Design Futures Lab

Preparing Files for a toolpath consultation

To ensure we can make the best toolpath please follow these setup/export guidelines

What is a Toolpath?

A toolpath is a collection of strategies or operations that direct the movement of the CNC across and through your material to reveal or cut out your shape. It is how we define our approach to cutting your project and there are many considerations.

We make our Toolapaths using Fusion 360 but we support files made in most popular 3D and 2D Cad software.

To make a Toolpath, we need a 3D model, or a 2D drawing or a combination of both.

Ideally, you can import or draw your design in fusion, create a basic setup in the manufacturing environment, and bring an exported copy (.f3d or .f3z) of the file to you consultation.

If not read this page, get your files ready and bring them to your consultation.

Supported File Types

✔️✔️STEP, IGES, FDM : 3D shapes Solid Models drawn in fusion or Solid works are best, Nurbs based models drawn in Rhino work too.

✔️STL + DXF : STL Meshes must complimented with 2D drawing for machining boundaries. This is common for architectural site models

✔️DXF : 2D Shapes can be cut from a DXF file alone for simple profiles and pockets

❌STL = A mesh on its own is not enough

❌PDF= These files are full of extra data that gets in our way

General Considerations

Please check your file, regardless of what software it comes from for the following:

  1. 3D Models and 2D Curves should be scaled to the precise size of your final physical outcome and in millimeters (mm)
  2. A corner at the boundary of your model and curves should be placed at the origin (0,0,0) of your workspace with the model placed in the positive quadrant.
  3. Models and curves should be aligned to each other (rather than sitting next to each other)
  4. Only relevant Models and Curves sitting within the stock boundary should be exported.
  5. Use Layers to Identify the differant parts of your models and organize your 2D curves (Roads, Building Pads, drilling holes, Pockets, Profiles etc.)



✂️Delete Scraps


Preparing files for Architectural site models in rhino

Your Software > Rhino > Fusion 360

If your working with Contour Meshes, sets of Buildings exported from and curves pulled from a variety software and sources, we suggest compiling it all into one place in Rhino before importing into fusion 360 or bringing for your toolpath consultation. If you follow the conventions of provided in this example, and carefully review general tips above, you can bring a file like this to your tool path consultation and you will be ready to go

3D Models = Volumes

If you have a more complex project a 3D model is required, Here are some Considerations:

Nurbs based models and Solids

Nurbs based and solid models are much better than mesh based models , If you can choose, design your model in Fusion 360, Solid works, or Rhino.

  1. Fusion 360 files should be exported as a .f3d or .f3z file and braught on a USB or sent via Teams.
  2. Rhino, Solidworks and inventor models should be exported as .STP files


Whilst Solid models are better, meshes can work. but will require the exporting of additional 2d machining boundaries (see below).

  1. Revit models and models made in mesh editors should be exported as a mesh (.STL)
  2. If you have imported a mesh from Revit or other, but have opened it in Rhino to make some small revisions do not attempt to convert a mesh file into a nurbs object (the MeshtoNurbs command), make your changes in rhino and export the file as mesh (.STL)

2D Drawings = Machining Boundaries (Curves)

Curves can be used to provide 2D shapes which the CNC can Profile/Pocket/Drill Down to specific depths, creating 2D shapes similar to what can be realized with a lazer cutter.

When used in conjunction with a 3D model, Curves are used to describe the different areas for which a different machining approach would be necessary. Whilst the 3D model is the ultimate shape we are cutting, the curves allow us to use tool path strategies to move the tool across the surfaces to best realize the shape. Here are some considerations:

  1. Organize curves into separate layers based on the areas that they correspond to: Eg, ‘Roads’, ‘Building Footprints’, ‘Model Boundry’
  2. Ensure Curves are Closed, and that no extraneous curves or duplicate curves are exported.