Upcycling Flat Scraps with Open Source Tools

If you have some type of device that cuts like a CNC milling machine or a laser cutter, you’re probably generating a lot of weird-looking scrap. Most of us hate throwing anything away, but how do you plan to use all those weird shapes? [Caddzeus] has an answer. Using a camera and software, he accurately digitizes the shapes into a usable form in the CAD package of his choice.

The process involves setting up targets of known dimensions that will appear in the photograph. This allows the photo to be taken without worrying too much about the distance to the camera or the angle.

Using GIMP, he adjusts images to remove perspective. He then brings the image into Inkscape where he can scale and trace the shape precisely.

There are step-by-step instructions – including videos – but if you know how to use these tools, you can probably figure it out for yourself. This technique would also be useful if you wanted to get an overview of something you intend to mill or cut in your CAD program as a reference. We like to do this with a laser cutter so you can outline something you’re engraving or cutting on a piece of paper before you start and easily align the part to the laser.

Of course, a small part might give up its image to a conventional scanner, and you can use a similar technique to adjust the scale. If you start using Inkscape a lot, you will need more plugins. You never know what you might build out of the odds and ends.

About Debra D. Johnson

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