Assignment 2 -laser cutting

Huda Salha

1-Project title: Confined


I wanted to explore the possibilities offered by the laser cutting technology as a new medium to assess in my creative process and add to my tools of making. My target was to create an object that addresses my thesis research and complements the other objects created for this purpose.

I have been grappling with the idea of creating an interactive installation cube that represents confinement. I was not sure what material I should employ for this purpose. However, looking at examples at the Rapid Prototype Centre (RPC) as well as The Joy of Laser Cutting website has inspired me to direct my laser cutting assignment for this end.


3-Explanation of the Design Concept

For this project, I decided to do something related to my thesis work. From the instructions and examples shown in class, I figured out that preparing a design for laser cutting is much simpler and more doable than for 3D printing. Thus, I would be able to bring to life concepts that have been playing in my head. Since confinement and inaccessibility are issues that are closely related to my theme, I was inspired to create a monumental cage that is beautiful and yet prison-like which offers no way out. This reflects the situation in the Palestinian city of Gaza, where people have been confined there for over a decade, turning Gaza into the biggest open-air prison in the world.

How would I relate this cage to my research and turn it into a meaning making object? From the beginning, I knew I wanted to create cuts into the “walls” of the cage. Those cuts are windows to the world for Palestinians living in Gaza. The social media has become their windows to the outside world. Palestinians, including artists, have reported that they know how the world looks like from images and videos they see on social media. They have also learned skills through you tube. In addition, the cuts on the wood represent the skies they are permitted to look at, and the great Mediterranean Sea they have very limited access to. Furthermore, they depict the disturbances of Palestinians’ lives in general and the harsh reality they have been living since Nakba in 1948.

What should my design cuts represent? It is always hard to try to come up with a design idea within a short period of time. In my opinion, ideas mostly pop up into your head or visit you in your dreams, although some brainstorming can help develop ideas and concepts. In this case, the concept is already there, therefore the next question is what should the design cuts represent or look like? an image, drawing, illustration?  Soon after, I decided to use words that describe this situation and the circumstances that created or lead to it. I thought of words like displacement, confinement, Inaccessibility and so on. Then I thought, I do not want to be too literal, and right away, I thought about names of Palestinian cities of historical Palestine prior to occupation. In the aftermath of 1948, over 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed and wiped off the map. Initially, I thought to include all of the names of the cities and villages. However, due to the miniature size of my object, I decided to only do the big major cities and districts, while keeping in mind the detailed aspect for a future monumental version of the project.

Next the decision of the language choice. Shall I use English so the public can understand what my object addresses?  After grappling with some thoughts, I decided to use Arabic text for a number of reasons: first, Arabic is the language of that area; second: Palestinian cities and villages originally had Arabic names with meanings, however, the names of many of those have been altered after the occupation. For example, the original name of Tel Aviv was Tal-Al Rabee’, which means Spring Hill in Arabic; third, I wanted to engage the viewer and make them ask questions. If they are interested and want to know, they can ask about the meaning, and in this way, create a dialogue around the work. Thus, they will relate more to it having experienced questioning and curiosity


Then came the decision of what Arabic font to use? regular or calligraphic? I finally decided on using Arabic Calligraphy, namely Kufic. Although they are all beautiful fonts, the Kufic was the least to lose material at the negative rounded letters that would otherwise need support to keep it from falling, like when creating stencils.

What else? I also thought to include an image that would be engraved into the material. At first, I wanted to include a map of historical Palestine (before 1948) as a linear background, but then again, I did not want to be too literal. Therefore, I changed my mind and thought of other alternatives. Since many of my works focus on faces and heads that are partly erased or distorted, I decided to include an image of one of those paintings. The cuts in the design will also be cuts in the image, which further serves the identity theme, another intertwining aspect of my research.

In regard to the selection of material, at the beginning I was considering to use transparent material, but then I thought it would not be effective and will defeat the purpose of confinement with windows. Therefore, I decided to ultimately use wood instead. Nevertheless, I am thinking to experiment with mirrors. What will happen if the audience image was reflected into the cage walls? Would they relate more to the experience? Would they imagine themselves confined into those walls as well, and thus try to look for solutions?

 4- An explanation of the iterative design process

After I have decided on the final look of my design, I set to work. I started with Illustrator. I first tried playing with the tools to familiarize myself with the software. Then I opened a new document and put in the size of my wood panel with the correct orientation: 24”x36”.


I then started typing my Arabic text. I had some issues with the text not being recognized by Illustrator. This has been resolved as explained in the Challenges section. Since my design was mainly text, it was kind of easy and only used simple tools, mainly the selection tool. I then cut my work plane into 4 equal sections and changed the colours of the lines to red (blue if the job is to be done at the RPC) so that they can be laser cut. I copied and pasted the text in the four different sections, with different orders. After I changed the text into lines only and changed the font colour into red as well.

I also changed the picture into linear only and moved it to the four sections.


I liked how it looked like a map. This version was created for the maker’s lab laser cutter, since it can only use vector setting and do cutting and etching.


However, I wanted to experiment with all aspects of the process including rasterizing. Thus, I created another version of my design, except for this time, I decided to include the full image. I copied the image into the four sections. Knowing the high cost of the design with the image, I altered the size into 18”x12”.


I aligned my text and centred the images. Since the maker’s lab’s laser cutter was still not fixed, I took my designs to the RPC. When my final products were finally ready for pickup, I was happy with the results. However, the small version failed. Instead of engraving the picture, the machine engraved a blank square into the wood.


I was told that I should have transferred my image into different tones of grey using photoshop before including it into the design. This is a lesson to be learnt for future projects.


For assembling the large piece, I used hot glue gun to see how it works before applying permanent wood glue.


img_7751 img_7758 img_7748

I am also considering alternative connection methods like small door hinges to connect my pieces together. Instead of using screws to fix the hinges, I am looking into gluing those to the wood to avoid possible damage that can result from drilling holes into the piece, which can also interfere with the design cuts. For next time, I am planning to incorporate the screws’  holes into the design to have them laser cut.

For the small piece, I used door hinges.


I am planning to use this piece for my final DIY project. It is a room divider door.

img_7771 img_7772

When making the big piece, I had in mind an installation piece, however, I also wanted it to be functional. I thought what would I do with such a huge piece when the art show is done? I had to think of alternatives. That is how I thought of a room divider. When the show is over, you can use it, or sell it as an artistic divider.

img_7773 img_7770

After putting the pieces together, the screws were popping at the back, preventing the doors from folding in the desired order. To resolve this, I cut the remnants of the screws in the back.


When my pieces were assembled, I experimented with projecting light from the large piece in different directions. I also thought of making a roof piece to project light to the ceiling. I love the effect it gives, as the text is projected on the large walls around, as intended. I am going to buy a revolving light that can move around and project the light in every direction. When the viewers walk into the dark room, the text will be projected into them as well, so they become an integrated part of the installation.


My large piece can also be used as a lantern.




My first challenge was trying to figure out how the tools of the Adobe Illustrator work. This was resolved with the hands-on assistance of Erica.

My second challenge was developed due to using Arabic text, which was not fully supported by the Adobe Illustrator program. Whatever text I wrote, it would come out reversed. The program is treating Arabic letters as English letters. Thus, they are separated and are reversed from left to right. After some research, I found out that this is in fact a common problem with all of Adobe applications. To overcome this problem, I research and used Arabic text reverser. I then copied the text in reversed letters order into Adobe Illustrator, which in turn reversed it into the correct form.



My third challenge was the type of font I needed: Arabic calligraphy. It took me hours of unfruitful research, I tried to download the fonts I need from Adobe, but for some reason, it did not work. Thankfully, Mazen had the fonts downloaded into his computer and I was able use Kufic and apply it to my design.

The fourth challenge was when I arrived at the maker’s lab on Saturday to do my laser cutting, I learnt that the laser cutting machine was broken, which meant I would not have my project ready for Monday. After many days of waiting, the machine was still not fixed, I eventually sent my projects to the RPC, and was able to pick it up on Friday Feb. 08.

6-Tools & Materials used:

Adobe Illustrator

36”x24” and 18”x12” x 1/8” Baltic Birch Plywood

Laser cutter- RPC

Hot glue gun



1’’x3/4” door hinges

7-Pros and Cons:

Pros: The laser cutting technology is fast and time saving. It is a great alternative for the strenuous hand-work which can take ages to finish. This is an instance where I appreciate technology replacing the hand-made. Plus, laser cutting provides clean final work which can be very tricky and sometimes hard to achieve by hand. In addition, it is amazing how various types of technologies can intertwine and combine together to produce new functional and artistic objects, and how a simple design using computer software can transform things.

