Fabrication: Laser Etching

I spent quite a bit of time for this week’s fabrication project pursuing what I was explicitly told not to pursue: a wooden pendulum clock. When I found myself hand-tracing diagrams I had scanned into Illustrator, I decided to shift gears (pun intended).

I still wanted to do something or make something I hadn’t done before on the laser cutter. I had previously tried vector cutting an enclosure for my pcomp midterm (thank you, Makercase), so I decided to try out raster etching using one of my own drawings.

Lately, I’ve been really into drawing weird squiggles. It seems and mostly is pretty free flowing, but every once in a while, I’ll draw a squiggle that just feels WRONG. All of which to say, apparently, there are some implicit governing principles on what makes a proper squiggle for each of these compositions.

I decided to laser cut the one below:

I replaced the colors so that they were black and white, and added a 0.01 pt red-stroked rectangle to cut out a portion of the design. I found some 1/4” clear acrylic in the unclaimed materials/junk section of the shop. I printed the design on a test piece and realized that it would take FOREVER to etch the full design onto any piece.

Luckily, our lasercutter is so weak that the test acrylic was completely untouched, and I was able to rescale the whole design, resize my vector cut rectangle and restart the job.

I first ran the job to only etch the raster portion – I did this numerous times until I saw the surface of the acrylic change. Finally, I ran the vector cuts a couple of times to ensure I had a clean cut on my design.

I used the larger material my “designed rectangle” was cut from to do a few tests. I wanted to see if I should keep the etching as is or paint the etched area white before I took off the paper adhesive cover.

The paint was actually a bit unwieldy given the intricacies of the etchings, so I decided to keep the etchings as is.

Here’s a shot of the piece before I peeled everything off:

I sort of liked how it looked with the paper on!

I wanted to see if the acrylic I had would reflect LED lights in an interesting way, and my initial tests were quite promising:

I didn’t have time to enclose the setup, but given that next week’s assignment is literally on enclosures, I thought I’d save that bit for later.