CAD File Prep Information

Material Saving

Laser cutters 1 and 2

AutoCAD drawings for laser cutting

Maximum cutting extents are 800mmx450mm. Always check material stocks before planning your drawings.

How to prepare your drawing file

  1. Scale the drawing to fit on the laser machine by reference or with a plot window from the Plot Setting dialogue box. A good way to start is to draw a 800mm x 450mm box on your drawing and design your components to fit within those constraints to avoid any parts being too big to cut.
  2. Explode all Blocks and join all lines into polylines to reduce the overall number lines that the computer needs to process. Typing the ‘OVERKILL’ command into AutoCad will help find any duplicate lines.
  3. Set the drawing on two layers one for cutting (Red) the other for etching (Blue). Set a red layer 1 for cutting and a blue layer 5 for etching. A White layer (Black on illustrator) can be used to for deep engraving (be aware that this can be time consuming).
  4. Ensure that all line weights are set at 0.05 (this can be changed in the selctions properties menu on AutoCad)
  5. Before outputting your drawing from AutoCAD make sure you have done the following to a drawing before plotting. Save as a .DWG or .DXF 2010 or above file format.
  6. Plot the file from AutoCad from the workshop machine when it has been checked by a member of staff.

Common Issues when preparing files for Laser Cutting

Issue: The job is appearing as Black lines when plotted despite the layering and line colours being correct.

Possible Cause: Line Weighting is wrong. Go to the line properties menu (right click) and change the lineweighting to 0.05)

Issue: Lines or objects cannot be changed to correct line weight or colour

Possible Cause(s):

1. The lines are grouped and must be exploded in order to select lines individually.

2. Objects are constrained. Remove constraints by typing ‘DELCONSTRAINT’ then apply correct line-weighting and colours to the object/lines in question.

Issue: The job preview appears blank when It has been plotted.

Possible Cause: The Job is not scaled correctly or the plot window is places incorrectly.

Scale factors for CAD software

1:1 – No Change
1:2 – 0.5
1:5 – 0.20
1:10  – 0.1
1:20 – 0.05
1:25 – 0.04
1:50 – 0.02

1:75 – 0.013333

1:100 – 0.01
1:125 – 0.008
1:200 – 0.005
1:250 – 0.004
1:500 – 0.002
1:1000 – 0.001
1:1250 – 0.0008
1:2000 – 0.0005
1:2500 – 0.0004

Applications for Laser 1 & 2

Deep engraving – Non-contact engraving & cutting – Drilling – Precision scribing – Mask production – Prototyping – Sign making – Architectural model making – Component marking – Film/overlay cutting – Textile cutting – Gasket cutting – production – Rubber stamps & seals – Membrane switches- MDF-plastics up to-12mm and plywood cutting up to 6mm.

CorelDraw files and illustrator file formats can also be used.

Bed Size 800mm x 450mm

£10 Per hour of use


Graphtec Flat Bed Plotter

This machine allows you to cut paper and thin card (only material provided or approved for use by workshop staff!) from CAD drawings. This machine is particularly useful for net shapes that can then be folded along score lines and assembled without scorching that can occur when laser cutting.

How to Prepare your Drawing File

Drawings can be plotted from either AutoCAD or Adobe Illustrator.

When using AutoCAD:

  1. Ensure the drawing is correctly scaled to fit within the maximum bed size of 900mm x 600mm.
  2. Your drawing must be on no more than two different colour layers. One colour for cut lines and one for scoring. (Colours do not matter as long as they are different for each outcome)
  3. All lines must be set to have a 0.05mm line weight (properties menu, line weight)
  4. Explode all blocks and join all lines into polylines to reduce the overall number lines that the computer needs to process. Typing the ‘OVERKILL’ command will help find and remove any duplicate lines.
  5. Drawing must then be saved as a .DXF file before plotting.