Cons: laser cutting is very costly if you want to do detailed and large work. Like for example, my project could have cost a total of $300. Luckily, I did not pay the full price. I was told that OCADU RPC is cheaper than others because it is subsidized. I am trying to research the most affordable way to laser cut my future projects. In contrast, handmade cutting takes so many hours of labour, which might be costlier; and precision might be hard to achieve. Additionally, it can be hard to achieve your concepts if you are not design software friendly; in this case you might want to hire a designer.

9-Simple Do it Yourself:

If you have a concept, then that’s great. You’ve come half way into realization. If you don’t, then good luck, that’s the hardest part!

Once you have it, design it, align it, laser cut it, assemble it, have a great fun with it!!

Present it, exhibit it, use it or sell it. Enjoy it!

10-What’s Next? 

I intend to create a monumental structure of laser cut wood. My monumental installation will include every Palestinian city and village. The cities that still exists will be engraved, while the cities and villages that were destroyed will be cut off. I also intend to create 3D sculptures of the cut-out pieces left from this project.

11-Final Thought:

I must say I have enjoyed the process of laser cutting all the way from the concept to design to fabrication, and I love my final products. I enjoyed working on my design using adobe illustrator, which is completely foreign to me. However, with the help and guidance of Erica, I was able to make it through. From my limited experience of working on my project, I now have a basic knowledge of the program which will enable me to experiment more and improve my skills to use this program to implement future projects of laser cutting.

I am amazed of the endless possibilities this learning experience has offered. In addition, it opened to me a new door of making. I can be sure that laser cutting projects will be an integrated part of my practice. This is “The Joy of Laser Cutting.”


12-Research: My research elements are imbedded in the above text.



“The And”

Acrylic laser cut and design by Jaicyea Smith

3164525, OCADU 

Digital Fabrication 6013


The Design Concept:

“The And” is an art piece, tool, mirror and a political statement. 

The ampersand is one of those old school English words that has natural graffiti qualities. &, $, {, to name a few. I was initially working on etching some hand style into a mirror but I began to look into graffiti style text for a sharper, clearer effect. 

The character was discovered around 45 A.D. It appeared on papyrus, handwritten in the Roman cursive style. The earliest representations of the character were a combination of the letters ET (in the form of a ligature) and evolved into the more common & single-character representation over the course of the next 700 years.

Discovery and challenges:

As an art piece, “The And” I showed the piece in class, I got feedback (from women!) about how the piece could double as a purse-sized mirror and self-defence tool. The irony of it all was just too good and I wanted to explore it further. I tried applying practical use by doing my makeup in the mirror. Future developments would most definitely require a handle or soft brace of some sort, maybe a leather or soft velvet casing to protect the sharp edges. 

I walked around with “The And” as a tool and found it difficult to have it reachable without being an uncomfortable nuisance. Which led me to think about guns, knives, and other tactical defence armour people brace them selves with each and everyday. I thought it might be interesting to make a statement about weaponry and gun control and how casual the laws are by turning this old fashion punctuation into a controversial line of purse-sized mirrors. Could I empower women by offering a DIY weapon that doubles as a mirror?

The iterative design process was easy! DIY in 10 easy steps.

  • What kind of message are you trying to send? Get Creative!
  1. Select the font you want 


3. Install the font and insert the text into illustrator, adjust size.  


Prepare the image for laser cutting.

4. Reducing anchor points / simplifying drawing


Draw with the least amount of anchor points possible without sacrificing the drawing appearance. If you can reduce them, we suggest you do. The machines will process your drawings quicker. Too many anchor points can also impact quality.

  • You can reduce the number of points with the Simplify tool
  • Select the stroke path you wish to simplify and select Object > Path > Simplify from the top menu
  • Adjust the sliders until you have maintained a balance between preserving appearance and reducing the number of anchor points

5. Using text – outlining your fonts

All text used needs to be Outlined / converted to paths.

  • Select Type > Font > Create outlines from the top menu

This is to convert the text to vectors and preserve your font. If you don’t do this and we don’t have your font installed on our computers, the file will open in default font Myriad or Arial. The middle islands of some letters will fall out when laser cut which can make the text difficult to read. If you would like to prevent this one option is to use a stencil font.

6. Configuring units & colour mode

  • Measurements: 1 unit = 1mm
  • Draw components at actual size.
  • If copying and pasting vectors from another file, make sure that they are at the scale you require
  • Make sure you are working in RGB mode
  • Select File > Document Colour Mode > RGB
  • Red: RGB: 255,0,0
  • Stroke weight: to 0.01mm / 0.25 pt

Cutting and speed: The laser cuts different materials at varying speeds. As a benchmark it generally takes longer to cut thicker materials than thinner ones. The thicker a material the more power is required at a lower speed. The laser is also faster at cutting straight lines than it is at cutting curves.

For everything you would like to be vector engraved / scored set the strokes to:

  • Blue: RGB: 0,0,255
  • Stroke weight: to 0.01mm / 0.25 pt


7. Saving your file

  • Select File > Save As
  • Format Adobe Illustrator (ai)
  • Any version.

8. I loaded $20 worth of funds on my materials account using a credit card. 

9. Next, I took a trip to the Rapid Prototyping Centre at 100 Mc Caul Street. I met my friend there who offered me some leftover acrylic mirror material and double checked my work! 

10. The centre has usb keys for you file, which you will load up onto their computer. Make sure your lines are perfect! I ordered an acrylic cut on the c02 laser Trotec Speedy 500 120 watt which was set to only take a few minutes.

“How Does It Work? The machine head functions much like the extruder on a FDM 3D printer, it sits on a gantry that allows it to move on an x,y,z, axis. A software (this will always depend on the machine used) will tell the laser where it needs to travel based on your design file, how fast to go, and how powerful to set the laser beam. (ie. Cura for Lulzbot). This software will interpret your design file as instructions for cutting (vectoring) or engraving (rastering), based on how it was prepared in illustrator. With this software, the laser OP can fine tune power and speed to achieve thedesired outcome.” (Charbonneau, 2019)

The result was not only beautiful but useful! This laser cutting project gave me a first-hand perspective on how experimental art can ignite taboo dialogue and how through that conversation we begin to see the affordances that the art creates!

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Owl be thinking of you – DIY Laser Cut Greeting Cards

Design Document: DIY Laser Cut Greeting Cards


“Owl be thinking of you”
bekky O’Neil – IAMD Programme, 3158303
Submitted February 4th 2018

Explanation of the Design Concept

As animators and permaculture farmers, my partner and I work under the name “Cardboard Reality Farm & Studio.”  We call ourselves Cardboard Reality because we deal in constructed worlds.  For stop motion animation specifically it is all about putting together bits of string and paper to create complicated environments and magical spaces.  It didn’t occur to me when I started selling from our market garden at the farmer’s market that given our name, and my penchant for killing time by painting little greeting cards under the tent that a big part of what I do would end up being paper goods.


I was interested in how working with paper for laser cutting could allow me to go deeper into my paper cut work (which I often use for negatives for screen printing) and so set out to adapt paper cut illustrations, painstakingly cut with an x-acto knife into easy to replicate designs for sale as greeting cards.

Since I also use these paper cuts as negatives for screen printing and am perpetually paranoid about breaking one, I like that in scanning them and being able to replicate I could also reprint my designs at different scales for exposure, or just replicate them as backups, or take it one step further to make paper cut negatives for screen printing from Digital designs (avoiding working with nasty acetate which is expensive and often too small).


Challenges included working with files with so many tiny holes!  Deciding what should be the first cut vs. second or third seemed arbitrary at times, and as I have not yet (as of writing this) been able to test out my work.

Other challenges included the laser cutter being out of service.

An explanation of the iterative design process

The potential across mediums for laser cut artworks is almost overwhelming to me.  Too many ideas and too little time will certainly turn out to be a time for me in this course.  Initially my intended project was to raster engrave images from life the farm onto wood harvested by my partner from our tree line, but given the nature of hand milled wood and it’s uneven surface, after conversations wit Reza and the team at the RP Centre at 100 McCaul it seemed like given the tight turnaround of the project I would be spending more time woodworking and building a rig than putting together my design.  So this project will be saved for later.

laser_process_01laser_process_02  laser_process_03laser_process_04

I was interested to learn that any irregular shaped object can be engraved upon so long as an appropriate rig of wood or cardboard was constructed to old the item in the right location, corresponding to the digital workspace.  Nice etc piece of wood is unique this ultimately means that I will either have to build an adaptable rig, use screws placing holes in the wood, or to build a unique ring for each item (hardly rapid at that point.). It seems to me that perhaps screen printing or wood burning the images could be equally effective when it comes to time input but I will compare at a later date.


