The third program that we discussed and experimented with in class was the Laser Cutter. This is a pretty sweet machine that can etch, cut, and shape wood, plexiglass, plastic, and pretty much anything else (except for metal and glass). As a matter of fact, when we were learning about it, we learned that one of our lab assistants, Harrison, etched an image of Daft Punk onto a PIZZA CRUST. And it worked.
The laser cutter is slightly “hidden away” in the lab, but it is off on its own for a few reasons, namely because it isn’t just a laser cutter. It is connected to a filtration system that collects and “cleans” the smoke that the machine emits through a water reservoir system. Since the laser cutter is a relatively small but totally enclosed machine that emits a laser (therefore producing smoke) it is essential that it be plugged into a machine to deal with the smoke since the lab is a small place and the smoke not only smells gross, but is also dangerous if inhaled. When learning about the machine we were even told to know where the fire extinguisher was at all times (which almost came into play for me and one of my projects – more on that later).
There are 2 different types of images that you can create for use on the Laser Cutter:
1. Rastor Images
a. Created in a grid (bit-map, JPEG)
b. The majority of images are Rastor
2. Vector Images
a. The cut begins at a set point and goes a certain distance again and again (follows a path, not a point)
There are 2 programs that we explored for use in our laser cutting experiences:
a. Has Rastor and Vector options, so we use it to design and then save as a .SVG file
a. A full-spectrum laster that engraves rastor images and cuts vector images
Although laser cutter designs and templates exist on Thingiverse, it was made clear in class that using pre-existing designs on Thingiverse is complicated because of file format, sizing issues, and other complications.