Posts Tagged ‘lasercut’

So, I’ve been thinking about art and technology. In my fantasy life, I am an artist. In my real life, I an educator with access to a lot of technology and art supplies.

Recently I have been using Adobe Capture (the free app version) to create black and white images that I then cut into wood on the lasercutter and print. First, use the ‘shapes’ feature in Adobe Capture. I can use the sliding scale to determine how much black I want in the image. Below you can see the image I was using and how Adobe Capture transformed it.

Next I put the image into Adobe Illustrator, did the image trace, expanded it and deleted a few stray bits. Then I raster engraved that image onto wood using the lasercutter. I reversed the black and white so that the lasercutter cut away all the areas of white, leaving the raised portions the equivalent of the dark areas in the image. From there, I could ink the wood and print it on paper.

 

The question I have is, although the print is quite nice, I am wondering if it is art. I mean how much did I really do here? I found the chair sitting as is in my house. I did move some junk and maybe a cat off of it. I used the app to take a picture, cropped out what I didn’t want, used the slider to decide the black/white balance, which the app implemented. This is the hard part, in my opinion. I made minimal changes to the image. The lasercutter cut the wood. I inked the block and put the paper on.

I don’t know. I didn’t draw or cut the print image. I made minimal decisions about color and paper. I chose the amount of black and white, altered lighting a bit to get the pattern I wanted.

This makes me think of the picture book Seen Art by Joe Scieszka and Lane Smith. (Our main character ends up in the MoMA in New York and keeps asking if anyone has “seen Art?” Various people talk to him about the works in the museum including the helicopter that hangs from the ceiling, which the other museum patron recognizes for its engineering but admits some wonder if it is Art. Finally, our hero finds what he has been looking for–his friend Art.) As I think about this, I wonder if I can come to terms with this idea be taking into account the lower case or capital a in art. Maybe these prints (I have many more) are not capital A Art (said with deep, serious voice), but maybe they are small a art, which is probably about right for me.

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So, I’ve been thinking about the fun things I can do with the lasercutter in our makerspace. I had planned to spend Mondays in the Makersapce over the summer. #MakerspaceMondays was my idea. It was a good idea, but it didn’t happen that way. I’m now trying to make up for lost Mondays.

I had in mind a lot of natural shapes–trees, leaves, plants, etc. I imagined cutting these shapes in felt and then maybe leather, because I saw  some really lovely work by a crafter at a local festival. She hand cut leather into necklaces, using great patterns–everything from natural shapes to pirate ship. However, I had already spent my money by the time I got to her booth. Time to improvise. I figured I could start in felt and see in anything deserved to move up to leather.

I searched for pubic domain images in vector graphic form on Pixabay and went from there. My first attempt was a tree that was a very complex. Then, I went the other extreme and tried some very simple shapes: teacups.


Then I tried a group of trees in several colors. I also tried remixing the trees and backgrounds. This is definitely not a final product, but I’ll keep them around for something.

file_000

Then, I tried combining images into big panels. First I tried this strategy with snowflakes. My plan here was to make a large bib sort of thing. I cut both white and black felt. Not bad. There’s something to work with there.

Finally I decided I should go back to leaves, but start with the real thing. So, I stepped outside, collected a few leaves, arranged them in an arc, and then traced it in a good, dark sharpie so that I could take a picture, put it into Adobe Illustrator, and then cut. It’s a good start. Too wide, but I can adjust the shape.

file_002-1

I used the StichPic app to combine the images.

And in keeping with my previous projects (my taxonomy projects), I have five versions of similar work. I am definitely finding that keeping this habit of making 5 of something to be really helpful. It keeps me working on a particular idea longer, which of course means that I make more progress either in my understanding of a tool, my thinking about an idea, or my ability to combine them both.

Hooray for making.

 

 

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about the makerspace this year. One of the tools I have been working on a lot recently is the laser cutter/engraver. I am a beginner with Adobe Illustrator so that has been a challenge.

I don’t know where I first heard about it, but I kept hearing about taking 3D printer files and laser cutting them. I also then saw these fun bots made by RoboMustache at a STEAM/Maker event with my personal kids. Seriously, how cute are these little things? I put these two ideas together and decided I needed to learn to design the shapes that I would need to create my own RoboMustache-inspired closed shape in TinkerCad, which I am better at, and then figure out how to cut them.

I googled how-to change 3D printer files to laser cutter and found this directions from Make Magazine. After looking at Methods 1 and 2 and decided on Method 2, because 123D-Make is free software. Win.

I know the directions were step by step, but still it’s a lot of translating files. The more translations, the more places to mistranslate. After sorting out a few issues with depth/height of the .stl files and scaling in 123D-Make,  I had a beta version. After a few more tweaks to the TinkerCad design, I had a solid box (small on one right below). I have to say that I felt pretty proud of myself getting it all figured out. It was not hard, but there was also no one around to go to for support. Plus, I have now explained it to others.

Here are my first boxes.