When I decided to move on to the paper cut project I started by picking out a series of paper cuts to scan and work with.  Ultimately out of three potential designs I chose the smallest and most comparatively simple, as I felt it would give me the most space to play with layout.


Initially I just set out to replicate my initial paper cut on a smaller scale, which I thought could be attached to the front of a card.  On the train ride in I had the tremendously obvious epiphany that gluing or sewing the laser cut element to the front of a card sort of defeated the purpose of using a laser cutter to create multiples, and that what I really should be doing was to remove the outer line and just cutting the design out of the card.  This would allow me to place a differently coloured piece of paper on the interior of the card – allowing a bigger degree of contrast when the card is closed, without compromising the tactile experience of receiver.

Moving forward I am interested in taking this work further by beginning to design pop up cards, and maybe even a pop up book.

(Or pop up animation!)

Inspiration: “Going West” ad for NZ Book Council by Andersen M Studio

Tools & Materials used

Black card stock
X-Acto Knife
Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Illustrator
TVPaint Animation (for basic scan clean function to alpha channel design)
Archival Quality Paper
Pre-Cut Bamboo Greeting Cards

Step by Step guide, showing the reader how to create your design from the design phase to the fabrication phase.


laser_process_09 laser_process_08

In the spirit of the love of cardboard and paper, as well as the DIY , I have been working on putting together an illustrated zine

Visual documentation of the completed project

To follow.

Relevant research

Ponoko: How to make a laser cut greeting card–How-to-make-a-laser-cut-greeting-card

Paper & Fire: How to improve a laser cut greeting card or stationery design

How to improve a laser cut greeting card or stationery design

Instructables: Popup Cards With Laser Cutter

Love Pop Cards (Inspiration)

DIY Cuckoo Clock

10 Easy Steps to Building your OWN Cuckoo ‘Clock’

Cuckoo Clock (Original)
Cuckoo Clock (Original)

Design Concept

Step 1. Research (Cuckoo, Cuckoo)

The design concept for this project was thought of in relationship to the 3D printed project before it. Initially, I wanted to create something as a modification to an already existing object (let’s say adding a new pick board to a guitar, or a dice box for DnD). The more I thought about the possibilities, I realized that what I really wanted to build was something that reminded me of people that are very important to my artistic practice: my Oma and Opa. Being very traditionally German, they owned a handmade Bavarian Cuckoo Clock (yes, it had a tiny mechanical bird, that would say “cuckoo, cuckoo” every hour and chime. It was made of wood and stained very dark with intricate details and lots of hokey imagery. I have no idea how to build a clock, so I wanted to find a different, more approachable way to build a type of “clock” that contains a organic measurement of time and light passing from one day to the next.

Guitar Pick Design (First Idea)
Guitar Pick Design (First Idea)

Step 2. Symbolism (Thanks Pixabay)

Pixabay (to find CC images)
Pixabay (to find CC images)


Step 3. Breaking it Down (Basic Shapes)

My objective was to apply Stephen Voyce’s concepts of open source design methodologies. I read his article “Towards an Open Source Poetics: Appropriation, Collaboration and the Commons” for Issues in Critical Theory, and was struck by the authenticity of his argument. What if everything we made was available to be remade, remixed and re-printed or cut. In fine arts, this hardy ever occurs (except with my hero–Bob Ross!). I wanted to approach a traditional German cultural object (that has a long history of being hand-made) and challenge this notion by manufacturing it without the human hand. The expensive decorative clock is transformed into a very quick (ish) modified plant house. I wanted to contrast my utopian version (go green!) with another, more sinister one. I think that laser cutting and any type of quick manufacturing process also has the potential to create a lot of waste in the world. Therefore, I used a nonrenewable resource (acrylic) to create a transparent, but devoid of life house.

Learning how to make a Clipping Mask
Learning how to make a Clipping Mask
Clipping Mask 1
Clipping Mask 1 (made in Photoshop)
Clipping Mask 2
Clipping Mask 2 (Made in Photoshop)

Step 4. File modification & alignment (measure once…)

Acrylic Design (with clipping mask for engraving)
Acrylic Design (with clipping mask for engraving–This design did not work, because the clipping mask was interfering with the cutting of the file…alignment was another challenge of this project)
Final Acrylic (or wood) iteration with environmental theme
Final Acrylic (or wood) iteration with environmental theme


The main challenges I faced were to create a design that translated well from Adobe Illustrator to a real object. I thought my digital measurements were much smaller than my actual ones. Time was another constraint I faced, as I wanted to take more time to put all of the pieces together. Lastly, access to a functioning laser (thank you again Erica for your brilliant help on Saturday!). Other challenges include trying to align the material (wood) with the software and the laser itself. I also had to change many of the lines, as they did not appear even, or there were more than one of the same line. 

Another challenge that I had when making this project, was to figure out when not to hand make or interfere with the material. In this sense I would say I really tried to keep as much made in the mechanical projects. I would say this is an ongoing challenge for me personally.

Once all the acrylic pieces were cut out (on Wednesday), I was able to assemble them using instant-glue. The challenge was getting the right amount of glue without having it bleeding out onto the acrylic. I also simplified this design due to time constraints.

Step 5. Computer Software & Clipping Mask removal (wood)

Design without engraving/rastering (basic shapes)
Design without engraving/rastering (basic shapes)

Step 6. Planning/Aligning the LASER

Laser Printing Software
Laser Printing Software
Operating the Boss Laser
Operating the Boss Laser

Iterative Design Process

The iterative design process started by researching what cuckoo clocks actually look like, both inside (mechanical) and outside (decorative). I decided to break down the clock into basic shapes and focus on the structure, not the decorative elements. I also wanted the images used (on the acrylic version) to relate to environmental issues that are both past and present (especially in Germany). I was focusing on the push back against the use of Nuclear Power (especially in the 80’s and 90’s). I also wanted to focus on environmental issues facing us globally today (especially with the rise of technology) such as pollution. I wanted to use wood for the more “natural” interpretation of the clock; however, this is also meant ironically, as the wood itself is also manufactured. The plant used is also part of the manufacturing process, and each symbol is made by a laser. I enjoy creating contrast in this work, and enjoy the conversation about environmental protection, time and the idea of open-source.

Step 7. The Laser is Magic

Set your laser to 80 strength and 20 speed (usual setting is 70/15) change depending on the laser you are using (or go to the RP Center and have it cut!)

The laser cutting materials
The laser cutting 1/8″ Baltic Birch Plywood (cut to 26×30″)
The pieces Boss wanted to cut...
The pieces Boss wanted to cut…

Step 8. Troubleshooting (Lasers are not the Death Star)

Not all those who laser, are cut...
Not all those who laser, are cut…

Tools and Materials

For this project, I used Adobe Illustrator as a starting point. I also used Pixabay, and Photoshop to manipulate the images by making them into a clipping mask. I used the Boss Laser (at 205 Richmond Street), along with it’s somewhat user-unfriendly software. Erica was a great help in this process! Next, I used a drill to create holes in the hexagons to be able to sew them together with embroidery thread. I intend to use the sewn pieces to add them as the time measurement hands (as seen in the Original file). I will also be using different kinds of wood and everything glue to fasten the pieces together. Finally, I intend to hand the Cuckoo Clocks side-by-side to illustrate the contrast and beauty of ‘natural’ or unnatural materials. I am also paying to have the Acrylic (engraved) version, which is currently being made at 100 McCaul RP center. 

Other tools needed:

1/8″ Baltic Birch Plywood (cut to 26×30″)

1/8″ Acylic Sheet (cut to 26×30″) —must contain no PVC or other harmful chemicals (when heat/laser is applied)

1 Drill (with 1/16 drill bit)

Wood Glue & Instant Glue (LePage)


Masking tape

1 plant of your choice (ideally in a container to ensure watering is easy)

Fishing line

Found (dead) root system for Acrylic Clock

Step 9. Other affordances of the shapes (play)

Drilling individual hexagons
Drilling individual hexagons
Sewing individual pieces
Sewing individual pieces
Embroidering Wood Pieces
Embroidering Wood Pieces
Part 1, complete!
Part 1, complete!
2 chimes complete
2 chimes complete

Step 10. RP Center & final assemblage

Assembling the Wooden House
Assembling the Wooden House


Using masking tape to hold all the pieces as they dry
Using masking tape to hold all the pieces as they dry
Repeating the process with the acrylic version
Repeating the process with the acrylic version

Final Product Details: 

Final Acrylic "Clock"
Final Acrylic “Clock” with special lighting
Final acrylic clock with root system (from dead plant) suspended on laser cut acrylic circle
Final acrylic clock with root system (from dead plant) suspended on laser cut acrylic circle
Final Wooden Clock (with plant as a the time measurer and climate control factor)
Final Wooden Clock (with Ivy plant as a the time measurer and climate control factor)
Detail from above
Detail from above
Small detail of hand-sewing counter weight (attached with woolen yarn)
Small detail of hand-sewing counter weight (attached with woolen yarn)





img_20190204_073214fenderDesign Concept:

Amplify is a wooden replacement box for the Fender Mini Tone-Master Amp. The Amplifier comes with a plastic box, a Knobs panel for the setting, an input for power and headphone, with two speakers. Even though the original box is sturdy, I had always wanted to have a nicely finished classical looking wooden box for it. After being able to break the original box finally, I thought it is the right time to design a good looking wooden box for it. With this guide, you will be able to create your own Amplifier box in no time.


