The Ultimate Guide to Laser-cut Box Generators

71,996

141

40

About: I'm a Kiwi, a maker and a Dad of four kids with a passion for good design, wood craft, technology, and laser cutters.

Tabbed, or "finger-jointed" boxes are one of the most versatile things you can make with a laser cutter - the possibilities really are endless. However, getting the right box for your requirements is not always easy and often entails lots of post-generation modification, plus how do you choose which tool to use? Are better ones available?

There are a bunch of commercial tools that can be used to create laser cut box plans, but I'm not going to cover them here. I'm pretty passionate about laser cutters and in this Instructable I'm going to show you some free and (mostly) easy tools to create boxes of all shapes and sizes. Above are photos of some of the useful things I've created with modifications to simple box designs (I'm planning on writing short Instructables for each soon).

Full disclosure: I am the maintainer of a tiny bit of Open Source called Tabbed Box Maker (pretty original, huh?) which is a plugin for Inkscape, forked from the original Tabbed Box Maker by Elliot White - http://www.twot.eu/111000/111000.html. I believe my plugin is the most advanced laser cut box generator for Inkscape, and I'd be absolutely ecstatic if you used it, but I'm also very keen to hear what else is out there and I'd like to keep this Instructable as a master reference for all things box-generator related. So if you know of something I've missed, ping me in the comments below and I'll add it to the list!

Here's a list of all box makers I'm aware of, and a comparison of each:

Inkscape plugins

  • My Tabbed Box Maker - Comprehensive and easy to use box generator with lots of features:
    • Adjustable kerf
    • "Hairline" line thickness adjustment for Epilog lasers
    • Ability to cut 6, 5, 4, 3 and 2-faced "boxes"
    • Ability to quickly configure slotted internal divisions, both X and Y
    • Includes a Schroff case generator (Thanks to John Slee)
    • (new) Internal divisions can now either be keyed into the box sides or removable
  • Original Tabbed Box Maker
    • As above with fewer features, another virtually identical fork is here.
  • Another fork of Elliot White's plugin with neat "living hinges"
  • Box Maker - A good solid box maker featuring:
    • Adjustable kerf
    • The ability to create "press-fit" tabs, either slightly rounded or trapezoidal
    • Configurable number of tabs for each edge
    • Can create a tight 0-kerf plan to use minimal material (but joints will be loose)

Web-based generators (NO additional software installation required)

  • Makercase - basic boxes only
  • ConnectionLab - basic boxes only
  • MakeABox.io - basic boxes only
  • Jerome Leary's box generator - a fairly well-featured box generator that includes some interesting options, including a frame, box dividers (one direction only), and truss style supports for lightweight boxes.
  • Festi Boxes.py web interface - a web interface for the Boxes.py library below. Lots of different parameterised box types available (thanks @ffesti for the tip!)
  • Joinery - (Instructable here) is a very cool looking online tool for taking regular un-jointed SVG designs and applying joints of all kinds to edges - not just straight edges or box panels, and not just finger joints: it can also make suitable joints for laser cut fabric, cardboard and paper! NOTE: This tool is designed for adding joints to existing non-jointed plans and shapes, not for building plans from scratch.

Scripting languages (for the more adventurous)

  • Box-O-Tron, a T-Slot box script for Python
  • Parametric box modeller for OpenSCAD
  • Festi Boxes.py, an amazing set of scripts that allows you to do some very advanced parametric designs for both basic boxes right through to virtually ready-to-use products, including:
    • Boxes in various shapes and with various lids
    • Boxes using flex cuts with rounded corners and living hinges
    • Type trays with and without outer walls and floors
    • Book covers with flex spine
    • Magazine files, and more...

Shortly I'll be posting another Instructable with further instructions and pictures on how to install and use my box plugin, and examples of the sorts of boxes it can create. Follow me to be notified when it's published!

Share

    Recommendations

    • Trash to Treasure

      Trash to Treasure
    • Gardening Contest

      Gardening Contest
    • Arduino Contest 2019

      Arduino Contest 2019

    40 Discussions

    0
    None
    jonafellow

    15 days ago

    Just wanted to say I had been equivocating about how to make LED boxes for an upcoming exhibition and had spent way too much time looking at commercial prefabricated options when I stumbled upon the article and hey presto in under 30 minutes I have designed and downloaded the exact boxes I need using the festi tools. I was close to giving it all up so really from the bottom of my heart can't thank you enough, especially as this was my first use of an Instructables article. Oh and BTW I'm an artist and just joined up but there is no category for artists in your demographics. Just a thought that you might want to make your data that bit more of an accurate reflection of your users. Thanks again!

