Understand the meaning of these parameters and flexibly adjust them in different scenarios to get the best prints——that's what makes us proud of being Maker.


    We hope this article could be more or less useful for you.
    Snapmaker Academy will bring you more exciting topics in the future, so stay tuned!
    If you are interested in other topics of 3D printing, feel free to contact us at, or leave your message in the community.


    Note: The 3D Printing mentioned in this article refers in particular to Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D Printing.



    Snapmaker recommends the software to you in no particular order and for resource-sharing purposes only.
    Snapmaker does not in any way endorse, control, or assume responsibility for the content, views hosted on, and services provided by these software.




See all 10 articles
  • Laser on Ceramics: How to Make It Not Only Black on White





    You have only one pair of eyes and you need them! Always wear appropriate safety goggles while working with a laser! Fumes and gasses produced during lasering might be toxic. Use an enclosure with a fan and a hose connected to an exhaust (chimney or window).




    Take time to read corresponding Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) before working with chemicals referenced in this article. Although most of them are relatively low dangerous, wear gloves, safety goggles and a respirator mask while handling powders. Keep in mind that isopropanol is a flammable solvent.



    Ceramic Tiles

    These are widely available in construction stores, sometimes referred to as porcelain tiles. The glazed surface should be clean and free of grease, use isopropanol to clean it before using.




    Titanium Dioxide

    Available in pottery stores. Despite its white color, it is responsible for black color after lasering. This is mostly due to formation of crystalline defects on the surface of TiO2 particles, as a result of partial reduction of titanium ions at high temperature, especially in presence of carbon and organic substances. These structural irregularities do not reflect the visible light, making such surface-modified titanium dioxide look black.

    The well-known and extensively documented Norton White Tile (NWT) method is based on this property of TiO2, as a main component of some common white paints sold in spray cans. This method is limited to black marking on white ceramics and is not covered in the present article.


    Ultrox - Zircopax Plus (Zirconium Silicate)

    Available in pottery stores. A white pigment widely used in pottery, it doesn't change its color at high temperature.


    Chalk (Calcium Carbonate)

    Available in pottery stores and elsewhere. I found it useful to add it to Zirconium Silicate in order to reduce the size of the white dot in the absence of organic binder. Most likely promotes faster cooling of the melted dot due to endothermic decomposition with release of carbon dioxide gas.


    Frit 3124

    Available in pottery stores, used mostly in glazes. A fine powder of glass composed of different oxides and having a low melting point, very useful to obtain color marking on ceramics.




    Kaolin EPK

    Available in pottery stores, general purpose aluminosilicate white clay powder.


    Bentonite Western 325M

    Available in pottery stores, extremely fine Sodium aluminosilicate clay powder with a high capacity to swell in water. In absence of organic binder, it plays a role of viscosity-increasing (thickening) agent to slow down the sedimentation of the slurry and to facilitate its even spreading over the surface of the ceramic tile.


    Pottery Pigments

    Available in pottery stores. These are key components for color marking of ceramic tiles, fine powders of specially formulated mixtures of inorganic oxides encapsulated in zirconia glass. Some of these oxides are highly toxic, but in such an encapsulated state they are less dangerous. Yet, please use them with due care, protect yourself!
    I tried pigments produced by Mason and BASF. For more pure and vivid colors, avoid using organic binders: they produce carbon black while burning under the laser beam, which makes the color darker (unless this is your desired effect).




    Polyvinyl Pyrrolidone (PVP) K-90

    Available in stores of materials for home-made cosmetics. A water-soluble binder and thickening agent. Helps to decrease the dot size. Can be used as a 2% solution in isopropanol (attention: full solubilization may take up to 72 hours with occasional agitation).
    Most likely, PVP could be replaced by Polyvinyl Alcohol, but I had no chance to test it.

    Unfortunately, the carbon black formed during laser burning of PVP and other organic binders makes them incompatible with white marking of black ceramic tiles. Also, colors get darker if such binder is used, for example, red becomes brown.


    Isopropyl Alcohol (Isopropanol)

    Available in general hardware and construction stores as a paint or lacquer thinner. Flammable, but not very toxic solvent miscible with water. Yet, take all safety measures!

    Avoid using isopropanol with high content of water from a pharmacy, if no other option, accordingly remove water addition from the slurry recipes below.





    In this article, I will limit myself to a description of processing raster pictures. Vector images are easier to process, if necessary, laser parameters can be adjusted to get best results.

    The process consists in addition of material by melting it on the surface of the ceramic tile. This is not engraving, the glaze of the tile is not getting removed, but it slightly melts on the surface together with added material. The intensity of the laser beam does not affect the darkness of the resulting dot in a wide range of laser power. This means that a grayscale image cannot be rendered directly, through variation of the laser power, but only through picture pre-treatment while converting it to a black and white dotted image, a process called dithering.


    Picture Pre-Treatment

    Not all pictures would give suitable dithered images even if best algorithms are employed. This topic could be a subject of a whole separate article, I will only provide some general recommendations here.


    Picture Quality

    Your selected picture should have enough resolution, contrast and sharpness, the background should be blurry enough. The minimal resolution should be 10 dots/mm (254 DPI). Graphic pictures (sketches, drawings, engravings, pictures with enhanced contours) will be rendered better than soft halftone photos.

    For soft halftone photos with smooth transitions, I would recommend the use of special software or plugins to transform it into an artistic sketch or drawing, often this gives very interesting final results.




    External Photo Editor

    In an external photo editor, you can not only adjust brightness and contrast of a picture with more precision and accuracy before dithering, but also improve sharpness, perform crop, adjust resolution, convert to grayscale, add vignetting and even proceed with dithering. This would give you full control of the process before importing the picture into Snapmaker Luban, even the possibility to delete or add individual dots after dithering.

    Please note that it is normal if the photo before final levels adjustment looks oversharpened.




    Also, the external photo editor would be useful to separate colors for multi-color applications.

    For white on black process, the picture colors should be inverted before the final levels adjustment and dithering.
    For pictures with smooth tone transitions, it would be appropriate to use some artistic filters like G'Mic Illustration Look available in GIMP or Krita software and maybe some minor manual dodge/burn adjustments.




    For final curve adjustment (using, only for example, Adobe Photoshop Levels tool), I would recommend the following generic parameters (provided the picture looks well-balanced on the screen): 

    • Black slider of Output levels: 130 to 200 (to prevent dots overlapping)
    • Midtone Slider: 1.50 to 2.00, depending on the picture




    After this adjustment the picture should look considerably underexposed, but this is required in order to get normal rendering as a result of the whole process. Similar Levels tools are available in other photo editors as well. This is the simplest, yet efficient way to prepare your photos for lasering.

    I prefer a slightly more complex approach, using frequency separation and adjusting the levels only in the low-frequency background layer. This way the sharp contours are better preserved, yet no dot overlapping occurs in dark areas. Advanced photo editing skills are required in this case. 




    If you prefer to perform dithering in an external editor, your picture resolution before that should match the expected laser Fill Interval processing parameter in Snapmaker Luban (for example, a resolution of 10 dots/mm or 254 DPI is equivalent to 0.1 mm fill interval). For dithering, I would recommend Stucki or Floyd–Steinberg algorithms. Note that Adobe Photoshop has a similar method in its conversion to Bitmap tool, under Image Mode menu line, it is called Diffusion Dither.




    The dithered picture below is obtained in a different external editor (Photoline), which I prefer, using Stucki algorithm. Do not forget to save the dithered picture in bitmap (.bmp) format, otherwise the quality may suffer during import in Snapmaker Luban.




    You can also use other laser-engraving softwares to control the whole process, but their descriptions are not the topic of the present article, in any case the basic principles stay the same.


    Importing into Snapmaker Luban

    Once imported into Snapmaker Luban, previously adjusted grayscale pictures may require scaling to match the predefined working area. Then proceed with dithering, better using Stucki or Floyd–Steinberg algorithms. Do not forget to switch to the GREYSCALE processing mode. If the picture was not adjusted well enough in an external photo editor, some limited tweaking can be performed using Contrast and Brightness sliders (the picture should look considerably underexposed on the preview), but I would recommend adjusting levels elsewhere before importing. It is better to use Snapmaker Luban sliders only for fine tuning.




    If your picture has been dithered in an external photo editor (recommended), switch to B&W processing mode after importing the bitmap file and scaling. Please note that your picture resolution should match the expected laser Fill Interval processing parameter in Snapmaker Luban (for example, a resolution of 10 dots/mm or 254 DPI is equivalent to 0.1 mm fill interval), otherwise you will get unexpected results. The Threshold slider in this case affects only the preview of the dots on the screen, not the final result (except its extreme values of 0 and 255), so do not rely on the preview, it could be misleading.




    Slurry Recipes

    General considerations: the powders should be carefully mixed in a dry beaker before adding liquids, and even more carefully mixed after. Protect yourself, apply safety measures!
    The proposed recipes are just examples, yet a few months of experimentation stand behind. You are free to unleash your creativity!



    This one has many similarities with classical Norton White Tile (NWT) process, with the following particularities:

    • Full control over the final result
    • Considerably cheaper
    • No highly toxic and highly flammable solvents involved
    • Deeper black color, higher contrast
    • Slightly larger dot (254 DPI recommended)
    • Better for drawings
    • A bit less good for soft grayscale pictures with smooth transitions

    In a dry polyethylene beaker, carefully mix the following components (by dry volume):

    • Bentonite Western: 1 volume
    • Kaolin EPK: 1 volume
    • Titanium Dioxide: 1 volume

    Add the following liquids, carefully mixing after each addition:

    • Isopropanol: 2 volumes
    • Water: 1 volume
    • 2% PVP in isopropanol: until ready for application

    The readiness for application is based on experience and desired effect: the thicker the final slurry, the thicker the layer on the tile. For better results, the layer should be thin enough, this would give smaller dots. A too thick layer may not work at all. Observe the way the slurry flows out of a bamboo stick: several drops a second should be OK.




    In a dry polyethylene beaker, carefully mix the following components (by dry volume):

    • Bentonite Western: 2 volumes
    • Frit 3124: 1 volume
    • Chalk: 1 volume
    • Ultrox: 2 volumes

    Add the following liquids, carefully mixing after each addition:

    • Isopropanol: 2 volumes
    • Water: 2 volumes
    • Isopropanol: until ready for application

    PVP as a binder and thickening agent is not suitable in this case, due to undesirable carbon black formation at high temperature.

    The readiness for application is based on experience and desired effect: the thicker the final slurry, the thicker the layer on the tile. For better results, the layer should be thin enough, this would give smaller dots. A too thick layer may not work at all. Observe the way the slurry flows out of a bamboo stick: several drops a second should be OK.




    In a dry polyethylene beaker, carefully mix the following components (by dry volume):

    • Bentonite Western: 1 volume
    • Frit 3124: 1 volume
    • Pigment of desired color: 1 volume

    Add the following liquids, carefully mixing after each addition:

    • Isopropanol: 2 volumes
    • Water: 1 volume
    • Isopropanol: until ready for application

    PVP acts as a binder and thickening agent. It is not suitable if you want to get vivid colors, due to undesirable carbon black formation at high temperature.

    Otherwise, for darker colors but smaller dots, 2% PVP in isopropanol can be used in final addition.

    The readiness for application is based on experience and desired effect: the thicker the final slurry, the thicker the layer on the tile. For better results, the layer should be thin enough, this would give smaller dots. A too thick layer may not work at all. Observe the way the slurry flows out of a bamboo stick: several drops a second should be OK.




    Ceramic Tile Pre-Treatment

    Always clean the glazed surface of a ceramic tile with isopropanol before covering with slurry, lens cleaning wipes are well suited for that.




    Always mix well the slurry immediately before application: it has a tendency for sedimentation, especially if it does not contain PVP.

    To remove particulate matter, always filter the slurry through an old nylon stocking or sock before application.

    Cover the tile by an uniform layer of the slurry with a gentle pouring on its surface, followed by tilting in all directions to spread it evenly (isopropanol is flammable, keep away from sources of ignition!). Although it sounds simple, this operation is tricky and requires considerable training to get the desired uniformity of the layer. At the last step, a lazy-susan can help as a centrifuge.



    Also, the slurry can be sprayed on the surface using a pneumatic paint spray system. This would require a preliminary dilution of the slurry with more isopropanol (beware of sedimentation!). Personally, I prefer the pouring approach, since it creates less mess.

    Once the tile is covered, let it dry for at least 2 hours at room temperature (isopropanol is flammable, keep away from sources of ignition!) . After that, it is ready for laser treatment.




    Toolpath Parameters in Snapmaker Luban

    With a 10W Snapmaker Laser module, the following parameters are applicable for this process:

    • Movement mode: Line
    • Fill interval: 
      • 0.1 mm for slurries with PVP as a binder (black or dark color)
      • 0.2 mm for slurries without PVP (white or vivid color)
    • Work Speed: 3000 mm/min
    • Jog Speed: 5000 mm/min
    • Laser Power: 70%

    Please note that if you preformed dithering before importing into Luban, your picture resolution should match the laser Fill Interval processing parameter in Snapmaker Luban (for example, a resolution of 10 dots/mm or 254 DPI is equivalent to 0.1 mm fill interval), otherwise you will get unexpected results.




    Be careful with Fill Interval parameter, decreasing it below recommended values can lead to overlapping of dots, resulting in local overheating and melting of tile glaze. This may have a negative effect on the image quality, as these overlapped spots would look like less exposed ones (less deep blacks, or less bright white, or less saturated color, depending on the slurry recipe used). This may happen also as a result of improper preliminary photo processing.

    The dot size is not only related to the focusing of the laser beam, there are physical reasons for fused material to spread like a donut due to surface tension forces because of the radial temperature gradient.
    Smaller dot sizes could probably be obtained with a 1.6W laser due to overall lower temperatures and smaller focus point, but I have not performed such tests with these slurries. 

    Please also note that real work speed would in fact be lower due to acceleration/deceleration curves. Therefore for working with vector images, additional optimization of parameters might be necessary.

    After that you can export the toolpath to the Snapmaker Luban Workplace, transfer the file to your instrument over Wi-Fi (recommended), adjust the origin point and start the process. For this particular picture on a tile of 200 mm × 200 mm, it took around 7 hours.



    Ceramic Tile Post-Treatment



    Wipe the excess of dried slurry with a wet cloth or paper towel and discard it. Wash the tile with water and dish soap, then rinse it with water. Let the tile dry at room temperature from both sides.

    And it is done!




    Multiple Colors

    An external photo editor can be used to separate color layers and those layers can be processed and dithered separately, giving individual pictures for each of colors in the whole project.

    By using guiding rulers attached to the platform, the tile can be repositioned exactly the same way for each color and the same work origin can be set.




    It is important to let the tile dry completely each time before applying a new layer of slurry to avoid the influence of the water absorbed in the ceramic tile during washing.