My objective for this experience was to create a simple DIY Box for the Fender Mini Amp and in the process get to have a better understanding of what Laser Cutting offers. I wanted to explore all the different options of laser cutting offered ( Rastering, Cutting and Linear Engraving scoping) with the design and learn when to use each. I also wanted to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator to create my file and how to properly set it to be sent to a laser cutting machine.


One of the most challenging parts of my design was converting the 3D design object to a flat illustrator file ready to be used by the laser cutting machine. The original 3D design object looked a bit differently than the final product, as in the process of conversion, I found that to be able to use a finger joint to connect the different surfaces, I had to make some minor changes to the design.

Another challenge was the creation of the living hinge. I needed to make sure the angle in the front and back panel of the body were smooth enough for the top layer so that it would sit nicely on it. In the end, I would say this design still needs some further work and bit more adjustment to get to the ideal case.

Tools and Materials:

You can find the link to the:

The initial 3D design as done in Tinkercad and then flattened and move to Adobe Illustrator to get ready for the laser cutting machine.


  • Tinkercad
  • Adobe Illustrator


  • 20” x 20” – 1/8” Baltic Birch Plywood
  • Wood Glue
  • Sand Paper
  • Wood Stain (Optional)

Design Process:

  1. The first step was to measure the size of the holes required for the knobs and their distances from each other. I was able to make that process easier by scanning the sticker from the original box and creating a layout in Illustrator and uploading it into Thinkercad.
  2. I then repeated the same procedure as in step 1 to find the right measurements for the placements of the power input and the headphone jack.
  3. The next step was to measure the opening needed for the speakers and then to find a good pattern to create them. (The opening is designed by Vecteezy).
  4. I then finished the 3D design of the object, and separate all the pieces and flatten it out to find all the pieces that are required to build the object.untitled-1
  5. I saved the flatten file as an SVG file and then tried to move it over into Adobe Illustrator to be prepared for laser cutting.untitled-2
  6. The next step was to add the finger joints to all the boxes in the illustrator file.
  7. After adding the fingers, I made some final touches to the speakers opening to reduce the number of cuts needed and decrease the printing time.untitled-3
  8. I finished by changing the colours of each cuts in order to sort them out for the laser cutting machine to know which one to cut first. I did this by giving the highest priority to the inside designs and leaving the final layout of the object for last.
  9. The file is now ready to be sent to the laser cutter.


Making Process:

  1. Start by gluing the back panel to the base. Make sure you give it enough time to dry.img_20190203_114504
  2. Put in all the stands and glue them into their place.img_20190203_115827
  3. The next step is to put the knob’s circuit into the front panel. Please put it in place and fasten all the nuts. You can set the heads for the knobs back as well.img_20190203_112813
  4. Glue the front panel to the base.img_20190203_121627
  5. Place the speakers on their place and use glue to fasten them in their place.img_20190203_122652
  6. Screw the circuit for the headphone and power jack into its place.img_20190203_122918
  7. The last step is to glue the top cover. Make sure all the joints go in correctly and use an elastic band to keep the top panel in place until all the glue dry out.img_20190203_130549img_20190203_133138
  8. You can now sand the box and use any wood stain to colour your box.



To get some ideas of things that I can do to make DIY Laser Cut box, I went over to pinterest and searched for DIY projects. One that really inspired me was the Bel-Aire, it was very unique and its vintage look made it very good looking. I really liked the idea of a living hinge, as it looks beautiful and it also offers a lot of movements that you would not expect in a wooden structure.


I did further research into Living Hinge, where I found this website that provided me with the design required in order to build one.



Digital Fabrication DIY: Laser Map Making


Digital fabrication in art production is where a machine is controlled by a computer to create a product.

Common types of digital fabrication include: 3D printing, CNC milling, laser cutting, and robotic production. 

Today we will be looking at laser cutting and rastering on wood and acrylic. I wanted to see what different digital fabrication processes and materials might work in terms creating a visual map of an area.


If this is your first time working in this arena, you might benefit from some definitions:

Laser Cutting is a non-contact process which utilizes a laser to cut materials, resulting in high quality, dimensionally accurate cuts. The process works by directing the laser beam through a nozzle to the workpiece. A combination of heat and pressure creates the cutting action.

Rastering: Raster engraving involves the laser performing a printer-like function. It moves back and forth across the material while the laser engraves a surface image.


Acrylic Sheets/Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA), also known as acrylic or acrylic glass as well as by the trade names Crylux, Plexiglas, Acrylite, Lucite, and Perspex among several others (see below), is a transparent thermoplastic often used in sheet form as a lightweight or shatter-resistant alternative to glass.

So there’s no real difference between plexi and acrylic, it just goes by different brand names.

  1. What you can use laser cutting on: Plastics such as: Acrylic, Polyester (Mylar), Nylon (melts badly), Thin Metals such as: stainless steel, Foam such as: Depron foam (often used for RC planes), Other such as: Papers, Rubbers (so long as they don’t contain chlorine), Clothes (leather, suede, felt, cotton), Woods (birch, red oak, poplar, cherry) – to name a few.
  2. What you can’t user laser cutting on: Most metals, Any material containing Chlorine, Vinyl, Carbon Fibre, Fibreglass, Glass – to name a few.
  3. Software: At OCAD: Rhino, 3dsMax, Maya, Solidworks, Sketch-up, Illustrator, AutoCad


Materials/Tools used in this tutorial:

1x  16×20 Sheet or 1/8 in acrylic

1 small wooden box top approx. 3.5 x 8in

Laser cutter

Software: Adobe Illustrator

Here’s a quick video that shows what laser cutting looks like:

The project in this tutorial is pretty simple, we’ll print 2 different styles of maps on two different materials to see how the stack up.

  1. Gather map data. For this, I collected data from two sources. The first photo below shows the government of Canada’s map on communities with  long term drinking water advisories.









2. Pull a line drawing or simple image of the whole province from Google image search.

3. Open it up in Adobe Illustrator, Choose Object > Image Trace > Make to trace with default parameters. Illustrator converts the image to black and white tracing result by default. The defaults are pretty good for what we’re doing.

4. Using the elipse tool draw the circles where the data points on the map that you’d like to highlight are. I kept the Gov’t map up on one screen then another, worked in Illustrator.

Draw an Ellipse or Circle
  1. Select the Ellipse tool on the Tools panel.
  2. Select a Stroke and Fill Color from the Colors area of the Tools panel.
  3. Click and drag on the artboard, and then release the mouse.

The Second Map:

1.Go to

2. Type in the name of the town or address you’d like to map, you can also zoom in and out and choose fonts and some styling. This uses Google Maps data so you’ll get a much different look than our manually done map, including lakes!

3. When you’re happy with the results, take a screenshot of your map.

4. Open it up in Illustrator and run an image trace like before.

5. Save both files for laser cutting.

Final File prep, Using the RP Centre Adobe Illustrator laser-cutting:

kasercut1 lasercut

View the full tutorial here:

  1. The “Art board” size of the template is set to 48”x 27”. This is the size of the laser bed. Anything larger than 48”x 27”will not fit on the laser and therefore will not be accepted. Set art board to match the size of your material in inches Go to File -> Document Setup -> Edit Artboards -> Set width/height of your material.
  2. Make sure you are working in inches Select File -> Document Setup -> Units -> Inches
  3. Set art board to match the size of your materials Select File ->New -> Set width/height from the menu,
  4. Make sure your colour space is set to RGB


These colours are the four colour options for laser cutting. These are the only colours that the laser will recognize.

Use Black (RGB: 0,0,0) for everything you would like engraved. The laser cuts the colours in order. Starting with Red (RGB: 255, 0, 0) followed by Blue (RGB 0,0,255), and finally Green (RGB 0,255,0).

