Name cutouts are a simple way to personalize a gift and further customize your project. Plus, they're always fun gifts for loved ones. With some milling knowhow and the power of your versatile, precise Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine, you can take control and make them yourself.
In this example, we turned the name “Merlin” into an SVG file using InkScape, imported into Fusion 360 as a sketch, added a keychain hole, and then extruded into 3D. We then created and exported toolpaths for use in the Bantam Tools Desktop Milling Machine Software.
The following provides an overview of the steps we took and assumes you have prior experience with InkScape and Fusion 360. If you're just starting your journey, we’ve put together a series of articles on CAD and CAM, including a primer on Fusion 360 in the support section of the Bantam Tools website. We also touch on InkScape in our dog tag engraving tutorial and in our SVG workflow article.
Start in InkScape
Download and open InkScape, a free, open-source, vector graphics program. This is where we'll do the bulk of the creative 2D designing.
Start by creating a document that has the same dimensions as your desired stock size. In this case, our desired stock was one of our colored aluminum dog tags.
Next, we found a nice font that has connecting letters. After all, we want the final cutout to be one piece.
Type out the name, then convert the type to paths (Path > Object to Paths). This allows us to modify the edges a bit using the pen tool.
This is also the best time to draw connections between letters, or between parts of letters where there isn’t already a connection. We did that for the dot on the lowercase “i” in “Merlin”.
When choosing a font and drawing paths, be mindful that small, skinny parts can be a challenge to reproduce when working on a small scale. The same goes for sharp inside corners.
The last step in InkScape before saving is to combine everything into a singular path (Path > Union). This makes life easier when moving into 3D in Fusion 360. Save your file as an SVG.
Note: The 2D work can be done in Adobe Illustrator as well. You can also do the 2D work directly in Fusion 360, but font support is still being refined and polished.
Move on to Fusion 360
Next, open Fusion 360 and start a new project. The first step is to create a sketch in the dimensions of our stock in Model view. This allows us, in later steps, to create the 3D model in the correct size.
When sketching the dog tag stock, also create a circle the correct size and distance from the edge. Those measurements were obtained from the physical dog tag using digital calipers.
With the template done, make a second sketch for the cutout. You can import the SVG file using the “Insert SVG” command in Model view.
Next, we add a circle for a keychain ring using the sketch tools in Fusion 360.
With the sketch complete, the last thing we do in model view is make it 3D using the Extrude tool in Fusion 360. We chose to make it 0.6 mm in thickness—a little less than a penny and thinner than the dog tag stock. This setting will leave color on only one face, while the other face is the nice silver color of bare aluminum. It also means we can use smaller end mills, getting finer detail, without having to worry about the end mills shouldering out and breaking.
We talk about that briefly in our video that covers how to prevent broken end mills.
With the 3D model complete, we create our toolpaths in the CAM view of Fusion 360. For this project, we wanted color from the dog tag stock to be on the front face of the cutout, so we arranged the 3D model with the front of the cutout on the underside of the stock.
The first cutting operation is the facing pass, cutting the dog tag down to our desired thickness. The second operation is a circular cutout for the keychain ring circle. We were able to use a 1/8” flat end mill for both.
We planned on doing contour passes around the outside edge of our cutout to, well, cut it out. To get the detail we wanted and at the size we wanted, we knew we’d be using a 1/64” flat end mill. To minimize the stress on the 1/64” flat end mill, we played it safe and set up a contour pass with the bigger 1/32” flat end mill first. We programmed it to leave just a small portion of material behind. The 1/64” flat end mill would then be used on a second contour pass to get all the detail that the 1/32” would miss.
After running a brief simulation in Fusion 360, we exported each toolpath in G-code for use in the Bantam Tools Desktop Milling Machine Software.
Open the Bantam Tools Desktop Milling Machine Software
Next, load each toolpath into the Bantam Tools Desktop Milling Machine Software, define the stock size, adjust for our mounting tape thickness, and begin milling, following the on-screen prompts. Our total mill time was about 20 minutes accounting for tool changes.
This basic project has a lot of potential for customization! If you make a name cutout, we'd love to see it. Tag us on your social posts with #bantamtools and @bantamtools. And if you have any questions, we're always here to help at firstname.lastname@example.org.