Laser Cutting a tower model



These 1mm thick card components come together to form a simple tower that I designed on rhino with grasshopper. Using the Grasshopper plugin for Rhino I designed a quick, abstract strange shaped organic-ish column form that I then booleaned out of a simple rectangular column. This file went though 123D Make and Illustrator where I made a second deriving from the original. This is greatly abstracted and uses fewer pieces and is significantly larger. A post will follow showing the 2 complete towers.


GIF Experiments

As part of my fast prototyping for sculpture ideas I decided to record the process of rapid model building. I thought I would like to make a ‘gif’ of the process. As I constructed the first circle system from laser cut 5mm cardboard. I took a photo as each module was added, as the structure began to grow. All of these photos were then opened in GIMP (open source version of Photoshop) each to its own layer, and then using the make gif function I set the frame rates I required and then it is exportable as a gif file. When opened in a photo viewer it automatically starts. It went smoothly, I quickly followed tutorials on youtube and seemed to know what I was doing pretty quickly. To each layer you can apply all sorts of effects, speed up and slow down the frame rate for individual frames and much more. I will be making more in the future I think.

Working with DFX files in Illustrator

To get my files ready for laser cutting (those that have been sliced in 123D Make) I need to import them into Illustrator to set line widths and to scale, orientate the work and ensure the artboard is the correct size. I was having some problems with too many anchor points and too many un-closed lines. I trawled a few forums for solutions to little avail, other than to find many others experience these problems also. The fact is the file format and illustrator don’t seem to work terrifically well together – just my luck. One favored option seemed to be installing a plugin which makes things run smoother, but I was not wanting to faff around with plugins just yet.

I eventually found some form of salvation in the site where I found some advice with getting rid of unnecessary bits and cleaning up my files. This is the part I found particularly useful:

lasercutting guide

The site has all kinds of other useful information on the subject of laser cutting and drawing software.

So now I have finished preparing my column file which is to be sliced into 1mm card. If it works out and looks good Ill try out another version in 3mm acrylic.

Finished ‘Molecule’ Sculpture

After about 20 minutes of gluing I produced this.

I want to produce more models this way, in 123D Make you can also make models that use less material. A few points for next time:

  • Card this thick (10mm) is a bit to thick and therefore slow to use as multiple passes are needed.
  • In Illustrator be sure to set the numbers as raster lines. 
  • Thinner material next time.
  • Be sure to remove unnecessary cut lines in Illustrator. 


Cutting the ‘Molecule’ Form 

A few posts back on the 17th of February I showed some prep work to making a fast laser cut cardboard model. The card is pretty thick at 10mm so I slowed the cutting speed a few percent and upped the power a couple of percent. I’m using the 45W Epilog Helix Laser cutter/engraver.


Circle, Ellipse and Hexagon Systems

This model composed of slotted circle modules was made in response to the earlier triangle version that I took forward into metal for my formative assessment. I wanted to explore other basic shapes to make other variations on the earlier work and see what kind of results I could come up with. The modules are larger with more possible connectors than the triangle system, making for more ‘open’ structures that seem to expand and ‘grow’ more.   
Once I had made this circle system I moved into ellipses and made a similar size structure.

Once I had constructed these I began considering scale. What if I laser cut loads of modules and could make a much bigger structure? I designed yet another simple system that slotted together out of the same 5mm cardboard, which I am using do to its suitability to fast model making. Although I do enjoy its material qualities. This time I used hexagons, believing I would be able to make large honeycomb like structures. When it came to build I again played around with it and then settled on a pattern to repeat into a large structure.  

This structure looked pretty good but was very precarious and wobbly. It collapsed after a bit tomorrow I intend to reassemble the hexagon ‘modules’ into a new structure and combine them with some of my earlier models. I will make a gif or maybe a time lapse of this process.  


Ready for tomorrow’s build.



 Thinking about 3D fractal forms back in November I made this column. In my mind I had imagined it ‘squiggling’ through space in a complex, dense three dimensional form. Imagine a dense squiggle curve drawn in 3 dimensions. Then the 3D ‘fractal’ pattern follows the squiggle resulting in a dense, complex form. I am going to try and illustrate this as a computer model using grasshopper.