Photo on 3-10-16 at 2.53 PM

The one thing I haven’t figured out is how to get the DXF file from 123D-Make to come in to Illustrator the exact size they were created in TinkerCad. I’m not sure where I am missing a setting. With scale settings to set as the files move from each program to the next (.stl from TinkerCad–>123D-Make–>export as DXF–>open in Illustrator–>scale to size–>cut) I have a lot of combinations to try, and so far I have not dedicated myself to keeping track of attempts and results.

Onward!

So, I’ve been thinking about my next taxonomy project (explanation of the project here.) I have a few sets of objects in the works. As you may recall, I decided that 5 objects in a set, rather than 10, was a more reasonable number for me, given that I have some other things on my plate.

I’ve been having a MakerSpace moment. I started before winter break on some patterned pieces that I thought I could connect into bracelets by linking many identical pieces together. I started by creating a 3D printer design. I tried it over and over. It was not working or getting better. As I once asked my 5th graders, “do we know the expression ‘beating a dead horse?'” Time to regroup.

I decided to switch to the laser cutter. I managed to translate my original pattern into a cuttable pattern in Adobe Illustrator. This was not a speedy process for me given my very elementary Illustrator skills. I decided creating images/patterns from scratch might not be the most efficient and started do some internet searching for radiator patterns–the patterned metal sheets that go in radiator covers, that’s what I was thinking about. Having found a few images that I liked, I had to do a little messing with them in Illustrator, which probably would take no time for anyone who actually has any Illustrator skills (adding this to be “to learn” list). Finally, I ended up with panels in black and clear acrylic that I turned into bracelets by linking the panels together with wire. It’s very temporary until I get some better fasteners. So, my first batch of patterns are the following:

Photo on 12-18-15 at 3.23 PM

Photo on 12-18-15 at 3.00 PM #2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, recently I was thinking about Greek key patterns and those repeating boarder patterns. Many of those patterns were not really cut-able in the way I wanted. A little searching lead me to a few options that I put into Illustrator and cut down. Then I cut them out of wood and acrylic, black and clear.

Photo on 2-18-16 at 10.33 AM

I like the wood ones myself. I had thought about painting the wood, but I really like them as is. I have sets of each color and pattern. More bracelets on the way.

 

So, I’ve been thinking about how spending a few hours in the MakerSpace does wonders for my general sense of well-being.

The other day I went up there first thing in the morning to check on a 3D print I had started the previous afternoon. Since I am co-teaching a minor course, Digital fabrication, in the space, I try to print the designs between class meetings. On the day in question, I honestly don’t even remember if the 3D print turned out or not. I’m sure I got a few more student designs going on the other printers. My plan had been to leave by 9 am at the latest and get back to my office. However, at 10:15  I was still there. I had the lasercutter/engraver working on a couple of patterns in several different materials. Then, I noticed how interesting the cut out pieces were and the design created by the holes in the pieces of wood and plexiglass. There are easily 2 other posts about the actual work I was doing.

lasercut pieces

My focus in this post is about the time. I can totally justify the time I spend in there. I need to become more familiar with the tools in the space, and there’s really no way to do that other than by using them. So, I’m now comfortable changing the filament on both types of 3D printers; I can take apart parts here and there to clean out the nozzle on the Polar3D printers; I am getting to know some of the idiosyncracies of the printers; I unclogged the CubePro the other afternoon after quite a bit of this-ing and that-ing (so satisfying! It’s like undoing knots); I am getting better at trouble shooting, knowing when to suspect the printer, when to look at the file. This does not even begin to make me an expert. I’m also getting the hang of the lasercutter. I have realized that moving the bed up and down impacts the cut dramatically; I am a wiz at moving the laser to a good spot to cut repeated objects out of the same piece of material; I’m learning to look for any warping in the material and tape down anything I can; I’m making progress with scaling the cut or raster; I have tried cutting and rastering all sorts of materials, including orange peels and chocolate. Adobe Illustrator and I are not what I would call friends, but we are getting acquainted and taking it slowly. Again, all this knowledge that I have gained does not make me an expert in this either.

What all this does is make me a learner-a learner of totally new stuff, not just a little new. It has been so exciting and energizing. I can tell that I have reached a tipping point. I know enough to be independent, and I know enough now to feel confident trying more, which will let me learn more. Our MakerSpace leader has encouraged those of us who use the space to just do/try/fix things, but I am someone who needs to feel she has a bit of know-how before leaping in too far. I’m leaping.

As with my foray into graphic novels, I have spent time on this MakerSpace learning. A lot of time. In big chunks. I have had support and encouragement. I have talked with all sorts of colleagues about ideas for creations. My Advice station/New Year’s Maker idea continues to progress. At this point, I have more plans, and bigger plans, than I could complete in a year of solid work. (I have a tendency to plan bigger than my skills would suggest is wise. It’s one of my most endearing or frustrating qualities; you choose.) Again, my question returns to how we make time for students to do this kind of learning, beyond sports which does get big chunks of time. While I am sure the students are quicker learners than I am at this point, even they need more than a few minutes here and there. We know that learning takes time and practice that doesn’t always happen in 48 minutes segments.