COMPUTER Controlled Cutting
Before this week the vinyl cutter and laser cutter were Alien to me. Like the second week my CAD of choice is Antimony.
I knew that I wanted to create something resembling my project, so I decided to settle on cubes.
[Download links to my files as last paragraph]
After the first half of "random-student-picking" Neil Gershenfeld explained to us the functions and hazards of the vinyl cutter and laser cutter, the precautions to take and helpful tips to improve our work.
The assignments for the first week were:
I. Cut something on the vinyl cutter
II. 3Design, make, & document a parametric press-fit construction kit
Highlighted necessary tools:
>> Laser cutter & Vinyl cutter
Going home after the introduction to the machines by Cecilia I already knew that I was going to make a sticker for the back of my main Apple PC. The sticker was going to be a representation of a Japanese animated series name Fullmetal Alchemist (which holds a particular emotional value to me), in particular a photo of a broken (robotic) hand reaching for a stone (See Google Doc Image). So I got to it immediately, the task was quite difficult since my intentions were to make a three-layered sticker from a colourful image. The base was going to be black, the main body in grey, while the points of light and details in white.
>> I downloaded Adobe Illustrator CS6
>> Opened the original image in Illustrator
>> Opened image trace *from the 'window' option*
>> Selected 'high fidelity trace option
>> Expanded the traced image.
From there I proceeded to remove all the layers (by hand, one by one) of colours which I didn't want for the base and exported the file as PNG.
I re-opened the newly exported PNG and re-traced it, to make the lines more solid and smooth, adjusting the settings of image trace to my liking (I chose the option '3 colours ) and exported the final desired PNG (See Google Doc Image).
I repeated the same process for the other two layers and then used the application 'preview' to juxtapose them, resulting in what the sticker should look like once completed (See image 3#).
After that it I had to take my PNG file to the computer connected to the vinyl cutter
>>Open Illustrator on that computer
>> Import the PNG
>> Once again trace with preferred settings (I used '3 colours')
>> Make sure there are no double line! (I fail badly here because I imported the .ai files instead, it took me about one hour before I managed to do a proper cut)
>> Send to the vinyl cutter to print after adjusting width and length of the image (Which you can get from the vinyl cutter through the preferences)
Using the Roland vinyl cutter:
This video was really useful for me to understand how to use the Vynl Cutter => Vinyl Cutter Roland GX-24 - How to Use
(0. Check if the blade is clean)
I. Turn the machine on
II. Load the paper piece or a roll in the machine
III. Insert through the vinyl cutter and adjust wheels *must always be on the white spaces and always within half a centimetre from the edge of the paper*
IV. Select on the menu whether it will be a piece or a roll.
V. Press enter and let the machine measure the pieces length and width (only width if it's a roll)
VI. The machine is ready to receive the files.
I wish I could have spent a bit more time on the machine, because I have had problems with scaling my designs, however I am quite pleased with the fit I got so far, but still want to improve it.
Using the machine:
Rule No. 1: Never leave the laser cutter working unwatched
Rule No. 1.5: Turn on the ventilation when the laser is running
Rule No. 2: Don't keep the laser & ventilation on if you are not using the machine
Rule No. 3: Wait a minute before opening the laser cutter to retrieve your work to let bad smell ventilate out
Rule No. 4: Measure the distance from the surface which need to be cut and adjust it as necessary using the wooden ruler.
Rule No. 5: Weight down any elevated surface to avoid contact with the lens of the laser
Rule No. 6: Don't put the weights in the way of the laser (Do a test run to check it does not)
Rule No. 7: Be on the ready for fires, keep water spray near by, press stop & don't panic.
Note 1: Software 'LaserCut5.3' only accepts .dxf files
Note 2: Don't forget that the laser will cut away part of the material, thus you must increase the size slightly (link) to make sure your parts fit.
Note 3: 'Delete all' when downloading your files to the laser to make sure it erases previous work
Note 4: Do a 'test' run to check the area of your cut to make sure the size is about right
Note 5: Adjusting the power and speed is necessarily for each material e.g. power: 50% & speed: 100% is good to cut cardboard.
What I did:
I wanted to make cubes that could be constructed and joint so that the could take on any form, the tricky part in this is making sure the cubes are solid, and find a way to connect them that CAN be taken apart when you want to change the configuration.
I settle with a connecting and locking system where two different cuts in the surface of each facet allowed for two types of hinges to be inserted, one which connected two cubes and one which allowed to locked the connector hinges which are perpendicular to them.
I designed all my parts in Antimony, because you just got to admit it's just that awesome. I used the 'export as height-map' function, which essentially exports a png file using the top view as reference. Then I opened it on Adobe Illustrator, imported and traced the png files, and exported it as a .dxf.
I checked the scaling and if it worked on my Windows PC by installing the LaserCut software on it. I had big issues with scaling and figuring how to measure the parts correctly, eventually I managed.
I made two design, each one only need one part (facet) to construct an entire cube, the difference was mainly with the size of the indentations and the amount of gaps in the facets.
I created a total of four cubes, with the intention of making five, but the fifth was composed of facets so small that the indentations where not deep enough to interlock *Note to self, the indentations must be at least 3mm thick, like the cardboard*.
Loading the files:
After loading the cardboard within the laser cutter and turning it on
Using a USB stick I uploaded the files to the computer, imported them onto LaserCut, adjusted the scaling, power and speed. Then downloaded the file to the laser.
On the laser you set an anchor point where you prefer, test to see the area it covers, close the laser, select the file, check that all the Rules stated above are clear, and enter to start.... Watch intently at the beautiful, addicting laser and see it do it's magic *you should not do this if you are keen on keeping your eyesight*