Photo Aug 31, 6 57 32 PM

Designed by Brian, manufactured by lasers

I have been mak­ing 3D prints on the MakerBot for almost a year now (see my posts tagged MakerBot for more detail) and have always wanted to try doing things with a laser cut­ter, but felt intim­i­dated.  First off, to actu­ally own a laster cut­ter is a pretty big invest­ment – like a brand new lux­ury com­pact car invest­ment.  There are shops around that offer laser cut­ting ser­vices, but because they typ­i­cally cater to indus­trial design­ers that know their stuff and not home hob­by­ists, going that route did not seem com­fort­able.  TechShop opened in Portland, which was promis­ing, until it quickly closed.  But more recently, online ser­vices like Ponoko have made laser cut­ting much more appeal­ing to the home hob­by­ist.

There are two things that make Ponoko less intim­i­dat­ing, and more appeal­ing, than try­ing to find a machine shop with a laser cut­ter.  First, they offer up free (and paid, too) designs to down­load.  These allow you to look at sam­ples that other peo­ple have designed and learn from them.  You can just send one of those off to be printed if you really just want expe­ri­ence on the print­ing and mate­ri­als side, with­out stress­ing out too much about the design.  Second, their upload ser­vice per­forms some qual­ity eval­u­a­tions of your design.  It checks for basic design errors and gives you an instant esti­mate.  Add to those things a great com­mu­nity — blog, forums, and com­ments attached to designs — and you have an invit­ing place for laser cut­ting.

My “Hello World” design was half some­one else’s and half mine.  I started with a basic bam­boo coaster holder plan.  Someone else designed this, but they designed it for a mate­r­ial thick­ness that Ponoko no longer offers.  I had to down­load the file and make some basic tweaks to the hole sizes so that the pegs would fit.  I felt this was a nice and sim­ple task within my cur­rent skill level.  (And it was.)  The other half of the project was a set of four coast­ers to fit in the holder.  I designed these from scratch, though they are even eas­ier.  They take a heavy line for cut­ting the cir­cles, and a lighter set of lines for engrav­ing.  I used shapes that I had on hand for the etch­ing designs: the Sakkara Clothing & Costume logo and a few Unicode ding­bats: a cir­cled open cen­ter eight-pointed star (❂), bio­haz­ard (☣), and cof­fee cup (☕).  The results turned out pretty well.  And the burnt cork still smells like the wood-burning kit I had as a kid.

Posted in: Projects

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