When using Adobe Illustrator:

  1. Ensure the drawing is correctly scaled to fit within the maximum bed size of 900mm x 600mm.
  2. Your drawing must be on no more than two different colour layers. One colour for cut lines and one for scoring. (Colours do not matter as long as they are different for each outcome)
  3. Lines should be basic type and the stroke set to 1 pt.
  4. The drawing is then ready for printing from illustrator.

Once your drawing is ready consult a member of staff to begin plotting.

Maximum drawing size can be 900mmx600mm

2nd year Technologies Detail Models (10)

3D Printers

Be careful here! The model is only as good as your understanding of the appropriate application of this process. Misuse is becoming increasingly common and we urge you to think about how and way you are using this process within your work.

For more information about 3D Printing models – the different types and applications please take time to read a full guide to 3D Printing at B.15 by clicking here.

Cost is calculated using completed 3D Model File in the workshop. There are no ‘overhead’ costs to any type of 3D printing at B.15. Your jobs are charged at cost of the materials alone at the price they are sold to us by the manufacturer. We are particularly conscious of the misuse of these machines and will thoroughly check your proposals before approving the use of any of the machines so allow time for this.

The machines work from .STL file format and your model must be a solid object not a collection of surfaces. To save the file as an.STL from your chosen modelling software you must export it and if given the option save as Binary.

After you scale the model we recommend that you check that objects component parts are not smaller than 1.5mm thick, anything smaller will be fragile and potentially not print properly.

Checking your files

We recommend checking your file for flaws by running it through this free online checker. You will need to sign up before being able to upload files for checking and conversion to SLT format if necessary.

HP ABS Printer. Build area 203mm x 150mm x 203mm High

Note that this bed size smaller than the same model ABS  printer located in the MMU Chatham CAD Suite. Models made to the full extents of this machine size may need to be reduced or broken up to suit the machine in B.15..

Z-Corp Powder Printer. Build Area 203mm x 253mm x 203mm High

Projet 360 Printer. Build Area 203mm x 254mm x 203mm High

2013-12-12 11.20.58

CNC Router

Operation time can vary depending on the complexity and type of CAD file used.Please consult us with your ideas before going too far into the process of modelling for this method of manufacture.

Models produced can be either profile line drawings saved as .DXF or as relief models saved as a .3DS file.

Specification Details

Work piece size: 900mm x 840mm x 90mm

Standard Cutting routers are 3mm Ball Nose, 3mm Slot Cutter, 6mm Ball Nose and 6mm Slot Cutter. 45 Degree cuts can be achieved with a ‘V’ Bit cutting tool.

Wood, Foam, Acrylic, Ureol Chemi Wood

Software compatibility/file type: 

.dxf(2D), .3ds(3D), Artcam

There is no time charge for using the CNC.

Recent Posts

‘Bearing Rome Across The Alps’ – A Brief History of Cork Modelling and its Contemporary Potential

Fig 1. Modern Cork Model of the Temple of Castor and Pollux ©Dieter Cöllen

There is very little published about the nearly lost art of cork modelling aside from a few fairly recent articles and research papers. Before being attributed to architectural forms in the 18th Century, carving with cork was a tradition associated with nativity scenes in southern Italy (Gillespie, 2017). The idea of modelling this way most likely came from a combination of convenience; cork being a common, lightweight and versatile material for quick fabrication, as much as any creative individuals desire to replicate and simply enjoy the tactile craft of making with it.

The refinement of this unusual but captivating form of modelling occurred during a great period of artistic and cultural exploration in Europe. During what could be described as the original ‘gap year’, eighteenth century grand touring took young people across the continent via the most notable and artistically rich cities. This was something of an exclusive privilege that required a significant wealth and strong will of curiosity for the unfamiliar. Everyday living requirements meant a need to be flexible in tastes both for practical and dietary comforts. On every level of perception the experience was sure to be eye opening for anyone willing to embark on such a journey.

