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At Big Blue Saw, we get a lot of DXF files from our customers, and some of the file sizes are just too big. Sometimes even simple designs can result in huge file sizes, making them inconvenient to store, e-mail, load into CAD programs or use to get a quote in our online quoting and ordering system. Let's look at problems that bloat file size and how we can slim down the files so that they're more managable.

First, keep in mind that there is a certain amount of overhead associated with the DXF file format. This overhead varies based on the DXF version used. The DXF format originated with AutoCAD, the granddaddy of all 2D CAD software. As AutoCAD added more features with each release, the file format changed. Versions of the DXF format are named based on the AutoCAD version where they were first introduced. Some popular versions include R12 (AutoCAD version 12), R15 (AutoCAD 2000, the 15th relase of AutoCAD), and R32, from the 32nd release of AutoCAD, AutoCAD 2018, the latest as of this writing. (All of this also applies to the DWG file format as well.) In general, the newer DXF formats have more overhead, meaning that the files eat up more storage.

Consider this simple 8 inch square, drawn in QCad. Let's see how the various DXF versions affect the size of the file when it's saved.

square r27.dxf

When saving as an R12 DXF in QCad, the file size is 17,392 bytes. Saving as an R27 DXF, though, balloons file file size up to 101,172 bytes, a 5.8x increase.

We have some custom tools that we use internally at Big Blue Saw to manipulate DXF files, and using those, we can strip the file down to a puny 469 bytes!

But that's not always the whole story. Take a look at the design below, again made with QCad. The internal holes are made using the spline tool.

test1r27.dxf

QCad lets us save as both an R12 DXF and an R27 DXF. Here are the file sizes for both versions:

 Version  Size
 R12  176,226 bytes
 R27  136,518 bytes

Unlike in the previous example, the R12 file is actually much larger.

Let's take a closer look at what's going on. If you zoom in on one of the irregularly shaped holes you can see that the spline has been turned into a series of small lines.

test closeup

This is because R12 and earlier DXF versions do not support splines directly. So QCad, like many CAD tools, converts these splines into tiny lines in order to approximate the true shape. With all of these lines, the file size increased dramatically.

Again, at Big Blue Saw we have a tool we use internally which can turn both splines and curves made of many segments into smooth circular arcs which are compatible with the R12 DXF format. You can do this manually by drawing arcs on top of the shape in a new layer. After running this tool, the file size is only 61,851 bytes, less than half size of the R27 version with the splines. The image below gives you an idea of what the arc segments look in the updated file.

test closeup smoothed

Another common source of file bloat comes from tracing bitmap (AKA raster) images to vector format. If we use an automatic tracing tool on the raster image below, we can produce a DXF file.

trace test The DXF file that results from the trace is 15,752 bytes.

Again, if we zoom on the details in the design, we can see that it's made from hundreds of tiny segments.

traced close

Replacing those segments with smooth circular arcs brings the file size down by half.

traced close smooth

The resulting file is just 7600 bytes.

There's one final source of file bloat I want to show you: unused blocks. Here's a file sent to us by a customer (slightly modified to protect the customer's design). 

excess blocks.dxf

This simple design clocks in at a whopping 7.3 megabytes. It's not made up of a zillion tiny lines like in the previous examples, either, just a simple curve at the top and 3 line segments. So why is the file size so huge? Opening the file in QCad gives us the answer.

show blocklist

There are hundreds of unused blocks in this design. Fixing the file size is a matter of deleting the unused blocks or copying the visible design and pasting it into a new file. (A similar problem can occur with unused or invisible layers as well.)

This reduces our 7.3 megabyte behemoth to a much more managable 16,042 bytes.

multilayout1

This is the sale you've been waiting for: 1/8 inch aluminum 6061.  This stock doesn't go on sale often, but is wildly popular when it does. Aluminum 6061's combination of high strength, light weight, and low cost makes this a sale not to be missed. Simply place your order online for waterjet cut parts Monday, November 20 or Tuesday, November 21 and you will automatically receive a discount.

If you've never used our service before, this is a great time to start turning your designs into custom parts. 