  • How to Engrave a Clear Picture


    Hello, Maker!

    It's time to put your laser engraving and cutting machine into practical application! To unlock the potential of your machine, let’s begin with one of the laser’s most basic applications, engraving pictures.

    In this episode, we would like to go through the whole process of laser engraving a picture with you, including material preparation, picture selection and editing, and work parameter configuration.


    1. Prepare a Material

    In the previous episode, Material Selection Guide: How to Choose a Proper Material for Laser Processing, we have introduced some commonly used materials for laser processing and the principles for material selection. Ensure that the material is safe for your health and the environment and that your machine is capable of engraving it. In addition, to engrave a clear picture, we recommend you use a material that has the following features:

    • Flat top surface

    As a picture is two-dimensional, it can only match a flat surface. If you engrave a picture on an uneven object, the result would be distorted. Besides, a laser engraving and cutting machine usually works with a fixed focal length. During engraving, a level surface enables consistent focusing, and thus guarantees uniform engraving effects.


    • Fine and smooth surface

    A fine and smooth surface allows more details of a picture to be presented. If the material you want to use doesn’t feel smooth, you can try to polish it. Avoid using porous materials; otherwise, the result will be blurry.


    • Light color

    Generally, the laser beam engraves materials through burning and makes the surface of the material darker. When engraving on a light-color material, the differences between the lightest and the darkest area could be more prominent, allowing more color gradients to exist in between.


    Based on these considerations, we choose basswood, which meets the above requirements and is inexpensive and easily accessed, to demonstrate the process of laser engraving a picture.


    2. Select a Picture

    Picture selection is key to the success of laser engraving. A picture with high resolution and contrast would be our first choice since it contains more minutiae and objects in the picture are more distinguishable. Besides, to retain more details in the engraving product, it would be better to use a picture that includes a lot of transitions from light to dark and doesn’t contain large blocks of solid color.

    Understanding the reasons why we choose a picture that has a high resolution, high contrast, and rich color gradient without large blocks of solid color, now let’s see how we can identify a qualified picture.

    • High resolution

    Image resolution is the detail an image holds. Images are made of tiny pixels (picture elements), or squares of color. Image resolution can be measured in pixels per inch (PPI) or dots per inch (DPI).


    High-resolution pictures are at least 300 PPI or 300 DPI, appearing sharp and crisp. This resolution makes for good print quality and is pretty much a requirement for any picture that you want to reproduce.

    Just because a picture looks good on your computer screen doesn’t mean it has high resolution. You can’t tell by the length-width dimensions, either. Heavy file size can be a clue, but not in all cases. A simple way to check image resolution is to open up the picture in an image program and view the file properties. You don’t need a fancy program to do this; most computers come with a basic image editing program that will do the trick.

    • High contrast

    Contrast is the degree of difference between two colors or between the lightest and darkest areas in an image. A high contrast picture features a big difference between light and dark, while a low contrast one has colors close in tone. If a picture is plain white, there are no differences in its color, thus the contrast is zero.

    Although it seems easy to distinguish the light from the dark in real life, it may become a little bit tricky when it comes to a static picture. Take the following two pictures as an example, can you tell which one has the higher contrast?

    mceclip3.jpg mceclip4.jpg

    Picture 1 has the higher contrast. Have you got the right answer? Here is a simple way to help you find the contrast differences between pictures:

    (1) Prepare a screenshot software.

    (2) Respectively cut out small squares of the lightest and the darkest areas from the selected picture. Then, juxtapose the light and the dark squares, so that you can easily see the contrast.


    (3) Repeat Step (2) on another picture to get its contrast samples.


    (4) Compare the contrast samples from different pictures. The larger difference between the lightest and darkest squares from a picture, the higher contrast the picture has.


    • Rich color gradient without large blocks of solid color

    When engraving a picture, the laser cannot reproduce color. Instead, it creates different levels of light and dark by controlling the amount of energy emitted, and thus recreates the picture. With a lot of transitions from light to dark in a picture, the monochrome engraving product will be more vivid. Conversely, if a picture contains too many large blocks of solid color, the engraving result may appear flat and dull.



    3. Edit the Picture

    The purpose we edit the picture is to emphasize the subject and sharpen the edges, producing a clear and distinctive engraving result. It does not require a lot of complex photo editing skills to achieve the effects we want. The operations we need to perform on the picture mainly include cropping, adjusting contrast and brightness, sharpening. You can use any photo editing program that includes these basic functions. Here we use the free open-source raster graphics editor, GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) for demonstration. Now, let’s open the picture in the editor and get started!


    (1) Crop the picture

    Crop the picture based on your need.

    mceclip8.jpg   →  mceclip9.jpg


    (2) Desaturate the background

    By fading the background, we can avoid background overpowering the subject. In some cases, if you don’t need the background, you can also directly remove the background.

    First, we need to isolate the main subject from the background. We can do this by using the free select tool to trace the subject out.

    Then, select the background, reduce its contrast and make it lighter.



    (3) Reduce the shadows

    Shadows usually cause darker burning during laser engraving. If there are too many shadows on the main subject, it may cause the final engraving product to look dirty.

    Select the main subject, and then adjust its shadows and highlights. By increasing the exposure of the shadows and adding more highlights, we can get rid of some heavy shadows.



    (4) Sharpen the subject

    After adjusting the shadows and highlights, the overall color of the subject appears bright. But this is still not the final effect we want. To make a distinct engraving, we need to make the edges more clearly defined.

    First, add more contrasts, to make the lines of the subject more pronounced again.

    Then, sharpen the image, making the image looks crisp.



    Finally, we get the picture suited for laser engraving. As you can see, compared with the original image, the edited one has a weakened background and a well-defined subject. Now we can save the picture and export it as a .png file. If you use other image editing programs, be careful not to compress the picture when saving it.

    mceclip16.jpg    →  Engraving_Object-edited_2.jpg


    4. Start Laser Engraving

    Here we come to the last step, engraving the picture on the selected materials. Depending on the laser engraving and cutting machine you use, the procedure for starting laser engraving may vary. In this step, we will use Snapmaker Luban to transform the picture into a G-code file and use Snapmaker 2.0 1.6W Laser Module to do the laser engraving job.


    (1) Import the picture to Snapmker Luban

    After you import the picture to Snapmaker Luban, you can resize and rotate it, adjust its position on the coordinate, and transform it to a greyscale image.


    (2) Select Movement Mode

    When creating the toolpath, you can select the Movement Mode, including Dot-filled Engraving and Line-filled Engraving. Dot-filled Engraving takes more time but results in a more detailed image. To pursue a better engraving quality, we use Dot-filled Engraving as the Movement Mode.


    (3) Set Laser Power and Dwell Time

    Both the Laser Power and Dwell Time directly affects the engraving result. The higher the Laser Power and the longer the Dwell Time, the darker the engraving color.

    We can use the control variate method to find an optimal combination of Laser Power and Dwell Time. The engraving pattern with the darker color and without excessive charring or depression on the workpiece surface is the best result.


    Finally, we set Dwell Time to 5 ms/dot, and Laser Power to 30%.


    (4) Set Fill Interval

    As we have already known, Fill Interval is the distance between the dots constituting the engraved pattern. If the Fill Interval is too large, the engraved pattern will be light-colored and might lose some details; if too small, the dots will overlap, making the engraving color too dark and the pattern indiscernib


    We need to run tests to find the best fill interval. Engrave a series of squares with different dot intervals and record the interval with the clearest diagonal texture as the optimal interval.


    Based on the tests, we set 0.14 mm as the Fill Interval.



    Snapmaker Luban has preset values for some material, which are tested and recommended.

    For more information about how to test and set work parameters, refer to the following articles:

    Parameter Configuration Guide: How to Set Proper Work Parameters for Laser Engraving and Cutting

    The Definitive Guide to Laser Engraving and Cutting with the Snapmaker


    (5) Generate the G-code file

    After configuring the work parameters, save the toolpath settings and generate a G-code file in .nc format.


    (6) Start laser engraving

    Transfer the G-code file to the laser engraving and cutting machine. Put on laser safety goggles, and we are ready to go!

    For more information about how to use Snapmaker 2.0 1.6W Laser Module, refer to its Quick Start Guide, User Manual, or video tutorials.



    The methods on material selection, picture selection and editing, and laser engraving discussed herein are for reference only.

    Snapmaker assumes no liability or responsibility for any property loss, personal injury, machine damage or expenses incurred by the methods on material selection, picture selection and editing, and laser engraving discussed herein or in any other means related to such methods.


  • Parameter Configuration Guide: How to Set Proper Work Parameters for Laser Engraving and Cutting


    Hello, Maker!

    In the previous two episodes of Snapmaker Academy about laser, we have learned where we can get templates for laser engraving and cutting, and how we should select proper materials for laser engraving and cutting. In this episode, we are going to learn how to set parameters for laser engraving and cutting. Without further ado, let’s get started!

    This article will introduce you to the work parameters for laser engraving and cutting. First, we will learn what they are and how they work. Then, we will learn how to perform parameter test to find the optimal combination of parameter values.


    Crucial Parameters for Laser Engraving and Cutting

    Laser Power

    Laser Power controls the amount of energy in the laser beam. It can be set as a percentage between 0% and 100%. In laser engraving, the higher the Laser Power, the darker the engraving color. In laser cutting, a laser with higher power can cut deeper, but it will also result in seriously charred edges.

    Only with sufficient laser power can we engrave a clear pattern or cut through materials. However, excessive laser power may also cause trouble. It is crucial to keep the Laser Power parameter within an appropriate range.

    Work Speed/Dwell Time

    Work Speed refers to the moving speed of the laser toolhead during laser engraving and cutting. When Laser Power is set to a fixed value, the faster the toolhead moves, the shorter time the laser beam stays on the workpiece, and the less laser energy the workpiece absorbs. Therefore, in laser engraving, when the other parameters remain unchanged, the higher the Work Speed, the lighter the engraving color. In laser cutting, the higher the Work Speed, the shallower the laser cuts, and the less charred the cut edges.

    Dwell Time refers to the time for which a laser spot emitted by the toolhead stays on the workpiece during laser engraving and cutting. In laser engraving, when you select the Dot-filled Engraving mode, you can set Dwell Time. Both Work Speed and Dwell Time are used to control the time for which the laser with a fixed power stays on the workpiece, thereby controlling the laser energy absorbed by the workpiece. The shorter the Dwell Time, the lighter the engraving color.

    Both Laser Power and Work Speed (Dwell Time) are vital to the effect of laser engraving or cutting, as they control how the workpiece is engraved and cut. When testing work parameters, we usually adjust Laser Power together with Work Speed (Dwell Time) to determine an optimal combination, as the two parameters can restrict and affect each other.

    Fill Interval

    Laser engraving features two modes: One is the Line-filled Engraving mode, in which the pattern is formed by engraving lines; and the other is the Dot-filled Engraving mode, in which the pattern is formed by engraving dots. Fill interval is the distance between lines or dots.

    In the Line-filled Engraving mode, the Fill Interval defines the distance between the lines comprising the engraved pattern. If the Fill Interval is too large, the engraved pattern will be light-colored or even discontinuous; if too small, the lines will overlap, making the pattern too dark or blurred.


    In the Dot-filled Engraving mode, which follows the similar principle as the Line-filled Engraving mode, the Fill Interval is the distance between the dots constituting the engraved pattern. If the Fill Interval is too large, the engraved pattern will be light-colored and might lose some details; if too small, the dots will overlap, making the engraving color too dark and the pattern indiscernible.


    This is how the two modes differ: When you set the Fill Interval in the Line-filled Engraving mode, you only need to focus on the interval between each line and its adjacent line, but in the Dot-filled Engraving mode, you need to consider the interval between a dot and all of its surrounding dots. Therefore, the Fill Interval configuration in the Dot-filled Engraving mode is more complex, and you need to first determine the parameters including Laser Power and Work Speed, and then fine-tune Fill Interval between dots until you find a parameter range for the best engraving effect.

    Number of Passes

    Number of Passes is a required parameter in the Cutting Mode. To cut through a thick workpiece, multiple cuts are required on a fixed path. This parameter determines the number of cutting passes on a fixed path.

    Generally, the laser beam emitted by the laser toolhead is in the shape of an inverted cone, and the focal point has the highest laser energy and cutting ability. To ensure that the focal point of each cut falls on the workpiece, the laser toolhead will lower by a certain height each time Number of Passes is increased so that the laser focal point can reach the workpiece. However, the laser toolhead cannot be lowered to a height where it is too close to the workpiece surface. Otherwise, the toolhead may bump against the workpiece. As the laser cuts deeper, the laser beam will be blocked by the workpiece on both sides, and the laser energy reaching the cutting position will taper off until it is unable to cut through the workpiece. Therefore, Number of Passes cannot be increased without limit.


    How to Find the Optimal Work Parameters

    To determine the optimal combination of work parameters, we have to run a certain number of laser parameter tests, and adjust the parameter values according to the working principle of laser parameters.

    The Snapmaker Laser Engraving and Cutting Machine can perform laser operations in the following three modes: Line-filled Engraving mode, Dot-filled Engraving mode, and Cutting Mode. In the following section, we are going to learn how to test the work parameters under these three modes.

    Line-filled Engraving Mode

    In the Line-filled Engraving mode, the machine engraves lines to form a pattern. The engraving effect is mainly determined by three work parameters, namely, Fill Interval, Laser Power, and Work Speed.

    Line Fill Interval Test

    The thickness of a laser-engraved line is determined by the diameter of the laser spot falling on the workpiece. With accurate focusing, the diameter of the laser spot emitted by the Snapmaker 2.0 1.6W Laser Engraving and Cutting Machine is 0.20 mm, so the width of the laser-engraved line is also 0.20 mm.


    Theoretically, if the engraved line is 0.20 mm thick, the lines with an interval of 0.20 mm can fitly cover the engraved surface without overlapping each other and form a complete pattern. However, in laser engraving and cutting, the effective area of the laser beam may be diffused. To avoid edge overlapping and prevent secondary engraving, a 0.05-0.10 mm buffer area is usually reserved between the lines. Therefore, a line interval of 0.25-0.30 mm is recommended.

    It should be noted that when the line interval is greater than 0.30 mm, the color of the engraved pattern will theoretically become lighter, and the lines may even diverge. However, in this case, if engraved lines remain thick and greatly overlap, the focus may be inaccurate or the Laser Power may be too high. You just need to refocus or lower the Laser Power.

    Click the icon below to get the test template for Fill Interval in the Line-filled Engraving mode:



    Laser Power and Work Speed

    Both Laser Power and Work Speed are variables. In parameter tests, we can assign a fixed value to one variable and fine-tune the other until we find the best engraving effect. Here, we set the Work Speed v1 to 500 mm/s and line interval to 0.25 mm, and we make Laser Power the only variable. We then increase Laser Power stepwise to engrave a series of 10 mm × 10 mm squares on the workpiece surface.


