Notes on Working with Snapmarks™ 🤔


#1

I don’t know if this will be useful or not…I’ve got a few notes about working with Snapmarks that I thought I’d share with the new Beta testers as they get added by the calibration algorithm…might save some time and confusion if you don’t have to re-discover this on your own.



Introduction to Snapmarks
:arrow_upper_right:This is the first thing to read through. (Obviously.) :smile:



Snapmarks in outside Design software:

Because each drawing program imports the Snapmark Template provided by Glowforge at a native resolution that might or might not match the resolution that Glowforge is expecting to see, you need to check the size of the Snapmarks the first time you open the template in the software that you are using.

Each mark needs to be currently sized at 0.332" x 0.405" ( 8.437 mm x 10.279 mm ) with a vertical orientation.

  • (If you are using Inkscape, make sure you have Geometric Bounding Box selected.)
  • (If you are using Illustrator, make sure Responsive is unchecked whenever you save the SVG.)
  • (Correct methods for Saving SVG files for all programs in this tutorial.)

. . 1. If you have any problems… First report it to @bonny on the Introducing Snapmark thread to help the team develop a workaround. Tell them the dimensions of the snapmarks in your design program, the name of the design program, the version number and the operating system.

. . 2. Make sure you do not accidentally reshape or rotate the Snapmarks…they will not work.

. .3. Other rules to follow when placing your Snapmarks in your design:

  1. Leave at least 1/4" space to the left of the leftmost snapmark in your design if you are also cutting out around it to create a jig. (Discussed in more detail below, but here’s a pic:)

  1. Design on a 20" x 12" (508 x 304.8 mm) artboard, and make sure the design is completely on the artboard before saving the file as an SVG.

Using Snapmarks in the GFUI:

1. First thing to remember:
When you perform the Snap function, you want to have the correct thickness for your jig material entered into the Unknown Materials thickness box. (Not the thickness of the item you are engraving.) The camera is searching on the jig for the marks, and the algorithm to calculate alignment needs the jig material thickness for it’s calculations.

2. If you are using a jig without the tray:
In this instance, you will need to calculate the value of the difference between the height of the surface of the jig material above where the top of the tray would normally fall.

This is the normal method for working without the tray. There are tutorials describing how to do it in the Matrix here if you haven’t tried it yet: How to Cut without the Crumb Tray, Tray Removed Calculator

Always remember, the top surface of the grid on the crumb tray is considered “zero height” for the Unknown Materials thickness calculation.

3. Make sure you have enough room to the left of your Snapmarks for the little red dot to fall on the jig.

When you place your jig design on a cut up sheet, or when you design a cutout jig, leave yourself a little room to the left of the leftmost Snapmark. (At least 1/4".)

There is a little red dot from the head focusing laser that will hit slightly left of the actual laser beam…you don’t want it to land off of the jig material, it will mess up the snap.

IMG_5193

4. If your object to be engraved sticks up above your jig material:
You will probably want to Manually set the focal point for the Engraving step (only) to match the thickness of the object, instead of letting the value entered before (from the jig measurement) be used.

Here’s what happens…when the head moves out and takes the measurement to auto-focus the laser right before the engraving portion of the job, it will set the focal point for the beam based on what it calculates depending on where the little red dot hits. That red placement dot falls slightly left of where the beam is going to hit. If that red beam happens to hit on the object to be engraved, it’s fine, but if you are engraving something small or close to an edge, the beam might fall on the jig, not on the object. That isn’t going to shift placement of where the engraving is going to happen, but it might defocus the engrave if there is a large variance in height between jig and object, giving you less than optimum results. Entering a focal point manually for the individual operation over-rides the auto-focus, so it’s a safer way to go for sure results.

5. Adding artwork to an existing jig setup:

We recently obtained the ability to add artwork and make changes to the layout directly in the Glowforge interface. You will still get more accurate results by setting it up in the design step before saving the SVG file, but if you choose to make a change live in the GFUI, you will want to align any additions to the Pink PREVIEW on the screen, not anything you might already have burned on your material that you can see in the camera view. Anything aligned to the Preview will then be snapped into place along with the rest of the design when you snap.



Working with a Reusable Jig:

In your Design Software:

  1. Create your cutting jig in your design software.

  2. Add a set of properly sized Snapmarks. (Make them a different color than the jig cutlines.)
    (It’s a good idea at this point to Lock the cutouts and Snapmarks down so they don’t shift relative to each other.)

