Laser Cut Designs

by anna on November 22, 2012

in Anna's Blog

Some time ago we started selling laser cut designs in our Etsy store, as well as in our new Ponoko Showroom. Today I’m going to tell you how these designs are made and why we started making them.

Laser cut designs are cut out of flat sheets of material, such as wood, metal, leather, acrylic, felt, rubber, and so on, using a laser beam. Some lasers are also capable of cutting details out of concave and convex surfaces, such as openings in semi-round machine parts.

Type of laser used depends on the material which needs to be cut. For example, CO2 lasers most often are used to cut metal. Materials can also be engraved using a laser beam.

What is a laser anyway? The word laser is an acronym which stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. In other words, laser beam is a highly concentrated ray of light. It can be any light, not only a visible one; there are X-ray, infrared, and ultraviolet lasers. This ray has such high energy to it, that it’s capable of cutting through a wide range of materials. The depth of cut is regulated by the power output; the width of cut is usually 0.2 mm.

We create our laser cut designs from the scratch. We start with an idea, based on which a model is often developed from a modeling media, such as my favorite polymer clay :).

How do we come up with an idea? We observe natural processes and phenomena and compare them to each other. Nature is a wonderful source of simple and ingenious designs. During these comparison, main (and most beautiful) features become obvious. Then these features are sketched down.

When models and sketches are ready, we photograph them and trace them in a vector graphic program. I prefer to use Corel DRAW, and Ken - Adobe Illustrator.

Laser cutter needs a vector image to be able to cut anything. Laser cannot see a picture (jpeg image); it needs to follow the paths set in a vector graphic. When these graphics are uploaded into the system, laser head goes over the material cutting the design out.

After designs are cut out, they need to be finished; first off, they need to be cleaned :). Laser beam burns material away, thus producing a lot of soot, as well as a strong burnt smell. Both of them need to be removed.

When designs all are cleaned, we sand them (if needed), paint and varnish them (if needed), and then I set gemstones and crystals in them and finish their construction.

Now the question is – why we started doing laser cut designs? First off, it’s the precision. Those of you who know me, know that I am a big fan of complex super-precise designs. Other materials, such as polymer, simply could not give me that degree of precision.

Next, I have a background in natural science, such as chemistry, physics, and biology. I graduated from high school with honors in chemistry and biology and received an award “For development of natural science”. I remember classmates were all shocked when they knew I became a lawyer :) they all thought I’d be a scientist. That background comes in really handy when designing for lasers.

Finally, I do love computer graphics! And so does Ken. I never did vector graphics before though, so it was a real challenge to learn them within such a short time! :) And it is an amazing feeling when you see a virtual design come to life; it is actually pretty cool!

And I won’t hide from you that I want you to buy our laser cut designs; I do. They are beautiful, durable, and simply hot. And that’s not my braggin’ :) but the words of the customers who already bought them. We are having a 15% off sale from today (November 22) until Monday, November 26, just to honor good ol’ Thanksgiving and somewhat newer Black Friday and Cyber Monday :). So, use your chance (or use it as an excuse :) ) to get something cool.

Next, I will be learning 3D modeling, so we can do 3D printed designs, because it is another awesome thing to do! :)

Happy Thanksgiving and have a great holiday season – in all regards!

 

Images courtesy of Ponoko.com (laser cutting and 3D printing services), TheFabricator.com (publication of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, Intl.), Dr. John Runions Page (Oxford Brookes University), wikimedia.org, and Gray’s Crafts LLC.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

carmen January 17, 2014 at 5:18 pm

I have been triying make some models in leather laser cut…but smells terribly bad

whatt can I do?
is it becauuse the leather, the laser machine?

thank yoy

Reply

anna January 17, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Hi, Carmen. All laser cut materials are going to smell burnt, because this is what laser actually does. To remove the smell, just clean them using appropriate cleaners for each particular type of material.

Reply

carmen January 19, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Thank you so much to answer me. I really need my desings for jewerly, bracelets and so. I live in Spain and I nobody here can tell me about the correct products the eliminate the smell in leather.

Reply

anna January 19, 2014 at 6:01 pm

You are welcome. Search for leather cleaners. Sometimes even car seat cleaning products might work. Experiment on scrap pieces first, so you don’t ruin the design.

Reply

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