Laser Badges!

Laser-cut Name Badges

We saw these nice laser-cut name badges on the Pumping Station: One wiki, and thought that Milwaukee Makerspace should have some as well, and Saturday night’s alright for laser cutting so now there’s about a dozen blank badges for people to make their own badges. (And the one test badge I already make for jason.)

Have I mentioned I love our laser cutter?

Easy Star Trek “Red Shirt” Costume

I always have the best of intentions. When getting invited to a costume party, I plan to put lots of time and effort into it to create an EPIC costume. Time after time, I put it off and come up with something at the last minute.

The great thing about a costume is that you DON’T have to spend lots of money on one. In fact, you can create a very good costume, just from clothing and props you already had.

Recently, a friend had been working on a Star Trek prop, which got me thinking about how simple a Star Fleet uniform would be to make. Not a perfect one full of detail, but something fun, simple, and cheap.

To start, I gathered together a red T-shirt, black pants and shoes. I didn’t have a long-sleeved shirt, so I just layered the red short-sleeved over a black long-sleeved T-shirt.

A Federation insignia or communicator badge is an important element to the costume, but is simple to make. I just went to the web and did an image search. When I found one I liked, I downloaded it, scaled to to about 2.5″ tall in my graphics software, and then printed it onto tag-board with my inkjet printer. I cut out the insignia, and put a piece of tape on back. A safety pin glued to the back would work great as well. From just a few feet away, it doesn’t look like paper at all, it just looks like the logo you expect to see on the uniform.

Of course no Star Fleet Officer on an away mission would be without a phaser. I had several to pick from: a TV remote, an infrared thermometer, or my cordless beard trimmer. Basically any dark plastic item that you can point threateningly can be a phaser. I chose a digital tire pressure gauge as my hand-weapon of choice.

Also handy would be a tri-corder. I DID spend a bit of money on this one – $.99 cents. Since I happened to have a smart phone, I downloaded a tri-corder app. It has lots of blinking lights and sound effects that add considerably to the outfit.

I also wanted to point out that I was NOT a main character. Nope, not Kirk or Picard or any of those guys – just a nameless red shirt that’s guaranteed to get killed by the alien/monster of the week. To do so, I created a “Hi, my name is:” badge from a computer-printable address label and a marker. I tried both “Red Shirt” and “Expendable” as name-tags. At the one costume party I went to, people got the joke and had a good chuckle – and then had an urge to kill me…. (Lion-O quickly took me out with the Sword of Omens.)

So, remember, a costume doesn’t have to cost a fortune in time and money – just recycle some clothes and other items into a simple and clever outfit anyone can appreciate.

-Ben

Lasers + Whisky = Delightful Wedding Gift

One of our members got married yesterday, and I crafted a fine gift for him and his wife at the Makerspace.  The happy couple enjoys whisky, and I thought that providing a tour might be a nice idea.  The tour starts at inexpensive bourbon, moves through wheated whiskies, and on to rye. The tour continues in Scotland with some easy to enjoy Sherry cask finish bottlings, and then moves on to rare, Islay and finally mature bottlings (25 Year old Talisker!).

I found some old mohogany baseboard that had some aging varnish on one side and some old caulking on another.  After cutting two 18″ long sections, a few minutes of belt-sanding had them looking great.  I used a 1 1/4″ Forstner drill bit to bore 0.3″ deep pockets for the bottles to fit in.  I used one of our two laser cutters to etch the name/age/proof of each of the whisky sample on top, plus a congratulatory message on the reverse side.  To bring out the rich orangy-red mahogany color, I wiped on Beeswax / Mineral Oil .  Check it out close up, while imagining the symbolism of things getting better with age!

60 Watts of Lazzor Power!

Laser Training

Last week we got the 60 watt laser cutter “officially” online and working. We even got a bunch of people trained on using it. There’s still an issue with homing, but if you follow the instructions, it works fine.

And by “works fine” I mean it “works great!”

I ended up cutting my Nerdy Derby car last week, and I also did this laser-etched coaster, which is about 3.75″ in diameter and 3mm thick. There was a little bit of scorching at the bottom, but I may be able to sand that off easily. I was still playing with the cutting settings a bit. I may also play with the masking tape idea to prevent scorching the surface when cutting.

Laser Etched and Cut

The artwork for the coaster is a mathematician from a NASA coloring book, and I found it on OpenClipArt.org which is a great source for public domain vector-based artwork.

(Oh, we also ended up connecting the PC that was on the 25 watt laser cutter (which is down for maintenance) because it’s got a newer version of CorelDraw.)

Plate & Print

Plate & Print

Remember my post about making printing plates? I finally got a chance to try it out.

I took a sheet of 3mm Baltic Birch plywood and etched it with the 25 watt laser cutter. My design was about 5 inches wide by 6 1/2 inches tall and took about 90 minutes to complete. I etched it at 100% speed / 60% power. (Shane’s etching chart was quite helpful.)

