Lighting Control Upgrade!

IMAG3517In an effort to make the lighting control system more user-friendly, the original board-mounted switches have been replaced with a laser-cut zone map! Instead of looking up which zone number corresponds to a particular bank of lights, each location is now identified by a green LED pushbutton.  You can read more about the lighting control system and how it’s been evolving on our wiki: http://wiki.milwaukeemakerspace.org/projects/mmlc

Staying Stocked Up

The idea was simple: make something to help keep track of our supplies so we know when we’re running low on the essentials.  After weeks of kicking the idea around and various rough doodles, this project finally took shape.  Two days after the first cut on the laser cutter, it was complete.


Made from multiple layers of acrylic, cardboard, and wood, the “Milwaukee Makerspace Consumables Super Analog Status Board” is a clipboard-sized device with nine sliders installed in enclosed slots.  Sliding the tabs right displays more green to indicate “full” or “lots” and sliding left reveals the red acrylic below to indicate “empty” or “low.”  The user can carry the board around the Space with them as they check on supplies and when done, a large hole centered at the top allows the board to be hung up and displayed on a wall.

The hardware holding the whole thing together can be loosened and the layers disassembled.  The cardboard insert that the text resides on can be swapped out should we decide to change the list of items we want to keep tabs on.  The supplies being tracked currently include:

  • Toilet Paper
  • Paper Towels
  • Hand Soap
  • Welding Gases
  • Welding Wire
  • Propane
  • Soda
  • Duct Tape
  • Painter’s Tape

A digital version may or may not be planned for future release.

We leave, we come back!

Leaves

Even though we left Chase Avenue and moved to Lenox Street, we’re still not a fully operational battle maker station… yet.

But here’s the thing, for a lot of us, we never stop making, and if someone needs help on a project, we’re still going to do what we can to help out. So when some friends of mine at Sensorium Gallery ask for help with a laser cutting project, we found a way to deliver.

They were looking for white paper leaves to cover the floor for an event, and had the idea of laser cutting a few reams of paper. I found a maple leaf on OpenClipArt, tweaked it a bit, and sent it to Neille at Sensorium. She sent me back a new file, and I gave that to Brent who has access to a laser cutter he could use while the Makerspace laser cutters were not up and running.

A few emails back and forth, and between the three of us we got the leaves done in time. Sweet! Once we return to “making as usual” it’ll be nice to help people out with their projects without having to chase people down and send a bunch of emails. I hope Bay View is ready for us! :)

M1 and M2

M1

M2

If you saw Shane’s post Submission for the 100 Square Feet of Art Charity Event you probably wondered if anyone else managed to create a piece of art for the event, and if they too used the laser cutter. The answer to both questions is “Yes!” and here are the two pieces I created, M1 and M2.

There’s an in-depth (and potentially boring) post about these pieces over on my blog titled Two Square Feet of Art. Enjoy!

More Laser Cutter Artwork….

A laser cut piece, one stacked on top of the other for depth.  The top piece is a cut out featuring an angelic grave stone and the back piece is a picture of a graveyard with some well defined trees.

This is my newest piece, cut and etched on our 60 watt laser cutter.  Both images are from pictures that I took out at a couple of graveyards.  I inverted the image in the background so that the sky was nice and dark and the trees were bright.  Unfortunately, this washed out a lot of the tombstones in front, so I’m going to try re-etching this piece before I offer it up for sale.

The back piece took approximately 1 hour, 20 minutes to etch as a 11.5″ square.  Additionally, I found that the margins are a bit off on the cutter.  The left margin has shifted around 1/8″-1/4″  to the right, so the piece wasn’t perfectly centered.

Submission for the 100 Square Feet of Art Charity Event

The picture consists of a laser-cut vine motif with an orchid laser-etched in the center, raised a half inch above a laser-etched picture of a creek with large rocks.

Art for charity’s sake

 

When Raster mentioned the event, “Red, White, & Black: 100 Square Feet of Art“, I thought I’d take part.  The general idea is for artists to pick up a 12×12″ piece of wood and “art” it somehow, transforming it into a mini-masterpiece for an auction to support pets in need.  The auction takes place on December 7th, so be sure to stop in.  They’re featuring live music and food along with a raffle and the auction.

Taking a cue from some Art Boxes I’d been working on, I decided to use a similar vine motif with an orchid etched in the center.  After studying it for a while, I thought it needed depth, so I laser etched a photograph that I took out at Boerner Botanical Gardens for the backdrop.

Still not content, I wanted the darker shadows of the vines to play along with the lighter picture behind, so I cut several half-inch blocks to raise the top piece above the back piece.

The back has been treated with teak oil while the front was stained with Bombay mahogany satin stain.  The blocks are put specifically in each corner in order to maximize the amount of light that hits the back piece.  I may add a few extra spacers for support in the coming days.

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?

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.)

Gradient Reference for the 25 Watt Laser Cutter

A map of how deep and/or dark the laser cutter etches based on the percentage of power and percentage of speed.

So, I was just getting in to the ‘Space when Jason G. and I started talking about the laser cutter.  I had planned on doing some simple tests to determine the level of shading that I could get for an as-yet unnamed project when he mentioned that he (and others) were talking about doing a full map of different settings and the results.

I thought that I might as well give it a shot.  The set up was interesting.  I created a grid of rectangles in CorelDraw (oh, how I hate you!) and then used the preferences dialogue in the laser cutter driver to adjust the speed and power for each little square.

I should explain that the driver recognizes 8 colors and for each color in your image you can assign different settings.  It was a little trying given that the grid is 10×10 but, eight at a time, I assigned the appropriate colors, then settings and let it cut.

After the charring became significant on the low speed/high power settings, I decided to omit the rest of them because, honestly, who wants their project to turn into charcoal?  If you can’t read the Olde English font, it says, “Here Be Fire! (not suitable for etching).”

As you can see, there is a very nice gradient that results from many of these settings used in conjunction with one another.  I also left the tar/smoke-damage on because I wanted people to know what their project would look like immediately after using these settings.  I suspect that most of that can simply be sanded off.

I had forgotten my camera, but a big thanks to Kevin B. for taking a few shots and emailing them to me via his phone.

Next, a cutting template similar to this one.  Oh, and a gradient rainbow.  Yeah, a monochromatic, smells-like-a-forest-fire rainbow should do the trick.  Maybe I’ll even make it a double. :)

BoxMaker

We’ve got a Laser Cutter! We can cut things… like boxes. So head on over to BoxMaker and make a box!

As far as materials, that’s a little trickier. I tried wood, but currently the laser cutter can’t handle cutting your standard 1/4″ plywood. (Update: 3mm Baltic Birch plywood works great though!) Here you can see the results of me trying.

Wood

No matter… I moved on to acrylic, since we’ve got a lot of acrylic scrap to play with…

Acrylic

That worked much better! Hopefully once we do some laser maintenance (cleaning and what not) it might be able to cut wood. Of course you could always use BoxMaker to create your box and cut it on the CNC Router instead.

So here’s my laser-cut acrylic box. Notice anything? The tabs are way too big! In my frustration of not being able to cut wood, I switched to the acrylic, but didn’t measure the thickness and create a new file, and since it was not as thick as the wood, I got the tabs all wrong.

Box

Still, BoxMaker is an awesome tool, and I look forward to getting the cutting part right next time.