Experiencing a new destination for the first time as a modern traveller, you would think it common place to see an abundance of stalls and shops stacked with keepsakes, often mass produced junk that are rife in tourist spots. At the time of the grand tours, this shameless ‘cashing-in’ trade was fledgling if non existent. Despite this, amongst the increasing number of visitors, there was a great desire to somehow record experiences of travelling which led to traditional and art’s and craft based methods or recording being adopted. Visitors fascinated by the large scale architecture and ruins of ancient Rome took time to draw, paint and carve what they saw in order to take some momentos home. This collective practice brought back a new vision, a blueprint of how the classical world could inform a modern British design.

As well as the grand tourists giving these crafts a go themselves there were some forward thinking artisan-entrepreneurs who began producing models to sell. According to Dieter Cöllen the originator of this method of making is commonly thought to have been Roman architect Agusto Rosa. Following his death came Antonio Chichi who produced probably the most famous cork models for sale to tourists in Italy (Cöllen, 2014). These miniature 3D sketches, copies of the classics in that moment, would then find their way back over the Alps towards Western Europe and beyond with many ending up in private collections to this day.

Cöllen, an artist and craftsman, has become the current go-to maker on the subject of cork modelling or ‘Phelloplastike’ – a work derived from the Greek word for cork. His works have gained attention around the world for their outstanding levels of accuracy and due to the specialist nature of the medium it is widely thought that his skills and experience are unparalleled in the field. Whilst these works are undoubtedly stunning pieces many have had the advantage of modern crafts tools which puts the skill behind the original 18th Century examples into perspective.

Fig 5. Richard Du Bourg Colosseum Model 1775 © Museums Victoria

Given the age of limited numbers of the surviving examples, careful conservation is essential to their preservation after many years in storage and a fluctuating relevance in society as they fell in and out of fashion. Conservator Sarah Babister states that cork models ‘were really popular at a certain time and were kept as tools to teach students. Then they fell out of fashion and a lot of them were disposed of.’ (Kate C. 2014). 

This helps to explain why there are so few examples surviving on public display. There has however been a recent recognition of the value of cork models which has led to a more conscious conservation of these pieces with the excellent reinstatement of the Soane model room and a fantastic Colosseum at Australia’s Museum Victoria.

This original 18th century model (Fig.5) was produced by British modelmaker Richard Du Bourg and thankfully spared the ‘no longer in vogue’ fate of so many of his other works. Richard Gillespie at Museum Victoria has written on the subject that stemmed from his intrigue of the Colosseum model that had sat unused in the museum stores for some 20 years. Having researched and discovered several other examples of Cork Colosseum models in European collections Gillespie concludes that separately these models had varied purposes. This is reflective of the wider, multifaceted use of modelmaking in architecture in contemporary practice.

“The [various] Colosseum models […] differed in purpose, combining to different degrees antiquarian interest, archaeological research and documentation, evocation of classical architecture and history, courtly collections, public exhibition and education, commercial opportunity – and artistic endeavour, for the carving of cork into extraordinary classical structures and architecture had a technical and aesthetic appeal for the modellers and their audiences” (Gillespie, 2016)

Using Cork Modelling Today

In current practice cork is still used on occasion by modelmakers but rarely as the sole building material as it was in the golden age of the grand tourist. Makers wanting to try their hand today can find cork in good art and craft stores in both thin sheet and block form. In sheet form it has proved popular and lends itself well to the 21st century workhorse of the workshop, the laser cutter. Over the last few years we have moved to encourage aspects of this classical method of making into some of our works here at B.15. Using files, scalpels and sandpaper it is easy and engaging to sculpt into pieces of cork often requiring the user to study the subject in greater detail than they might on passing, much like life drawing or sketching.

I recently ran a short workshop on sculpting in cork in association with the ‘What We Do Here’ film project at the European Cultural Centre in Venice during the 16th Architecture Biennale. The atelier symposium; ‘Joined Up Thinking’ presented different approaches to studying, recording and designing space. Students of MSA’s Platform Atelier were given blocks of cork with the task of recreating a detail chosen from their time exploring Venice. These sketch models allowed students to engage with the material, largely for the first time, and to think about their chosen subject in carefully considered stages due to the subtractive process.

