Rhino3D work flow (.svg we don't need no stinking .svg)

Longtime lurker, first time posting. Just got my GF up and running and man, what a trouble shooting adventure this has been…

This is for all you Rhino3D users out there. Seeing how support for .DXF and .SVG exports from Rhino is either non existent or does not work, here is what I came up with.

First things first, start a new file in what ever measurement system you use, you need to establish layers with appropriate colors according to the engrave/cut order you want to follow. Information can be found in this thread.

Edit: Color really does not affect the order, the layer positioning is the determining factor, so keep that in mind. Top down will be first operations to last.

For the sake of not having to click, here are the values

0 0 0 1 black
0 0 255 2 dark blue
0 100 0 3 dark green
0 100 255 4 navy blue
0 255 0 5 bright green
0 255 255 6 aqua blue
100 0 0 7 brown
100 0 255 8 purple
100 255 0 9 lime green
255 0 0 10 red

Once you have all your layers with the correct colors, save this as a template

Use this template when ever you are going to be transferring your designs from Rhino to Glowforge.

Now import or copy-n-paste your file into the new template, this is a super simple test file for illustration purposes only. By default, it will import the layer structure from where you brought it from.


Okay, “Select All”, and “Change Object Layer” to the first layer in the list. Now delete the layers that were imported.


You should have something like this.

From here now move all the objects to the layers you want Glowforge to create the features. For instance, if you want an engraving pass to be the first thing, then move the object you want to engrave to the first layer. If you want the object to be the last thing the laser does, say cut the final outline, move it to the last layer. As you can see, I have the black features listed first, and the read outline listed last. When you import into the GF database, this will become apparent.

Note: If you have what I call “nested” objects that create a feature you want to engrave, you need to use the “Hatch” function, to create a filled area. In this example, I have used two rectangles to create a wide outline on the part. If you just leave these as rectangles, GF will only recognize these as rectangles and not the outline you want to achieve.

Create this Hatch on a different layer

Next, turn off the layers that you are not using, or you do not want as part of your GF operation. Empty layers will not affect the output.

Now “Select All”, or just select the features you want GF to work on. You want to “Export Selected”

Then “Save As” a .PDF!!!

Yes, a PDF…If you didn’t know, pdf files contain vector information along side raster information. With Rhino, it will save the vector information.

SUPER IMPORTANT!!! Set your scale to 1:1, if you do not, the import will NOT be the size you created in Rhino.

Now import your .pdf file into the GF interface…



By default, GF will “see” all the features as “cut” features. But HEY!!! Look at the operation list, all these features are listed as individual items, so you can apply different attributes to these…how freaking cool is this!!!

Remember that “Hatch” layer…well, here it is, gonna convert that to an engraving pass…

In this case, I am converting two of the passes to engraving passes…the other two (last two on the layer list) I will leave as “cut” passes…

Keep in mind that if you have overlapping engraving passes, the final pass will have a deeper engrave pass where they overlap.

All said and done, I have two engraving passes, two cut passes (cut hole first, then outline second)…


Sixteen minutes…are you freaking kidding me?!? lol (Okay, HD engraving, with 450 LPI step over, it’s gonna take some time…

Okay…so some explanation to the long cycle time…it sees each layer as a single pass of the laser…If you take the time within Rhino to create your features (say the first two engraving passes, as one object) it will reduce cycle time. Reason being, it will run the first engraving pass separately from the second engraving pass, and NOT combine the two.


Good lord…blessed be the vodka gods… :wink:


In progress





Yeah, so there you have it…exporting from Rhino with a little bit of prep will let you sleep very well at night

Many thanks to @marmak3261 for the color separation/order of operation sequence.

I hope this helps those that are using Rhino3D like I do to use their GF more efficiently.


