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.
Taking a step back to go through some laser cutter basics.
What is laser cutting, and why are we so excited about it?
As we’ll see in this brief overview, laser cutting is a relatively simple technology that makes it possible to cut or etch forms from sheet materials.
Laser cutters work in a similar way to other CNC (computer controlled) tools, however the cutting is done with a powerful beam of light instead of a sharp blade. To cut, the laser beam is focused to hit the material at a precise point, causing it to melt, burn or vaporize. Etching is achieved by focusing the laser on the surface of the material, where it will only burn or vaporize the topmost layer.
Laser Cutting is particularly useful because it works touch-free, meaning no mechanical forces or pressures are transferred to the material. This enables delicate cutting paths that can be repeated with a high level of precision, whether they are cut all the way through the material or etched as an impression onto the surface. (more…)
Leaves, MC Escher’s Rippled Surface and some sci-fi just for fun
Using a laser cutter to add physical presence to 2D artworks can be really effective, as these recent explorations from Maxime Beauchemin show. Having kicked things off with a rather elegant laser etched ATAT walker, he then moved on to more everyday ephemeral visions.
Pictured above is an acrylic replication of MC Escher’s iconic Rippled Surface print, where Maxime faithfully recreates the layered illusion of water surface, reflected trees and rippled distortion.
Turning to laser cut wood for another project, the delicate structure of a decaying leaf skeleton is revealed. (more…)
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.
When Jens Clarholm built his impressive DIY laser cutter, he was well aware of the limitations imposed by the low powered laser. While it may not cut through wood or steel, it does do a very neat job of cutting paper.
One great way he has explored this is by having a play with StippleGen2, a nifty program from Evil Mad Scientists. The program uses a special algorithm to convert an image into tiny dots. There are a number of ways to manipulate how it does this, as the calculations are repeated over and over again and the final graphic is refined. StippleGen2 is easy to use and a lot of fun.
For this experiment, Jens chose an iconic image of Louis Armstrong playing the trumpet.
After letting StippleGen2 crunch the numbers for a while I imported the resulting vector graphic file into inkscape and generated the G-code so that I could use my laser cutter to cut the image into black paper.
The cutting process took a little over 2 hours, which isn’t too bad when you consider that there are over 1000 holes in this particular image.
There is a lot more that StippleGen2 can do, so if you are intrigued by Jens’ experiment you can have a go with StippleGen2 yourself or learn more about Jens’ DIY laser cutter here.
Here at Ponoko, we are very serious about bringing laser cutting to the masses. So you can well imagine that our fingers are twitching with excitement at the potential of Sketch It Make It.
Developed by Blank Slate Systems, this clever little iPad app is all about quickly and easily generating files for digital manufacturing – particularly CNC, laser cutting and 3D printing. All it takes is an iPad, a finger to poke at the screen and an idea that is bursting to get out.
As is shown in the teaser clip above, your wobbly scribbles are magically transposed into neat geometric forms almost instantaneously. There are also a number of clever ways that the accuracy can be further refined down to a precision that will have a file ready for the laser cutter in no time.
Sketch It Make It hasn’t been made available to the public yet, but if you like what you see, sign up at the source to be notified when the app is released.
For those who need to know the phases of the moon, there are options way more satisfying than turning to your favourite Internet search engine.
This laser cut marvel was produced by Lukas Christensen as a gift for his brother, a biodynamic farmer who relies on Moon phases to plant and harvest crops.
When investigating exactly what to make, Lukas decided that merely tracking phases of the Moon would be far too easy. To add an extra challenge, he incorporated the function of showing rise and set times of the Moon. And so the Moon Machine began to take form.
Clearly no stranger to working with numbers, Lukas has included a thorough walkthrough of his process on Instructables.
Although an actual video would have been great to see, here is the next best thing – an animation of the mechanism where you can see the hand crank turning away. In real-world use, one turn of the crank is made each day.
Some of the wooden gears broke under the considerable pressure of the assembled machine at the point where forces are translated to the central planetary gear. To get around this, substitute parts were cut from aluminium.
Reflecting on the completed Moon Phase machine, Lukas has identified a number of ways to make it even more accurate should he come to attempt another version.