Day 67 @ ITP: Intro to Fab

Assignment #3:
Make something with the laser cutter.

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Today I went into ITP to try out using the laser cutter for the first time ever. First I stopped by Canal Plastics and got a selection of acrylic to use hopefully for the full semester if not longer. I got large sheets of 1/8" transparent red, orange, yellow, green, light blue, and smaller sheets of gray smoke and 5 smaller sheets of opaque white for potential enclosure designs.

I originally reserved time on the 50 Watt cutter from 2-5:30pm, then ended up changing that earlier in the day to later from 5:30-9:00pm because I realized I hadn't left enough time for myself to prepare what I wanted to make and I ended up doing at home before coming in to Manhattan. I wasn't sure if I had messed up by changing my time on the day of, or how it works in the shop, so I went in not really knowing what to expect.

I got there at 5pm and took a moment to check over my files, and while I was doing that someone started using the 50 Watt machine. I told them a little before 5:30 came around that I had reserved time and they quickly finished what they were currently cutting but because of that I ended up starting closer to 6, which in itself wasn't a big deal. The person working in the shop was very nice about helping me set up my file for the first time, then I was able to do the rest and start printing/cutting jobs on my own... While I was on the machine a couple of people asked me when I would be done and obviously were very eager to use it right then, partially because the 60W cutter seemed to not be working properly. I thought that my project was going more quickly than I anticipated so I told them I would be done relatively soon, but I also felt some pressure to rush because they wanted to use it as well. I thought Saturday night would be a quiet time in there as nobody had reserved time on the calendar, but I found that nobody was checking the calendar anyway maybe? And if you do reserve time and two people are waiting for you to be done, what is the etiquette (especially if you still were planning to use it for at least an hour or two?) Do you just tell them when you will be done? How long is too long to reserve ahead of time? I learned some things I guess about how using the laser cutter is something that a lot of people are sometimes trying to use at once regardless of the calendar and am wondering how to handle that in the future. 

I also realized that I should have set up my file better beforehand, and set the vector lines to 0.001, and also taken the paper film off the acrylic before starting to cut, as it took up some time to do that. 

Anyway. For this first project, I decided to make a rainbow cube! I used this website to create a 4" cube with a top that would work with the 1/8" acrylic. I started with a test laser cut on cardboard then went on to cutting directly out of the sheets of acrylic, cutting out each side of the cube in a different color. I found that it took 4 runs of the laser cutter to cut all the way through the 1/8" acrylic following the settings in the chart on the cutter's computer desktop (note for future). I wonder if that means 1/4" thick acrylic would take 8 times to cut through?

I also got acrylic glue from Canal Plastic, and will glue these at home. I wanted to try making a baby block for my friend's new son, Leo, out of transparent yellow with a lion on one side and L, E, O on three of the other sides. I'm not sure if I will be able to do another session in the shop before class to do that before class...also wondered if the acrylic glue is baby safe? But I got to rasterize the letters "ITP" on some cardboard, though I didn't etch anything onto acrylic yet. I felt some pressure to get off the machine so other people could use it and wasn't sure if etching was necessary for this week's assignment. I now feel confident that I can do more projects with the laser cutter of different kinds though. Perhaps I will also try etching something onto the cutting boards from last week or individualize them for people. Just need to figure out the scheduling thing and how best to handle/bypass complications regarding that. 

 First 5 pieces of my cube. I also got some acrylic glue at Canal Plastic and will glue these at home.

First 5 pieces of my cube. I also got some acrylic glue at Canal Plastic and will glue these at home.

 All six sides of the cube (one will be the "top" of the box...) 

All six sides of the cube (one will be the "top" of the box...) 

 Final cube - pre-glueing, but held in place: Cat for scale.

Final cube - pre-glueing, but held in place: Cat for scale.

Note: After glueing the first 5 pieces together, I realized I also could have laser cut some pieces or made a bent a piece and glued it on the top piece as a handle and also to indicate the top and how to open it. Because otherwise it is a little fiddly to open and close.