Shape packing for laser cutter goodness

November 4, 2015

— Gabe Johnson

Today we're releasing a new feature that expands cutfile awesome mode that will save you time and money. We call this feature shape packing, and while that's an apt description, it does a lot more than that.

Say you want to cut this:

... on a 24x12" sheet of plywood that looks like this:

Zotebook will now pack everything together tightly into your cutfile, so you don't waste material. Since you can now tell Zotebook how big your material is, it creates a PDF file that is exactly the right size, so you don't have to post-process in another program.

You can also tell the shape packer where the material has damaged areas. Just drag to draw some rectangles, and the shape packer will avoid those areas:

Now the shape packer has everything it needs. Press the button and it gives you a cutfile that has all the shapes arranged nicely around the damaged areas:

So: what used to take 10 minutes now takes 10 seconds.

How awesome is that?

Answer: very awesome. Of course I am biased :)

Like I said above, this feature saves you time and money, letting you focus more on iterating your designs.

From my personal experience doing things the old fashioned way, I tend to get a bit cranky after spending what seems like all afternoon manually laying things out in Illustrator. Which translates into impatience... Either I waste time arranging shapes by hand, or I waste money by taking the easy out and use a new sheet (or rotate my somewhat used sheet to a pristine corner like I apparently did with the example sheet).

Either way, I'm wasting precious resource while becoming frustrated at the same time. Not bueno!

We estimate that by using Zotebook's new shape packer, on average:

  • You get 30% more from each sheet of material.
  • You save about 10 minutes per fabrication run.

Can I try?

Answer: of course. You can get the Zotebook iPad app on the App Store. To generate cutfiles, you'll need an account with

And if you're a librarian, student or educator, Zotebook is free for the 2015-16 academic year. That's the subject of our next blog post.

Previous: Group Mode for sharing sketches

Next: Zotebook is free for academic use through June 2016

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