  3. Add any artwork to the jig file aligning it with your cutting lines.

  4. Save the file (with any embedded artwork and the Snapmarks) to an SVG file.

In the Glowforge User Interface:

  1. Load the SVG file into the app.
  • Set the Snapmarks to Score. (Not Engrave.)
  • Set the Cutlines to Cut.
  • Set the Artwork to Ignore.
  1. Print the file.
  2. Remove the cutouts. Add the objects to be engraved into the cutouts.

Pro Tip: If you’re working with something flat like thin business cards, keep the cutouts, and just attach the cards to them with some double sided adhesive for processing…it’s easier to just drop that back into the hole and the cards are thin enough that you do not have to adjust the thickness for engraving. Much easier to keep it aligned than dropping it into a hole.

IMG_5202

  1. Adjust the focal point for the Engraving if necessary.
  • Set the Snapmarks to Ignore.
  • Set the Cutlines to Ignore.
  • Set the Artwork to Engrave.
  1. Hit Print to process the Engraves.

. To reuse the Jig at a future date:

  • Make any necessary changes to the artwork in the SVG file in your Design software.
  • Load the new file into the GFUI.
  • Put the jig with the scored Snapmarks in the bed. Set the thickness of the Jig in the interface.
  • Press the Snapmarks button to align the file with the marks.
  • Load your objects and Print the Engraves.


Working with Print and Cut Files:

One of the early testers has created a Print and Cut video for Illustrator here, for visual learners:
Glowforge Snapmarks Tutorial

So I’ll demo this one in Inkscape, just to round things out. :slightly_smiling_face:

In your Design Software:

1. Create and prepare your Print and Cut file.

Print and Cut files generally contain both a raster (bitmap) image for printing and a set of Cut lines and Score lines for cutting out around the file and folding, if desired. In the example shared below, the cutlines in the file are black, and the score lines for folding are a kind of weird beige color, because they matched the colors on the bitmap.

2. Add a set of properly sized Snapmarks. (Make them a different color than the Cut lines and the Score lines.)
(It’s a good idea at this point to Lock the bitmap image and Snapmarks down so they don’t shift relative to each other.)

In your Inkjet Printer:

  1. From inside your Drawing software: Send the file, with the Snapmarks, to be printed on your inkjet/laser ink printer.
  2. Make sure you do not “Shrink to fit Page” when you print the artwork. And make sure you have enough room on the left side of the leftmost Snapmark.
    (You might need to print in Landscape orientation.)
  3. Make sure that the guides for your printer feed are nice and snug against the paper so it doesn’t get terribly canted during printing.
    Most inexpensive printers have very sloppy feeds, and printed results sometimes reflect that.

3. Save the file (with any embedded artwork and the Snapmarks) to an SVG file.

Pro Tip: It is not necessary to actually save the bitmap portion of a Print and Cut file into the SVG, and leaving it out will frequently cause the file to render much faster in the GFUI. But you do need the bitmap in the file for the Inkjet Printing step, so if you want to Inkjet print it first, and then delete the bitmap from the file, or save a separate version for processing in the GFUI, you might find it a big time saver. :slightly_smiling_face:

In the Glowforge:

  1. Secure the printed sheet by placing it on an adhesive mat of some sort. You need to anchor it to a surface to keep the lightweight cuts from being blown around by the air assist once it has been cut.

    (It can damage your exhaust fan or catch fire if you do not anchor it.)

I’ve used a couple of methods that work just fine.

The method shown below is the simplest…an anchored cardboard sheet backing with the page taped down on it and a couple of strips of Scotch ATG double sided adhesive on the back of the cutout areas. It’s quick, the adhesive can be rubbed off afterwards and it’s easy to peel the cutouts off of the cardboard. You can also use a sheet of cheap ply, sprayed with a couple of coats of Krylon #7020 Repositionable spray adhesive, or buy a very expensive Seklema mat. They all work. You just don’t want that paper to move.

IMG_5204

.

In the Glowforge User Interface:

1. Load the SVG file into the app.
2. Enter the thickness of your backing mat (or mat + paper, but paper is generally thin enough that you really don’t have to worry about it) into the Unknown Materials slot at the top of the left column.

  • Set any Engraves to Ignore.
  • Set the Score lines to Score using the Manual settings for Scoring on that paper.
  • Set the Cutlines to Cut using the Manual settings for Cutting that kind of paper.

3. Press the Snapmarks button to align the cutlines around the printed result on the page.

4. Click Print once you get a good snap.

5. That’s it! :grinning:



Passthrough Alignment with Snapmarks:

These are progressively getting a little more challenging to write up, so bear with me…this one is going to have a lot of images to explain. (Might crater the post.)

