iPad app makes it even easier to design for laser cutting
When we first heard about the iPad app Sketch It Make It, we were pretty excited. Now that developers Blank Slate Systems have released their clever drawing app to the public, our fingers are really twitching!
Sketch It Make It is able to rapidly transform even the wobbliest scribbles into neat geometric forms, and have them ready to export for digital manufacturing almost instantly. Whether you are laser cutting, using CNC milling or 3D printing there has quite possibly never been a faster way to turn ideas into tangible objects.
Using free design software to customize a design file
For the second instalment of Ponoko’s back-to-basics tutorials, we walk through the process of customizing a design file using freely available design software. The recommended software is called Inkscape, an open-source vector drawing program that offers powerful features in an easy-to-learn format.
Making use of the same free design file introduced in part 1 of the Laser Cutting Tutorial series, this time we walk through the process of adding your own text to the laser cut coaster.
Follow through as the process is explained from downloading Inkscape through to preparing the custom file for uploading to your Personal Factory.
In just under six minutes, you will know how to:
• Download Inkscape (available for Mac or PC)
• Open a design file in Inkscape
• Customize the design file with your own text
• Prepare the file for laser cutting
Now we’re just about ready to generate custom designs from scratch using Inkscape, so stay tuned for our Laser Cutting Tutorial Part 3.
A quicker, cheaper alternative to raster fill engraving
Vector or Raster? It’s a question that has goes back to the earliest days of laser etching. Here is an interesting little exploration from the creative team over at Cuddleburrito that scores another point for the Vector camp.
Instead of using a raster fill for a job that required large graphic elements, they devised a way to create the same effect using vector paths.
This saves a huge amount of time, as the laser only needs to engrave the actual paths of the lines instead of sweeping across the entire area. There was an added bonus that the outcome has a more consistent appearance when applied on timber, because the tendency for grain variation to be emphasized (as when using raster etching) had been eliminated.
Want to know how they did it? Click through to the source to find out…
Teaching kids how to build their own mini making machines
Designed for a workshop series that introduces kids to building their own motor controllers, the Sphere-O-Bot is a simple 2 axis CNC machine that can draw on small spherical surfaces. Suggested target spheres include ping pong balls, eggs and even golf balls are apparently worth a try.
There is a thorough tutorial on Instructables that will take you through the thinking behind the laser cut wooden design, and show just how to put it all together. Files are included for the laser cut structure as well as specs for all the hardware required to get the Sphere-O-Bot up and running.
This fun project was uploaded by Juan, a Maker Corps intern at the Children’s Museum of Houston, who says:
“By building your Sphere-O-Bot using a laser cutter, you can achieve a clean look while also reducing the production time of your parts. This design also features an electronics bay for your wires, micro-controller and motor drivers.”
Helpful advice on how to get started with the Ponoko Personal Factory
For those who have always wanted to give Ponoko a go but are not sure where to start, this training video shows just how easy it is to produce your own laser cut designs.
In a little over ten minutes, Josh talks through the process of using Ponoko, and highlights a small project that makes a great starting point to help you feel your way with the Ponoko Personal Factory.
The material overview covers felt, cut and engraved bamboo, leather, 3d objects assembled from laser cut acrylic, and laser cut plywood. There is also advice on which materials are the best to get started with – and how to avoid common ‘beginner’ mistakes.
Then it gets to the good stuff – a neat little demo of how to actually make your very first product. The walkthrough explains how to use Inkscape to create a file that can be uploaded to Ponoko for laser cutting.
Starting with the Ponoko P1 template, Josh quickly whips up a collection of forms that use both laser cutting (for outlines) and laser etching (for surface details).
The upload process is then explained, with useful tips on how to check your files are correct and also how to order multiple copies of your design. Next comes material selection, which reveals some very useful information – how much it will cost! You’ll see that it’s really easy to switch to another material and see the price adjust accordingly in an instant.
The video wraps up with a few more handy design tips to be sure you start off on the right track.
Sound like fun? We think so. Watch the video, then dive right in!
Using a laser cutter to make a speaker casing with style
When Chilean designer Francisco Sahli needed to take his tunes on the road, he decided the best way would be to make his own stylish bluetooth speaker.
Many makers turn to laser cutting to build enclosures for their electronic projects. What sets this example apart is the departure from the usual boxy laser cut forms, with the result looking much more like a manufactured product.