*note - Using PROOFGRADE material in this tutorial, if you are using other materials results may vary…


Additional notes:
You can use a plethora of colors. Each one will be a new/separate operation in the GF app. The color order will set an order just the same for all…however many colors 255255255 nets you.
Once in the app, you can click, then drag and re-order the operations as you see fit on the left side if need be. The color order only sets up the import order. Can be very useful when sharing as a standard. :slight_smile:



Agreed, for me, its much easier to establish this in Rhino, that’s just how my mind works, but once imported into GF, one can easily rearrange the order of operations.


Absolutely great contribution. I was afraid the days of great tutorials were passed. I don’t use Rhino but if I did, I’d be very thankful to you for this.

@Jules, can we get this into the matrix, please.



Thanks man, I truly appreciate the comment.



Based on your comment, did a little bit of testing…color really plays no factor with Rhino. Layer position is the determining factor. Ill edit the post.

Side note: Killer puzzle…

1 Like

Interesting…I wonder if it’s a pdf vs svg layering trait or something else entirely…

1 Like

Really good work.

1 Like

Really nice and a great write-up.

1 Like

Its gotta be some attribute within the PDF file that references the layering in Rhino. PDF’s do support layering in Acrobat Pro


I use Rhino to generate all of my files, so this is great. I will have to give it a try.
- Quick questions- When you were setting up the template you started with inches as the units? Also was there a specific size you made the dimensions of the grid, or did you just leave that as the default?

So far I have been creating files in Rhino, keeping each operation as a separate layer. When I am done, I select all the objects I want cut/engraved and do a Export Selected and then export as an .AI file (Adobe Illustrator) Its an extra step, but I can open in Illustrator and save as an .SVG which I can upload to the app. This could save some time for me. Thanks!!

1 Like

Yes, I work in inches for design, but this should also work regardless of the units you use. I used the default grid in Rhinos “Small Objects - Inches”, I have a different template with a custom grid size I use for most of my work.

From what I have gathered, the PDF file should not care about what measurement system you use, it does care about the layers. Since you are already doing that, it should eliminate a step for you.

Just be sure when you export, you export at a 1:1 scale. Rhino defaults to the scale as last seen on the monitor.

1 Like

Thanks for the info, nice write up to must be the last name…

lolz…quite possibly…


At the very least, we have a bad ass crest… :wink:

1 Like

Terrific! I’m forwarding to Mark, our CTO - he’s a rhino guy.

1 Like

Hey like that one i like this one two


Thank you!!!


Hey there everyone. New Glowforge user here (but experienced laser cutter user). Being an old dog who didn’t want to learn new tricks, I found this thread helpful so that I could continue using Rhino for my laser cutting needs. However, I’ve hit a bump in the road. When using hatches to engrave, the Rhino to PDF conversion is turning hatches into a mesh or something. The attached image illustrates my dilemma. Has anyone else come across this, and if so, how do you deal with it?


I use Rhino for all of my designs as well. Export your art as a DXF. Open it in Illustrator and edit it as needed. Then save that as a PDF.

Thank you so much for your response. Shortly after I posted I tried the dxf route, and imported in inkscape, then saved as an *.svg. That worked like a champ with the exception that it suddenly engraved quite a bit deeper than prior tests. Since I don’t have Illustrator, and am completely inept with it anyway, I’m trying work other arounds.

However, last night I was trying out something else and I couldn’t get inkscape to open the dxf, despite fidgeting with multiple export settings. Ulitmately, I downloaded a free PDF creator (since I’m on a brand new computer I only had the Microsoft PDF printer which for whatever reason doesn’t have the capability to create custom page sizes). This worked to get me cutting, but this particular test did not involve engraving, so I don’t know if this different pdf creator handles hatches differently.

Glowforge team, if you’re listening, we Rhino users would greatly appreciate the ability for the Glowforge to read *.3dm file formats in future firmware updates. For what it’s worth, and you may be aware of this already, but McNeel & Associates (makers of Rhinoceros 3D), are also based in Seattle.