All interior cuts should be cut first and therefore should be red, with any further cuts being Blue, and the final exterior cuts being Green.

All laser cuts and engrave lines should have a stroke weight of 0.01pt

Make sure you pull up the Basic RGB colour swatch Select Swatch Library Menu -> Default Swatches -> Basic RGB Raster Lines and Fills All vectors you would like raster engraved must be indicated by a vector fill.

Set all fill colours to: Black: RGB: 0,0,0 The Rastering Effect is achieved by leaving your paths filled with black. However, different depths of rastering can be achieved by using several tones of grey. Black will always be rastered the deepest, with White not being touched. The darkness of the Grey tone will determine how deep the raster will be. However to achieve the rastering effect, the laser passes over an object hundreds of times removing one beam width per pass. This means very large rastering jobs can get very expensive. So use this technique wisely

In the second version of the map, where we used an online source image, I had some problems with linking within Illustrator. Usually when you bring something into Illustrator you don’t have to wory about the original file being linked as a “source” and therefore needing to travel with your AI file. In this case, it did, so watch out for that!

Final Outputs:

img_9369 img_9373 img_9371img_9378

CNC End Table

CNC End Table

Figure 1: Video Demonstrating The CNC End Table and its Disassembly.

After learning about the CNC Furniture movement that has been increasing in popularity in recent years–I was moved to attempt to create my own piece. Drawn to the scalability and open source nature of the product, this exercise is an exploration of the principles in building this class of furniture.

CNC furniture is cut using a Computer Numeric Control machine or in this example, a laser cutter. The main element of this furniture is that it is designed to use minimal supplies and no fasteners by using a series of components in tension and compression. In one possible utopic setting, one could imagine civically-serviced buildings with CNC machines that would be available for public use to create furniture from the available array of open source designs. Perhaps if designers become better versed with this technology it will help push this movement into the mainstream.

Design Concept

After consideration for a range of furniture products, I landed on an end table as I felt it would have consisted of the least amount of joints and physical intersections. Comparatively, the argument can be made that a chair, cabinet, desk or large table are all more complex shapes. Initially, I had intended to make an actual scale model but ultimately was bound by time constraints before being able to realize it. Given that this was just an exploratory exercise, I decided that a small end table would be a good introduction to learn the basics of CNC Furniture.

After referencing some artifacts from local Toronto post-modern furniture design studios, M-S-D-S and Jamie Wolfond, I found a few end table designs that I felt could serve as a basis of design and inspiration for the final CNC construction.

Figure 2: Early Sketches and Perspective Drawings of First Draft of CNC End Table

I am interested in post-modern furniture and architecture and decided to make the basis of this design consist of the same simple forms common in this theme of design. As demonstrated above, the CNC End Table is made up of circular, “T”, “X” and “F” forms. These shapes make up the shelving and structural features of the design. In order to keep the structure simple and within the spirit of CNC furniture, I aimed for the entire piece to be made in no more than 5-6 separate pieces.

In the first prototype, I wanted the separate elements to fit together and remain in place as bound by gravity and friction. The final objective would be to have a CNC built End Table that is bound not only by gravity and friction, but also compression and tension. This will be explored further in a later prototype.


The objective as touched upon above, is to fabricate a functional load-bearing furniture artifact, one that can be easily assembled and disassembled. Although the original objective was to create an actual to scale model of the end table, because of time and material restraints I opted to create a smaller model.

The ultimately goal is to create a proof of concept of the ease and scalability of CNC/Laser Cut Furniture. If materials can be locally sourced, specific to that region and designs can be downloaded online via an open source catalogue, I see this movement of products contributing toward global sustainability goals by removing the need for retailer, shipping and warehousing–as well as making products easier to recycle if they are all fabricated using one material.


During the design process I ran into few small issues with alignment in TinkerCAD. Due to an oversight on my behalf, some of the joints were not perfectly centred and the first physical prototype is therefore unaligned by a few millimetres. The correction was made in the graphical model, but to-date it has not yet been sent to the laser cutter for revision.

Another challenge is ultimately making this a true CNC Furniture piece. The first prototype is only bound by gravity, the 4 separate pieces have no tension/compression relationships between each other. As demonstrated below, the joints would require elements that would hold opposite cross sections together.

Figure 3: A True CNC Furniture Artifact, Demonstrating Tension and Compression.

A final small issue that arose during the fabrication process, is that the wood sourced from the MakerLab is not exactly 1/8″ thickness. I attempted to compensate for this in the design, but the joints still do not fit exactly. This is ultimately a downfall to CNC furniture, that measurements have very little margin of error.

Tools and Materials

Moleskin Notepad

Ink Pen


Adobe Illustrator

Laser Cutter

1/8″ thick birch plywood sheet

Design Process

The Design process was fairly straight forward, after the preliminary sketches were finished in my Moleskin Notebook, I moved forward into TinkerCAD to make the 3D shapes. I knew that my first prototype was set to use 1/8” thick birch plywood. Therefore, I set the width of any shape that I drew accordingly in TinkerCAD. Any of the slits that exist in the 4 final shapes are all set to be equal to the width of the plywood board so that they fit together snuggly.

A lesson I learned from Aaron Draplin from Draplin Design Co. is to have a fluent artboard. It is an approach that I’ve applied when using illustrator and it’s something that I found equally relevant when working in TinkerCAD. By fluent, I mean that any changes in terms of scaling, additions and/or subtractions should be recorded on the art board. This provides me with a visual history of my design decisions as well as a certain degree of flexibility. Designing like this allows me to return to previous steps if I made a mistake or if I want to make a specific change at any point of my design process.

After finishing drawing the final shape in TinkerCAD, I rotated each segment of the final design and laid it flat against the x-plane of the workplane. I then exported the file into illustrator, I readjusted the layout so that it would fit on my piece of birch plywood then sent it to the laser cutter for completion.

Figure 4: TinkerCAD’s Workplane for CNC End Table

Visual documentation

Figure 5: Individual Cut Pieces of The CNC End Table

Figure 6: Final Result of the CNC End Table

Research and References

Laser Cut Measuring Cup

Reductive Measuring Cup

By Olivia Prior

Measuring cup, finished product
Measuring cup, finished product


Reductive Measuring Cup is a redesigned volume measuring tool that uses a reductive form of visual representation to indicate what volume the glass contains. The cup uses two types of material: black opaque acrylic and transparent acrylic. Rather than a traditional measure cup that is wholly transparent with writing as quantity indicators, the cup is opaque with transparent layers that are used as measuring lines. The transparent layers have tabs that extend out of the cup that marks the quantity of the substance (such as ¼ or ⅔ ). The tabs as well pick up the colour and light of the substance in the cup and extend the substance “out” of the cup as a visual indicator. Reductive Measuring Cup aims to give the user only the information they need through the qualities of the materials.


For this assignment, I was inspired by the Popsicle tutorial from the Joy of Laser Cutting. In my past fabrication experience, I have created a lot of 2D jewellery and keychains, and have experimented with making different boxes and containers. I wanted to explore the concept of assembling and laminating layers of acrylic together to create a functional 3D object. I was intrigued by the laser cut proof of concepts in the Rapid Prototyping Center such as some of the maquette chairs but knew that I did not want to create a container or a miniature prototype of a functional item. I wanted something that could be a finished product that anyone could download and make for themselves.

I came to this idea from thinking about a combination of the qualities of acrylic, and the maximum height of material that the laser-cutter could cut through. I thought it could be interesting to use the height of the material as a measure for different volumes of liquid. I was also curious to see if the measuring cup contained transparent layers would those layers take on the same property as acrylic when the light is shone through and illuminates the edges and anything that is etched onto the surface. I chose to make a measuring cup that used transparent material to indicate different volume levels in the vessel. I thought the functionality of the measuring cup was fitting to my exploration objectives.


The first challenge in designing this cup was getting the proper measurements for the volume of each layer. I wanted to at first create a hexagonal shape because I wanted to the measuring cup to measure six different volumes. I thought that this would lend itself nicely to the design. Calculating the volume of the hexagonal prism was a “guess and check” headache. I chose to pursue a cylinder because it was a formula that I could much more easily manipulate myself. I looked at the one cup measure in my kitchen for guidance on what I should expect for my own design. I then played around with multiple dimensions until I found one for a cylinder that would hold nearly the precise volume for 236.5ml, one cup.

Sketching out the initial idea and calculating different volumes and the necessary layer amounts.
Sketching out the initial idea and calculating different volumes and the necessary layer amounts.

One positive that I found from this challenge was that the height of the measuring cup would divide nicely by three. The width of the acrylic I had chosen to use was 3mm. This would allow me to calculate the layers evenly in 3mm increments.

I fully designed the file in illustrator with few issues. I took the design to the Rapid Prototyping Centre (RPC) and was told that a few of my design decisions would not work well. I had included holes in each of my pieces so that I could use some dowel to hold each layer steady as I laminated the object together. I was initially told that my holes were too narrow and too close to my edges. This risked the holes burning through the edge of the material leaving the hole open to the outside surface. I was also informed that the laser cutter often takes away some material when cutting a hole, similar to how some material is lost when cut on a table saw. I was advised to make the edges wider than intended to account for this. I was also advised to purchase the dowel ahead of time and measure the material with callipers to get a very precise measurement to inform the size of the holes.

I went to the plastics lab where I purchased all of my material and measured the dowel with callipers. The dowel was inconsistent in width along the entire length of the material, varying from 0.122” to 0.129”. Upon consultation at the RPC, I chose to make the bracing holes in my layers to be on the smaller side.

I adjusted my file twice in the RPC to account for varying material sizes and upon picking up my pieces found that the dowel did not fit through the holes. I was fully unsure of the outcome of my piece and decided rather than buying a whole new set of material and altering my design file to pursue the project until I had a finished product. This would let me make a larger batch of changes rather than many minor iterations.

I attempted to sand my acrylic dowel down to fit into my pieces but this was unsuccessful. I found some wooden dowel that slid through my layers. I had wanted acrylic dowel because I wanted to laminate the material to the layers, but through playing around I realized that it was unnecessary to include the dowel.

The acrylic dowel that was too thick, with attempts to sand the width down.
The acrylic dowel that was too thick, with attempts to sand the width down.

The last challenge I had with my piece were a few minor design issues that came from copying and pasting my pieces while iterating on the illustrator file in the RPC. A part of my design was to stagger the measuring tabs in 45degree angles around the cylinder like a spiral staircase. I had mixed up the order of the steps for the last three measurements (⅔ , ¾ and 1 cup ). The staircase order was not correct, which meant upon assembly I would not be able to solely rely on the dowel to help stabilize the layer while glueing. The holes in the layers were aligned perfectly, so if I wanted the visual effect of the spiral I would need to stray from the dowel. The other minor design flaw was the text on the ¾ tab had shifted. I did not notice this until assembly which then I realized the text was partially covered by the subsequent piece. There was nothing I could do about this so I chose to include the piece anyways and make a note in the file for next time.

Assembling the layers with the dowel to see how the finished product would look like.  You can see here that the layers of the measuring tabs to do not align correctly as intended.
Assembling the layers with the dowel to see how the finished product would look like. You can see here that the layers of the measuring tabs to do not align correctly as intended.

Iterative Design Process

My first step was to sketch out a loose idea of what I wanted my cup to look like. I had the initial idea to make stacking measuring cups but realized that my objective for this project would be achieved by making one cup that measured all six of the volumes. I then sketched out a loose image of what the cup would look like in the end. This was the only sketching I did for this assignment due to the math-heavy portion of figuring out the different layers. My sketchbook was dedicated to solving for volumes and finding the right amount of layers instead.

My design process was fairly simple once I had found a system for finding the volume dimensions for the cylinder. I calculated the volume for each measure I wanted to indicate and then found the number of layers that would be required for each. This allowed to figure out how much pieces I would need in total. I also wanted to include a top and bottom layer and additional layers in case I misplaced one.

Google volume calculator
Google volume calculator

I then went to illustrator and created my layers. I made one layer and then copied it multiple times. I found that this was efficient and equally inefficient at the same time. If I had made a mistake on my ‘zero’ design, the following copies would need to be redone as well. This was an iterative loop of adjusting the first, making multiples, and noticing an issue on the first and repeating the process.

My desire to create the staircase came from visualizing the layers stacking together when I was creating them in Illustrator. Upon looking at my notes I noticed that a few of the transparent layers were close together and that may be a design flaw for reading the tabs. I chose to rotate each measuring tab for readability.

The next steps in the iteration process were highlighted in challenges. I learned that

Tools & Materials


– Adobe Illustrator

– Calculator



  • 12” x 24” Black Acrylic
  • 12” x 12” Transparent Acrylic
  • Plastic Weld, like Methane Chloride or Plastruct
  • ⅛” wooden dowel
  • Small square paint brush
  • Masking tape


Fabrication Guide

In this tutorial, I will be showing you my process on how to make a measuring cup using layers of acrylic that are laser cut, and secured together to create a measuring vessel. This end result will be an opaque measuring cup, with transparent layers at the measurements of  ¼, ⅓, ½,  ⅔, ¾, and 1 cup.

Step 1) Find the desired volume of your shape.

The most important part of a measuring device is defining what and how much are you going to measure. I chose to make a cylinder that measures the volume of up to one metric cup (236ml). I will be including measuring stops along the way that indicate other measurements such as ¼, ⅓, ½,  ⅔, and ¾. The built-in Google calculator is a great resource for converting different measurements. This tutorial will most likely work best for measuring volume, rather than weight.

Google volume calculator
Google volume calculator

Once you have defined your volume, chose the shape of your desired object. I chose a cylinder to have fewer edges to clean out of my cup. You can search “volume of x prism’ to find the formula. There are two methods for finding your desired dimensions that will match the chosen volume measurement: if you have a specific dimension in mind, such as the height of the vessel, you can work backwards and solve for x, or alternatively, you can play around with a volume calculator and plug in different values until you get your desired number.

Step 2) Choosing your material and determining how many pieces you need

Since we are assembling this device out of layers, it is important to know how many layers you will need to achieve your desired height. The height of my object is 7.5cm or 75mm. I chose to use ⅛” acrylic. I translated this measurement into millimetres (3.175 mm) and then divided the total height by the value. I was given 24 layers.


Calculations of the material.
Calculations of the material.

Because I am also indicating multiple volumes in my cup, I used the Google volume calculator to help determine at what layer do I need to insert a transparent layer. Working backwards, I subtracted the value of a single layer from the total height (75 – 3.175 = 78.25) and inserted this into the formula.


Volume math of the different layers.
Volume math of the different layers.

I repeated this until the result would match the volume of a certain measurement, I indicated that that layer would be ¼ etc.

Step 3) Use the measurements and the number of layers to create your pieces in Adobe Illustrator

Open up Adobe Illustrator, or whatever software is compatible with the laser cutter you will be using.

Go to the Ellipse tool, if you are using another shape this tool has options for various polygons as well. When you click the tool it’ll prompt you for a radius or a dimension. Take the number you used in your formula and insert it into the software. You should have a shape that matches your dimensions.

Creating the ellipse shape with the matching dimensions to the volume formula.
Creating the ellipse shape with the matching dimensions to the volume formula.

Next, click on your shape, and offset the path. This will be the width of your cup. Note, make it at least thick enough to insert a circle on either side. We will be using this for a hole to help brace our layers when we are gluing them together.  


Go to object, path, offset path… and give your indicated measure for how much you would lie to offset it.

Route to the offset path function
The route to the offset path function
Offset the path to your desired amount
Offset the path to your desired amount

Now you should have two ellipses, one offset by 5mm.

Now you can make the holes that will go on either side. Return to the ellipse tool, and make the holes. As mentioned before the holes are used as a tool to hold layers in place while gluing. In the materials, it is noted to have some small dowel. Measure the width of your dowel. Mine is 3.175mm, or ⅛”, so I made my holes slightly smaller. Similar to cutting wood in a woodshop, the laser cutter takes away some extra material upon cutting leaving holes larger than expected. Make the holes and place them to the center of your offset ellipses.  Illustrator has smart “snaps” that will help you with this task.

Snapping the holes to the center
Snapping the holes to the center

Note here I have changed the colour of the ellipses; this is for my laser cutting software. Each colour indicates what order I the shape will be cut. Laser cutters work best when cutting from inside the piece to outside. The blue indicates that that piece should be cut first, and the green indicates it will be cut after, and the red last.

Copy all of your pieces and paste them to satisfy how much layers you will be including, minus the measuring layers.

The layer pieces all laid out.
The layer pieces all laid out.

I included a few ellipses that were not offset, and did not have the holes to use as the top and bottom pieces for the cup.

Step 4) Make the transparent  layers

Create an ellipse that it the same size as the wider offset ellipse in your current layer file. Or alternatively, copy one of your layers over and paste it into the file.

Go to the shape tool and chose what you would like your measuring tabs to look like. I chose a rounded rectangle. Make a smaller shape and snap it to the ellipse.

Snap the tab onto the ellipse
Snap the tab onto the ellipse
Rounded rectangle placed on top of ellipse.
Rounded rectangle placed on top of the ellipse.

Select all of your layers, and open up the Pathfinder tool. Click “Merge” to make the pieces one unit.

Path route to the Path finder and Merge function
Path route to the Path finder and Merge function

Open up the ellipse tool, and repeat the steps for making the small bracing holes. The holes should snap to the center of the ellipses just as they had in the first layers.

Now open up the text tool and insert your text. You can use the snap tool to center the text on the tab. In my laser cutting software, black means to etch into the material rather than cut through, which is why we have kept it that colour.

The text snapped to the centre of the tab
The text snapped to the centre of the tab

Next, copy the shape and make the number of layers you are measuring.  Make any style changes to each layer you’d like. If you notice here on mine below, all of the holes have been rotated to different positions on the cup. I chose to do this to create a spiral staircase effect. To keep it simple, make all of the holes in the same position along the layer.

The measured layer pieces placed onto the illustrator file
The measured layer pieces placed onto the illustrator file

Additionally, I made a layer that did not have anything on it and two simple ellipse layers. This once again is for the top and bottom.

Step 5) Get your items laser cut!

Finished pieces laser cut
Finished pieces laser cut

Step 6) Assemble

My first step was to stack all of the pieces to get a sense of the outcome. I then took my dowel and fed it through the holes of my layers to see how they would stack fitted together.

Assembling the layers with the dowel to see how the finished product would look like.
Assembling the layers with the dowel to see how the finished product would look like.
Stacking the layers to see what they will look like all together.
Stacking the layers to see what they will look like all together.

Step 7) Glue

Take your plastic weld, brush, masking tape, and first two layers (the bottom and one of the insert layers). As there is nothing for the dowel to attach onto for the bottom layer, I am using masking tape the brace the two layers together.

Taping the base layer and the first layer together for glueing.
Taping the base layer and the first layer together for glueing.

Gently paint the sides of the layers with the plastic weld. You can paint the inside of the layers as well, but not that sometimes the weld leaves a residue on clear plastic. So be careful!

Once you have the first and the base layer glued together you can use your dowel and feed it through the holes to act at the masking tape for the rest of the layers.

Using the dowel the brace the layers as they are added on for glueing.
Using the dowel to brace the layers as they are added on for glueing.
Paint the glue onto the sides
Paint the glue onto the sides

Continue to add layers and paint the sides with glue.

For each measuring layer, I covered the tab with masking tape to prevent any dripping of the glue onto it.

Tape the edges of the tabs so that excess glue will not drip off of the brush and leave residue on the transparent acrylic
Tape the edges of the tabs so that excess glue will not drip off of the brush and leave residue on the transparent acrylic


Keep on going!

Keep adding layers
Keep adding layers

As you go along, you can continue to paint the inside of the layers to add for extra structural integrity.

Paint the inside of the layers for added structural integrity
Paint the inside of the layers for added structural integrity

Finally, for your top layer, remove the dowel and add your top piece.

Measuring cup, finished product
Measuring cup, finished product

Simple as that! You now have a cup!

The transparent layers are indicators of fluid within the cup. Add some fluid into the vessel, and test it out. 

Add some fluid into the vessel.
Add some fluid into the vessel to measure.
The transparent layers allow you to see what volume of liquid is in the cup.
The transparent layers allow you to see what volume of liquid is in the cup.
Measuring cup complete
Measuring cup complete

Relevant research

Volume calculators 

Thingiverse: measuring cups

How to make measuring cups 


My Original Character Pins (From my Webcomic Over 8 Miles)

Figure 1. Over 8 Miles opening gif.

After a lot of thought of what I wanted to design and re-create for this laser-cut fabrication assignment, I decided to create laser-cut pins. These pins feature a few of my original characters (OCs) from my slice-of- life comedic drama webcomic Over 8 Miles.

Over 8 Miles started back in November 2016 and follows the lives of the main characters and how their interactions and relationships develop over the course of the plot. I try to publish a new page at least every month. You can read the story here on Tapas and become a subscriber for free. For more content you can visit the main page here.

An Explanation of the Design Concept

At the beginning of this project I was at lost at what to create. I did not want to start on something that would take a lot of time to design and build. My first initial ideas however were quite the opposite. I wanted to build a model mansion or a ferris wheel since either reminded me of the days I used to assemble 3D puzzles. However as time went by, I knew I would not be able to accomplish building either models. I also later discovered that not only were both ideas time consuming but thanks to the internet they were also very accessible.  In fact, there were a lot of laser cut ferris wheels out there and building my own just did not feel as unique or personal. Therefore, I decided to project my goals onto something more feasible and unique.

Figure 13. Laser cut ferris wheel. Google Search.

An Explanation of the Iterative Design Process

After a lot of thought, I decided I wanted to do something a little more personal and unique. My brainstorming lead me to think of my webcomic which I had not worked on in a while. I figured I would use this assignment as an advantage to work on something related to my comic. Therefore, I had decided to create simple pins of my OC’s using Illustrator.

Figure 14. Pin designs on Illustrator CS6.

I had experience with designing for the laser cutter before but mainly for boxes and primitive shapes. This time I wanted to explore free hand drawing  with my Wacom tablet  and create my own strokes and designs.


My objective was to explore rasterizing and create appropriate cut designs for my pins using a free hand drawing approach in Adobe Illustrator.

Iterative Design Process and Step by Step Guide

Here I will show a step by step guide of how to make your own free hand drawing pins as well as go in detail of what I discovered while doing this myself for the first time.

Step 1: Setup and Free Hand Drawing in Illustrator 

I was following the Illustrator laser-cut template and pdf guide provided by OCADU’s Rapid Prototyping online page to understand how the laser cutter would cut my strokes. All my strokes started at 0.01 pt. Later I would learn that the thicker the stroke the more defined the outline on my pins would be. I did not know this till I started the digital fabrication stage with the actual machine.

Figure 15. OCADU’s Rapid Prototyping Laser Cutting Template in Illustrator.

I made a new file in Illustrator CS6 and set the dimensions that matched the board I was going to laser cut on. I set my art board to be the same width and length as my board. The board itself gave me the dimensions in inches but I converted them into millimeters since the laser cuter I planed to use only used millimeters.

Figure 16. My Illustrator setup with pin designs.

Since most of these pins would be rasterized, I drew most of my strokes in black.

Figure 17. Rasterized details and strokes.

The green strokes were to be the last cut since I wanted the designs on the pins to be finished first before the pins were cut through the board.

I wanted to make some cool cut out designs of the comic’s symbol so I experimented with fills and strokes.

Figure 18. Different Strokes and cuts for symbol pin.
Figure 18. Different Strokes and cuts for symbol pin.

Once I was satisfied with the designs I saved my Illustrator file. This file would be exported into another program before I print out my designs.

Step 2: Laser Cutting Prep.

After the pins were completed in Illustrator, I went to the Synaesthetic Media Lab located on Bay St where I worked to get my pins cut. One of the researchers that were there and authorized to use the machine helped me get my pins set up in Coral Draw 5x and ready for print. This laser cutting machine was known as the “Epilog Engraver.”

Figure 19. Document setup in the woodshop room at Synaesthetic Media Lab.

We uploaded the Illustrator file (.ai) into Coral Draw 5x where we could edit the pins’ stroke weights. As I mentioned before, all stroke lines should be at least 0.01 mm but I had forgotten that that was the thinnest line you could use and I was able to make my lines even thicker and defined. Thanks to my co-worker, we changed the stroke weights in Coral and went with 0.25mm. We also changed the vector path corners from ‘corner’ to smooth. (It was originally smoothed in Illustrator but automatically changed in Coral so we just re-configured it.)

Figure 20. Setting up stroke widths and curves of stroke lines.

Once that was completed. We set up the depth dimensions and raster fill styles in the Epilog setup window.

Figure 21. Setting up measurements and other settings in the Epiloge Engraver.

According to the laser cutting guide provided by OCADU’s Rapid Prototyping PDF page, vector paths should for the most part be continuous. Keeping that in mind, I had to be careful that my paths were continuos and did not overlap on other paths. If not connected, some paths would overlap already previously cut paths and over run or burn the wood and destroying the lines.

This tip to avoid overlapping also applied to fills with stroke lines. For example, when we ran the machine the first time, the pins had stroke lines around the filled rasters. This caused the pins to burn around their fills including the font. Thus, burning the font and making it legible.

Figure 22. First run through. Laser did not cut through and ran over pin designs because of the stroke lines around the rasterized fills.

We also noticed that the pins themselves did not cut through the board. This was because we had the wrong depth measurement of the material. We used the Electronic Vernier Digital Caliper Drillpro 0.01 mm/0.05 inch measuring tool to give us a measurement so the laser would cut through the wood the next round.

Figure 23. The Electronic Vernier Digital Caliper Drillpro 0.01 mm/0.05 inch measuring tool.

We laid down the back up 6 by 12 inch board onto the laser bed and re-did the settings.

Figure 24. Setting the 6 x 12 inch board on the laser bed.
Figure x. The wood reference card gave us the wrong measurement depth so we used the measuring tool to get the correct depth.
Figure 25. The wood reference card gave us the wrong measurement depth so we used the measuring tool to get the correct depth.
Figure x. We used the measuring thickness of 3.175 mm at first. This was not thick enough to cut through the board.
Figure 26. We used the measuring thickness of 3.175 mm at first. This was not thick enough to cut through the board. So we changed it to 5.100 mm.

The second round was more successful after we deleted the stroke lines around the fills and font. The laser was able to cut through the pins and the result was a nice clean finish!

Figure 27. Second run through of the system. It cut through!

Once the pins were out of the machine, we cleaned them up with the brish and wiped off the excess edges with the Motomaster hand cream.

Figure 28.Time to clean the pins with the hand cream, paper towel and (optional) brush.

For the pin with the symbol cut out, I initially wanted the outline of the symbol inside that negative space but did not consider  that the shape itself would fall out. Next time I will add support lines to keep the shape in place. The cut out however does look pretty cool though.

Figure 29. Cleaning off the burnt edges.

Tools & Materials Used

  • 1x Wacom Drawing Tablet.
  • 1x Laptop.
  • 1x Illustrator.
  • 1x Coral Draw X5.
  • 1x Measuring Clamp Tool.
  • Epilog Engraver Laser Cutting machine.
  • MotoMaster hand cream.
  • Brush.
  • Paper towel.


  • Keeping the vector  paths connected in Illustrator and making sure there were no overlaps.
  • Understanding how stroke weights worked.
  • Understanding how material thickness worked and how to measure it.
  • Designing pin faces while considering how the cut would turn out.

Future Works

I would like to continue to work on these pins and possibly even with different materials besides wood.

Figure 30. Cleaning off the burnt edges.

Overall I am very happy with how they turned out. The steps pointed out in this guide could also help other artists design their own OC pins form their own stories.

Relevant Research


Planetary Drive


Design Concept & Objective

This project is called Planetary Drive and is a creative exploration of mathematical shapes and working gear systems. The ideation behind this project was to come up with a way to use a planetary drive-in an artistic visualization. This project is an original way to explore mechanics and math by using fractals and gear driven formulas.

An epicyclic gear train (also known as planetary gear) consists of at least two gears mounted so that the center of one gear revolves around the center of the other. A carrier connects the centers of the two gears and rotates to carry one gear, called the planet gear, around the other, called the sun gear. The planet and sun gears mesh so that their pitch circles roll without slip. A point on the pitch circle of the planet gear traces an epicycloid curve. In this simplified case, the sun gear is fixed and the planetary gear(s) roll around the sun gear. We will be utilizing this in this project.



Using the planetary drive formula to calculate the rotation and teeth of your gears can be a challenge. It is an excellent exploration into mechanics for  personal learning or a educational project. I had to go through a few resources to find streamlined tutorials. This being my first attempt at constructing a gear system and going through the mathematics I wanted to find an easy system to calculate. You can find the links to the formulas in the references section as well as a gear generating website to assist with planning your mechanical system. I had to go through five variations of rough drafts to get the correct formulation. Planning the cuts around the layers of rotating elements and making sure they all fit together was a precise process. In some areas of the illustrator vector drawing it was hard to adhere to the 1mm line minimum while fitting certain shapes together. I had to go over the vector drawing and correct this variance and hope it didn’t effect the precision of some of the gear cuts. I really wanted to do something different and step out of my comfort zone to be able to fully explore a new process. I really challenged myself with this project and wanted to conceptualize a beautiful way to depict the explorations of mechanics through laser cutting.

Tools & Materials used
• Adobe Illustrator CC app for creating vector files for laser cutting
• Bosslaser program for setting up the file for the laser cutting machine.
• Boss laser cutting machine for cutting.
• Medium grade sandpaper.
• Filtrabox compact for cleaning the air.
• Industrial chiller to cool of the laser cutting machine.
• 1/8″ Baltic Birch Plywood 12 inches long x 12 inches high.

Process Manual 

1. My first step is to research nesting circles and planetary drive calculations to start building the shapes in an Illustrator .ai document.  I found the below equation to help construct my gear arrangement and to determine that the gears will work and fit together.


 Example of gear build and rotation. Retrieved from wolfram wesbite , Jan 31st .

Denote R, S, and P as the number of teeth on the gears.

R Number of teeth in ring gear
S Number of teeth in sun (middle) gear
P Number of teeth in planet gears

The first constraint for a planetary gear to work out is that all teeth have the same pitch, or tooth spacing. This ensures that the teeth mesh. What I did was made 3 separate sides that had the same pitch but didn’t match each other so that the gears always aligned but in a different pattern.

The second constraint is:
R = 2 × P + S

That is to say, the number of teeth in the ring gear is equal to the number of teeth in the middle sun gear plus twice the number of teeth in the planet gears.

In the gear at left, this would be 30 = 2 × 9 + 12

Or you can go to the gear generating website at or

I started with 36 teeth on the inside and 35 teeth on the outside and nested my gears. I did this by using the stroke tool and extra functions.

• Go to Window and click on Stroke to open your Stroke options window.

•Click on the Dashed Line checkbox in the Stroke window. Your circle should now have a dashed border

• To make a dotted circle, set the Stroke Cap to Rounded (middle option). Set your Dash point to 0 and your Gap point to 12pt. This illustrates the function to create the shape for your gear. Depending on how many teeth you need from the above equations will determine how many circles in your stroke.




File set up

2.Make sure you are working in RGB mode, NOT CMYK. You can change this by going to: Select File ->Document Colour Mode -> RGB

All cut lines need to be indicated using Red Blue and Green lines with a stroke weight of .01pt

The laser will interpret the colours as ordered cut lines working from the inside out. Starting with Red (RGB: 255, 0, 0) followed by Blue (RGB 0,0,255), and finally Green (RGB 0,255,0). All interior cuts should be cut first and therefore should be red, with any further cuts being Blue, and the final exterior cuts being Green. Make sure all your gears fit together and there are no intersecting lines before setting up to print. If your gears look like they are not formatted correctly then you can refer back to the gear generator page and reassess your calculations. Save as .ai files and transfer into Bosslaser program. This program also allows you to manipulate your file. You can use this program to send your file directly to the laser cutter.


Collaborating Laser Cutter

3. I used  12×12  1/8 thick  birchwood plywood and 12x 12 inch  1/8 thick acrylic board. The diameter of the largest gear is about 6 inches.  You can vary the size as long as your making sure there is enough room in-between cuts for the laser.  Also make sure your file size fits your material . When initially setting up the laser cutting machine we did test boards. Here are the readings for the 1/8 inch birch board.

First Test:

( cut out) 60 power and 20 speed  for 1/8 inch board 

This wasn’t cutting all the way through so we turned up the speed to 80.

2nd Test:

20 power 80 speed

Helpful note to check the air pressure is not to high and won’t move your cutting material. Looking up the data sheets of the machines you are using and keep track of your settings is good practice. This will help you have better accuracy when laser cutting projects and moving from machine to machine.

4. After setting up your files and calibrating the machine its time to push your file to the laser cutter.  You will set the function for starting the cut by setting the machine and watching to make sure your cut area is correct and leveled properly. My project took roughly 20 min per design.


5. After waiting for the smoke to filter out of the machine carefully take your project off the grill. In some cases where there are rough edges you can sand slightly to correct some areas. For the wood laser cut sometimes there is a light burn this can also be sanded. For the acrylic, there was also some slight discoloration after washing it with a damp cloth some of the slight char from the laser wiped off.  There is always the option to sand areas of the acrylic and buff as well. Your project is done I hope you enjoyed laser cutting and exploring mechanics and engineering through laser cutting.



Utilizing some interesting concepts with art and laser cutting made for such an interesting project. I am really happy with the finished product and could see variations of this used for gear patterns and possibly drawing interesting sketches.  Although not entirely the same thing it could be multifunctional and also be a spirograph. Considering the dynamics of this mechanism it would be a great engineering tool for kids. For further iteration, I would like to incorporate different colours and make it larger. It would also be nice to include an electronic aspect when the gears come into contact with each other perhaps through conductive tape or paint this point of connection lights an LED.