Once the plate was done I had to head out, so I didn’t get to use the press we have, so I ended up just doing a quick test at home and hand burnishing the print, so it doesn’t exactly look great… but this was just a test. Rolling the ink onto the plate worked well, the etching was deep enough to keep the ink out.

I look forward to the next step in this process, trying this print in the real press and seeing how it turns out. I’m also still learning about the sort of paper I should use. The stuff I have now is “fine” and a bit thin. I did get some advice from jason g. who said “Two words: Rives BFK” and that’s all he had to say about that. :)

Oh, and I almost forgot to reverse my artwork before I etched it! Not good… As for the robot, it’s one I drew last year.

Laser Cut Safety Lock-Out Tags

Lock-out tags are used by factory workers to clearly identify broken or damaged equipment.  Milwaukee Makerspace is no exception.  A set of stop sign-shaped, 3″ wide, 3/16″ thick, red plastic tags have been created with the words “STOP – NEEDS REPAIR” in bold, white letters.  Tags are hanging over the first aid file cabinet by the light switches in the Workshop.  If you find a machine is out of service, please zip-tie a tag to the machine, preferably over its ON/OFF switch so people can easily spot it and refrain from using a potentially unsafe tool.

Easy and Free 3D

Its no huge secret that learning to make something in a 3D CAD program has been a bit challenging before now. Programs such as Blender are quite powerful, but the learning curve is a bit steep and you could spend days working in tutorials before you actualy got around to making anything. Well, the world turns and the people with the big brains are slowly learning that the best way to get more people involved is to create tools that don’t require a masters in computer design to understand.

In the old days, you needed a high end workstation with advanced graphics capabilities to do this kind of work. I can remember going to my friends work place and marveling at his 386 workstation built into a desk with a pen based touch screen. These days we can do so much more, and in a web browser. The recommendations below won’t meet everyone’s needs, but it’s a great starting point to learn what works and what does not. Its also hella fun.

Back in November I bought a Printrbot during their Kickstarter campaign. Since then I have been trying out different combinations of programs and processes for generating 3D designs and slicing them for use on the printer. I had a short list of requirements for things I absolutely needed:

  • Short learning curve, nothing overly complicated. I just need to make straight 3D designs. I don’t need textures, colors or animation.
  • Free. I was looking to keep this as low cost as possible. I am a huge fan of open source solutions.
  • Ability to export STL files.

I ran through Blender, 123D, Google (now Trimble) sketchup and a few other programs. They were all quite functional, but each had some small quirks or non-intuitive interface problems and I was routinely somewhat frustrated and defeated. I kept poking around and finally stumbled upon a winning combination.

TinkerCad is a free 3d design app. It runs within your browser and has a strong preference for Chrome. All your designs are assembled with a simple tool set and saved to the web automatically. The site allows you to download your designs as STL, VRML or 2D SVG. It also allows you to imidiately submit your designs to several 3D printing services such as Shapeways and Sculpteo.

Although the tools are somewhat limited, you are able to do a surprising amount of real work. All of the tools are quite intuitive and I was able to jump in without needing to run through the tutorial. In fact, my 12 year old daughter jumped in after I was done and was designing her own things without any input from me. I’m going to be needing a lot more filament at this rate. The ruler and measurement tools are better than any other program I tried. In less than 20 minutes I was able to assemble a small robot design.

Once I had the design, I was able to easily export the STL file and immediately print one using the printrbot. I added a small raft to the back and drilled out a hole for a button. This is now going to be my new doorbell. I also added a few LEDs to the back for lighting.

Once I was done, I was really excited by the prospect of actually being able to make virtual things. I decided to see what else I could do. One dream has been to find a way to easily create cardboard sliced designs. A fairly new app from Autodesk called 123D MAKE can do just that. It’s not open source, but it is a free 100+ MB download. I was able to take the STL file I downloaded and upload it to the 123D MAKE program. From within the tool, I was able to set material thickness, slice type, output format, stage size and dozens of other options. I was then able to export EPS files containing all the pieces laid out and numbered for assembly.

I was able to take these over to the laser cutter and cut some slices from cardboard I had laying around. I assembled them per directions and wound up with this bad boy.

If you don’t have a laser cutter, you can always just print the design and cut the pieces by hand.

I think we are seeing start of a huge shift in production of one-off items. 3D printers are getting cheaper, and more importantly, printing services are able to produce items in almost any material you can imagine. As the design tools get easier and easier to use you are going to see these services become more and more prevalent. Need a replacement part? Print it yourself. Have an idea for a game, have it printed, boxed and shipped overnight. Its the definition of a disruptive technology.

Now, go make something!

 

Free 3D design web app

How do you make the BADASS more badass?

Simple.  Add lasers.

Video of Vectorized Laser PCB Fabrication

The next generation BADASS board was too big to fit through the card laminator, so I figured I’d try my hand at Tom’s laser etching method.  By using the trace program included with CorelDraw I was able to make a vectorized path for the board.  One pass takes about 5 min at 50% speed.