Laser Cutter Adventures

Laser Cutter Adventures

Our assignment for Fabrication this week was to make something on the laser cutter. I decided to take this opportunity to combine projects, and build a housing for my physical computing assignment as well – a lantern that responds to vibration.  Though I’d gone down to Canal plastics and bought some Acrylic already, I’d found some images of light being able to shine through an etching and decided to make this out of wood. I didn’t accomplish this part, my etching isn’t deep enough but I think the housing turned out nice overall! Even if the PComp part doesn’t quite work the way it should (yet!).

I used the laser cutter for our last assignment but only to make simple 2D cutouts. This time around I would have interlocking pieces to deal with and wanted to make sure I’d designed all of my components to fit together correctly. Cardboard was handy here – I have plenty of it and it’s free.


All of my pieces cut cleanly…


They all fit together…


And my tiny breadboard fits inside!

But because the cardboard is easily compressed, it isn’t exactly the same depth of the birch I’d chosen so I wan’t positive all of my tabs would end up flush. My piece of wood also had a slight bow to it which I was warned might affect my cut. And it most certainly did.

Before that could become a problem however, I had to deal with my issues getting the size set up correctly. Despite saving my document on the template and thinking I’d changed the size correctly, for some reason my print would cut off too early.


I had to run through this a couple times to figure out how to fix it and this piece just became scrap.

After getting my etching correct, MOST of my pieces cut out ok. But I had to make many passes (deleting the completed ones out of my document as I went along) and after a certain point I just stopped and accepted that this particular one wasn’t going to come out and it wasn’t worth burning the wood or having everything shift around on me.

I swapped out this board for a different one, changed my document to include only the one piece, and it came out cleanly in an easy couple of passes.

With all of my lantern sides printed, it was easy to assemble (which is great), but a little too easy because nothing fits snugly. The back is supposed to be easily removable but I’ll have to glue the rest together which is fine but not ideal.

I also wanted my etching to be deeper but was hesitant to keep running the “deep” preset on the printer. What is deep?? I think I’ll try this again later with some test etchings and fiddling with the presets to see how far I need to go before light can shine through without the laser ruining the wood.