    From these squares, we select the one with the best engraving effect on the principle of "clear lines and no excessive charring", and record the power W1 corresponding to the result.

    Theoretically, the engraving area on the workpiece (S), the energy absorbed by the workpiece surface (E), Laser Power (W), the engraving time (t), and Work Speed (v) can be expressed with the following equations:

    E = W * t

    t = S/v

    Therefore, E = S * W/v, indicating that Laser Power W is directly proportional to Work Speed v.

    In the first test, we have found that when Work Speed is v1, the power corresponding to the best engraving effect is W1. To maintain the best engraving effect, E cannot be changed. Through the theoretical formula E = S * W/v, we can infer that if Work Speed is increased to v2, the engraving power must be increased to W2 in proportion so that E can remain unchanged.

    However, the relationship between W and v may be affected by many other factors and is not necessarily in strict direct proportion. Therefore, after we infer the possible Laser Power corresponding to a Work Speed using the theoretical formula, we need to run more tests to ensure we can get the best engraving effect.

    Click the icon below to get the test template for Laser Power and Work Speed in the Line-filled Engraving mode:



    Dot-filled Engraving Mode

    In the Dot-filled Engraving mode, a pattern is created by laser spots. The engraving effect is mainly determined by three work parameters, namely, Fill Interval, Laser Power, and Dwell Time.

    Laser Power and Dwell Time

    The way to test Laser Power and Dwell Time in the Dot-filled Engraving mode is similar to that in the Line-filled Engraving mode. First, we assign a fixed value to both Dwell Time and Fill Interval. Here, we set the Dwell Time t1 to 5 ms/dot and the Fill Interval to 0.14 mm. Then we fine-tune the value of Laser Power, and we get a series of squares.


    In the Dot-filled Engraving mode, the criterion for the best engraving effect is the darker color without excessive charring or depression on the workpiece surface. During the engraving process, the relationship between Dwell Time t and Laser Power W is E = W*t (E is the energy absorbed by the workpiece for each engraved dot).

    In the first spot engraving test, we record the optimal Laser Power W1 corresponding to Dwell Time t1 and calculate the optimal combination of Dwell Time and Laser Power at other Work Speeds through W1*t1 = W2*t2. Then, through further tests, the optimal parameter values are determined.

    Click the icon below to get the test template for Laser Power and Dwell Time in the Dot-filled Engraving mode:



    Dot Fill Interval Test

    The difference between the Dot-filled Engraving mode and the Line-filled Engraving mode is that the former uses dots to form patterns while the latter uses lines. In the Line-filled Engraving mode, we only need to focus on the interval between the lines in the vertical direction, while the Dot-filled Engraving mode requires us to consider the interval between dots in all directions. Therefore, we first find an optimal combination of Laser Power and Dwell Time through parameter tests, and then run further tests on the Fill Interval to get the best engraving effect.


    The method to test Fill Interval is to adjust the interval between dots and keep other parameters unchanged, so we can get a series of 20 mm × 20 mm squares with different dot intervals.


    For these squares, the clearer the diagonal texture, the better the engraving effect. We record the interval with the clearest diagonal texture as the optimal interval.

    Click the icon below to get the test template for Fill Interval in the Dot-filled Engraving mode:



    Cutting Mode

    In the Cutting Mode, a workpiece is cut by the high-energy laser beam. The cutting effect is mainly determined by three work parameters, namely, Laser Power, Work Speed, and Number of Passes.

    Laser Power

    In laser engraving, there is theoretically a direct proportion between Laser Power and Work Speed, which is also true for laser cutting. To maintain the same cutting effect, Work Speed needs to be increased accordingly with the increase of Laser Power. In addition, when you set Laser Power to a higher value and adjust Work Speed accordingly, you can get clearer and smoother cut edges with less charring.

    Therefore, in laser cutting, we generally use 100% Laser Power, and control the laser energy by adjusting Work Speed.

    Work Speed and Number of Passes

    When Laser Power is determined, we need to adjust Work Speed to control the effect of laser cutting. To ensure that the workpiece can be cut through, we also need to set a proper value for Number of Passes. We can run cutting parameter tests through a matrix of Work Speed and Number of Passes. We stepwise increase values of Number of Passes and Work Speed, so that we can get a series of small squares on the workpiece, as shown in the figure below.


    It can be observed that under the same Number of Passes, the higher the Work Speed, the thinner the cut gap; at the same Work Speed, the greater the Number of Passes, the thicker the cut gap. To get the best cutting effect, we should find the square with the thinnest cut gap on the premise that it is cut through.

    The criterion for the best cutting effect is that the squares are cut through with the minimum Number of Passes and the highest Work Speed. If the values of multiple results are close to each other, the one with the least cut-through time is the best.

    Click the icon below to get the test template for Work Speed and Number of Passes in the Cutting Mode:



    Recommended Work Parameters for Laser Processing

    After a series of tests, we have obtained the optimal parameters for engraving or cutting a variety of materials. We hope these recommended parameters can help you take laser engraving and cutting in stride. For details, see the article “The Definitive Guide to Laser Engraving and Cutting with the Snapmaker”.



    The parameter test methods and recommended parameters discussed herein are for reference only.

    Snapmaker assumes no liability or responsibility for any property loss, personal injury, machine damage or expenses incurred by the parameter test methods and recommended parameters discussed herein or any other means related to such methods and parameters.

  • Material Selection Guide: How to Choose a Proper Material for Laser Processing


    Hello, Maker!

    After purchasing a laser engraving and cutting machine, you must be eager to dive into material processing. There are so many kinds of material you can use, including the most ordinary wood, paper, cloth, and leather. Adding a little design, you can recreate famous paintings on wood, cut flowers out of paper, or even produce fashion with a piece of cotton cloth.

    However, you cannot grab a piece of material from somewhere and begin laser engraving or cutting right away. There are still important issues you need to care about and methods you can follow in material selection.

    This article will provide you an overview of commonly used materials for laser engraving and cutting, and instruct you on how to choose a proper material for laser processing.


    Commonly Used Materials for Laser Processing

    1. Wood

    Wood is an organic material comprised of cellulose and lignin. When interacting with laser energy, partial combustion occurs inside wood. The primary factors affecting the laser processing results are the density, the uniformity of density, and the resin content of wood.

    Most people prefer to use wood with a low density, for it requires only a small amount of laser power, and the processing can be fast. The resin content of wood determines whether the wood burns are darker or lighter. If you engrave resinous wood with laser, for example, the same amount of laser energy can produce a darker color, resulting in higher contrast. But you should also be careful not to burn the wood too much or catch fire.

    The wood types that are commonly used for laser processing are as follows:




    Basswood is a softwood with even texture and fine grain, so laser engraving and cutting stand out on this type of wood. Besides, basswood features a color of creamy white or pale brown, which makes it easy to paint, stain and finish after being laser processed. And it has a relatively high resin content, and therefore only low laser power is needed to engrave or cut a basswood. However, a thin basswood is prone to get distorted under the influence of moisture. To compensate for this drawback, thin basswood is usually processed to become plywood which tends not to warp or crack.




    As a soft and resinous wood, alder works great for laser cutting and engraving and produces a nice dark burn. The pale and inconspicuous color of alder allows for high-contrast engraved images, while its light grain doesn't take away the details of the patterns. The only drawback of alder is the possibility of the presence of knots, which may compromise the quality of the finished work.




    Cherry has long been a popular wood for cabinet and furniture making in the United States. The wood of the cherry tree is considered a hardwood. The cherry wood comes with a light pink to dark brown color, straight grains, and a shiny texture. Products made from cherry wood are durable for use and nice-looking in appearance. Moreover, cherry is a flexible and smooth wood, making it an ideal choice for laser cutting and engraving.




    Plywood is manufactured from multiple layers of thin wood veneer, which are bonded together with adhesive at high temperature to make composite sheet material. As a composite wood, plywood has a clean and light surface and does not easily deform when there are changes to atmospheric moisture levels. These properties make it an easy material for laser engraving and cutting.

    But fire or excessive smoke may occur during laser cutting due to the fact that plywood contains glue. Depending on the specific wood and glue used, the performance of plywood varies during laser processing. It is recommended to choose a plywood that is explicitly marketed for laser use. Birch plywood is a good choice as the most popular plywood for laser engraving and cutting.


    Medium-density Fiberboard (MDF)


    Medium-density fiberboard (commonly referred to as MDF) is an engineered wood made by combining wood fibers with resin binders and then forming them into panels by applying high temperature and pressure. Mostly, MDF has a higher density than plywood. MDF can produce nice laser engraving results due to its smooth and firm surface. However, MDF does not suit laser cutting, for its glue content can result in charring or even toxic gases and fumes.


    2. Plastic

    Commonly used plastics can be mainly categorized into two types: thermosets and thermoplastics. The two types of plastics have distinct reactions with laser energy.

    For thermosets, their polymer chains have more connections and break down easily when heated. Thus, thermosetting plastics cannot be successfully melted without damaging the molecular structure and the material changing color. Laser engraving on thermosets can produce clear and high-contrast images. But to laser cut thermosets is not easy as this kind of plastic irreversibly hardens after its chemical structure changes.

    For thermoplastics, their polymer chains are simpler and have fewer bonding connections. Thus, thermoplastics can be melted easily without the polymer chains breaking down. When a high-energy laser beam impinges on a thermoplastic, the plastic melts down, accomplishing the cutting or engraving process. But since the melting process does not lead to color change, laser engraving on thermoplastics has inapparent effects.

    There is a wide range of plastics and quite a few of them can be laser processed, such as acrylic, POM, EVA, PA, PC, PE, and silicone. But it should be noticed that every plastic more or less releases toxic gases, so it is vital to work in a well-ventilated space, install a filter system, and put on protective equipment.




    Acrylic (PMMA), also known as plexiglass, is a thermoplastic used as one of the most common materials for laser cutting. Acrylic cuts nicely and safely, plus its rich color options, therefore becoming the best plastic for laser cutting. There are two types of acrylics manufactured through different methods: extruded acrylics and cast acrylics. Extruded acrylic cuts smoothly with a clean and flame-polished edge. Cast acrylic produces a frosty white color under laser processing, allowing for breathtaking laser engraving patterns.




    Delrin, also known as Polyoxymethylene (POM), is a thermoplastic that excels in durability, stiffness, and dimensional stability. These exceptional features make it one of the most common materials for manufacturing wear-resistant products like gears and bearings. Besides being rigid, Delrin is also more ductile than acrylic and wood, therefore promising more accurate laser cuts. The cutting edge is so smooth that it requires no further finishing. That said, laser cutting Delrin will release pungent fumes and easily catch fire if the laser power is high.


    EVA Foam


    EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) is a copolymer of ethylene and vinyl acetate. This kind of thermoplastics is an extremely elastic material with low-temperature toughness, stress-crack, and UV radiation resistance. EVA foam has a closed-cell structure and retains excellent flexibility and resilience. When you cut an EVA foam with a laser, the cutting kerf will be wide due to the heat melting process, and the color of the cutting edge will be slightly changed into light brown. However, if you laser engrave an EVA foam, the material surface will become tacky and finally get a darkened color.


    3. Fabric


    Most types of fabric are suitable for laser cutting, while some fabrics, such as felt and fleece, can be processed by laser engraving as well. Commonly used fabrics for laser processing include cotton, linen, nylon, silk, and wool products.

    It requires only a small amount of energy for laser to engrave on or cut fabrics. The precise machine control process allows for multilayer and intricate designs, producing detailed and elegant clothes that enjoy great popularity in the fashion industry. But the most conspicuous advantage of laser interaction with fabrics is contactless processing. Laser cuts are accomplished without any pressure on the fabric, therefore ensuring no rough edges or fraying. Moreover, the high-energy laser beam can create clean and sealed edges after cutting. All these characteristics guarantee the superiority of laser technology in the fabric processing industry.

    Although most fabrics can be cut well by laser, use caution when you cut materials that may be plastic coated, impregnated with plastic, or that are made from PVC. These materials are likely to catch fire or release gases that can damage your lungs and your machine. 


    4. Paper


    Paper types are diversified and can be categorized based on multiple different standards. Nonetheless, the most commonly used paper types for laser processing are writing paper, paperboard, and corrugated paper. As paper is usually thin and light in weight, laser engraving on paper may not work well, but laser cutting is most suitable for this kind of material, for it is efficient and energy-saving. That’s why large numbers of businesses are using laser cutters to create bespoke paper products such as wedding invitations. 


    5. Leather


    Traditionally, leather products are handmade or assisted by electric tools. But because leather is such a strong and durable material that leather processing can be time-consuming and inefficient, coming with fewer pattern choices. The emerging of laser processing helps to address those problems.

    When a highly contrasted laser beam hits on the surface of leather, it quickly vaporizes or burns the leather. Laser engraving leather results in a debossed effect and a noticeable and clean contrast. Cutting leather with laser is incredibly fast and precise, making intricate designs easy to produce.

    Most natural leathers can be safely engraved or cut with a laser machine. However, you need to be careful not to use artificial leather. Artificial leathers are typically made from PVC, which can release poisonous gases when being heated, damaging your machine and your health.


    Principles for Material Selection

    A laser engraving and cutting machine is so versatile that material selection becomes complicated and full of possibilities. After you know about the general features of commonly used materials, you may still be confused when faced with practical laser processing. Are there any universal principles that can guide you through the evaluation of every material? There certainly are! In this section, we will further describe the following two principles you must follow in choosing a proper material for laser work:

    • Put safety first
    • Consider machine capability


    1. Material Safety

    To laser engrave on or cut a material, the first thing you need to care about is safety. Essentially, laser burns, melts, or vaporizes materials to achieve the desired effects. Being exposed to high-energy laser beams, the physical and chemical properties of materials are subject to change. It is possible to produce sticky liquid, flame, or poisonous fumes and gases if an inappropriate material is used, and consequently damaging your machine, harming your health, or polluting the environment. To avoid dangerous situations, always research on the properties of the material you want to use and learn about its possible reactions under the influence of laser, or more specifically, high temperature.


    Materials You Should Never Use for Laser Engraving or Cutting

    • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
    • Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
    • Epoxy
    • High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
    • Polystyrene foam and polypropylene foam
    • Flame-retardant materials

    PVC: Releases chlorine gas that is highly corrosive. Chlorine gas will cause serious physical injury to humans and damage to the machine.

    ABS: Melts when heated, creating a gooey mess. Emits toxic cyanide gas.

    Epoxy: Prone to catch fire and produce toxic fumes.

    HDPE: Melts and catches fire easily.

    Polystyrene foam and polypropylene foam: Melts and catches fire easily.

    Flame-retardant materials: Typically contains bromine, which is corrosive. Skin tissues will be damaged if they get in contact with bromine.

