Designing & Laser Cutting A Box With Inkscape

This past week, we were given a grand tour of the Fab Lab on campus. The Fab Lab is a Maker Space available to students and people within the community. Plentiful of technology are provided at the lab including: work spaces for 3D printing, BioHacking, electronics, sewing to name a few. They offer workshops, summer camps for children, and open hours for you to kick start your projects.

During the next 3 weeks, we will attend different workshops to learn programming, designing, electronics assembly, and more. By the end of the workshops, we will be able to put together an electronic box that can light up depending on certain movements in the environment.

I took part in the designing phase this week, where we used open source software Inkscape to add special features for our box. As a vector graphics editor, Inkscape can also be used for many other purposes, such as sticker designs and creating logos. Using, we added parameters as inputs and were given a laser cutting file in .PDF. The file served as a template for our box, which we imported into Inkscape. The shape tool allowed us to add holes and squares to our box template, which would later be used to connect the electronic hardware.

Then, we selected b&w image files online and imported them into the software to rasterize. Once our designs were completed, we sent our files to the laser engraving machine to watch the magic unfold. Our designs from the computer screens were being engraved onto the piece of wood. Another project that was being worked on at another laser machine was an intricate puzzle piece.

Different laser cutters have other properties that allow you to engrave in glass and metal. More complex and intricate designs require more time and high degree precision. In addition, there are machines out there that can cut textiles in a cost efficient way saving resources and time. Small laser cutters & engravers run from a few hundred dollars, while larger machines run in the thousands price range.

I cannot wait to see the final product that will be made with my own two hands. The Fab Lab is a great resource and environment to experiment ideas and learn new skills; I definitely recommend checking it out along with other makerspaces in your area!

Week 5: Brainstorming with Passion

This week we began to brainstorm for our semester projects. We started the class by splitting into our groups and began coming up with different possibilities and outcomes to solve problems. Our group used a top-down approach in which we started with a big picture and broke the problem down into smaller pieces. Firstly, we picked out what our target audience would be (students, mainly high school and college). Then, we analyzed what type of problems that students faced (bullying, time management, stress, mental health, etc.). Using such categories we analyzed what the underlining cause of these problems was and what were some common and generic ways to fix them. Through that, we came up with some complex products that we might want to design for such issues. Our innovative products were not quite tangible and definitely too hard to build at our current level. Personally, I believe that our ideas were too broad and too complex. I believe that going forward, our team needs to pinpoint a SPECIFIC and simple problem. We need to keep in mind that though it would be amazing to solve BIG problems, we are not here to solve the world’s problem, but just a little bit of our lives.

After all the groups (using approximately 20-30 minutes) finished their brainstorming, we came up with “How can we” statements that formulate a problem so that it could be tangibly solved in the future. We went back to the lab to present our ideas to the rest of our classmates. Then after all the groups presented, one person from each group was randomly chosen to critic another group’s ideas and give them suggestions. Olivia listened to our pitch about time management and a possible design and gave us several suggestions to make it better and more plausible. The presentation, as well as critiques, were very helpful because our group did have some trouble forming tangible and plausible ideas so listening and seeing other groups kind of gave us a better idea of how we should think.

Recently I read a Forbes article and I started to ask myself questions such as, “Will our design really solve a problem?” or “Will people ACTUALLY buy this product?” or even “Am I really passionate about this problem?” These questions really hit home because honestly, some of the problems that aroused were not things that I was really passionate about and I was quite hesitant about using some of the problems. Furthermore, I realized that the indecisiveness of not minding what type of project we would do really took a toll on what our possible outcome or ideas were.

I never realized how difficult it was to come up with tangible and plausible ideas were. This class has definitely been pushing me to be a better version of myself, starting with becoming less indifferent with what type of project we should do.