At the Rocklin Mini Maker Faire this past weekend, I spent a lot of time in the sewing lab, and was able to gain some confidence in working through the sewing process. Diane Carlson (Sociology) and I have been working to develop a collaborative quilting activity for our Making Social Change class, and one thing we’re really interested in is using the laser cutter to cut fabric. As it happens, I had an appointment yesterday morning with Mark Boguski (Ceramics and Ceramic Sculpture, Sacramento City College). Mark works in clay, and whenever he’s in the lab we end up brainstorming different ways to combine technology and other production processes traditionally associated with the studio arts; for instance, our recent experiment with multi-part stencils. I was sharing with Mark my interest in using the laser to cut fabric, and showing him Tinkercad, and in particular its *.svg export functionality. In the process of poking around, we found a Japanese prefecture generator, and decided to use that as the basis for our experiments.
Mark set up a few prefectures, after which we exported the file, opened it in Illustrator, made the tweaks required to prepare the file for the laser, then fired up the machine:
I’m not sure why, but I was surprised that it worked as flawlessly as it did. No scorching, no fuss, just crisp, clean, viciously accurate cuts.
Not sure what Mark plans to do with them – we talked about collage, and about dipping various things in clay slip and then firing them – but we’ll certainly cut some fabric as part of Monday’s Making Social Change class.
In Making Social Change today, we talked about Zapatistas and the Chiapas conflict, and the role of symbols and murals and art in political and social movements. Based on social justice issues important to them, students then created stencils using Stencil Creator and cut them out of card stock using the laser cutter. They spent the rest of the class spray painting their stencils on a makeshift gallery structure Diane Carlson (Sociology) and I created out of leftover metal shelves and an old scaffold that’s been out behind the Innovation Center for a decade or more.
The Innovation Center has been collaborating with folks from FLC’s Career and Technical Education (CTE, soon to be just Career Education) department on a lobby sign, and after some conversations about possibilities, we were able to very quickly come up with a few scale conceptual models.
Brandon (student) has woodworking, mechanical engineering, and CAD skills, so he has taken responsibility for the project. One of the challenges Brandon is working through is scale. The largest stock the laser cutter can in our shop can cut is 18″ x 32″, but the final sign will be much larger than that. We’ve got something of a machine sharing arrangement with FLC’s Theater Arts department (the folks with whom we collaborated on the aquaponics project), and Brandon was able to get some time on their big ShopBot. Here’s some work in progress at scale…
…and here’s where the project stands now.
Brandon rigged up some temporary LEDs while we figure out a more permanent solution, and the whole thing will be polished up and stained before installation. It’s turning out to be a great example of the power of rapid prototyping, project-based learning, and of providing students with meaningful challenges related to materials, design, and fabrication.
Max Mahoney (Chemistry) and I worked on a mechanical automata project this morning. Our long-term goal is to create laser cut wooden versions of the various mechanical mechanism building blocks in the beautiful book Karakuri: How to Make Mechanical Paper Models that Move by Keisuke Saka. To get a sense of what the design and development considerations might be, we decided to start with a Thingiverse search, and found Simple Machines – Geneva Stop (CC BY-NC-SA) by Zombie Cat. A few minor adjustments to the layout, and we cut the parts out of 1/4″(ish) hobby plywood. We ended up having to tweak a few of the parts to fit the dowels we had on hand, and we made a few slight modifications to the design based on the differences between the vector files and the thickness of our plywood, but overall it’s a great design and turned out pretty well for our first automata.
The rest of the afternoon was spent working with Nicole (student and Innovation Center staffer) on a stencil for organic chemistry. Max hung around finishing the automata, and answered a few technical questions as Nicole and I worked through the layout in Illustrator. We tested the first prototype, and decided that the various cut-outs representing the bonds needed to be scaled up a bit. Below is version 2, including Nicole’s beloved chicken in the lower left hand corner, and a fancy star on the right.
The design finished and tested, we cut the final version out of acrylic. Success!
Earlier this week, Diane Carlson (Sociology) and I held a preview event for Making Social Change, our Sociology + Making course, as part of FLC’s Social Justice Spring events. We decided to create some drop spindles and spin some yarn, based on an activity Erica Tyler (Anthropology) developed as part of last summer’s Making Across the Curriculum faculty professional development program.
We cut the whorls using the laser cutter (which has been christened “Danger Scissors”)…
Note the engraved design, inspired by Gandhi’s spinning wheel. Diane cut the dowels using a good old-fashioned chop saw…
…after which she and Erica taught us how to turn wool into yarn.
We also walked students through some other digital fabrication techniques, using the same spinning wheel motif source file to create objects using the Carvey, vinyl cutter, and 3D printer. Looking forward to helping bring this course to life in the fall!
Max Mahoney (Chemistry) and I have been working on version 2 of some UV LED boxes for use in a cyanotype photography activity. We’ve been talking about these for a long time, so it’s nice to finally get to building.
Each box will have three 10 watt 380 nanometer UV LEDs arranged on a piece of aluminum bar stock. We were able to build up the prototype in about a day, working out some of the details about the access hatch, and the arrangement of the lights and so forth.
We also used the new laser to engrave one of the side panels.
Today Nicole (student) helped out mass producing three additional boxes (for a total of four).
As it turns out, these LEDs get HOT, so we brainstormed some fan arrangements, and settled upon a design. We quickly developed a diagram using Illustrator, running a paper prototype on the laser to ensure that our measurements were correct before engraving and cutting the final piece out of 1/4 hobby plywood.
Looking forward to getting these buttoned up and in use at the end of the week!
The laser was installed yesterday, and while makerspaces are more about culture, community, and possibilities than they are about machines, this thing sure is a sweet machine. 🙂
Following the install and orientation, we spent the better part of the day cutting, engraving and scoring wood, paper, and acrylic. Once we got the hang of it, CJ (student) and I decided to push the machine with a test cut through 3/4″ pine.
Ryan and Rick (foreground above) assure me that this much flaring is normal, especially with material this thick (and without air assist, which we’ll probably be adding as funding permits).