    There are so many more dangerous materials and possible harm that we cannot list them all. To protect the machine as well as your own safety, you should get familiarized with the material properties and pay attention to the usage notes of each material.


    2. Machine Capability

    After you determine that a material is safe to be laser engraved and cut, the next aspect you need to evaluate is the capability of your machine. Is your laser machine capable of engraving or cutting the material you choose? To answer this question, you must factor in the two elements: laser wavelength and laser power.


    Material Absorption of Laser Wavelength

    A lasing medium, also called gain medium, describes the material used to generate laser emission (stimulated emission). Each lasing medium produces laser beams at a very specific wavelength with a particular power level. The shorter the wavelength of light, the higher will be the energy it contains.

    Laser machines can be categorized based on the lasing media they use, and lasing media determine the wavelength of the laser.


    Although light with a shorter wavelength comes with higher energy, it does not mean the shorter the wavelength, the better the laser performance. Every material has a characteristic absorption spectrum. For example, silver fir absorbs light at a wavelength of around 1000 nm better than light with wavelengths ranging from 800 to 900 nm, as shown by the following pictures.


    Therefore, you do not necessarily need a laser machine that emits light of the shortest wavelength to accomplish the best laser processing effect. To choose a laser engraving and cutting machine, you need to take into consideration lots of elements such as the machine size, application, and price. Different types of laser machines have their own strengths and weaknesses. As long as you choose the right materials that suit your machine, you can create astonishing works. Back to our discussion on laser wavelength, every type of laser machine emits laser beams of a specific wavelength, while each material has a different absorption rate on different wavelengths of light. Therefore, based on the laser wavelength your machine produces, choose materials that have a good absorption rate on the laser light so as to ensure higher quality and faster processing results.

    The following table provides a reference on how to choose materials based on laser wavelength.

    Machine types

    Commonly used materials for laser processing

    CO₂ laser engraving and cutting machine

    (10.6 μm)

    Paper, wood, fabric, plastic, leather, rubber

    Semiconductor laser engraving and cutting machine/Laser diode

    (400–1064 nm)

    Paper, wood, fabric, plastic, leather, rubber

    Fiber laser engraving and cutting machine

    (1030–2100 nm)

    Stainless steel, carbon steel, galvanized steel, copper, aluminum

    Green laser

    (532 nm)

    Green laser is typically used to make laser pointers that do not have engraving or cutting function

    UV laser engraving and cutting machine

    (355 nm)

    Paper, wood, fabric, plastic, leather, rubber, ceramic, glass, metal

    (UV light has a high absorption rate on nearly every material.)


    Laser Power and the Density and Thickness of Materials

    Laser power is measured in Watts. The more watts, the more powerful the laser is. A laser engraving and cutting machine with higher laser power has wider applications. This is because the laser power of a machine is adjustable. A higher maximum power allows for a wider adjusting range, therefore resulting in more diverse applications. Normally, laser machines sold to individual consumers have a laser power of up to 120 Watt. Machines with higher laser power are mostly used in industrial manufacturing.

    Laser power is one of the most important factors that determine what kind of materials you can use. The required energy and necessary wattage vary depending on the material being engraved or cut in relation to that material’s density. A material with a higher density will need a more powerful laser for engraving and cutting.

    In particular, for laser cutting, material thickness also depends on laser power. More laser power can produce deeper cuts. Without sufficient laser power, a laser machine cannot cut through very thick materials. As shown in the following picture, a thick material requires multiple cuts. Each time the laser head starts the next cutting pass, the laser height automatically lowers for a certain distance so as to ensure the focal point always falls on the destination surface. However, the laser head cannot go down without limit since it will eventually collide with the material surface. Moreover, as you cut deep into a material, the cone-shape laser beam will be partially blocked by the materials on the two sides of the cutting kerf. When the laser goes through the narrow kerf and finally reaches the destination, it becomes weak and less powerful until the material eventually fails to be penetrated.


    The following table provides information on the minimum laser power required to process some commonly used materials.




  • Templates and Designs for Laser Engraving and Cutting: Great Websites and Software that Will Make You A Better Creator


    Now that you’ve owned this beautiful, powerful, and wonderful laser engraving and cutting machine, you are probably wondering what you can do with it. Sit tight. In this article, we are going to show you the application of the laser engraving and cutting machine, the websites to find inspiration as well as access templates, and software for designing.


    What Can You Do With A Laser Engraving and Cutting Machine

    Engraving and cutting? Yes, and more. Yes, you can use this machine to engrave on or cut materials, but what you can do is way beyond that! 

    A laser engraving and cutting machine uses a high-power laser to accurately engrave on or cut materials on designated paths based on machine instructions. It is a manufacturing tool that can make your designs come to life. To operate this powerful machine, you just need to take the following steps:

       (1) Download a template for laser engraving and cutting from the internet, or design one by yourself.

       (2) Edit the template using graphics editors.

       (3) Import the design into CAM software (such as Snapmaker Luban) to generate a G-code file.

       (4) Transfer the G-code file to your machine and start engraving and cutting.

    By using a laser engraving and cutting machine, you can not only engrave or cut materials based on 2D designs, such as pictures, patterns, logos, and silhouettes, but you can also create 3D objects, such as gift boxes, 3D puzzles, and lampshades.

    • 2D Creations


    • 3D Creations



    Where to Find Templates for Laser Engraving and Cutting





    Large repository, Creative and practical designs, Free


    2. Laser Ready Templates

    One-stop shop, Rich themes

    Engraving, Cutting

    3. Etsy

    Large variety, Detailed descriptions

    Engraving, Cutting

    4. Thingiverse

    Community, Free

    Engraving, Cutting

    5. Dreaming Tree

    Cardstock materials, Festivals


    6. Library Laser

    Home decorations


    7. Free Patterns Area

    From easy to complicated, Free

    Engraving, Cutting

    8. Ponoko

    Electronics enclosures, Free


    9. So Fontsy

    Novel and fashionable designs

    Engraving, Cutting


    Template generator, Customized parameters, Free


    11. Vecteezy

    Massive resources, Convenient search engine, Free

    Engraving, Cutting

    12. Maker Union

    Lively patterns, Free

    Engraving, Cutting

    13. The Hungry Jpeg

    Crafts, Fonts, Graphics, Templates

    Engraving, Cutting

    14. Pinterest

    Image sharing, Social media

    Work Display

    15. ArtStation

    Art showcase platform

    Work Display



    ____-_1.png is a large repository of laser cutting designs and other vector files. You can find templates for various objects, such as gift boxes, lampshades, rocket models, clocks, chessboards, wall decorations, and many more. All of those are creative and practical designs that will definitely add fun to your life.


    Cutting, Wide variety

    File Formats


    Number of Files


    How to Obtain



    Not required




    2. Laser Ready Templates


    Laser Ready Templates is a one-stop shop for laser engraving and cutting templates. The on-shelf designs cover a number of themes, such as animals, nature, kids’ stuff, festivals, fashion, and nostalgia. In the description of each template, you can get an idea of the materials suitable for your creation.


    Engraving, Cutting, Art, Life

    File Formats


    Number of Files


    How to Obtain

    Add to cart and pay to obtain


    Not required


    Free, with paid files available


    3. Etsy


    Etsy is a global online marketplace focused on handmade items and craft supplies where you can find a large variety of laser engraving and cutting templates. Type in “laser engraving and cutting” and click the search button, plenty of designs for laser machining will pop up within seconds. Click any design you like, and you will be able to see the template description as well as other customers’ reviews.


    Engraving, Cutting, Wide variety

    File Formats


    Number of Files


    How to Obtain

    Add to cart and pay to obtain


    Not required


    Paid resources


    4. Thingiverse


    Thingiverse is an idea-sharing community that encourages creations, especially 3D printing creations. Laser engraving and cutting projects are also featured on this site. As an active community, this site features downloadable templates, as well as vibrant comment section where you can review other people’s work and share yours.


    Engraving, Cutting, Creative

    File Formats


    Number of Files


    How to Obtain



    Not required




    5. Dreaming Tree


    Dreaming Tree is an online shop that sells laser cutting templates. Most of the designs use colorful cardstocks as the materials, presenting themes that mainly involve festivals and celebration. With those templates, you will be able to create brilliant and lovely works that remind people of fairytales and childhood. For each design, you can also find attached a useful assembly tutorial and material list.


    Cutting, Cards, Childhood, Festivals

    File Formats


    Number of Files


    How to Obtain

    Add to cart and pay to obtain




    Paid resources


    6. Library Laser


    Library Laser is a repository of laser cutting templates. It operates as an online shop but offers a large number of free templates. The cases displayed on this site mainly apply to home decoration and model creation. With those templates, you will be able to make elaborate and practical works, enriching your life with laser creations.


    Cutting, Decorations, 3D models

    File Formats


    Number of Files


    How to Obtain

    Add to cart and pay to obtain




    Free, with paid files available


    7. Free Patterns Area


    Free Patterns Area offers a collection of vector files and laser cutting templates. The website divides its resources into two categories: 3D project files and 2D vector files. 3D project files can be used to create 3D objects through laser cutting and assembling. 2D vector files are relatively basic graphics. You can choose templates from easy to complicated based on your need. Besides, this website also contains free software resources for you to download and edit your designs.


    Engraving, Cutting, Vector graphics, 3D models

    File Formats


    Number of Files


    How to Obtain



    Not required




    8. Ponoko

    ____-_8.pngPonoko provides free laser cutting templates, especially those for electronics enclosures. It distinguishes itself from other websites with various cases that combine laser products with electronics such as music players, computer racks for heat dissipation, and robotic arms.


    Cutting, Electronics enclosures

    File Formats


    Number of Files


    How to Obtain

    Click the image to download






    9. So Fontsy

    ____-_9.pngSo Fontsy is an online design and font marketplace where die cut crafters can purchase commercial use, cut-ready designs and fonts from designers who specialize in cuttable designs. Many talented designers have registered on this site and contributed thousands of novel and fashionable design templates. In the Laser Cut Files category, you can find awesome designs for laser cutting.


    Vectors, 2D, Fashion

    File Formats


    Number of Files


    How to Obtain

    Add to cart and pay to obtain




    Paid resources


    10. is an open-source box generator written in Python. It features both finished parametrized generators as well as a Python API for customization. After choosing your favorite laser cutting templates, you can set parameters such as material thickness, the format of processed file, the width of tabs, and burn correction and then click Generate to generate your custom design files.


    Cutting, Boxes, Customized

    File Formats

    AI, DXF, G-code, PDF, PLT, PS, SVG, SVG_Ponoko

    Number of Files


    How to Obtain

    Set parameters to generate files


    Not required




    11. Vecteezy


    Vecteezy is a large community for design and creation sharing. It boasts rich vector, bitmap, and video design resources, involving a wide range of themes such as backgrounds, characters, nature, travel, and food. Most of its designs feature a bright and vibrant style. To manage its massive resources, the site supports searching and filtering. For example, you can search for “laser cut” and set vector as a filter, then you will be able to find a large number of vector files for laser machining.


    2D design, Bright, Simple

    File Formats


    Number of Files


    How to Obtain



    Not required




    12. Maker Union


    Maker Union provides high quality designs in DXF format for engineers and manufacturers around the globe. Open this site, and you will be amazed by those sleek and lively vector graphics. Click and download a pack, and you will get a series of interesting designs under the same topic. All of those designs are perfect templates for laser engraving and cutting.


    Vectors, 2D designs

    File Formats


    Number of Files


    How to Obtain







    13. The Hungry Jpeg


    The Hungry Jpeg is an online shop that sells tremendous design resources, including fonts, icons, card templates, menu templates, and so on. Whether you are a designer, crafter, newbie, or seasoned graphic design ninjas, you will be able to find the category that is useful for you.


    Crafts, Fonts, Graphics, Templates

    File Formats


    Number of Files


    How to Obtain

    Add to cart and pay to obtain




    Free, with paid files available


    14. Pinterest


    Pinterest is an image sharing and social media service designed to enable saving and discovery of information on the internet using images and, on a smaller scale, animated GIFs and videos, in the form of pinboards. Thanks to its popularity, this website is full of creative and smart designs. Try and search for “laser engraving and cutting”, and you will definitely be inspired by those fantastic creations. 

    *This website demonstrates finished works only. Design resources are unavailable.


    15. ArtStation


    ArtStation is a showcase platform for professional artists to display their works and connect with opportunities. Designs and art can be showed in the form of images, videos, short clips, Marmoset and Sketchfab 3D scenes, 360 panos, and more. This platform enables users to build their own pages, customize their themes, and sell their designs.

    *This website demonstrates finished works only. Design resources are unavailable.


    How to Edit or Design Laser Engraving and Cutting Files


    Download URL


    1. GNU Image Manipulation Program

    Editing raster graphics

    2. Adobe Photoshop

    Editing raster graphics

    3. Inkscape

    Editing vector graphics

    4. Adobe Illustrator

    Editing vector graphics

    5. AutoCAD

    2D and 3D drawings


    1. GNU Image Manipulation ProgramClipboard_-_2021-07-30_16.08.32.png

    GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is a cross-platform open-source raster graphics editor used for image manipulation (retouching) and editing, free-form drawing, transcoding between different image file formats, and more specialized tasks. Whether you are a graphic designer, photographer, illustrator, or scientist, GIMP provides you with sophisticated tools to get your job done. You can enhance your productivity with GIMP thanks to its rich customization options and 3rd party plugins.

    David Cardinal, an author at ExtremeTech, stated that GIMP "has become a worthy alternative to Photoshop for anyone on a budget who doesn't need all of Photoshop's vast feature set".

    Download URL:

    Cost: Free


    2. Adobe Photoshop


    Adobe Photoshop is a raster graphics editor developed and published by Adobe Inc. for Windows and macOS. Photoshop supports editing and composing raster images in multiple layers and also features masksalpha compositing, and several color models including RGBCMYKCIELABspot color, and duotone. These are achieved through photoshop's unique PSD and PSB file formats. In addition to raster graphics, Photoshop has limited abilities to edit or render text and vector graphics (especially through clipping path for the latter), as well as 3D graphics and video.

    Download URL:

    Cost: Paid service, with a free trial of 7 days


    3. Inkscape


    Inkscape is a Free and open-source vector graphics editor for GNU/Linux, Windows, and MacOS X. It offers a rich set of features and is widely used for both artistic and technical illustrations such as cartoons, clip art, logos, typography, diagramming, and flowcharting. It uses vector graphics to allow for sharp printouts and renderings at unlimited resolution and is not bound to a fixed number of pixels like raster graphics. Inkscape uses the standardized SVG file format as its main format, which is supported by many other applications and web browsers.

