Intro To Fabrication

Week 1: Flashlight 14/09/15

Wanted to use this fancy switch I had lying around and thought that I had come up with a novel idea: pringles can flashlight. Found someone that had tried it before, not surprising I suppose, 0 points for originality on my part. Better name too: “Ghetto Flashlight”. I appropriated his idea for the tinfoil, which was supposed to add to the LED’s brightness. This made little difference with the LED that I used in a high light or near daylight situation, however.

I burnt out 2 LED’s using this switch. Found out that it’s meant for high voltage applications. Using a 220 ohm resistor solved this problem.

My process for this assignment was:

  • cut a hole for the switch 3 inches from the base of the pringles can.
  • insert switch and panel mount with nut for later wiring.
  • glue down 9v battery to the base of the pringles can from the inside.
  • apply tinfoil to top of pringles can, make hole for led (used knife).
  • tape LED to underside.
  • wire battery to switch and then to LED.
  • tape loose wires to minimise movement inside container.

Lessons Learned / Thoughts:

The pringles can is relatively flimsy. It’s made of card with a graphical overlay. While easy to work with it lacks any sort of real structural strength (it bends easily and also won’t stand up to getting wet). I doubt I would use one as a container again.

Feedback on this assignment made me realise the importance of panel mounting to add to the perception of finish, my switch was panel mounted to the surface of the can using a nut.

It’s probably a good idea to at least use some sort of resistor in your circuit, especially if powering LED’s with a 9V battery.

Must do research into materials and containers.


Week 2: Multiple Wooden Skulls 21/09/15

Five wooden skulls made from doll heads bought in Michael’s and a broom handle. Tried out quite a few different methods of trying to cut the wood. I tried making cylinders out of blocks until I realised that making them from a tube would be a better solution then switched to doing that on the circular saw.

This assignment was valuable in terms of things I learned about the capabilities of different machines in the shop. I used the small jigsaw and can imagine its uses now but for my purpose it proved rather inadequate: I was trying to fashion cylinders out of a solid block of wood ( a rather roundabout non-solution to a problem best solved using a tube in the first place and cutting cylinders out of that).

My process for this assignment was:

  • Go to michael’s to buy premade wooden heads instead of trying to fashion my own on ben’s advice. I would like to try this method someday though because of the innovative jig (the shop lathe was broken at this point).
  • try to make cylinders out of block of wood using jigsaw, fail.
  • reapproach problem, buy new materials: broom handle.
  • measure cuts on broom handle, cut with circular saw.
  • cut handle in half on band saw first as the prospect of pushing tiny cylinders into the band saw didn’t appeal to me.
  • now cut long half cylinder into jaw sized sections for each skull.
  • glue half cylinder “jaws” to each skull.
  • use vice to clamp down heads and drill press to drill “eyes” into skulls. I rushed this part as the shop was near closing and was unhappy with the results.
  • paint individual skulls different colours and leave to dry overnight.

Lessons Learned/ Thoughts:

It is definitely better to visualise what you want your end product to be fully before you start any production. I wasted far too much time trying to fashion cylinders from blocks. Talking to other people using the shop made me realise using a broom handle would be better. Have started thinking more effectively along these lines now.

Rushing even one step of the process, especially if it is towards the finishing stages of the project, can have disastrous consequences. If I had taken the time to add some scrap wood to the vice to make a makeshift jig for drilling the eye holes into the skulls it would have been a lot easier to ensure repeatability. Another solution would have been to use a center hole punch to make pilot holes. I have since gotten one.

I realised I needed dremel bits after this assignment. I wanted to route little jawlines into the jaws of the skulls. A hand dremel would have been the right tool for the job here.



Week 3: Laser Cutter: Pyramid of Yon Tiled Plane 28/09/15

Wanted to use this new pentagon that tiles the plane. Traced and tiled in illustrator then lasercut on Epilog 60W laser cutter.

I think this new pentagon pattern looks great so wanted to use it somehow. ended up buying styrene in blick and using it in the laser cutter. Found out after words that styrene is a thermoplastic and melts under the typical temperatures you would using the laser cutter. As Ben said to me in class: know your material.

Despite this I got decent results etching the pattern and cutting the triangles. The consequence of using styrene was that the edges of the triangles bent inwards due to the heat of the laser, making combining them into a pyramid more difficult than it would have been if they had straighter edges. As a result I had to hot glue them together leaving one side with a rather noticeable gap.

Process for this assignment:

  • Trace pattern in illustrator
  • repeat pattern and add clipping mask in shape of a pyramid.
  • test cut a small section of pattern with laser cutter. I went for the outline rather than the raster etch fill version because even a small section took way too long to etch, I find this is true with raster etching in general.
  • Found the right settings for my styrene on the day: cut s 40 p 75, etch s 100 p 45
  • I cut a regular pentagon out of the spare styrene I had for the base.
  • glue four triangles together and add to base.
  • Etched a pattern of the Egyptian god Ra on the base, learned how the laser sometimes moves the material it is cutting during this.

Lessons Learned / Thoughts:

Styrene can stand up to etching in a laser cutter but the settings I needed to cut it also made up warp under the heat. I learned afterwards that there is acrylic in the same thickness and look that I was after.