Rather than the usual slotted laser cut corners, Francisco achieved a smooth radius and angled faces by laser cutting timber profiles and then laminating them together.
The final assembly was then carefully sanded by hand, before three coats of paint were applied. You can read all about the construction process, see the laser cutting paths and find out what’s inside to make the bluetooth speaker work its magic on Francisco’s website.
Space saving portable design takes laser cutting on the road
Here is another interesting DIY laser cutter project, this time featuring a novel departure from the standard construction we are used to seeing.
Instead of running within a constrained space, the compact laser cutter has an arm that swings out in a format reminiscent of the RepRap 3D printer.
When the laser cutter is in use the arm opens up to 90 degrees perpendicular to the box and the laser head runs along it.
The main structural elements are made from aluminium extrusions, and there are a few custom CNC milled and 3D printed components to fill in the gaps and connect other off-the-shelf parts.
This looks to be a novel way to build a laser cutter that you can take on the road with you. No more heavy equipment fixed in place in the workshop… just be careful not to set it up on your grandma’s favourite coffee table!
For more info, including a thorough photo essay of the development process behind the fold-out laser cutter, click through to the source.
Running interesting laser cutter experiments is one of the things that Just Add Sharks does best. In this exploration, they have addressed the question of how to break away from the mortice and tenon joints that have become so familiar in laser cut projects.
By creating a laser cut jig that holds the material at a specific angle, they were able to cut edges that can fit together in a manner that is clean and precise. No more stepped blocks and slots! Here is what the jig looks like:
Much easier to achieve than modifying the axis of the laser cutter itself, this jig provides a firm support to a pre-cut panel, and does not require any other machine modifications. The angle of the cut can be controlled by altering the vertical supports.
“Manually changing the angles like this is tiresome so the next sensible upgrade would be to build an ‘any angle, any material thickness’ jig for the same purpose, but that is a job for another day.”
The Just Add Sharks blog has an overview by Martin Raynsford that talks through a few of the considerations that led to the first successful cut. Having proven that it can be done with standard perpendicular joints, they adjusted a few specs on the jig to produce a icosahedron, pictured below.
Giving 3D form to desktop cutting projects. Next stop, to the laser cutter!
Already well established as the gold standard for bringing super-simple 3D construction to the DIY masses, Autodesk 123D has announced an exciting partnership that goes one step further. They’ve teamed up with Cricut, the guys responsible for desktop electronic cutting machines that induce equal measures of desire and envy amongst Makers and Crafters.
The collaboration features a new series of easy-to-assemble 3D DIY projects including dinosaurs, rocket ships, creatures and homewares that are all geared towards owners of the Cricut machines.
Now, while this is a clearly targeted partnership that brings the clever slicing technology of 123D Make to users in the Cricut community, it is also a welcome reminder of the resources that are readily available and can be easily incorporated into your laser cutting workflow. (more…)
L-CHEAPO conversion kit brings laser cutting to the masses
Imagine turning a desktop 3D printer into a laser cutter without compromising its printing capabilities. That’s what Matteo Borri from Robots Everywhere has done, and the L-CHEAPO laser cutter attachment is now the focus of a wildly successful Indiegogo campaign.
Capable of cutting 3/16″ wood and 1/4″ acrylic on any hobby grade 3D printer or CNC mill, this clever little attachment runs off the existing machine’s power supply and software environment. Once the attachment is set up and configured, in a matter of minutes you can swap back and forth from laser cutter to 3D printer functionality.
“you can switch from laser to printer mode and vice versa in less than two minutes, with no tools”
Why would you want to do this? For one thing, laser cut parts tend to be much tougher than the thermoplastics used in 3D printers. This means the scope of making possibilities is significantly widened, all from the one machine.
Matteo is looking out for the little guys with this project, with the goal of making laser cutting accessible to those who might otherwise be hindered by the substantial initial investment that is traditionally associated with purchasing a laser cutter.
“I hope that this allows high school shop classes, small universities and local hackerspaces to be able to work with a wider variety of materials and techniques”
He also promises that there are larger, more powerful lasers in the works. It will be interesting to see what the big brother to L-CHEAPO is capable of.
The 3D printed component is available to download fromThingiverseand you can head toIndiegogofor further info and project updates.
Here’s a little extra, just for fun. Proving that he is serious about his DIY laser cutting prowess, Matteo uploaded this geekily amusing clip of the Tetris theme song, as played by an L-CHEAPO laser cutter in action.