• Son Luu

Didn't Fall in Love with the Laser Cutter

Updated: Nov 17, 2018

Last week, we learned how to use the laser cutter. Ben told us not to fall in love with it. Well... I didn't. I learned a great deal about this cutter from the making process of my 3D art sculpture for this week's assignment. That's not to say that I realized some really nice benefits it can provide if I use it correctly, and for the right project. Overall, it was a fun learning process with my classmates, and now I can say, I know and have used a laser cutter.


Lego sculptures, 3D abstract vector art, and clear colorful acrylic plastic from Canal Plastic store.




Clear, colorful acrylic: I have never done or made anything with acrylic, so this is a chance to play with this material. I chose clear acrylic so that light can shine through it, giving its color quite interesting look depending on the design and display angle of the product.

Band saw was the perfect cutter for this material in smaller pieces like this.

The cutting process with the band saw was easy enough. I cut the acrylic sticks into long and short pieces at different angles at the ends of each piece.

The following were all mistakes I made that could have been avoided when applying laser cutting on an acrylic sheet:

1. I did exactly what Ben told us to avoid if possible: cutting a sheet full of parts all at once. In my case, I had already split the amount of shape images to be cut on a whole sheet, in half. I applied cutting on half the sheet first, saving the remaining shapes for second cut. That still didn't do the job for me.

2. Applying correct cutting speed and power was also a challenge. In the laser cutter guide, for acrylic cutting, it says I would need 15% cutting speed, and 100% power. I did it twice and the laser could not cut through. But this may have to do with the sheet full of parts to be cut all at once.

3. After the first unsuccessful cut, I left the sheet as is so that I could run the cutter a second time. But, the laser needle was stuck at the corner of the canvas because the cutting platform was up too close to the needle. So, to move out of the way, the needle ended up pushing my acrylic away from its original position. Obviously, it didn't come out right the second time either.

4. Remember to make sure you set the canvas size correctly and place your material sheet where it is supposed to be on the cutting platform before cutting. After the first two cuts, somehow, my canvas size was reset incorrectly, and it spoiled my third cut as well. At this point, I didn't have much material left for anymore mistakes.

Alright, the fourth cut... I reset the cutting speed to 8%. I also decided to keep all the shapes on the acrylic sheet because I didn't have much time left to work on the project. And this time, the laser cutter cut through the sheet right at the first time.

Now that I had all the acrylic pieces cut out, I started putting them together and glued them with acrylic glue. It was not an easy process to manipulate such small pieces. Acrylic glue also required gloves while using it and took very little amount to glue small pieces every time. Thus, it was a very time consuming process. To say the least, none was as expected.

The Final Product

Overall, I prefer how the sculpture looks like on photos than the real thing 😅. However, many friends who have seen it kind of liked the piece. But anyhow, I learned so much from working on this project: how to use a new cutting machine, and playing with a new kind of material to fabricate something I've never been able to make.

Wished I had more time to photoshop some background elements to add a futuristic or outer-space feel. The sculpture looks somewhat like another planet or a spaceship.