Questions and Answers about Big Blue Saw's Sale On 1/8 Inch Aluminum 6061

  • What is on sale?
    Custom parts from your designs made using waterjet aluminum 6061 alloy in 1/8 inch (0.125" or about 3.2 mm) thickness. Low-taper is not on sale.
  • How much will I save?
    Orders as small as 1 part will automatically receive the quantity 10 discounted price. The dollar amount depends on the design and quantity ordered. 
  • How can I order with the sale price?
    Just upload your design to our online quoting and ordering system, and check out through the website shopping cart. You will automatically receive the discount price when placing your order. No need to use coupon codes or other tricks.
  • I don't have a design. How can I make one?
    Use your favorite CAD or vector image software. If you don't have this kind of software, check out our list of free or low-cost alternatives. Or read about how to format PNG and GIF files for use with Big Blue Saw.
  • I didn't hear about your sale until just now and don't have time to get my design ready. When is your next sale?
    Sign up for our mailing list to get early notifications about the next sale.
  • I have special requirements for shipping, secondary machining, or rush processing my order. Can I still get the sale price?
    To get the sale price, orders must be placed through the website. So typically we cannot accommodate special requests for sale parts.

Remember, this sale ends Tuesday, November 21, so get started by uploading your designs now.

Here's a heads-up for those of you who like custom parts and saving money. Starting Monday, November 20, and running through Tuesday, November 21, Big Blue Saw will be having a sale on waterjet cut parts made from 0.125 inch thick aluminum 6061. Note that this sale is only 2 days, so you'll have to act quickly once the sale begins.

Don't wait until the last minute to finish your designs. Get ready now by uploading your CAD files to our online quoting system.

foreceps

Magnified Lab Solutions provides advanced tools for histology: working with living tissues under a microscope. As you might imagine, working with things on a tiny scale requires precision equipment. Magnified Lab Solutions' process for manufacturing high quality, feature packed foreceps begins with Big Blue Saw. We use their CAD design to waterjet cut the stainless steel blanks which ultimately become finished instruments.

foreceps cad

They do a lot of specialized work to finish their foreceps from the waterjet cut blanks we provide. Matt Sabater gives the rundown on all the skilled work they do to turn the blanks we create into finished products:

Starting from the water-jetted forceps blanks we variably work harden them. We like the tips and spring zone to have a different level of hardness then the forceps body. From their we move to initial finishing operations (removing burrs, marks, etc.). We use a custom manual press brake to perform the bending operations. Next the forceps move onto secondary finishing (graining, polishing). The most difficult part is maintaining dimensional symmetry throughout the processes (really just a careful eye and a steady experienced hand). Final steps are etching logos, shaping the tips, passivating, and inspection. Most forceps are just stamped and forged from two separate blanks. To do it from a single blank and add bending and work hardening to the mix is when craftsmanship really comes into play.

There has never been a better time to get started using Big Blue Saw to turn your designs into real parts. Starting Monday, October 16, Big Blue Saw is offering discounts on our waterjet cutting service. During the sale, parts made from 0.1875 inch thick (that's 316 or about 4.8 mm) aluminum alloy 6061 will automatically receive a quantity discount. Just place your order on our website to receive the discounted rate. Orders as small as 1 part will automatically receive the quantity 10 price, saving you as much as 75% off.

Image © Steve Brown Photography CC-BY-SA-3.0

These parts are cut using a waterjet cutting machine, a system which uses a high pressure stream of water and garnet particles controlled by a computer to manufacture your parts from solid sheets of material. Big Blue Saw uses waterjet cutting to make parts for everyone from the garage inventor to the biggest corporations. Here are just a few of the things we've made:

3D printer frames Head gaskets
Animal cages Heat sinks
Arcade game joystick mounts Industrial controls
Bicycle dropouts Industrial HVAC equipment
Business cards Kite fabric templates
Computer casemods Knife blanks
Control panels Lighting fixtures
Costumes Machining fixtures
Dashboard panels for airplanes and airplane simulators Motor mounting brackets
Dashboard panels for cars Motorcycle dogbones
  Movie props
Desk nameplates Nixie clocks
Drain covers Oil pipelines
Electronic bus bars Painting jigs
Electronics enclosures Prop replicas
Fighting robot frames Rope belaying devices
Fine art Signs
Fireworks control panels Sporting goods
Fixtures for science experiments Stencils
“Free energy” machines Test tube racks
Gears Trophies
Go kart frames Ventilation registers
Ground straps Video monitor brackets
Guitar capos Wedding cake toppers
Guitar frames Wheels
Guitar pick guards Windmill contactors
Handles  

 

If you're ready to have your designs turned into real parts, this sale is a great time to get started. Hurry, remember that the sale ends on Wednesday, October 18. Upload your parts now to our online quoting and ordering system.