Fitting all of your laser cut parts so that they squish into the least possible area on your laser cutting template can be tricky. Most of us will approach this by trial-and-error, manually shifting objects around until it ‘looks about right’. While this will save a bit of laser time, with complex designs the process can be laborious and you can’t really know whether the layout you have chosen is the best possible solution.
That’s where clever software such as Jack Qiao’s SVG Nest can really come in handy.
What is SVG Nest?
Rivalling powerful (and expensive) commercial options, the freely available SVG Nest uses all the computing muscle your browser can throw at it to come up with the optimal layout for your laser cutting. By grouping all of the elements within a defined area, the geometry-driven genetic algorithm is able to find the best fit by first setting the largest shapes, and then working in the smaller objects around them. It gets really interesting when there are many many design elements, and also when the objects to be sorted are all of a similar size.
Here’s an example using laser cut lettering:
Why is this useful for laser cutting?
As we’ve previously outlined in the Top Ten Ways To Reduce Laser Cutting Costs, how you position your designs on the Ponoko template can really make a difference to your laser cutting pricing. One of the reasons for this is that the laser head has less distance to travel between each part, and as you are paying for laser time, minimising travel is an immediate cost saving. Another consideration is the material cost itself – minimising material wastage will also save you money. As an added bonus, being thrifty with your resources can make you feel good too!
For more information about SVG Nest head to Jack’s GIT repository, where you can also see a demo of the software in action. Just be warned, it is seriously CPU intensive so those on mobile devices might want to wait until they’re sitting in front of a harder hitting machine before trying it out.
In recent years, the boundary between art and engineering has continued to blur with scientists and researchers turning their formidable minds toward traditional craft techniques. The results are starting to get quite exciting, with surprise breakthroughs such as the Japanese origami-inspired ‘zippered tube’ featured above demonstrating that there is still much to learn about how we use familiar materials.
This example highlights a novel process of combining thin flexible sheets of material that have precise cuts and folds in them. The location and combination of these elements enables the material to become rigid when assembled in specific configurations, gaining structural integrity far beyond the original material’s capacity.
The research that developed this construction technique emerged from a collaboration between University of Illinois grad student Evgueni Filipov, Georgia Institute of Technology professor Glaucio Paulino and professor Tomohiro Tachi from the University of Tokyo.
“…we’re starting to see how it has potential for a lot of different fields of engineering” – Evgueni Filipov
Filipov and his colleagues focus on an origami technique known as Miura-ori folding, where a tube is constructed from two precisely folded ziz-zag strips. Individually, the strips are highly flexible but when combined the resulting tube has a remarkable rigidity and controllable degree of compression or folding.
What does this mean for Ponoko users? While much of the focus in the origami research is currently centered around potential uses in architecture and for space exploration; many of the options from the Ponoko Materials Library would be a great fit for this approach to assembly and construction.
With the smooth geometry of a classic arcade machine, the Photon Printer 3D printed laser engraver is a tiny technological wonder. Built as a DIY project by New Zealand engineer Stephen Brockett, the fully functional etching machine was put together using selected DVD burner components and just a few purchased items to fill in the gaps that could not be 3D printed at home.
In part, the project was made possible by salvaging the impressive innards of a standard optical drive, but don’t let Stephen’s modesty fool you… there are a lot of other clever design decisions that kept the total build budget at just $20.
“Optical media drives are actually pretty amazing, they have linear rails, stepper motors, lead screws and even end stops inside them… They’re pretty much an entire axis of a CNC machine ready to go!”
Keeping a healthy respect for the laser at the heart of the machine, a number of safety features were built into the Photon Printer. Nifty inclusions made possible by 3D printing like a roller shutter and angled rear vents (to stop reflected laser light escaping) can be seen in the video below.
The whole journey is fully documented on Thingiverse where it has sparked up a spirited discussion from other makers using the detailed instructions and downloadable files to print out their own versions. Perhaps you could even build on this design further using the Ponoko Personal Factory…
As a spectator, it may appear like 3D printers are getting closer than ever to being as easy to use as a desktop inkjet printer. For those who have purchased (or indeed built) their own 3D printer over the last few years, you’d know that this is not the case. There is a lot of tweaking, upgrading and also patience required to get this amazing technology up and running in your own home.
Scott Hanselman plunged into the world of 3D printing and has published an hour-by-hour account of his first two days (16 hours of ‘working’ time) with the Printrbot printer. It’s an engaging tale of triumphs and woes, with much useful advice for others who may be wondering whether to purchase a printer of their own in the near future.