    Download URL:

    Cost: Free


    4. Adobe Illustrator


    Adobe Illustrator is a vector graphics editor and design program developed and marketed by Adobe Inc. The industry-standard vector graphics software lets you create everything from web and mobile graphics to logos, icons, book illustrations, product packaging, and billboards. Adobe Illustrator was reviewed as the best vector graphics editing program in 2018 by PC Magazine.

    Download URL:

    Cost: Paid service, with a free trial of 7 days


    5. CAD


    AutoCAD is a commercial computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting software application. AutoCAD enables users to create precise 2D and 3D drawings. It is used in multiple industries, by architects, project managers, engineers, graphic designers, city planners, and other professionals. AutoCAD provides the following features:

    • Draft, annotate, and design 2D geometry and 3D models with solids, surfaces, and mesh objects.
    • Automate tasks such as comparing drawings, counting, adding blocks, creating schedules, and more.
    • Customize with add-on apps and APIs.

    Download URL:

    Cost: Paid service, with a free trial of 30 days




    Snapmaker recommends the websites and software to you in no particular order and for resource-sharing purpose only. Snapmaker does not in any way endorse, control, or assume responsibility for the content, views hosted on and services provided by these websites.

  • Snapmaker Academy: How to Make a Laser-cut Lamp with Inkscape


    In this article, we’ll show you how to make a laser-cut paper lamp using Snapmaker 2.0 and Inkscape software. If you are thinking about making a cool laser-cut project with some real-life scenes that you want to capture, well, this tutorial is for you.

    This tutorial is divided into five steps. Step 1-3 cover Inkscape operations, which come with three video clips for you to check out. Step 4 covers Laser-cutting and 3D printing, while step 5 demonstrates assembly and testing.


    You Will Need


    You Will Learn How To


    Use Inkscape to design patterns for laser-cutting, export SVG files that are readable to Snapmaker 2.0, and make a lamp. These include:

    • Tracing building outlines and details manually;
    • Tracing and simplifying bitmaps of complex objects;
    • Drawing simple patterns;
    • Laying out patterns and exporting them as SVG files;
    • Some common operations including:
      • [Left drag] Move object/ Select multiple objects
      • [Middle drag] Move canvas
      • [Ctrl+L] Simplify
      • [Ctrl+Z] Undo
      • [Ctrl+Y] Redo.

    Check out this page for more:




    Step 1. Draw the Outline of the Building.

    Operations include:

    • Set canvas size and orientation by going to File -> Document Properties;
    • Right click an object and choose Lock Selected Objects to avoid moving it accidentally;
    • Draw the outlines and windows of the buildings using Bezier Curve;
    • Fine-tune curves using Edit paths by nodes;
    • Arrange multiple objects by going to Objects -> Arrange;
    • Go to Path -> Combine to combine 2 or more objects into a unit.


    Step 2. Add Other Objects.

    Operations include:

    • Use Trace Bitmap and Fill and Stroke to trace outlines of certain objects automatically;
    • Go to Path -> Union to union overlapping patterns;
    • Use Bezier Curve to draw simple patterns;
    • Go to Path -> Exclusion to combine 2 objects by cutting off the smaller one;
    • Use Ctrl+L (Simplify) to smooth curves.


    Step 3. Export SVG Files.

    Operations include:

    • Use Bezier curve and rectangle tool to join certain patterns together into final shapes ready to be cut.
    • Lay out the layers apart on a new canvas;
    • Export SVG files that are readable to Snapmaker Luban software.


    Step 4. Laser-Cut and 3D Print.

    Now we can import the SVG files into Snapmaker Luban and move on to the laser-cutting part.

    It's recommended to set the laser parameters as follows:


    When finished, generate G-code, send it to the machine and start cutting.


    The other parts of the lamp, including outer frame, interlayer frames and back panel can be 3D printed. Download the STL files here, ( import them into Snapmaker Luban, and adjust the direction of the model to lay it down on the platform. For the parameter setting, let's just select the Normal mode:


    Now, change the machine from a laser engraver into a 3D printer and start printing. You’ll need:

    • 1 outer frame
    • 1 pack panel
    • 10 interlayer frames
    • 1 interlayer frame with a cable outlet



    Step 5. Assemble & Test.


    Stick the LED strips to the back panel with some hot melt glue, and fix the cable to the corner.


    Lay the outer frame flat, with its back facing upwards. Put the paper silhouettes in between each interlayer frame in the order of your designing, and press it down to make sure all the pieces are securely seated.

    You can also put in some extra frames to increase the height, if needed.

    Finally, put a piece of blank paper on the top, and then the interlayer frame with a cable outlet.


    Cover the back with the back panel, clip the cable to the outlet, and fix the panel to the back with some glue. Done!

  • CNC Router Bits: Basics Terms and Common Types


    Hey there, Maker!


    Welcome to the CNC series of Snapmaker Academy. The previous five episodes focus on the CAD and CAM processes. Now, it's time to dive into practical machining.

    We already understood that CNC machining works by removing material from a solid workpiece to achieve the desired geometry. The toolpath (or G-code) instructs the cutting tool (aka bit) on how to move, while the cutting tool engages with the workpiece to produce the outcome.

    Just like you wouldn't use a dagger to chop ribs, various cutting tools are designed to cut out different geometries. Choosing the right cutting tool is critical to your project's efficiency and even success. Therefore, this article aims to introduce the basics of cuttings tools and walk you through some of the most commonly used router bits.


    First, let's get to know the major features used to categorize a cutting tool.

    Basic Terminologies


    Teeth refer to the cutting edges, and flutes are the grooves formed between teeth. As the bit rotates, teeth are responsible for cutting materials off, while flutes help evacuate the chips (namely removed materials) from the workpiece. Though not to be taken as the same thing, these two terms are usually interchangeable since they are always identical in number.


    Number of Flutes

    The number of flutes on your router bit impacts the work speed and the surface finish of your product. Having more flutes offers two main advantages. First, it adds to the strength of the bit, which means the bit can be fed into the workpiece faster and work on harder material. Secondly, bits with more flutes tend to give a better surface finish.


    Bits of different numbers of flutes

    However, this doesn't mean you should try to go for as many teeth as you can. To explain this, we need to introduce a new concept: chip clearance. Flutes serve as the passage for chips to evacuate, and chip clearance is the amount of space that a single flute takes up. When the number of flutes increases, chip clearance (i.e., the passage) gets smaller, hence the more difficult for the chips to be evacuated. Yet, if you can't get the chips out in time, the heat produced during cutting will build up, eventually destroy the bit and even lead to burning. This is especially the case for materials like aluminum which produces large and sticky chips. That's why you should try to find the balance when deciding the number of flutes.

    Type of Flutes

    There are two common types of flutes: straight and spiral.

    • A straight flute is parallel to the shank of the bit, striking the surface of the material perpendicular to the rotation direction. Straight bits are stronger than spiral bits and can be used at higher speeds. On the other hand, they produce less smooth surface finish on the workpiece since such design brings more chatter. They are commonly used for slotting and cutting straight contours.

    image3.png Straight flutes vs. Spiral flutes

    • A spiral flute goes along the shank of the bit spirally, staying in constant contact with the material surface. Such design allows less chatter and leaves the finished surface smoother, making these kinds of bits ideal for trimming surfaces. However, spiral bits are weaker when held against straight ones and cannot cut too deep into the material or work at very high speeds.


    Shape of Tip

    Router bits come in a variety of tips, each creating different shapes of cuts as they engage with the material. Some of the most common types you will find are flat, ball-nose, and chamfer.


    • A flat (or square) tip got a nearly 90-degree angle between its circumference and the end surface.
    • A ball-nose tip has a sphere-shaped end, as its name suggests.
    • A chamfer tip is a sharp conical tip. Chamfer bits are also called V-bits for their tips looking like the letter "V".

    Upcut vs. Downcut

    Spiral flutes can be further divided into two categories: upcut and downcut. The differences between the two types of spirals are crucial because they determine the direction in which chips are evacuated.

    The spiral flutes of an upcut bit wrap around the body of the bit clockwise, pulling chips away from the workpiece being cut. An upcut bit tends to leave a rough surface finish on the top of the workpiece and a smooth surface on the bottom.


    A spiral downcut bit, however, pushes chips down as it's cutting, with the flutes wrapping around the bit counterclockwise. Conversely, a downcut bit leaves a cleaner cut on top but a fuzzy surface at the bottom.

    It's worth noting that you should always use an upcut bit for plunging operations unless you know what you're doing, especially for thicker materials. The reason is when a downcut bit plunges straight down, the chips have nowhere to go but to grind against each other as the bit spins, which is going to create friction and even start a fire.

    Center Cutting vs. Non-center Cutting

    Router bits are either center cutting or non-center cutting. The cutting edges of a center cutting bit go all the way into the center, whereas those of a non-center cutting bit leave a hole in the center. Center cutting bits can plunge straight down into the material, while non-center cutting bits cannot.


    If a non-center bit were to plunge into the material, the material engaging with the hole in the cutting edges remains uncut, which can break the bit and lead to burning. To use these bits, you need to drill a pilot hole or use ramp plunge moves. Perhaps the only good reason to buy non-center bits is they are cheaper.



    Basically, size determines what you can do with any given router bit. Large ones are good at cutting a lot of material, but it comes at the cost of details. Smaller bits provide higher resolution in detail, with a trade-off in strength and machining efficiency.

    Overall Length

    The overall length is the distance between one end of a bit to the other. Longer bits are able to reach down deeper into the material. Now, you might believe that having longer bits sounds like a safe bet since they offer more choices. Unfortunately, that's not the case.


    This brings us to a concept called "stickout". Stickout refers to the distance from the end of the collet (i.e., tool holder) to the bit's tip. It's this part of the bit that works without support. The more stickout, the less rigid a tool is. If it sticks out too far, the bit is prone to be bent by the cutting force.


    Cutting Length

    As we can see, cutting edges (or flutes) cover only a portion of the bit. The cutting length (also called "flute length") of a bit determines how deep it can cut into the material. Note that the cutting depth should never exceed the flute length of your bit. Otherwise, chips won't be pulled out properly, and your bit could be damaged by the heat accumulated.

    Shank Diameter

    The shank diameter is the width of the non-cutting end of the tool. This is the diameter that will go into your collet. Common shank sizes are 3.175 mm (1/8 inch) and 6.35 mm (1/4 inch).


    Cutting Diameter

    This is the diameter of the cutting end of your router bit. It is often the first thing to look for when choosing a tool for your job, as it determines the resolution of cutting.

    When cutting, the cutting edge will leave a circular profile in every internal corner, with a radius equal to half its diameter. Also, it is impossible to cut out features that are smaller than the cutting diameter because bits are cylinders (except for V-bits). Say, you can never have a slot that is 2 mm wide using a typical bit with a cutting diameter of 3.175 mm.


    On the other hand, a bigger cutting diameter makes your bit more rigid, allowing deeper cuts. Besides, bits with a larger cutter diameter can remove more material per unit of time, which means you can do the same job faster.

    Common Router Bits

    There are literally tens of thousands of tool types and variations available for CNC machines. Covering every type and use is beyond the scope of this article. We will introduce the most commonly used router bits.

    Before diving in, we need to clarify the differences between milling bits and drill bits. Milling bits, including end mills, face mills, and v-bits, are designed to cut with their cutting edges as they move laterally through the material. By contrast, drill bits are intended to be used for drilling holes, plunging straight down into the material.

    End Mill

    End mills are designed to cut with their cutting edges on the circumference of the bit, but they do have cutting edges on the end surface too. Though center-cutting end mills are capable of plunging straight down, such operations could be demanding for them and should be avoided if possible.

    Flat End Mill

    With a nearly 90-degree angle between its circumference and end surface, a flat end mill is going to create neat square corners at the bottom and a flat surface anywhere it passes over the top of. They are great for removing large amounts of material, widely used for everything from roughing to cutting pockets and 2D contours.


    Flat end mill

    Ball-nose End Mill

    The circumference and the end surface of a ball-nose end mill form a rounded corner. The radius of that round corner equals the cutting radius (i.e., half of the cutting diameter). These mills excel at creating curvature or detail-rich 3D shapes like relief.


    Ball-nose end mill

    Since their tips are round, cutting out a perfectly flat surface is challenging for these bits because they will leave scallops on the workpiece.


    Bull-nose End Mill

    You can see bull-nose end mills as a transition between flat and ball-nose ones. The radius of its round corner is smaller than the cutting radius. Since they combine a flat bottom with round corners, they can create flat-bottomed pockets with rounded corners at once without changing tools.


    Bull-nose end mill

    Roughing End Mill

    Roughing end mills have many serrations on the cutting edges to quickly break up chips, which is great for efficiently removing a large amount of material. The thing with roughing end mills is that they will leave a poor surface finish with corncob-looking tracks on your workpiece, and that's why they are often referred to as corncob end mills. Hence, roughing end mills are for roughing only.


    Roughing end mill

    Face Mill

    Face mills are designed to cut with their cutting edges on the end surface of the bit. They often come with multiple cutting edges that are replaceable, which allows removing more materials at higher speeds. These kinds of mills need powerful spindles to push them.  These mills are mostly used for creating a large and smooth flat face on the surface of a plate or bar workpiece. 


    Face mill


    V-bit, also known as chamfer mills, are used for chamfering, deburring edges, and letter engraving. They are not so good at cutting profiles or carving out pockets since they'll leave a sloped surface on the workpiece.

    V-bits are available in many sizes and angles, although 90, 60, and 30 degrees are most common. A smaller angle often comes with a smaller cutting diameter, supporting shallower cuts while retaining more details. A bigger angle allows wider cutting diameter and deeper cuts.


    V-bits in different sizes

    Drill Bit

    Drill bits are designed to bore straight down into the material with their pointed tip. Unlike milling bits, their flutes only function as the passage for chips to be pulled out. They are often used for pre-drilling holes for screws.


    Drill bit

    Summary & Next Up

    This article introduces some of the most commonly used router bits on top of explaining the basic terminologies used to describe cutting tools. And that is the foundation for us to look into setting parameters for cutting jobs in the future. We hope it could be helpful for you!

    In the next episode, we are going to introduce some of the most common features of a model that you might encounter and then exemplify how to choose the right router bits for a CNC project. Please stay tuned!

  • CAM for CNC: Four CAM Software Picks to Carve Out Your Ideas (Part 2)


    Hey there, Maker!


    This article breaks into two parts. In part 1, we learned the concepts of CAD, CAM, post processor, and firmware, as well as the CAM workflow of Fusion 360 in detail.

    In this part, we will continue with other CAD/CAM software picks: FreeCAD, Aspire, and Carveco Maker (formerly ArtCAM). We will also briefly introduce two easy-to-use CAM software picks: Snapmaker Luban and MeshCAM.


    CAM Software

    02.png This article only focuses on the CAM features of the software introduced. To learn more about their CAD-related features and highlights, see CAD for CNC: Eight 3D Modeling Software Picks to Visualize Your Ideas.


