Class assignment to design a 3D object (animal or other) to become familiar with using 2D design processes and a laser cutter to create a 3D figure.
Personal Learning Objectives:
- Learn new 2D design software — Inkscape
- Learn to use Scratch coding to create art
- Become familiar with available GlowForge Laser Cutter and settings
I started the project by brainstorming possible laser cut designs. As I have used a laser cutter previously, my ideas started out quite ambitious; however, I tabled those ideas in favor of first learning the tools and software. After browsing Pinterest and storing ideas (Pinterest Board), I settled on the idea of a 3D animal with parts that can be removed and used as drink coasters. A sheep design stood out to me as it provided a good drink coaster shape.
I used Scratch, an online programming tool created by MIT, to create the shape of the drink coasters, also known as the sheep’s body and back. While there is a mathematical formula that describes the overall shape, I found the parameters by testing different numbers in Scratch. The code can be found here.
Once the outer shape was created, I focused on designing a program to create a geometric pattern to etch onto the coasters. The final program allows the radius and number of repeats to be modified by the user to create a variety of different patterns. The final code is here.
Designing and Prototyping
For the body of the sheep and coaster holder, I searched the internet and found a 2D cartoon of the side profile of a sheep. I then added slots down the back of the sheep for the coasters. My first prototype was not quite right. For a animal, the slots down the back would have been the ideal fit; however, as the coasters are meant to be removed and used, they needed be slightly wider. In addition, in the process of setting up the Glowforge, one of the sheep profile pieces was enlarged. This was a friendly reminder of the importance of testing with carboard.
For the second and final prototype, the slots were adjusted. In addition, a head and tail were added to keep the two profile pieces in place when the coasters are removed. I tested this design first with cardboard and then cut the final version.
Key Lessons Learned:
- Prototype in cardboard as it can serve as quick, low-cost design check.
- Difficult to realign pieces within the laser cutter for engraving as the camera on the Glowforge is not entirely accurate.
- Scratch is a useful tool for teaching and using block programming.
Files used for cutting are found on below and are open to use and modification for all. Design was created for 3 mm MDF and cut using a Glowforge Laser Cutter.
Notes on using files
- Altering Overall Size – Slots for coasters, Head, and Tail are designed for 3mm thick material. As a result, they would need to be re-done post resizing to ensure they are still 3 mm thick.
- Using alternative material – Similar to the first point, if material of different thickness is desired, slots will need to be re-done to the correct width.
- Fit of interlocking pieces – Each laser cutter has a slightly different laser width. As a result, the slots may fit differently when cut on a different machine. The best way of knowing, is to test small slots first and adjust the design accordingly.