Week 3. Computer Controlled Cutting

Introduction 🖊

This week relates to the laser cutting and vinyl machines. Our first “hands on” week! I was looking forward to it 😀 We’ll also start with the group assignments - a good way to learn the machine’s basics with your fellows while playing with its parameters.

Fab Assignments 📚

  1. Group Assignment: Characterize your lasercutter’s focus, power, speed, rate, kerf, joint clearance and types. ✔️
  2. Individual Assignment:
    • Cut something on the vinylcutter. ✔️
    • Design, lasercut, and document a parametric construction kit, accounting for the lasercutter kerf, which can be assembled in multiple ways, and for extra credit include elements that aren’t flat. ✔️

My Goals 🎯

Files 📂

Name Description Link
File 0 Lampshade 3D - Fusion 360 Link
File 1 Lampshade 3D - File ready for Laser cutting Link
File 2 Venus - File ready to use with the Vynil Cutter Machine [Link](https://gitlab.fabcloud.org/academany/fabacademy/2022/labs/waag/students/paola-zanchetta/-/blob/master/static/week3/WEEK_3%20_2.stl.svg

Results 🖖

Parametric fit kit


Lampshade scale 1:3


Venus of Willendorf sticker


Laser Cutting

This week we have been introduced to two machines. The first one is the laser cutter machine, which is one of the most used machines within the Fablab world - and also one of the most dangerous since is easy to make fire with it!.

I still remember very existed about my first laser creation in School, We had to develop this “Christmas ball”! A nice project to start experimenting about parametric design.

General Intructions

At the “Waag” we have a big CO2 BRM machine, which takes up a huge space of the Fablab. Even if it’s a 10 yeard old machine, Henk hack it with a new controller and electronics in order to be able to use it with the latest software! Thanks for that, you make our life much easier 👍

The C02 BRM machine works in 2 axes ( X and Y) and you can fix the Z-axis to a fixed point. This is handy to be able to work with different kinds of materials.

The max material surface we can use is: 1600 x 1200 mm.


The machine’s laser is located in its back part. In order to cool down the laser, there is an air ventilation system that should be turned on before using the machine - it sounds like a loud monster.

Also, there is a water system to cool down the laser which automatically activates when the laser is active.


There are three mirrors used to guide the laser beam into the head. Once in a while, they need to be cleaned, Henk showed us how to clean them with alcohol and ear swabs. We also learned how to put back the lenses - in case of future needs. The curve side of the lenses needs to be on the bottom in order to focus corectly!


The laser beam is finally guided into a smaller beam with a lens located in the head. Connected to the laser head, there are a few important parts:


In order to start working with the laser machine, it should be on before using the software.

The new controller installed by Henk is located on the right side of the machine. There are three main buttons, starting from right to left:


Safe instructions

Since the laser cutter machine can be sometimes a bit dangerous, there are a few rules which we need to follow in order to ensure safery in the Fablab:


Operating with the Laser machine

Once you followed the previous steps to turn the laser on - always carrying about your safty - you will be ready to set up your filds and material to make precious laser cuttings!

In order to correctly locate the material, you will need to put it on the board and calibrate the distance between it and the laser head. To do that, you can use the “wood calibrator” next to the laser.

When I talk about “calibrate” I mean fixing the distance between the material and the laser head. In this way you will be able to follow the Power and Speed intructions that Michelle prepare for the Waag fabLab students - Thanks for that! :)

Group Assignment Process 🏊‍♀️ 🏊🏾 🏊🏽‍♀️

I did my group assignment with Joany. We characterized the Waag lasercutter’s parameters for “grayboard”.

  1. Power & Speed

In order to understand Speen and Power, Michelle prepared for the Fablab students a “Lasercutter Material Library” for each material. In this way, understanding what they mean and which are the right parameters for grayboard and other materials have been quite easy task!



There are a few things which we should take into account when we talk about Speed and Power:

Joany and I used the following parameters in other to cut our first pieces of grayboard:

Parameters Number
Speed 20
Power Max 50
Power min 45

It was to less power, so Id didn’t cut the material and we had to try again modifing max Power to 75.

Parameters Number
Speed 20
Power Max 75
Power min 65

This time it worked out!

  1. Kerf

The next step was finding the material’s “Kerf”. This is the % that the machine cuts out when cutting a draw. In fact, the laser cutter eats materials on both sides of each draw’s line.

In order to calculate it, we drew directly in the “LightBurn” program 10 rectangles which we could use to calculate the space left the cuts.



The result of the grayboard kerf was = 0.14

Now we can use this parameter within the LightBurn program for our next creations.

In order to have some practice with the lasercutter, I tried out to engrave lines on a square of the grayboard. The idea was to try if I could do origami maybe in the future using the laser cutter with some flexible materials, engraving the lines where I have to do the folds.


This are the parameters I used to engrave the material:

Parameters Number
Thickness 2.5 mm
Speed 20
Power Max 25
Power min 20

This was too short, I needed lower the Power to this one, whic actually worked out:

Parameters Number
Thickness 2.5 mm
Speed 20
Power Max 50
Power min 40

Since I wanted to do a kind of “origami plane” with the material, I find out that I could actually try to engrave both surfaces in order to be able to fold them in different directions.

  1. Trying out some living hirges with different materials:

I have been always very curious about the behavior of “living hinges”. Before starting the course, I had some ideas of projects I could do with this technic but I never used it before.

The laser cutting week seam like the perfect moment to try it out!

I tried some of them in different materials. I wanted to understand why for example I never found projects using it with Plastics - I could imagine is because of the material breaking easily - or Why I never saw examples in cardboard.

Here you can find some photos, the parameters I used, and comments of the experiments I run with the Living hinges:

  1. Cardboard:
Parameters Number
Speed 20
Power Max 75
Power min 65


The results are not very functional, I think It may be because the pattern should have less density of lines and be bigger. The pattern on the left could work in a bigger dimension.

  1. Play-Wood:
Parameters Number
Thickness 3 mm
Speed 10
Power Max 100
Power min 90


The results are functional, but the front part seamsn burn and the back is not perfectly cutted. This is probably because the speed is too low and the material may be out of focus.

  1. Thick Plastic:
Parameters Number
Thickness 2 mm
Speed 15
Power Max 100
Power min 80


I tried 3 different patterns. The one which works the better is the one on the left. Is the most flexible one, the one in the middle is not flexible at all, it brakes instantly, the one on the right is not very flexible but it doesn’t brakes that easily.

  1. Looking for the Power, Speed & Kerf of the cardboard

Since we need to make our personal assigment using Cardboard, me and Benjamin worked together to find out the Power, Speed and Kerf needed.



Those are the results of our experiments, we followed the same methods explained before for the Grayboard:

Parameters Number
Thickness 2.5 mm
Speed 100
Power Max 50
Power min 40
Kerf 0.21

Personal Assignment Process 🏊‍♀️

  1. Parametric construction kit:






You can find the link to download the extension (here)[https://apps.autodesk.com/FUSION/en/Detail/Index?id=7634902334100976871&appLang=en&os=Mac&autostart=true].


  1. Upcycling LampShade:

When I had the idea of doing the upcycling Lampshade, very different designs came up to my mind. I first started developing a parametric design with Fusion 360, but in the end, I decided that I wanted to use a shape that I could export to “Slicer for Fusion 360” in order to try out the features of the program.

This is the skeleton of the lamp which I found in from of my house here in Amsterdam.


I draw it in Fusion 360 to be able to then locate the Lampshade on top of it.


I want to recreate the shape of the lamps which I like the most: Louis Poulsen - PH 5 Hanglamp.


In order to do that, I followed these steps:









Vynil machine

The Waag’s vinyl is a Roland GX-24. The program in use to work with it si called (mods)[http://modsproject.org/]. In order to use it, you will need to:


Now the cutting skeleton opens and you can both upload an .PNG or an .SVG.


I had some problems opening my .SVG. The program was not reading it size, I found the solution at (Nadia’s fabacademy website)[https://fabacademy.org/2021/labs/waag/students/nadieh-bremer/blog/week-3/].

What i needed to do is open the photo with a Text editor, add the size and save it.


Now I can open the .SVG with Mods and do my sticker. This is the result:


Retrospective 🤔

This week resulted in being very Creative and Fun at the same time. It was our very first-week learning all-around laser cutting and the vinyl machines. We had the opportunity to learn how materials behave within the laser cutting context, how broad can be the outcomes of both machines, and how endless can be put creativity when especially working with the laser cutting machine.

The outcome of this week was not exactly what I had in mind. My purpose was to create a lampshade to upcycle lamps that I found. And I just had the time to make a scale prototype of it. I did not have the time to make both because of the learning curve with the machine, and the lab’s resources. We are a group of 8 people, so we just have the opportunity to make our individual assignments. There is not much time possible to be creative and experiment, since everybody needs to use the machine.

Even if I did not accomplish my personal purpose, I know that I learned the skills required to work on this project on my own when the FabAcademy will be over. And I am already looking forward to that moment arriving!