    FreeCAD is a free 3D modeling software with a strong suit for designing solid models. Once a model has been created, you can switch to Path Workbench to generate the toolpath and G-code.

    03.png If you're using FreeCAD to design models for the first time, you need to download and import the post and tool library to ensure that the G-code that is to be generated can be successfully exported to Snapmaker CNC Carving Module for further processing. 

    • To import the post, copy the .py file to the Mod\Path\PathScripts\post folder in the installation directory of FreeCAD.
    • To import the tool library in the latest FreeCAD 0.19, perform the following steps:
    1. Click Edit > Preferences > Path > Job Preferences > Tools. Select Use Legacy Tools, and click OK.
    2. Switch to Path workbench. Click 04.png > Import. Select the .json file in the FreeCAD folder of the post and tool library and click Open.


    Import a tool library in FreeCAD - 1


    Import a tool library in FreeCAD - 2

    Click 07.png to set up the basic configurations of your carving job. In the Output tab of the Job Edit panel, you can enter a name and extension for the G-code file to be generated and select the post in the Processor bar. In the Setup tab, you can define the dimensions of the stock in relation to the model and the location of work origin. In the Tools tab, you can select the tool for your carving job.

    08.png The extension for G-code files that Snapmaker CNC Carving Module can recognize is .cnc.


    After performing these basic configurations, you can select different features of the model in the tree diagram on the left and apply different machining strategies to generate separate toolpaths for each of them. For example, for the outer profile of your model, select a strategy that can quickly cut through the material, whereas for sunken areas, opt for a strategy that can efficiently remove the material. While generating toolpaths, FreeCAD allows you to preview how the tool moves and what the finished product looks like, so that you can make adjustments in real time.


    Simulation in FreeCAD

    If you know your way around G-code, you can click 11.png to inspect the G-code content of a path and view or directly edit the G-code in the text box that appears. Once everything is set, click 12.png to post process the selected job and generate the G-code specific to Snapmaker CNC Carving Module.

    Here are two great tutorial videos that you can check out: FreeCAD - The Powerful Path Workbench for CNC Machining and G-code and Ultimate Free CNC CAM tutorial with FreeCAD.


    Aspire is a reputable wood relief design software with powerful CAM features.

    With Aspire, the first step of modeling is setting the coordinate system and the stock parameters. When creating a project, you need to specify Job Type, Job Size, work origin (i.e., XY Datum Position, and Z Zero Position), and Orientation in the Job Setup pane first. Aspire supports four-axis CNC carving. To work with Snapmaker Rotary Module, just select Rotary in Job Type.


    08.png If you're using Aspire for the first time, you need to download and import the post and tool library to ensure that the G-code can be successfully exported to Snapmaker CNC Carving Module for further processing.

    • To import the post, open Aspire, click Toolpaths > Install Post Processor..., and click the .pp file in the Aspire folder of the post and tool library. (There are two files with the .pp extension in the folder, one for three-axis machining and the other for four-axis machining. You can import only one post at a time.)


    Import a post in Aspire

    • To import the tool library, open Aspire, click Toolpaths > Tool Database, and click Import. Then, open the Aspire folder of the post and tool library and select the .tool file.

    Import a tool library in Aspire - 1

    Import a tool library in Aspire - 2

    After you finish modeling, click 17.png on the top left to proceed to set up toolpaths by configuring the parameters in the Toolpaths pane that appears on the right. You can modify the previously set stock parameters in the Material Setup panel at the top.

    Next, you get to choose appropriate machining strategies for different features of the model. In relief carving, for example, we apply rough machining to carve out the general outline and then use finish machining for the details. In these two rounds of machining, different tools and machining strategies are required, which are to be generated as corresponding toolpaths. In the Toolpaths pane, click Select to pop up the Tool Database window, where you can select the tool to use. Click Edit to set machining parameters such as spindle speed, feed rate, and stepover. When you’re done with setting the parameters, click Calculate to generate toolpaths.


    After the toolpath is generated, click Preview Selected Toolpath to visualize how the tool moves and what the finished product looks like. Should you need to adjust the toolpath, the operation is pretty easy. Double click the toolpath on the right, and the parameter setting window then appears.


    Simulation in Aspire

    When all is set, click 19.png to generate the G-code. The post that you have imported earlier will appear in the Post Processor bar. Click Save Toolpath(s), and the G-code customized for Snapmaker CNC Carving Module will be generated.

    As a top choice for CNC relief design, Aspire comes with well-made official training videos. You can also find many videos made by users on YouTube and other platforms, such as Vectric 3D Carving & Toolpath Tutorial for Vcarve & Aspire and Basic Guide to CNC with Vectric Vcarve Pro / Aspire Profile Toolpath.

    Carveco Maker

    Our last guest is Carveco Maker created by the team behind ArtCAM. If you're familiar with ArtCAM, you will quickly pick up on Carveco Maker, as it draws heavily from its predecessor.

    In Carveco Maker, two separate steps are required to set the stock dimensions. The width and height are defined when you create a new project, whereas stock thickness is defined in the window where you configure toolpath parameters. By default, the work origin is the center of the stock. You can modify it by clicking Model > Set Position (P) in the top navigation bar. After you finish modeling, click Toolpaths in the tree list on the right to start setting the machining strategies and toolpath parameters.

    21.png If you're using Carveco Maker for the first time, you need to download and import the post and tool library to ensure that the G-code can be successfully exported to Snapmaker CNC Carving Module for further processing.

    • To import the post, copy the .con file in the ArtCAM folder of the post and tool library to the postp folder in the installation directory of Carveco Maker.
    • To import the tool library, after you finish modeling in Carveco Maker, click Toolpaths in the Project panel and then click 22.png in the Toolpath Operations panel to enter Tool Database. In the pop-up window, click Import.., select the .tdb file in the ArtCAM folder of the post and tool library, and click Open.

    As with the previous software, different machining strategies are needed for different features of the model in Carveco Maker. After you select a feature, choose the way you want it to be machined by clicking the corresponding button on the Toolpaths pane to the right. In the pop-up window, you can select a tool and set its machining parameters, such as feed rate, stepover, and cutting depths. As mentioned previously, this window is also the place where you can define stock thickness. After finishing setting, you can run a simulation to view the processing results.


    Simulation in Carveco Maker

    After you finish configuring toolpaths, click Toolpaths in the tree list of the Project panel. Then, in the Toolpath Operations panel below, click 25.png to save your toolpath. In the pop-up window, select the post processing method that has been imported in the drop-down list of Machine file format, and click Save to export the G-code. Now, we can send the G-code to the CNC machine for carving and simply wait for the finished product.


    The Carveco Maker team has already made a series of official training videos, such as Carveco Maker - Designing A Plaque (part one) and Carveco Maker - Machining A Plaque (part two), covering the most common basic operations. The two videos here use the example of making a plaque to demonstrate the entire procedure, from designing a sketch to setting the toolpaths and exporting the G-code. Also, ArtCAM users have made a large amount of tutorials resources that are helpful for using Carveco Maker, as the two pieces of software practically share the same working logic.

    Snapmaker Luban & MeshCAM

    That's all for our introduction to CAD/CAM software picks. Sometimes, we have already finished the model design and simply want to turn it into toolpaths. This is where software dedicated to CAM comes in. So, let's take a look at two CAM software picks: Snapmaker Luban and MeshCAM.

    Snapmaker Luban is free and open-source CAM software developed by the Snapmaker team. Tailored specifically to Snapmaker 3-in-1 3D Printer, it is designed with user-friendliness in mind around three major functions: 3D printing, laser engraving and cutting, and CNC carving. Needless to say, the CAM features of Snapmaker Luban match Snapmaker hardware with perfection. The toolpaths and G-code that it generates can be directly used by Snapmaker CNC Carving Module. In addition, it also supports the preview of tool movements and the finished product. If you simply want to carve out the finished product based on an existing model file, Snapmaker Luban is without doubt one of the best candidates.


    MeshCAM is one of the most popular CAM software on the market, with excellent ease of use as its main highlight. Thanks to its straightforward workflow and simple operations, even those new to the world of CNC without machining knowledge can easily master it. Automatic toolpath configuration is one of the things that make MeshCAM great. Simply choose the tools and the desired quality level, and MeshCAM will automatically calculate the appropriate parameters. The built-in post processor of MeshCAM does not support Marlin yet. Some additional steps are required to translate the G-code into a format recognizable for Snapmaker.


    The CNC workflow begins with CAD, where imaginations are transformed into designs. Next, CAM connects design and manufacturing by transforming designs into toolpaths for CNC carving machines. The first three articles of our CNC series focused on CAD and introduced eight CAD modeling software picks along with 12 recommended websites for modeling resources. In the fourth and fifth articles, we moved forward along the CNC workflow, clarified some key concepts in CAM, including post processor, firmware, and CAM workflow, and presented four integrated CAD/CAM software picks with their respective work process. Now, we have learned the complete process from CAD to CAM. We hope that these articles can help you get started with CAD and CAM for CNC!

    Snapmaker Academy will continue to offer more CNC carving resources and information. So stay tuned! If you are interested in any topic, please feel free to let us know by leaving a message in our community or sending an email to


    Snapmaker recommends the software and videos to you in no particular order and for resource-sharing purposes only. Snapmaker does not in any way endorse, control, or assume responsibility for the content, views hosted on, and services provided by the developers of the software or individuals.

  • CAM for CNC: Four CAM Software Picks to Carve Out Your Ideas (Part 1)


    Hey there, Maker!


    Welcome to Snapmaker Academy! This is the fourth episode of our CNC series. The three previous episodes focused on CAD and introduced some practical modeling software and websites of modeling resources. Now, let's turn to CAM and check out four CAM software picks suitable for CNC carving.


    Photo by Fakurian Design on Unsplash

    Before jumping right into CAM software, let's go through some basic concepts. First of all, what are CAD and CAM?

    CAD vs. CAM

    We already know that, in the CNC workflow, three steps are required to turn an idea into a finished product. First, obtain the model file. Second, transform the model file into commands that CNC machines can execute. Third, import the commands into a CNC machine to start carving till we obtain the finished product.

    Computer-aided Design (CAD) refers to the first step in this workflow. It covers aspects related to model designing, such as conceptualization, detailing, modification, etc. Computer-aided Manufacturing (CAM), on the other hand, corresponds to the second step, through which models are transformed into commands (toolpaths and the corresponding G-code) that tell the CNC machines what to do. Usually, it also includes operations like simulation and error check to minimize the risk of going wrong.


    For example, you want to build a toy car. First, you need to turn the imaginary toy car in your head into a model file, which is essentially a collection of geometrical data. This step is called CAD. Next, you use software to transform the model file into G-code. The toolpaths in the G-code tells the machine what to do in order to carve the geometric forms depicted by the model, such as round corners, bosses, and grooves of the toy car. With simulation and error check, you can preview the path of the tool on the material surface and judge if the carving will go smoothly. This step is called CAM.


    Photo by Tool., Inc on Unsplash

    In a nutshell, with CAD, we transform ideas into designs, and with CAM, we manufacture real products based on the designs. The two processes complement each other and are equally indispensable.

    Post Processor & Firmware

    Now, it's time to move on to two new terms: post processor and firmware.

    As mentioned before, your design can become G-code thanks to CAM software. But in order to successfully carve out the finished product, a crucial step is to make sure that your machine can effectively recognize the G-code output by the CAM software.

    You can think of G-code as a collection of different "dialects". Post processors translate the dialects into the one that your specific CNC carver can understand and execute. The file that post processors use for such translation is called a "post". A post processor can be either stand-alone software or integrated into CAM software.


    Firmware is a special kind of software that is embedded in hardware, resembling the operating system of your computer. For 3D printers, firmware is responsible for transforming G-code into control commands that tell your CNC carver what to do. The firmware of your CNC carver determines the type of G-code it can read. This means that you need to know what language your machine speaks (i.e., its firmware type) first and then select a translator (i.e., a post processor) that works for it.


    Products made with Snapmaker CNC Carving Module

    Marlin is one of the most popular 3D printing firmware. Other widely-used firmware includes GRBL and Klipper. The firmware of Snapmaker 3-in-1 3D Printer is developed based on Marlin. Currently, we provide posts for ArtCAM, Aspire, FreeCAD, and Fusion 360. After downloading the file, simply import it to the software to generate the correct G-code for your Snapmaker CNC Carving Module.

    27.png To learn more about Marlin, see What is Marlin?.

    CAM Workflow

    Before delving into each CAM software, let's go through the overall workflow of CAM briefly. This can help us better understand the logic of using each software. A typical CAM workflow consists of the following six steps:

    1. Import the model to CAM software;
    2. Set the coordinate system and define the position and work origin of the stock (i.e., the material to be carved);
    3. Specify stock parameters, such as its dimension and orientation;
    4. Select the machining method (for example, three-axis machining or four-axis machining) and the tool (for example, flat end mill or ball end mill) being used;
    5. Preview the toolpath in simulation to visualize in advance how the tool moves and what the finished product looks like;
    6. Perform post processing and export the G-code.

    Now that we have understood the role of CAM in the CNC workflow and the CAM workflow, it's finally time to get down to business. Let's look at some excellent CAM software!

    CAM Software

    CAD and CAM are two independent procedures, and a lot of software focuses on one of the two. However, due to our pursuit of convenience, more and more software now integrates both CAD and CAM features to enable an all-in-one design process.

    One big advantage of this type of CAD/CAM software is the elimination of data format conversion, which occurs when you import a model file from CAD software to CAM software. CAD/CAM software works with the same data files from sketch design to the generation of G-code. What's more, it is easier to edit model files because you do not need to switch between different software. This article will introduce four pieces of CAD/CAM software with a focus on CAM: Fusion 360, FreeCAD, Aspire, and Carveco Maker (formerly ArtCAM).

    27.png To learn more about their CAD-related features and highlights, see CAD for CNC: Eight 3D Modeling Software Picks to Visualize Your Ideas.

    Fusion 360

    The CAD part ends as you finish the sketch design in the Design Workspace of Fusion 360. You can then click to switch to Manufacture Workspace for performing CAM operations.

    26.png If you're using Fusion 360 to design models for the first time, you need to download the post and tool library first and then import them to Fusion 360. The video How to Model & Setup CAM for CNC in Fusion 360 shows you how to do it. As mentioned before, the post ensures that Snapmaker CNC Carving Module can understand the G-code that will be generated by Fusion 360. The tool library tells the software which type of tool we intend to use so that the software can calculate the corresponding toolpath.


    Preparations are now done. We can proceed to the manufacturing process! The first step is setup. In this step, we define the coordinate system and the work origin for the stock. By specifying how the stock is placed on the work platform of your CNC carver, this step associates the virtual coordinates in the software with the actual ones in manufacturing.

