Lazer Vision

Rather than our normal location in the BIF, the class ventured over to the FabLab. Once all the stragglers found their way into the lab, Jeff Ginger took the class on a brief tour. Most students had previously heard about the lab because Jeff, the lab’s director, was our guest speaker in Week 3. My tour experience felt like somewhat of an information overload having missed that class. I didn’t have any time to be awestruck however.

Clinton, the lab assistant, began showing me how to design a box for the laser cutter. I was glad to be in Clinton’s group because I love the smell of burnt wood. I was confident I would be able to design a box without trouble after tinkering around with Fusion360. Inkscape, the laser cutting software we were using, turned out to be more difficult. I struggled to measure the box to my liking, despite the simpler Inkscape software interface. Part of the reason I think I had trouble with Inkscape is that I was designing in 2D. Spatial reasoning has never been one of my strong suits, and I had to picture assembling the pieces of the box in my head.

The box design included a wooden base, 4 sides, and a cloth lid that would be fastened by a frame. The laser cutting machine cut these pieces from a single sheet of wood. The speed and precision of the cuts were astounding. Furthermore, the machine has another lower temperature setting for engraving. I placed the Chelsea logo, my favorite soccer team from London, on the largest face of my box. The machine seamlessly switches between its two different lasers and carved the components of my box in no time.

Total cutting time for each box was less than 15 minutes. While we were waiting for a cut to finish, Clinton made a point about how much faster laser cutting would be than 3D printing a box. In class our focus has often been on 3D printing, but this moment showed me that other digital making methods can excel in their own ways. Using the appropriate technology for your projects can end up saving you both time and money.

I didn’t have time to physically assemble my box due to time constraints (hence the lack of pictures). I was shocked that the wooden joints could naturally be joined without any adhesives or nails. This technique reminded me of past readings about construction and furniture manufacturing techniques that don’t require any materials other than wood. I dug deeper into some woodworking techniques and discovered that our boxes are held together by the aptly named box joint. If you are interested in other woodworking techniques without any fasteners, you should check this out.






Leave a Reply