Exporting DXF from EAGLE
for use with Silhouette Studio

by Cathy Saxton
Posted September 10, 2012

This page documents the original process that I used to get data from EAGLE PCB design software to a DXF format that Silhouette Studio would understand. I am not using these steps any more, having found a better way, which is described in the section on Cutting Mylar for Solder Stencils on my Silhouette Cameo page.

The DXF export from EAGLE uses "blocks," which need to be converted to "polylines" for Silhouette Studio. I have successfully used TurboCAD and Alibre Design to do that conversion. Steps are below.

One note about DXF: it appears that it does not encode an indication of units. EAGLE supports exporting as either millimeters or inches. Silhouette Studio assumes millimeters. (TurboCAD assumes inches, although it can be changed via settings; Alibre Design prompts for a unit.)

Exporting DXF from EAGLE

  1. Open the board file.
  2. Make sure that the Pad and Cream layers are displayed.
  3. Verify that the cream areas are the size you want. I find that having cream and pad the same size works well for the cutting plotter. (For laser cutters, the cream area needs to be inset because of the kerf of the laser.)
  4. If the cream areas are not the correct size, run the DRC to adjust the cream layer. (In the Masks tab, set the Min and Max values for Cream, e.g. to 0.)
  5. Turn off all layers except Cream.
  6. File/Run, dxf (or in the command bar: run dxf).
    (Edit the file location / name if you wish.)
    Uncheck "fill areas" and "use wire widths."
    Leave units as mm.

Converting DXF Blocks to Polylines

Use your favorite CAD program to load the DXF from EAGLE and convert the "blocks" to polylines. There are many options for programs to do this, you just need one that supports reading DXF files with blocks. Steps for doing this in TurboCAD or Alibre Design are below. Other programs should be similar.

In TurboCAD... (Deluxe v10.0)
  1. Open the DXF from EAGLE.
  2. Not necessary, but useful if you want to verify size: Options/Space Units, metric.
  3. Select all.
  4. Format/Explode (this converts blocks to polylines).
  5. Set Brush Pattern to None (no need to mess with layer or pen color, style, or width).
  6. Save as DXF.
  In Alibre Design...
  1. Use File/Import (not File/Open); set File Units to millimeters when prompted. (The imported file is shown in the drawing module.)
  2. Select All.
  3. Edit/Explode Symbol (this converts blocks to polylines).
  4. File/Export, AutoCAD 2007 DXF.

Solving Issues with Importing DXF

Since originally posting this page, I've heard from a couple people who have also used the Cameo to cut solder stencils. Travis from Sensorium Embedded shared these steps for generating a good DXF from TurboCAD Pro v18.1. Using the steps above created a DXF that imported into Silhouette Studio with only three of the four sides for each rectangle. This is the sequence that Travis used to get a DXF file that displayed and cut correctly in Silhouette Studio:

  1. Open the DXF from EAGLE.
  2. Select all.
  3. Modify/Explode.
  4. Modify/Join Polyline, Finish.
  5. Select all.
  6. Modify/Explode.
  7. Modify/Join Polyline, Finish.
  8. Select all.
  9. Modify/Explode.
  10. Save as DXF.

Travis explained, "I'm honestly not sure why I have to repeat, but all the above steps are necessary to output correctly."

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