    Now, the software knows the data of the model file, the size and orientation of the stock, and the tool type. It's got everything needed to calculate and generate the toolpath that instructs the tool on how to move. In addition, Fusion 360 supports real-time simulation. It shows the path of the tool in animation to let us visualize the final machining effect in advance. We can edit the toolpath while conducting simulations to optimize the carving result.


    Simulation in Fusion 360

    With the post imported previously, we can now directly convert the toolpath into the G-code specific to our Snapmaker CNC Carving Module. Then, we import the G-code to the machine and start carving. Now we just wait for the finished product.

    Fusion 360 has a great number of users. Its CAM tutorial videos are also easy to find. There are official videos like Fusion 360 CAM Basics and videos made by users like How To Get Started with CAM Within Fusion 360 — Tutorial.

    Next Up

    Limited by length, this article breaks into two parts, and this is the first part. In the next part, we will continue with other CAD/CAM software: FreeCAD, Aspire, and Carveco Maker (formerly ArtCAM). We will also briefly introduce two pieces of CAM software: Snapmaker Luban and MeshCAM. So, make sure to stay tuned!


    Snapmaker recommends the software and videos to you in no particular order and for resource-sharing purposes only. Snapmaker does not in any way endorse, control, or assume responsibility for the content, views hosted on, and services provided by the developers of the software or individuals.

  • CAD for CNC: Eight 3D Modeling Software Picks to Visualize Your Ideas (Part 2)


    Hey there, Maker!


    This article breaks into two parts. In Part 1, we introduced four pieces of artistic relief modeling software suitable for creating relief models that allow for more free-formed shapes and typically serve visual expression.

    In addition to decorative relief, CNC carving is also commonly used to manufacture products with a more regular form or involving assembly, such as phone stands and toy cars. Strict with dimensions, these products should better be designed as solid models of higher accuracy to ensure smooth output to CNC machines. This is where we need to use industrial design modeling software.


    Photo by Fakurian Design on Unsplash

    In this article, we will take a look at the best of the best in industrial design modeling software for CNC solid modeling—Fusion 360, FreeCAD, SolidWorks, and SketchUp.

    Industrial Design

    Fusion 360

    Price: $60/month, $495/year, or $1,335/3 years (By subscription)

    Supported System: Windows, macOS

    Highlights: One-stop work platform, Intuitive interface, Cloud storage, Massive supporting resources, One-year free trial

    When it comes to solid modeling, we have to mention Autodesk Fusion 360, one of the top modeling software picks in recent years, especially all the rage among makers.

    Fusion 360 boasts three benefits. First, it is not only a piece of modeling software, but also a versatile work platform providing a complete suite of tools from model design to manufacturing. It is easy for DIY hobbyists to learn.


    Second, it connects modeling with manufacturing. Photorealistic rendering, product simulation testing, and a set of built-in CAM tools to directly generate toolpath and G-code enable a seamless transition from design to manufacturing in the CNC workflow.

    Third, the software highlights excellent ease of use on top of its powerful features. Its intuitive interface is user-friendly and easy to get started with. Many users find Fusion 360 more productive than other equivalents when completing the same model design.


    Fusion 360 has more to offer. It is one of the first CAD work platforms to support cloud storage. Users can synchronize personal files across multiple platforms and easily retrieve the change records, and collaborate with each other in real time.

    In addition, thanks to the huge user base, related instructional videos are everywhere on YouTube, and third-party plug-ins and other resources are also abundant. Snapmaker Academy has previously produced a Fusion 360 tutorial on how to create a model, set up toolpaths, and use the Snapmaker 3-in-1 3D Printer to carve out a finished product.


    Fusion 360 CAD & CAM Tutorial Video 

    Of course, as a typical Autodesk product, Fusion 360 is available in Education and Personal editions, both of which are free for one year.


    Price: Permanently free

    Supported System: Windows, macOS, Linux

    Highlights: Open source, Cross-platform, Parametric modeling, Integrated CAM tools

    FreeCAD is a piece of free and open-source 3D modeling software used to design solid models of any size for personal projects and fields such as industrial product design and architectural engineering.

    The software is designed for parametric modeling, which means the shape of an object is defined by parameters, and all shape changes are recorded to maintain a precise modeling history. You can modify any feature of the models by changing the corresponding parameters. Moreover, changes to individual features can be synchronized to the final model by simply setting the constraints, eliminating the need for repeated operations.


    FreeCAD is separated into workbenches. A workbench is a collection of tools suited for a specific task. The Part Workbench and the Part Design Workbench are commonly used in CNC carving. You can produce any geometry by building multiple 3D parts and connecting or assembling them.

    FreeCAD can read and write files in various formats, including STEP, IGES, OBJ, STL, DWG, DXF, SVG, IFC, and DAE, basically covering all major 3D models and image files. Highly customizable and extensible, it can be augmented with various plug-ins to support more file formats. Tutorials on the software are easily accessible, such as How to model an easy part for CNC machining in FreeCAD.


    In addition, it also provides CAM tools to help you link your design up with manufacturing. Once a model has been created, you can switch to the Path Workbench to generate toolpaths and G-code.


    Price: $3,995/license + $1,295/year by subscription (Standard version)

    Supported System: Windows

    Highlights: Parametric modeling, Powerful functionality, Easy to learn and use, Cloud storage, Integrated CAM tools

    SolidWorks, a piece of CAD software developed by Dassault Systemes, is one of the top solid modeling software picks at present. Dassault Systemes provides 3D design and product development solutions in a wide range of fields such as aerospace, machinery and electronics, and energy materials. Boeing 777—the world's first 100% digitally designed jetliner—was modeled using the company's modeling software.


    Like FreeCAD, SolidWorks uses parametric modeling to help you visualize your design precisely, and changes to individual features can be updated in real time to the final model. The modeling method is much the same as in FreeCAD, i.e., creating surfaces and then truncating or stretching the surfaces to get the model you want.


    SolidWorks also provides rendering, simulation, manufacturability check, and CAM tools to help users reduce potential errors in the design process and achieve "manufacture-oriented design." In terms of data management, the software supports cloud storage and real-time collaboration. It boasts excellent expandability and compatibility, as it can be used with many plug-ins and other modeling software.


    Among the four pieces of solid modeling software, SolidWorks provides the most powerful and comprehensive functions, allowing you to design complex parts and assemblies easily, and satisfy advanced modeling needs. Moreover, it is easy to use, intuitive, and quick to get started. As the software has millions of users, it is easy to access supporting resources from their official community, YouTube channel, and Reddit community. Technical support is covered in the annual subscription fee included in the price of the software.


    Price: Free version and three paid versions available


    Supported System: Windows and macOS for Desktop version and all operating systems for Web version

    Highlights: Easy to use, Cloud storage, Web client available, Free model library

    SketchUp is a piece of easy-to-use 3D design software, dubbed as the "pencil" to generate digital designs, which is widely used in interior and architectural design. If you are not sure which modeling software is right for you, SketchUp is a good choice to start with.


    To build a model, you simply create 2D shapes by drawing lines and then extrude them into 3D objects. This is the most common method for architectural modeling and can also be used for CNC solid modeling of regular parts. You can also use SketchUp to break down the 3D structure to be assembled into vector graphics for CNC cutting. However, it does not provide CAM tools, and you need to install plug-ins or use other CAM software to generate toolpaths and G-code.


    SketchUp is available in one free version and three paid versions. The free version is web-based, so it cannot be used offline. SketchUp Shop is the cheapest of the three paid versions and it is also web-based, so it is suitable for DIY modeling. The other two versions—Pro and Studio—can run on both web and desktop.


    SketchUp supports a wealth of plug-ins and offers mobile apps for iOS and Android devices, allowing you to view your 3D models on your mobile device at any time. Its 3D Warehouse is a free online open library where anyone can upload or download materials and models. A lot of official tutorial videos are available, such as Top Tips for Fabrication and Prepping Woodworking Projects for LayOut in SketchUp. SketchUp also has an active community forum, which is worth visiting.


    In this article, we introduced four pieces of industrial design software for solid modeling, namely Fusion 360, FreeCAD, SolidWorks, and SketchUp. The former three provide built-in CAM tools. Fusion 360 is known for its one-stop work platform and intuitive interface. FreeCAD is a piece of free open source software that can run on all platforms and support various extensions. SolidWorks is a powerful tool that can meet advanced modeling needs. SketchUp is the easiest to use and offers a free version.

    Snapmaker Academy will continue to offer more CNC carving resources and information. So stay tuned! If you are interested in any topic, please feel free to let us know by leaving a message in our community or sending an email to


    Snapmaker recommends the software and videos to you in no particular order and for resource-sharing purposes only.

    Snapmaker does not in any way endorse, control, or assume responsibility for the content, views hosted on, and services provided by the developers of the software or individuals.

  • CAD for CNC: Eight 3D Modeling Software Picks to Visualize Your Ideas (Part 1)


    Hey there, Maker!


    In the previous article, Going from Art to Part: Models, Designs and Videos for CNC Carving, we explained that model files are the first step in the workflow of CNC carving and introduced several websites that offer ready models. But, what if you're looking to turn your unique ideas into reality?

    A relief carving of your cat, a wooden tray sized to fit snugly into your corner cabinet, a spectacle frame tailored to your face shape ... If you've ever thought of making something like that, now's the time to take a step further.

    New to 3D modeling or not sure how to choose modeling software? Snapmaker Academy is here to help! In this article, we will walk you through eight practical CNC modeling software picks for creating your own 3D models from scratch.


    Photo by Fakurian Design on Unsplash

    It's worth noting that we're touching on modeling software for CNC carving purposes only and do not intend to involve detailed software tutorials.

    How to choose CNC modeling software?

    The thing is that the dozens of modeling software on the market often come with distinctive operating logic and functional features. Considering the cost of learning, it's definitely wise to do your homework in choosing the right one. Here are some key factors worth considering:


    • Purpose of Use

      The software you should use when designing something to be CNC machined depends greatly on what you are trying to make. For beginners, powerful or comprehensive functions may not be necessary. On the contrary, advanced functions can be intimidating until you become proficient.


    • Function & Feature
      The usage of 3D models determines how they should be designed. That's why modeling software varies in function, feature, and expandability for specific fields.
    • Price
      The vast majority of modeling software is charged with prices ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Before placing your order, make sure you understand what is included in the service.
    • Ease of Use
      The ease of use relates directly to the cost of learning the software. A helpful reference is how intuitive the interface is. Shortcuts can also be a time-saver when making repetitive operations. 
    • Support Resources
      Support resources include official technical support, user communities, and relevant UGC. These resources are the channels you can resort to when encountering a problem. The larger the user base, the stronger the user community, which is especially important for beginners. Having the guidance of someone who has been there before can be sheer bliss when you're scratching your head over a particular feature.
    • Trial Availability
      At the end of the day, one trial outclasses ten introductory articles in interpreting how the software works. Given the high pricing of most modeling software, an available trial version is probably the greatest virtue.

    CNC Modeling Software

    Solid Modeling VS Surface Modeling

    First, notice that there is a fundamental difference between 3D models used for different purposes. For industries like machinery and mold manufacturing, 3D models require high dimensional accuracy and must form a closed space, so we call them solid models. For industries such as film and games, however, surface models are commonly used, which focus more on an object's external. They allow for more free-formed shapes and do not necessarily make up a closed space. Such models typically serve visual expression only, including animation character design, product display videos, etc.


    Closed Space VS Open Space

    An imperfect analogy would be a comparison between engineering drawings and art paintings: while one corresponds to real objects and must be precise to the length of each line and the size of each angle, the other is visually oriented and thus can go wild to display structures that cannot exist in reality.


    Actual Structure VS Surreal Structure

    (Photo by Autodesk Fusion 360 on YouTube & 8385 on pixabay)

    Accordingly, 3D modeling software can be divided into three categories based on modeling mechanism: solid modeling, surface modeling, and solid + surface modeling. In CNC carving, surface modeling is appropriate for creating ornamental reliefs or parts with lots of irregularly curved surfaces. Instead, products involving complex assembly or parts consisting of regular shapes like rectangles, round holes and straight lines are suggested to be designed as solid models.

    Next, let's get to the point — modeling software for CNC carving. Note that the following software may support both kinds of modeling but is here divided into two categories — artistic relief and industrial design — based on the modeling mechanism it is known for.

    Artistic Relief


    Price: $1,995  (Perpetual for a specific version, including free minor updates)

    Supported System: Windows

    Highlights: Relief design, 2D to 3D, 4-axis CNC carving, Integrated  CAM

    Aspire is a one-stop CNC software solution developed by Vectric. Featuring relief design, it allows simple and quick conversion from 2D images to 3D relief models. Here's how it works: after importing a 2D image, the software assigns a height difference to the image based on the shade of color to create a 3D relief model. The darker the color, the smaller the corresponding Z-axis height value, and the deeper the carving. For this type of conversion, a grayscale image works best. You can also start with a sketch and expand it into a 3D model step by step by operating manually.


    Aspire offers a set of handy tools and a rich library of resources for relief models. You can use filters to remove the noise in the image to create a smoother surface, or manually increase the Z-axis carving depth to further spotlight its three-dimensionality. What's more, the software comes with hundreds of free 2D graphics and 3D relief models to add to your creations.

    Support for 4-axis CNC carving is another bonus. You can either design your own 4-axis models or import third-party models. Aspire's rotary job setup and auto-wrapped simulation allow you to visualize your job. Combined with Snapmaker Rotary Module, you're ready to create in a new dimension.


    Cases made with Snapmaker Rotary Module

    After modeling, the next step is to turn your model into commands that will instruct your CNC machine on how to move, which is also within the cover of Aspire. Aspire is capable of calculating 3D roughing and finishing toolpaths to accurately carve out your model, saving the trouble of using another CAM (computer-aided machining) software.

    It's recommended to try out the built-in cases in the trial edition before purchasing. You can find tutorial videos for the cases on their official website. There are also many useful videos made by Aspire users, such as the one by Roger Webb, demonstrating the whole process of making a relief plaque from importing a grayscale image to setting toolpaths.


    Carveco Maker

    Price: $15/month or $180/year (By subscription)

    Supported System: Windows

    Highlights: Diverse relief editing tools, Broad range of supported file types, Integrated CAM

    You may not have heard of Carveco, but you're probably familiar with ArtCAM, one of the oldest software devoted to CNC. In fact, ArtCAM is the predecessor of Carveco. The software was acquired by Autodesk and then discontinued in 2018; that's when Carveco Ltd. was formed with the purpose of delivering continuity of access and service of ArtCAM. Carveco Maker is the elementary variant of the Carveco software range.


    Just like ArtCAM, Carveco Maker is powerful and easy to use, making it popular among woodworkers, sculptors and makers. Besides the regular 2D sketch design and 3D modeling tools, it also includes multiple features customized for relief models, such as conversion from grayscale or vector image to relief, embossing STL model to relief, one-click smoothing of relief, and more. You get to control the final presentation and fineness of the finished product at your own pace. Its relief clipart library contains more than 600 exquisite relief models, all free to use in your CNC projects.


