The following explains how to transform an SVG vector file, of which tons with are available on the internet under Creative Commons license, into a DXF format compatible with our laser as well as many other machining tools. Programs used for the conversion are Inkscape, transforming from SVG to postscript format EPS, and pstoedit, which turns the latter into DXF format. As pstoedit relies on Ghostscript, it too has to be installed. In this case below map of the world will serve as an example for the process, and can be downloaded in SVG format from Wikipedia.

First you need to download the appropriate packages (Inkscape, pstoedit and Ghostscript) for your system and install them. We would like to execute inkscape and pstoedit from the command line and from any working directory, which offers benefits like the possibility of batch conversion. Therefore the command prompt needs to be made aware of the program locations, which in Windows 7 is done by going to "System Properties - Advanded tab - Environment Variables - System Variables - Path" and adding path to both programs to the variable in question:

C:\Program Files;C:\Program Files (x86);C:\Program Files\pstoedit;C:\Program Files\Inkscape


For clarity I saved the vector world map as "map.svg" and replace its exension through conversion steps. A number of relevant options are available for both programs, a list of which can be shown by executing 'inkscape -?' or 'pstoedit -help'. For Inkscape, options specify to avoid rasterisation by ignoring possible filters and exporting objects themselves, and to use postscript level 3 as standard. From the wealth of options provided by pstoedit, we choose to convert text to polygons (-dt) and select dxf as export format, additionally asking to use lines instead of polylines (-polyaslines) and specify coordinates in millimeter values instead of points (-mm).

inkscape map.svg -E map.eps --export-ignore-filters --export-ps-level=3
pstoedit -dt -f "dxf:-polyaslines -mm" map.eps map.dxf


After importing the DXF map into LaserCAD (File - Import) you'll be presented with something similar to below image. With hundreds of comparatively small islands and lakes included in the map, the difficulty now consists in making a selection of the features you would like to cut. Once selected, these can be dragged out of the way and all the rest can be deleted. As you can see, the African continent is currently connected to Eurasia, as is the case for North and South America, limiting the maximum size at which the map can be cut. By disconnecting these in the original SVG, you could cut a substantially larger map. I normally do this in Inkscape by drawing a line where I would want to make the cut, and then from the drop-down at the top of the screen select "Path - Division".