We are all going crazy over our final projects for Intro to Physical Computing and Computational Media. At least I am. Coming up with ideas, thinking about its execution, starting to develop it…Giving up and thinking the first idea is dumb or is really hard to accomplish in the given time. Thinking about a second idea…going back to the first one…wait, did I hear a third idea? It is indeed a challenging process.
Therefore, for the laser cut assignment I decided to create little keychains to give as fun gift for the class, or, if I achieved to produce more, even to distribute to ITP students.
I had a spare thick (6mm) acrylic sheet that I bought at Canal Plastics when doing my PCOMP Midterm. Since I had spent a considerable amount last week on my succulent vases (which I glued yesterday and I will be updating the final results later today in last week’s post), I decided to create the keychains from it.
I was curious to see the issue Ben, our teacher, mention about creating multiple tiny things in the laser cutter. The laser cutter (the 75w that I worked on because of the thickness of the material) has an x of 0-32 and y of 0-20. The closer from 0, the stronger the laser is. Therefore, If you use a sheet that is 18×12 (like mine) to create the keychains, chances are the ones located in the 5×5 will be fine, engraved and cut, while the other ones will remain unfinished and have to go through a second/third/fourth/… laser cut process.
So I created my files in Illustrator, using 0.1px black for what I wanted to engrave and 0.01 red for what I wanted to cut. I tested it on a cardboard. I wanted to test two sizes and ask people which size they would prefer to use as a keychain.
Everyone liked the small one better.
Then, I tested in a scrap sheet of the same material that I had.
And now it was time for the official test. My first aim was to cut my whole acrylic sheet for the tiny keychains. So, besides setting the cutting lines to cut the keychains I also set it to cut my whole acrylic sheet after two vertical roles of the keychains. I decided to do that in order to avoid the failing Laser Cut issue that Ben mentioned.
Throughout Laser Cutting, I had to repeat several times my process. I pressed “go” to engrave about 4 times and would have pressed more if it wasn’t for the time – I booked 2 hours but was still running out – and had to press go 4 times.
For my surprise, the keychains placed in the bottom of my two vertical rows were not ready by the time I had to leave the machine. Only the keychains placed in the top 8in of my vertical row were actually well engraved and cut. I imagined that doing two rows vertically and so on would be enough but at the end it wasn’t.
Still, I got about 11 ok Keychains (I booked an emergency 30 minutes before class laser cut time so maybe I can have 17 by the time the class starts to be able to give it to everyone). And, mainly, a couple of lessons to keep in mind: Laser cutting can take a lot of time, always book waaay more time than you think to work on the laser cutter and, mainly if you are working in the production of many tiny objects, keep in mind the x and y power factor and that you will have to deal with that while creating with it.
To finalize, I used a sharpie pen and a marker to fill my engraving with a black color. I bought a lot of keychain holders from Amazon, you can get 100 units for $5. It didn’t turn out exactly how I expected but, well, embrace your process 😉