    Carveco Maker's Relief Clipart Library

    Carveco Maker works easily with different types of graphics, 3D models, and CAD (computer-aided design) files. Integrated CAM is also one of its strong suits, enabling choices over machining strategies, tool configuration, toolpath generation, and real-time simulation of the final look of your design.

    The Carveco team has produced a series of well-made instructional videos covering key tools and features such as Reliefs from Images. In addition, ArtCAM's existing large user base and tutorial videos are also available resources for Carveco Maker since the two pieces of software are basically the same. Carveco does not offer a trial version but a 14-day money back guarantee on the software is available.



    Price: $39.95/month, $179.9/6 months, or $895/perpetual

    Supported System: Windows, macOS

    Highlights: Digital sculpting, Modeling with brushes, Intuitive operation

    ZBrush is a leading software package in digital sculpting software, endeared to film studios, game developers, and illustrators globally. One of the major games made with ZBrush is Assassin's Creed. As the name suggests, digital sculpting is like sculpting some digitized clay through manipulating geometric shapes by pushing, pinching, chiseling and slicing with brushes. Compared to traditional 3D modeling, its operating logic is far more intuitive, reproducing the natural feeling of working with a real-life object.

    It is ideal for creating detailed surface models with sophisticated and irregular shapes, powerful in presenting realistic shadows, textures, and creases.


    When used for CNC modeling, ZBrush is competent in both creating 3D models from scratch and collaborating with other modeling software to add more details to your relief models, such as softening joints, adjusting partial height difference, adding textures, etc. The software is also great in real-time rendering that provides instant feedback. However, to generate toolpaths and G-codes, you need to use plug-ins or import your model into CAM software.


    Plentiful sculpting brushes in ZBrush

    Thanks to its intuitive logic, ZBrush is easy to get started, and tutorial videos abound. Its trial version has no restriction on features, which lasts 30 days.


    Price: Free

    Supported System: Windows, macOS, Linux

    Highlights: Open source, Cross-platform, Free interface layout, Integrated digital sculpting

    Blender is open source software for all platforms, providing 3D creation pipelines from modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, to video editing. As the only mainstream modeling software that is free for life, it is a public project hosted by the Blender Foundation, with the mission to bring 3D technology as tools in the hands of artists everywhere in the world.


    Beyond polygon modeling, Blender also integrates digital sculpting, empowering fast and free detailing using brushes. Though not comparable to ZBrush in this regard, it is qualified. As with ZBrush, the generation of toolpaths and G-code requires additional CAM plug-ins or software since it does not specialize in CNC.


    Sculpting brushes in Blender

    A typical workflow in CNC relief modeling is to import a 2D image, trace the profile with polygons, expand it into a 3D model by operations like stretching, and then smooth the edges and corners with subdivision tools, including sculpting brushes. You can find many related videos on YouTube, such as Decoration Modeling in Blender 2.9 Part 1.

    Being free and open source does not equate to a lack of support resources, at least not with Blender. Donations from users, developers, and companies keep the foundation and their official technical team running. Also, Blender's growing community is very helpful and ready to come to your aid when in trouble.

    Summary & Next Up

    This article introduces four pieces of artistic relief modeling software: Aspire and Carveco Maker, which specialize in CNC and excel at relief modeling with CAM tools included; and ZBrush and Blender, which allow users to create or optimize relief models through digital sculpting.

    Limited by length, this article breaks into two parts and this is the 1st part. In the next part, we will introduce Fusion 360, FreeCAD, SolidWorks, and SketchUp for solid modeling.


    Snapmaker recommends the software and videos to you in no particular order and for resource-sharing purposes only.

    Snapmaker does not in any way endorse, control, or assume responsibility for the content, views hosted on, and services provided by the developers of the software or individuals.

  • Going from Art to Part: Models, Designs and Videos for CNC Carving


    Hey there, Maker!


    You probably already know that makers' world is full of possibilities. On top of that, as the owner of the Snapmaker 3-in-1 3D Printer, with its three interchangeable functions – 3D printing, laser engraving and cutting, and CNC carving – you're empowered with more than one key to unlock the door from imagination to reality.

    So, what do you want to create with your Snapmaker CNC Module?

    Here are 11 resources websites that will inspire you and provide access to model files, complemented by a series of tutorial videos. Hopefully, this article will help you in taking the first stride.

    To begin with, let's go through some basic concepts of CNC machining.

    What is CNC machining?

    CNC stands for "Computer Numerical Control". CNC machining is a common subtractive manufacturing technology. The process involves removing material from a solid workpiece with cutting tools to achieve the desired shape. Compared to 3D printing, aka additive manufacturing, CNC machining is fundamentally different since it chips material off a blank workpiece instead of adding material to build a part.


    Cases made with Snapmaker CNC Module & Rotary Module

    What can you do with a CNC machine?

    CNC machining can work with a wide range of materials, including plastic, wood, jade, and metal. Technically, you can even build a house through CNC machining with quite some assembling, not to mention toy cars, ukulele, PCB…

    Next, let's look at the workflow of CNC carving. Typically, it takes three steps to turn an idea into a finished product:


    1. Obtain a model, either by modeling yourself or downloading from model repositories.
    2. Turn the model file into a G-code using CAM software (such as Snapmaker Luban and Fusion 360). The G-code will instruct the machine on how to move.
    3. Export the G-code to your CNC machine. Start carving on your machine and then wait for your job to be done.

    Now that you've recognized what a CNC machine can do and how it works, let's get down to the gist. In the following CNC resources websites, you can indulge in inspiring ideas from all over the world or directly download model files and carve them out.


    CNC Resources Websites

    image.png On the 3D model files provided in the following websites, except for those specified with compatibility of CNC machines, take care in identifying whether a particular model is suitable for CNC carving.



    Being one of the world's largest and most active 3D model file repositories, Thingiverse boasts three million users and over two million models. From regular household items, ACG character figures to mind-blowing gadgets, there's something for everyone. While models for 3D printing predominate, it's not hard to find models for CNC carving.


    In this community, you can also follow people from all walks of life. If you're interested in CNC woodcarving, ZenziWerken is definitely one of the must-see accounts. It was created by Daniel, a German who loves woodworking. He has been sharing hundreds of woodworking cases designed and made all by himself over the years for free. Each case is exquisite and practical, with detailed instructions.

    Since you can 3D print a 3D printer, be noted that if you simply type "CNC models" in the search bar, the results will mostly be parts for CNC machines. This might often be the case with the following websites as well. Therefore, it is best to search with specific keywords, such as "CNC toy cars". Thingiverse's search filters support only a few categories, which makes the right keywords even more critical.




    GrabCAD has more than 9 million users and nearly 5 million model files, all available for free download. The site focuses mainly on models for specialized fields such as automobile, mechanics, architecture, and industrial designs, distinguishing GrabCad from other 3D model repositories. However, you can also find numerous models suitable for CNC carving. For example, the keyword "chess" will return some nice matches.


    In addition to filtering by model category, GrabCad's search filters also support specifying file format and the software used to generate the model. To locate the model you need quickly, use precise keywords combined with appropriate filter criteria.




    MyMiniFactory is one of the most popular 3D model marketplaces with more than 160,000 models. Although not known for its volume, many of the models come from professional designers, and the average quality is excellent. All of the models have been tested by the community to ensure that they can be used for 3D printing, and some of them are also compatible with CNC milling.


    MyMiniFactory focuses on paid models from art and pop culture fields such as games, anime and movies. If you're a pro in designing or modeling, this is a great place to cash in on your talent.

    MyMiniFactory also provides a small selection of free models. The site highlights easy-to-use search filters, which allow you to refine the results by category, pricing and complexity of the models, as well as the model of the 3D printer used. A direct search for "CNC" returns less than ideal results, and it is best to enter more specific keywords, such as "relief".




    Cults is another designer-rich 3D model repository featuring delicate models. The site has over 3 million users and close to 420,000 models. Both paid and free models are available. If you're good at creating 3D models, you can upload your work to Cults and price it in just a few steps.


    Surprisingly, searching directly for "CNC" on Cults leads to quite a few models designed for CNC carving. A more precise keyword will undoubtedly return more satisfactory results, though. On an account called "STLFILESFREE", you can find dozens of beautiful models for wood relief carving, all for free.




    TurboSquid models are used by game developers, architects, visual effects studios, advertisers, and creative professionals around the world. You've probably seen TurboSquid models hundreds of times and didn't know it. A majority of the one million models uploaded here are priced.


    Most of the models on the site are not for 3D printing or CNC processing, but you can filter by STL format and enter specific keywords, such as "relief". You can also filter out free models, although the results may be numbered.




    Unlike the model repositories introduced above, Instructables is a community where DIYers share their creations. Each case contains detailed step-by-step instructions, accompanied by pictures, animations and videos; each step allows other users to add hints or ask questions, allowing sufficient interactions.


    From electronics, mechanics, woodworking to cooking, Instructables offers cases of just about anything. On the Workshop subpage, there are separate sections for 3D printing, laser cutting and CNC. The CNC section is definitely a mine of information for experienced CNC players. In addition, the site has a Teachers section, thoughtfully divided by grade level, to encourage teachers to apply DIY cases in their classes. Search directly for "CNC" plus keywords, such as "CNC toys", and you'll likely find some fascinating results. Not every case comes with ready model files, but all cases are available as a packaged PDF file for download.



    Maker Union

    Maker Union supplies free DXF files of high quality with a simple and easy-to-use interface. DXF is a vector image format that is well adapted to CNC machining, which acts as 2D patterns that guide your machine on where to cut. Processing DXF file with CNC machines will not leave black edges as opposed to laser engravers. The finished products are perfect for decoration.


    The site features theme-based display of files, where a set of beautiful DXF files can be downloaded as a package in a click. Although the number of themes is just over 240, there are on average 6–8 files under each theme, all of which are ready-to-cut for CNC machines. Maker Union supports keyword search of themes, and you can choose to display the search results by popularity, release date, etc.





    MakeCNC offers only paid models of high quality, covering categories such as architecture, vehicles, ships, mazes, animals with a total of more than 1,400 models. Each model consists of a set of vector graphics that can be used directly for CNC machining. Assembly is usually required, and a detailed assembly manual is hence included in the files downloaded. While cutting a single vector graphic poses little challenge, milling complex curved surfaces and carving assembly parts do require more experience in CNC machining.




    As you can tell by its name, STLFinder is a search engine for 3D models in STL format. Thingiverse, GrabCAD and MyMiniFactory are some of the major 3D model libraries included in its index. The total number of models indexed is huge, with 159,316 results returned for the keyword "wall art" alone. It only supports filtering by paid or free models.




    Etsy is a marketplace focusing on handmade items and craft supplies. Apart from physical goods, there are also paid models under a broad range of categories, including home decor, toys, art, as well as tools; both 3D models and 2D patterns are available. Here you get to see buyers' reviews and photos of finished products on the page of each model file. You can also open your own store on Etsy and price your creations.


    Go straight for "CNC file" in the search bar, and you'll find hundreds of 3D models for CNC machining, ranging from woodcut Star Wars calendar to world map relief. The site supports filtering by keyword match, price range, release date, etc. In addition, the search bar provides access to recently viewed items.



    Craftsmanspace comprises a wealth of free 3D models and 2D patterns. In addition to the two sections dedicated to model files, the Free projects section collects cases uploaded by users along with instructional PDF files. The site also has a Knowledge section full of information, including a comprehensive introduction to woodworking joints completed by illustrations and terminologies.




    Pinterest is one of the largest image-sharing platforms in the world. Thanks to its volume, searching with CNC-related keywords, such as "CNC cutting design", returns a considerable number of results, including many masterpieces. Browsing through the designs can be a great source of inspiration. Note that only images of finished products are available here rather than source files for CNC machining.




    CNC Tutorial Videos

    Whether it's to stimulate your own thinking with others' designs or provide model files that your CNC machine can work with, we hope the above websites have helped you in leaping from ideas to models.  

    Now, let's proceed to turn models into solid parts. Here are several tutorial videos on using Snapmaker CNC Modules and software, namely the Snapmaker Luban and Fusion 360.

    Tutorial Videos by Snapmaker

    Snapmaker 2.0: How to Use the CNC Function

    The Snapmaker 2.0 comes with an ER11 collet, an MDF wasteboard, and dust-resistant Linear Modules. The CNC Module is easy to use and supports various types of materials. Check out this step-by-step tutorial on Snapmaker 2.0 CNC function and give it a shot.

    How to Use CNC Function with Rotary Module

    Follow along this video to see an entire 4th-axis CNC machining process with the Rotary Module. We've added new features of Origin Assistant and Bit Assistant to the Touchscreen and realized full support in Snapmaker Luban. 

    Intro to Snapmaker Luban 4.0 for 3-axis CNC Carving & Intro to Snapmaker Luban 4.0 for 4-axis CNC Carving

    Learn how to use the 3-axis and 4-axis CNC with Snapmaker Luban 4.0 with a brand new interface, improved workflow, and some useful newly added features.

    Fusion 360 CAD & CAM Tutorial for CNC Beginners [Snapmaker Academy]

    Follow this video to design a 3D model in Fusion 360 and carve it out with your Snapmaker. The whole process could be much easier than you would have expected.

    Tutorial Videos by Users

    Snapmaker Tool Changes: Fusion 360 3D Relief Milling

    Rodney Shank made this video for anyone who wants to know how to mill a relief on wood using Fusion 360 and the Snapmaker 2.0. In this video, you will be guided through the whole process step by step, including changing tools from rough to finish carving.

    4 Axis CNC Machining with Snapmaker 2.0
    In this video, Nikodem Bartnik tests and reviews the Rotary Module of Snapmaker 2.0. He succeeded in milling some cool stuff like SpaceX model out of epoxy tooling material and wood while failed with aluminum.

    Snapmaker 2.0 - E04 - Using the CNC

    In this project of Koka-Bora Creations, the author demonstrates the process of carving an SVG image onto a piece of wood relief using Snapmaker 2.0. In addition to the practical steps, he also explains how CNC relief works, the pros of working with SVG greyscale images, and some other principles.


    Armed with the above resources, you're well-prepared to try it out now. Just get your Snapmaker CNC Module going and bring your creative sparks to life!

    In the future, Snapmaker Academy will continue to provide you with helpful CNC resources and knowledge, so STAY TUNED!

    If you are interested in other topics of 3D printing, feel free to contact us at, or leave your message in our community.


    Snapmaker recommends the websites and videos to you in no particular order and for resource-sharing purposes only.

    Snapmaker does not in any way endorse, control, or assume responsibility for the content, views hosted on, and services provided by these websites or individuals.

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