Okay, the trick to using the Snapmarks successfully with the Passthrough is extremely accurate placement of the marks in multiple files, and that preparation has to happen in your outside design software.

I initially tested leaving all of the splits in a single file, like we do with the current workaround, and it was cluttered and confusing as all get-out, with mixed results. But during the early testing, @rpegg made a statement about using multiple files for the splits, and it was a true !!!:boom::bulb::boom:!!! moment. It’s actually fairly simple if you just create a set of files to work with. So that’s the process I’m going to demo here. (And the one I use now. It’s quick and easy.)

In your Design Software:

1. Create your design in whatever program you choose to use. (I’m going to demo this one in Illustrator).
2. Save a copy of your design. (99% probablility you will want to make changes later. AMHIK.) :smile:
3. Add a set of properly sized Snapmarks. (Make them a different color than the design cutlines.)
(You don’t lock the Snapmarks yet for this process.)

4. Split that design into sections or segments no more than ten inches tall.*

*You can actually split it anywhere, but the ten inch height limit for the sections seems to work best, so if you’ve got a file that is 24 inches tall feeding vertically into the machine, you can choose to create 3 eight inch tall segments, 4 six inch segments, or 2 ten inch sections and a four inch section. You don’t want to use 2 twelve inch sections. The taller the sections, the longer it takes to process any engraves, and if there is a slight error in the alignment, the effect is magnified with taller segments. Keep 'em short, it actually saves time.

  • Okay, so to split the file - make use of your Guides. In Illustrator and Inkscape, you drag them down from the rulers and place them where you want to cut the file. (The light blue horizontal line in the image below.)

  • Lock the guides when you have them where you want them.

  • Place your horizontally justified Snapmarks at the Guide. (They can be placed slightly above or below the guide, as long as both marks are on the same horizontal line. It’s mission-critical for Passthrough work.)

Using the Scissors tool in Illustrator, cut the design every place that it intersects the Guide. (Hint: Turn on your SmartGuides as well. Cut at the intersections.)


Note: The process of cutting the paths is a little more complex in Inkscape, but I’ll summarize the steps briefly below:

  • Select your design objects and Convert to Paths.
    (Path> Object to Path.)
  • Enter the Edit mode.
    (Click the Edit Paths by Nodes arrow or F2).
  • Insert new Nodes into the path segments where they intersect the Guide.
    (Double click on the path after clicking the Insert Node at a Point tool.)
  • Break the path at the newly inserted nodes.
    (Select the node, click the Break Path at Selected Node tool.)
  • Break Apart the design.
    (Select all parts > click on Path > Break Apart.)

If anyone knows of an easier way, mention it in the comments below and I’ll update this.


5. Create your new files:

  1. Select everything above the Guide, and the Snapmarks, and make a copy. (CTRL/CMD+C.)

  1. Paste that into a new file that has been set up with the bed dimensions (20" x 12"). (CTRL/CMD+V.)

  1. Select everything below the Guide, and the Snapmarks, and make a copy.

  1. Paste that into another new file with bed dimensions (20" x 12").

6. Now is a good time to lock the Snapmarks, and group the cuts together before locking them as well. (Both files).

7. Label your new files and Save As an SVG. (I use 1,2,3 etc. with the original file name.)

If you need to make any changes to the files, you will need to re-save them.

Prepare the Glowforge bed and Material for cutting:

  1. Load the top part of your material through the passthrough slot.
  2. Anchor it against either the left or right side of the tray with a strip of masking tape, and use Honeycomb Pins or magnets to hold the material down flat on the other side if possible.

Longer material tends to get pulled up by the weight still sticking out of the machine, if you want good results, you need to get as much of the material flat against the tray surface as you can.

In the Glowforge User Interface:

  1. Enter your Material Thickness into the Unknown Materials slot if necessary, or choose a Proofgrade option from the dropdown menu.
  2. Load the first SVG file into the app.
  • Set the Snapmarks to Score.
  • Set the Cutlines to Cut.

  1. Print the file.

  2. Open the lid, shift the material forward, making sure you are still anchoring against the side lip of the tray, tape everything down again, and close the lid.

Tip: When you are shifting the material up, do not shift it so far that the Snapmarks at the bottom of the first print are not visible on the app screen. Just in front of the head when it is in Home position is a good spot to place them.

