Tag Archives: makerspace

Fab Lab and Laser Cutting

This week I went to the Fab Lab that we have on campus.  I never realized that this place existed, but I am so very glad that I now know of it. I plan to visit it later this week to create customized stickers for an organization that I am a part of! The FabLab is opened to the public and is a space that encourages people to be makers and try out different techniques and processes.  With the wide range of tools being offered, I worked with the universal laser system X-600.

The goal was to make a customized wooden box that would use the system mentioned above. But, first I needed to create and design the different parts of the box on a software known as Inkscape which is a free and open-source vector graphics editor similar to Adobe Illustrator. As any new software, it took some time getting used to it, but it wasn’t too difficult! For my box, I wanted it to capture the highlights of my senior year. I also wanted to test how well the laser would would construct the details of a digital photo image that I took. I included that image on the bottom of the box for safe measures. Next, I needed to transfer the design to the laser system software, select my material as well as brighten the digital photo for better quality.  I placed the ply wood into the system and then began the laser process.  I was really impressed by how the final product came out and I am pleased with the overall quality of the shadow box.

One thing that I did noticed when the plywood was being lasered, was the small fire that emerged from time to time. I wondered if this was problematic with the system or if it is considered to be hazardous.  I found out that laser safety standards are well established and relatively harmonized internationally. And that those standards establish four broad classifications of laser safety for products. The classifications range from Class 1, in which the laser energy is fully contained within the laser system and the operator is not exposed to any laser energy, to Class 4, in which the laser system does not have containment provisions and the operator can potentially be exposed to high levels of laser energy.


Final Project

Ultimately, we have decided that for our final project we would like to incorporate 3D printing into window farms. We would like to create a window farm that uses various sensors and a micro-controller to sense its environment and adapt accordingly. After doing some more research,  we would like to work with vertical hydroponic gardening systems. These plants do not use soil to grow but rather use mineral solution nutrients. I am very exciting for our project and I am looking forward of the development of it.

That concludes my blog for this week,

Thanks for reading!



Laser Cutting & Conductive Thread (Week 7)

This week, our class met at the Fab Lab and learned how to laser cut wood and how to sew conductive thread into fabric. Unfortunately, I was sick this week and was not able to attend. Therefore, for my weekly reflection, I’ve researched these two activities and will share what I’ve learned.

Laser Cutting Wood

I am not sure which laser cutter the Fab Lab uses, so I researched a little bit on the machines themselves. Makezine published an article called A Guide to Buying Your First Laser Cutter, which talks about how laser cutters are popular in maker spaces and guides you through the first steps of buying one. A laser cutter can power through many materials with consistent, high precision. This is something drag knife cutters, paper cutters, and vinyl cutters can’t do. And while a CNC router may be able to make the cut deep enough, it cannot do it with precision. Laser cutting requires some design on the computer before printing – just like 3D printing. The laser operates much like the print head in a 3D printer. In fact, MakerBot, Printrbot, SeeMeCNC, Ultimaker, and many other companies started out producing 3D printers made from laser-cut parts. Epilog and Full Spectrum are popular brands for individuals buying their own, smaller laser cutters.

I’ve found that Illustrator’s Pathfinder and Inkscape are popular software programs used to design laser cuts objects. The two pictures below are screenshots of the programs. This website takes you through everything from setup of your laser cutter to designing on Illustrator. It is an article specifically targeted towards makerspace laser cutters.

Conductive Thread

I found an article literally titled Sewing With Conductive Thread, which is very helpful considering that’s exactly what one group learned in class this week. Conductive thread carries current like wires can, so it can be used like a circuit if arranged the correct way. With this thread, you can create a flexible circuit that requires no soldering. There are many types of thread with conductive metals in then, but you should know what size and give you want your thread to have before sewing. 2-ply silver-coated thread is small enough to be threaded in a sewing machine and fine enough to allow fabrics to hang normally. Another popular material for thread is stainless steel.

I know how to sew both by hand and machine, and it looks like sewing with conductive thread is not much different. I’ve read a few warnings about how the ends can fray easily and how the thread is not insulated. It is recommended that thick fabric, fabric paint, or electrical tape be used to cover the thread. You should be very careful not to create a short circuit, which can lead to heat, smoke, scorching, or smoking. Sewable components like LilyPad, Aniomagic, and Flora lines are available to purchase and are made from printed circuit board (PCB).

I’ve used a laser cutter before, so I hope to learn more about conductive threads in class next week (if I get to choose my rotation). I think both of these are important skills to know in the makerspace. I can see immediate uses for laser cut prints and products, but the I believe the application of conductive thread lies in the future where we all have wearable electronics. I’m excited to see how conductive thread will be included with fashion and tech in the future.