    1 reply
    0
    None
    SparkItUpjonafellow

    Reply 14 days ago

    Hey jonafellow, thanks for your comment, I'm glad it was useful for you. Like most of the content on this site, this article was written by an Instructables user (me), not Instructables owners - they aren't monitoring comments and I can't do anything about changing demographic options as I'm just a user like you, but perhaps if you contact Instructables directly about it they might be able to change it for you.

    0
    None
    EvanescentBodyArt

    Question 19 days ago on Introduction

    Is there any chance you'll create a version of this plugin for LightBurn?
    I could easily do the work in Inkscape and then port it over, but it would be so much better to have a dedicated plugin for LightBurn instead.

    3 answers
    0
    None
    SparkItUpEvanescentBodyArt

    Answer 19 days ago

    Would LOVE to get the tabbed box maker rewritten, especially as a plugin for LightBurn. Two impediments: I don't use LightBurn yet as my controller (Leetro) isn't supported. That should be remedied in a couple of months when I plan on swapping it out for a Ruida. Second problem is that last I checked LB didn't support plugins (there's a suggestion asking for it - could be some time coming though). I can think of several tools I could build if it did have a plugin architecture. Watch this space.

    0
    None
    EvanescentBodyArtSparkItUp

    Reply 18 days ago

    LightBurn doesn't have an ability for plugins. However, they are working on making it so that you can run Python scripts. I'm not expecting it anytime soon. They are working on it, but it is slow going.

    0
    None
    DieterK12

    Question 9 months ago

    I wanted to download the tabbed box maker for inkscape, but I don't know how to make the files download from Github. help

    1 answer
    0
    None
    SparkItUpDieterK12

    Answer 19 days ago

    So sorry for the long delay replying. It's been a very busy year for me I've just recently moved countries, and in recent months I haven't even had much time to do my favourite pastime, laser cutting!

    In case you haven't worked it out yet, you need to click the green "Clone or Download" button near the top right of the page. Then click "a download Zip" on the window that pops up.

    Extract the contents of the zip file when it downloads, and add it to the Inkscape extensions folder. This is inside the Inkscape program folder, wherever you installed it, eg. C:\Program Files (x86)\Inkscape\share\extensions

    If Inkscape is open you need to close it completely and open again, then you should find the extension in the Extensions > Laser Tools menu.

    Good luck!

    0
    None
    AndreasR47

    Question 2 months ago on Introduction

    I just installed Inkscape and your plug in. But when I try to generate the layout, I get the message "Error: Tab size too small". What am I doing wrong?

    Tabbed_Box_Maker.png
    1 answer
    0
    None
    SparkItUpAndreasR47

    Answer 19 days ago

    Sorry for the delay replying. All your settings look ok, did you work out what the issue was? If so, head on over to my GitHub page and log an issue so I can keep track of it. Thanks!

    0
    None
    MattP193

    2 months ago

    Do you have the files for the card boxes to share? They look awesome!

    1 reply
    0
    None
    SparkItUpMattP193

    Reply 19 days ago

    Sorry for the delay, I just moved countries and things are still very busy. I don't mind sharing them but don't have time just yet to get that organised. PM me to remind me in a month or two and I'll let you know when they're available.

    0
    None
    Kiteman

    11 months ago

    Wait, this project has been on the site for well over a year - how did I not see it??

    Thanks, Spark!

    2 replies
    0
    None
    SparkItUpKiteman

    Reply 11 months ago

    Thanks Kiteman! I need to update it, I've found even more projects on GitHub since writing this.

    0
    None
    KitemanSparkItUp

    Reply 11 months ago

    Cool - I'll look for the update!

    0
    None
    TerryR36

    Question 11 months ago

    Hello!

    I'm trying to utilize the Festi Boxes utility in Inkspace but for the life of me, I cannot figure out how to generate the .inx files! I'm using a Mac running 10.11.6 (El Capitan). I copied the downloaded files into a separate directory and attempted to run setup.py, but all that happens is a Terminal window opens and nothing happens. Any ideas? I've checked the documentation where the Inkscape instructions are detailed, but I'm not understanding them clearly because I do not appear to be running setup.py correctly.

    1 answer
    0
    None
    ffesti

    2 years ago

    Boxes.py now also runs as an Inkspace plugin. The code is still pretty fresh. Comments and bug reports welcome.

    2 replies
    0
    None
    _mpo_ffesti

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you for your work. How do I have to install the plugin? I saw your work on GitHub. But I don't understand how i have to install the plugin in inkscape. Does it work with inkscape 0.92?
    thx