  1. Load the second SVG file into the app.
  • Set the Snapmarks to Ignore.
  • Set the Cutlines to Cut.
  1. Snap the cutlines into position by pressing the Snapmarks button.
  2. Print the file.

Butterfly-2

That’s about it really - but there are a couple of little things to remember.

  1. You can only feed the material through from the front of the machine towards the back…it will tear up the flaps if you try to back the material out the front.

  2. Remove any loose cutouts from your Print before shifting the material forward between sections, and tape partially cut pieces so they don’t flop down and get hung up exiting the rear port. (The butterfly shown was a prime example.)

  3. Last thing, if you are building a file with three or more sections, you will wind up with two sets of Snapmarks in the Center sections.

Like this:

Notice the use of different colors for the sets of Snapmarks, and the different spacing between the marks…it helps with visually checking the marks to see if they snapped to the correct set, and makes it easier to visualize what you are doing when copying.

First Section:

Second Section:

Third Section:

Last section:

Whew! Okay that’s enough. :smile:


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#2

@Jules: fantastic manual! thank you!


#3

I always learn something new reading your write-ups even when I think I have something down pat.

I’m VERY much looking forward to your passthrough writeup as I am trying to work that out now.


#4

Awesome, @jules! I think this will help lots of folks and maybe stave off some Support issues.


#5

This is critical. I had a fail yesterday, because I didn’t do this.


#6

What am I forgetting guys? :slightly_smiling_face:


#7

I have only been doing print to cut things but here are my design notes. Maybe scored snapmarks work better/differently? but this is what my testing has gotten me to

  1. Snapmarks should be as far apart as you can go; my minimum is 8" but more is better

  2. Having them in the center of your design is better than the top or bottom. even at 10.5" apart I saw perfect cuts near the snapmarks but slight misalignment at the bottom of but cuts 4" lower.


#8

What kind of misalignment at the bottom of your cuts are you seeing? That sounds like one of the Snapmarks might have gotten slightly rotated out of true vertical alignment in the design. (Easy to do accidentally, and it would introduce a slanted error on the bottom of a cut. It might not even be enough to be visible, but it would still skew the design along the vertical axis. I’d try a fresh set of Snapmarks. I don’t see any differences putting the Snapmarks at the top or the bottom for Print and Cut files.)


#9

Excellent!

A couple of nitpicks:

  1. in the printing/design step, if you add artwork and position it, do that after the alignment step (pressing the magnet button). (In my limited experience, the alignment step resets the position of added stuff).

  2. There is a use case for putting snapmarks upside-down if you’re going to rotate your piece later for extra total size. (But you will also need a set of right-side-up snapmarks to trigger GF behavior)

Like I said, nitpicks. Very nice explanation.


#10

Yep, that’s correct. What happens is the snapping routine reverts to the original that you loaded, and snaps that, leaving any additions behind on the screen where you loaded them.(I need to get that in there…it’s a good point.)

Note: that has been modified now. The program will snap additions.

Yeah, I used them that way too… on the second silverware basket. Wasn’t sure people would be interested but I can add that in another use section.


#11

Jules. Fabulous write up. You never cease to amaze me.


#12

:wink: Thank ye kindly…it’s just a few notes. (It might turn into a tutorial by the time it’s done though.)

Anything to add?


#13

Yeah, this community wouldn’t be the same without you. :purple_heart:


#14

:smile: ROFL! You are dangerous…every time I just about get to the point of deciding I’m not needed around here anymore, you drag me back in. :wink:


#15

Can’t think of anything. The issue I had was resolved and addressed in your write up…about resizing the Snapmarks.


#16

What? Never! More untrue words were never spoken.


#17

Oh so you believe @PrintToLaser but the rest of us are just whistling at the wind :wink:


#18

You’re pretty dangerous too! :wink: :smile:
(And you @markevans36301…I see you typing.)
(Don’t you think i ought to let some other folks get a word in for a while?) :slightly_smiling_face:


#19

I’d suspect that this is going to be machine dependent based upon the individual calibration of each machine.

One wouldn’t think so since it’s using the head camera to fine tune positioning but I’ve seen varying levels of accuracy dependent upon where on the bed the Snapmarks are (varying from really good to not even being able to tell that you scored the Snapmark twice).


#20

Hey folks!

Here’s a possibility that has the potential to be really cool:

(Especially for those who can draw, write or spell.)

Put jig in GF, snap. Add items to be zapped, very carefully (or add before snapping). Put artwork to be traced somewhere else in GF, Add Artwork via tracing. Move, resize, rotate etc using jig lines as guides. Zap.