Senior lecturer and head of Platform atelier Matt Ault explains the context of the task in his teaching:

“The ever increasing availability and access to computational power continues to expand our design capacity for conceptualising, developing, communicating and fabricating. The move towards digital craft and digital tectonics recognises the central role of materiality and materialisation in architectural design and allows the benefits of the digital to be informed by our own material understanding.

Active sketching techniques of drawing, modelling and making result in a deeper understanding of any idea under interrogation or critique.

Our recent use of the cork sketching technique in Venice is part of a design task that also comprises the complimentary techniques in modelling and fabrication: digitally exploring complex, fluid surface morphologies by defining associative geometries that can be manipulated on screen.  Design iterations can be quickly and cheaply made physical through manufacturing and assembling from paper or card with the digital plotter-cutter. Testing, evaluation and understanding of the material sketch model and its construction logic feeds back into the digital modelling to evolve the design.”

(Ault, 2019)

Despite its age as a modelling method, it was clear following this task that cork sculpting can still offer us a mode of thought that the most contemporary mediums often steer us away from. It provides a much needed tactility to students learning along with the opportunity to expand on unknown possibilities that result from “mistakes” made along the way. During the assignment the concentration in the room was palpable with everyone, tutors included absorbed in the task at hand whilst clearly enjoying the process.

The work produced, along with additional cork sketch models will be featured at the MSA end of year show presenting the cork sculpts as 3D sketches. I look forward to seeing more examples in the coming weeks.

Scott Miller 2019


Ault, M, 2019, Cork Task [E-Mail]

C. Kate, 2014. Cork Colosseum X-Ray [Online Article] Available From: Accessed 01/12/2014

Coffin, S. D. 2014. Cork for More Than Wine, The Temple of Vesta, Tivoli [Online Article] Accessed 01/12/14

Collen, D. 2013. The Cork-Models [Online Article] Available from: Accessed 01/12/2014

Fouskaris, J. 2006. Studio I – Music Stroll Garden [Online Article] Available From: Accessed 01/12/2014

Gillespie, R. 2016. Journal of the Classical Association of Victoria, New Series, Volume 29, From ‘Trash’ to Treasure: Museum Victoria’s Colosseum Model Available from: Accessed 26/11/2018

Gillespie, R. 2017. Journal of the History of Collections vol. 29 no. 2 pp. 251–269, Richard Du Bourg’s ‘Classical Exhibition’ Available From:

Mass, M. 2014. Rare Model Craft: In The Beginning There was The Cork [Online Article] Available From: Accessed 01/12/2014


Fig. 1: Coellen, D. 2013 Tempel des Castor und Pollux [Online Image] Available from: Accessed 01/12/2014

Fig. 2: Coellen, D. 2013 Natur pur (2) [Online Image] Available From: Accessed 01/12/2014

Fig 3. Sir John Soanes Museum, London, Model of the Roman circular Temple of Vesta at Tivoli, near Rome, by Giovanni Altieri [Online Image]Available From: Accessed 01/10/2018

Fig 4.  Sir John Soanes Museum, London, Model of the Temple of Zeus or Apollo (the so-called Temple of Neptune or Poseidon), Paestum Attributed to Domenico Padiglione c.1820 [Online Image]Available From:  Accessed 01/10/2018

Fig 5. Museums Victoria Collections, Melbourne Australia, Model – Colosseum, Richard Du Bourg, London 1775 [Online Image] Available From: Accessed 27/11/2018

Fig 6. Miller S. 2015, Cork Block and Sheet [Original Image]

Fig 7. Miller S. 2015, A cork sketch model by the author. [Original Image]

Figs 8 – 11. Miller S. 2018 ‘Grand Tour’ cork modelling task in Venice in association with the ECC [Original Images]

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