Week 3 - Computer-Controlled Cutting

group page // repo source files // objectives


objectives >

link to group page

final results >

press laser-cut press-fit kit

vinyl_cameo in the background: my friend who originally suggested the idea

weeding the flash

oscilloscope, powered by the speed force

files >

link to the repo

msi intro >

msi msi msi

laser characterization >

Dan helped walk me through how to operate the Epilog laser.

After I opened the .pdf of my design, the first step is to print it like any other file you send off to a 2d printer. ctrl-p laser

We’re met with the print dialog. To specify speed, power, frequency, etc., we need to go to properties.

The laser properties dialog box then pops up. The top has 3 tabs: General, Advanced, and Color Mapping.

laser General

laser Advanced

I tabbed over to the Advanced tab to select the preset ‘-LaserLEFT_Acryic-8th’, intended for the left laser for acrylic materials. Moving back to the General tab, we see that the settings under “Vector Setting” have changed; speed, power and freq are set to 25%, 97%, and 5000Hz respectively.


going back to the Advanced tab…


…and scrolling over to the right, we can see each preset in more detail.


The laser didn’t successfully cut the acrylic, so I adjusted some of the settings at Dan’s recommendation:


laser laser

for getting last 2 pieces out (A,B)


forgot stroke wdith of bounding box, laser tried to etch instead of cut, so will need to reduce stroke width tried fixing, but wouldn’t show up on pdf! not sure why fix was to copy one of the existing boxes and rescale, this worked and showed up in pdf sparkly one used these settings:


will need to measure w calipers so should keep track of which settings go to which acrylics

this is 2nd sparkly setting iteration:


made a 12x24” canvas and moved artwork to opposite corner as suggested by Dan, to test theoretical kerf/resolution differences due to longer laser path (which leads to more attenuation, bigger laser dot) the opposite corner sample was aligned to top left corner, which actually meant I ran out of material in bottom right corner (opposite corner). resulting sample was smaller than others


I had to recharacterize the laser properties because the one I was using broke (I wasn’t there when that happened).


press-fit kit >

I spent time replicating Neil’s joints example to better understand how one might reconfigure a design to use different joint types, and to understand their geometry better.

Initially started with snap-fit and flexure. press

Found the snap-fit to be too stiff and wanted to focus on flexure, so made some more using clear acrylic. press press press

After playing around with the joints a bit, I took my demo joint part and brought it into an assembly. From there, I created an axis and circular patterned 4 of them. For some additional commands required to go from design to laser, I had to save my assembly as a part. As a part, I was able to use the combine command to create a single body. I was also able to save the part as a dxf, something that I can’t do with an assembly (not sure why).

I brought the dxf into inkscape and used their gridding feature to nest the parts onto a 12x24” sheet. In the future, I want to use something like deepnest to more efficiently use the material.

Fabbing sheets of kelvin-like geometries. press press press

Join test. press press press press

Trying a different color. press

If you look closely, you can see a flexure broke off (I should’ve added more blends). press


I learned quite a few things about lasers through this exercise:

Final result >


vinyl cutting >

brainstorm >

I spent some time brainstorming about what I could cut with the vinyl cutter. I tried to limit how much time I spent brainstorming, to avoid spiraling too far like I did with the lasercutting portion of the assignment.

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend who liked to sketch. He had a tendency to draw axonometric cubes (new word of the day!). I thought it was a stylistic choice, but after talking to some more of my artist friends, I learned that framing is very important for drawing. Cubes can be used to literally guide the artist to draw within the box. That makes sense; I prefer grid paper for a reason (even if I don’t follow the lines very much).

My friend was ideating on a lasercut stencil, but I realized that this was a better fit for the vinyl-cutter, due to the thickness/type of material.

Solidworks >

I initially thought about making the design directly in inkscape, but concluded that modeling in Solidworks would give me freedom over the perspective. I took some inspiration from Tarek, whose page I happened upon while digging through the 2021 students.

I started by modeling a cube

vinyl_sw vinyl_sw vinyl_sw

At this point, I thought I was done… but I quickly realized I wouldn’t end up with a working stencil.


Using the cube as a reference, I sketched lines on one face to outline the corners; I only want to capture the corners in my stencil, not the entire cube outline. I made a few attempts to pattern/mirror the sketch with limited success.


I ended up applying a thin-line extrusion using the sketch, which gave me features/bodies that I could then use traditional pattern/mirrors.


Circular pattern: I created a plane that intersected the cube diagonally, which I then used to create an axis that went through a diagonal of the cube.

Mirroring: I used the midplane of the cube.

vinyl_sw vinyl_sw

After patterning the corners to the rest of the cube, I used 8 combine’s to join the disjoint bodies in each of the corners. On reflection, this might not have been necessary.

At this point, I had pretty much what I wanted for my stencil. I oriented the model to isometric view.

vinyl_sw vinyl_sw

As a last touch, I also removed the back corner for the isometric implementation of the stencil.


The export dxf window shows the desired result.


Alternative results that I converged on, which are cool but didn’t fit the task >


vinyl_sw vinyl_sw vinyl_sw

Crazy polyhedra:


Inkscape >

I imported the dxf into Inkscape and repositioned/resized the art to better fit the end use.

vinyl_sw vinyl_sw vinyl_sw

I spent some time experimenting and attempting to figure out how to create an outline of the imported elements, and eventually found a tutorial that described how to create an outline from any raster or vector image.

The basic steps for converting a raw dxf from Solidworks to outlined path, ready for any CNC process:

  1. Select geometry vinyl_sw

  2. Path > Combine vinyl_sw

  3. Change width under Fill and Stroke > Stroke style to be desired thickness (at least enough to overlap elements) vinyl_sw vinyl_sw

  4. Path > Stroke to Path vinyl_sw

Verify by going to Fill and Stroke > Fill and changing colors. The entire pattern should change to match. This confirms that the artwork is a single path (with fill).


Silhouette Studio >

Silhouette Studio doesn’t appear to support svg’s in its free edition; not sure about the premium edition. It does appear to support dxf’s, though, so I kept my file as a dxf and imported that into Silhouette Studio.

I made sure to position the artwork in the top left corner and drew a rectangle around the artwork.


Onhand, I had some overhead projection sheets that I had left over from old PCB projects; I previously used this material for making solder stencils.

From previous experimentation, I had created the following settings for this material:

I had originally created some of these settings intending to fix a bug, so I re-evaluated the efficacy of these settings by reducing the passes from 4 to 1.

However, I discovered that making 4 passes vs a single pass can be the difference between separating the material and only partially cutting the material. In fact, it sometimes takes more than 4 passes!

Final result >

vinyl_cameo in the background: my friend who originally suggested the idea

flash sticker >

went back and tried seeing how easy it would be to make an arbitrary sticker using media from the internet.

I used yellow glossy adhesive-backed vinyl for this project.

found the following flash logo from an ebay vendor. sticker

trace bitmap >

sticker sticker sticker sticker sticker

resize page to fit >

sticker sticker

import into silhouette studio >

sticker sticker sticker

cut settings >

had to experiment with the settings a bit. when in doubt, leaned towards more force, slower travel, and deep cuts.

sticker sticker sticker

cutting >

weeding >

hero shot >

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