written and copyright (2009) under the terms
of the GNU General Public License (GPL) v3

by Thomas Haenselmann
Computerscience IV
University of Mannheim, Germany

(WinXP and higher)
(32/64 bit Linux version)
logo showing
              tages of paper modelling

What is DXF2papercraft?

Papercraft models are 3D models built from paper or cardboard. They should not be confused with Origami. Though Origami also aims at producing 3D shapes from sheets of paper, papercraft models involve cutting a so-called cut-out sheet and connecting faces using glue. It is mainly used to create solid objects with an explicit interior and exterior being completely separated by the paper.

Sometimes, papercraft models are reinforced by fiber glass and resin to obtain a rigid, resilient structure.

DXF2papercraft converts a polygonal 3D model stored as DXF file into a plain drawing in the form of a 2D DXF file. This requires to 'unfold'
the model. The result is a flattened pattern of connected polygons. All edges of a polygon which are unconnected get a so called glue-tab in addition. The tabs are numbered such that each one has a counterpart with the same number. After all pairs of tabs have been glued together the paper model corresponds to the 3D object.

DXF2papercraft is a simple command-line tool. In order to create a polygonal 3D model you need to use a so-called 3D modelling program which can export shapes as DXF file. All models on this page have been created with 'blender' which is free of charge. Then, the resulting 2D DXF file has to be loaded, e.g., with OpenOffice, scaled to fit onto a sheet as desired and printed as hard-copy. Normal paper can be used as well as tracing paper or rice paper in order to produce a
semi-translucent effect.

How to install dxf2papercraft?

If you use the statically linked version which comes with the archive, start the application from its directory on the command line (prompt) immediately.

As a first test you may want to convert one of the examples provided

> dxf2papercraft examples/mycubes.dxf testsheet.dxf

Open the resulting cutout-sheet testsheet.dxf, e.g., with libreoffice.

if you have LibreOffice installed. You can also use any other application which can import 2D DXF files.

How to compile dxf2papercraft?


The executable binary version of dxf2papercraft has been linked statically to omit problems with the dime library so you don't need any additional packages. If you want to compile dxf2papercraft from the sources you need to install libdime.

On Ubuntu or Debian the following should do:

> sudo apt-get install libdime libdime-dev

For other distributions, please use your respective packet manager. You can also compile the included version
dime_0.20091127.tar.gz from scratch:

> tar xzf dime_0.20091127.tar.gz
> cd dime
> ./configure --enable-static
> make
> sudo make install

dxf2papercraft itself is simply compiled with

> make

in its dxf2papercraft-directory.


The contained executable has been built using cygwin which you should also install for easy compilation. The zip-archive basically contains the same source files as the tgz-version with minor changes in the Makefile. You can compile your own windows executable as follows:

> tar xzf dime_0.20091127.tar.gz
> cd dime
> ./configure --enable-static --disable-msvc
> make
> cd ..
> make


Download and install Blender or any 3D modelling software of your choice which can export DXF files. Alternatively, use one of the DXF models included in the tar-archive and continue with step 3).
Create a simple polygonal 3D shape. Blender shows a cube by default. You may want to delete it in case you want to create more complex shapes.
Download DXF2papercraft and convert your DXF-file on the command line (command prompt):

   dxf2papercraft examples/torus.dxf sheet.dxf
Install LibreOffice, qcad or any other application which can display dxf files and import 'sheet.dxf'. You may have to scale the polygon mesh prior to print-out.
Cut the polygon mesh from your cut-out sheet. In addition to classical scissors as a tool, try a card-board knife and a ruler for faster cutting. Use a sheet of papers or an old magazine as underlay.
Now you need to fold the model along all edges. When using a knife, slightly slit the folding edges with the blade but do not cut through. The slitting can make the subsequent folding easier and more precise. Fold all edges of the model and of the glue tabs.
Glue tabs always come in pairs. Matching pairs can be identified by matching numbers. Depending on your type of glue used, apply it either on one tab only or on both. Glue some consecutive tabs in a row and allow them to dry for a