I’ve been using this printer now for basically 16 total hours over a few days, so we’ll call it two days. I went through a number of emotions over this last two days an learned a TON, some about the Printrbot Simple Metal specifically, but also about 3D Printing in general.
Click through to read the full account and discover why Scott’s concluding thoughts are positive and optimistic about the future of home 3D printing.
How to nurture creativity for the digital makers of the future
For many of us, learning coding simply isn’t fun – but perhaps we’ve gone about it all wrong. Two former Google employees (who also happen to be Dads) saw a way to make learning coding languages fun for kids, and their solution has gathered quite a following on Kickstarter. They call their learning system Bitsbox, and as you’ll soon see, there is more to the bits than just what’s in the box.
We don’t teach our kids how to read and write so that they can be novelists. We teach them those skills so that they can be happy, so that they can be successful in whatever path they choose.
Bitsbox operates both online and as a subscription-based service that delivers boxes of coding projects in the mail to kids every month. Within minutes, kids are able to create apps that can run on a real device. The magic of the monthly deliveries is that they will keep kids hungry for more; and excited to engage with newer (and more challenging) projects as they become increasingly proficient with their coding skills.
What excites us at Ponoko is that these children will become the next generation of creative software designers and digital makers. This means that we can well and truly expect the 3D designers and laser cutting makers of the future to totally blow our minds.
This was much easier than it may otherwise appear thanks to the interactive setup at jsfiddle.net, a fantastic resource that some refer to as a ‘playground for developers’. Here is a screenshot of the number crunching that makes Maxime’s lamp possible:
Applications now open for the next Fab Academy Diploma
Applications are now open for the fifth edition of the Fab Academy Diploma, the main educational program of the Fab Lab Network.
For five months running between January and June in 2015, participants will find themselves immersed in an advanced digital fabrication program directed by Neil Gershenfeld of MIT’s Center For Bits and Atoms. The diploma is based on MIT’s rapid prototyping course, MAS 863: How to Make (Almost) Anything, and operates as a worldwide, distributed campus where Fab Labs across the globe become classrooms and libraries for a new kind of technical literacy.
Learn how to envision, prototype and document your ideas through many hours of hands-on experience with cutting edge digital fabrication technology.
Take note of the following important dates if you think this sounds like a great way to supercharge your creativity and productivity in 2015:
October 6th, 2014 – November 20th, 2014
November 21st, 2014 – November 31st, 2014
December 1st, 2014 – December 10th, 2014
January 21st, 2015 – May 27th, 2015
A list of participating labs can be viewed here, and more information is available on the Fab Academy website. Applications are open… apply now for the 2015 course!
How 3D printing went from pipe dream to your desktop
When Ponoko was founded back in 2006, we envisaged the third Industrial Revolution, where consumers of the future can download and make products at home. The road to distributed digital mass production was paved by the pioneering work of stereolithography inventor Chuck Hull and transformed once again with the rise and rise of MakerBot, to name just a few.
In a fantastically comprehensive article over on Digital Trends, the full history of 3D printing has been laid out in detail.
3D printers are all the rage with enthusiasts, but they didn’t just materialize out of nowhere like the sculptures they produce. Here’s the untold story of how the next big boom in technology came to be over 30 years.
It’s a fascinating story where dreams become reality and the stuff of science fiction enters our daily lives. We have seen this first-hand, with over 400,000 custom products produced online via Ponoko’s global network of digital making services.
Click through to Digital Trends to learn how other key influencers have helped shape the strange past and seemingly impossible future of distributed digital mass production over the past 30 years.
Brad Hill is the creator behind LittleRP – A DLP projector-based resin printer that can be put together for as little as $499.
Brad set out to create a printer that was open, flexible and affordable. Rather than using proprietary resins, the LittleRP is designed to use as many different formulations of UV curing resins as possible. By focusing on smaller, higher quality prints, the LittleRP is able to provide high accuracy while keeping costs low.
The flexibility and low cost helps explain the explosive popularity of the LittleRP’s Kickstarter, which passed it’s funding goal of $25,000 is under 24 hours. As of this writing the LittleRP has raised over $98,000, just under 400% of it’s original goal!
The LittleRP works using a process known as 3D stereolithography, a 3D printing process that uses light-sensitive resin and a high intensity light source to build a 3D object, layer by layer, rather than using spools of plastic filament as on a majority of 3D printers currently on the market. You can check out the LittleRP in action on it’s Kickstarter Video: