In digital fabrication, nesting is the process of orientating parts effectively within a stock material or boundary box, whether it be with a laser cutter, CNC router or other method. A good designer takes time to nest their work efficiently as there are many positive outcomes to be achieved from investing time into this process.
Firstly, a group of parts spread across a sheet of material will mean that a whole sheet will be used in their production. If the same parts can be moved closer together, less material will be used that can be recycled for another job. If you are using the Laser Cutting and have multiple sheets, this will save you cut time and money if you can reduce the number of sheets your require. If you're using the CNC Router or Metal Laser Cutter this will lead to a cheaper job as the material cost is calculated on area used.
Tighter nesting of geometry will also mean that the machine has to move less distance in total to process your parts resulting in less cutting time incurred.
Parts that are similar in shape may be able to be joined together (and may even tessellate) for fabrication. This reduces the total amount of cut lines in the project which will result in shorter cutting time and lower final project cost.
This method of nesting is specific to the laser cutting process and is not applicable to CNC routing.
Nesting efficiently can become a little more challenging when working with materials where surface properties are directional. For example, if you are cutting from plywood, you may want grain direction to orient a particular way on the final assembly.
If this is important, check the material you intend to use to ascertain the orientation of the grain and add a quick marker in your digital file to remind yourself of this fact while nesting.
This technique is applicable to any process, laser cutter or CNC router, where textures or grains might be apparent.