I would have been better off cutting some form of joints into the triangles to attach or at least give a firmer point of attachment to add glue to. This one from fab academy is a pretty good example.

I didn’t pay enough attention to the angles the triangles were made from which is of course crucial to joining them into a pyramid.


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Week 4: Enclosure: Arcade Style Controller 13/09/15

For this week’s assignment I decided to build an arcade style controller which I hope to use for my pcomp midterm.

I bought this round container at the container store but it turned out to be slightly too large to fit both the joystick and buttons.

Process for this assignment:

  • take pre-made box container from container store (white box and lid)
  • measure screw holes on arcade controller and diameter of arcade buttons
  • tried to use hole saw and borrowed forstner bits (bought my own after this) to make hole for arcade buttons in cardboard prototype.
  • holes needed to be 30mm exactly for arcade buttons, accuracy only achievable on laser cutter.
  • ran wooden lid through about 6 or 7 passes on the laser cutter. I think the lacquer makes it harder to cut, lid was also a lot thicker than I thought.
  • the arcade buttons fit in snugly without any additional mounting due to the hole being the correct size. They have graduated steps leading up to the point where they are mounted (n.b. find proper name for these).
  • measured lid, cut out acrylic to measure with same pattern I had cut into lid.
  • Used brass bolts and hex nuts to attach acrylic, lid and base together (where joystick is mounted).
  • Used plumbing fixture for where the cable goes in to make it look neater, removed grille with pliers.

Lessons Learned / Thoughts:

I was happy with the way this enclosure turned out and went on to use it in my pcomp midterm.

I went with a general measurement from a ruler instead of trusting two readings from my digital calipers for determining the size of the lid. As a result there is a slight overhang of blue acrylic at the button end of the lid. bigger calipers would have solved this as would have measuring a few more times and taking the average.


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Week 5: Two Materials: Copper Pipe Surfer Dude 20/10/15

The two materials I chose were copper and oak. I had heard oak was a hardwood but thought I could get away with trying to machine it. This proved to be incorrect. I found the oak a lot harder to work with than plywood or pine which I had used up until this point. I enjoyed finding these copper pipes however, the plumbing section of home depot contains a decent amount of inspiration for these types of projects.

Process for this assignment:

  • Source parts, noticed that I could arrange these pipes into the form of a little man as I was shopping for materials.
  • found capacitors from junk shelf, surprisingly snug fit allowed me to attach the “torso” to the “legs”. I would hazard that this is purely coincidence.
  • added hot glue to joints that didn’t use capacitors (they would still stay in but I wanted to pose his arms in the positions pictured below.
  • I traced a surfboard in illustrator and made a cardboard stencil on the laser cutter with the hope of using it as a guide on the oak.
  • I tried various different saws (circular, band, small jig) on the oak. Making cuts in it was laborious.
  • Attached surfer man to cardboard base as a stand in.

Lessons Learned / Thoughts:

I wanted to use oak because it was a harder wood than pine. I think it was the wrong choice in this case however due to the toughness of the wood. Maple or walnut would probably have done better here. I know this for next time at least.

Plumbing fixtures are great and are made to fit together, as we learned early on in the class. I will browse this aisle now as a matter of course. Copper is an interesting material, a cheap metal that is relatively durable considering its price and the type of applications that we would use it for. Added bonus of being a good conductor for pcomp projects.


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Week 7: Final: Layered Skull 26/10/15

How time flies. We’re at the final assignment already. For my final I decided to make this layered acrylic skull, which bears more than a passing resemblance to a crystal skull due to my use of clear acrylic. Though this was unintentional.

I saw this wooden bowl and liked the idea of how it was constructed and thought (correctly) that it must have started life as a 3D model. I wanted to look into the workflow that produced it as I think this might be my standard. I’m comfortable with illustrator and familiar with 3D modeling.

I downloaded Autodesk’s student pack, which is a great deal in my estimation. I’ll try and use it a good bit from now on. I originally wanted to use 123D catch to make a model of my head ( you take about 20 photos around your intended subject and it stitches them together into a 3D model for you, some tidying required) and while this works rather well (I tested it on a drill). When using laser cut acrylic to make the final model the soft features of a human head (face and hair) don’t come out looking the best. Here’s an example of what I mean. It’s hard to tell what the original model was and there isn’t enough detail in the face for my liking. A more angular subject works better so I opted for the skull. I used this model.

The plan was to add a plywood model of my face (imported from 123D Catch) made using the radial slices construction technique (see wooden bowl for example) around the outside but the overall process of getting the skull took a lot longer than I anticipated (times by pi). I will hopefully add this in the future and I think the skull stands up as a piece by itself.

Process for this assignment:

  • Find 3D model or make one (I used a premade skull from Autodesk)
  • import into 123D make.
  • Choose preferred construction technique (“stacked slices” looked the best for the skull model I was using).
  • Choose preferred angle that the slices should be constructed from. I found up from the bottom left corner worked best for me, directly from the bottom gave the skull a very blocky appearance.
  • Choose dowel size if you are going to use them to join slices (this feature isn’t perfect in automatic mode, the auto generated dowel holes were way too small to be actually usable. I opted to use acrylic cement but manually adding dowels of the right diameter would work here if you have the means/material to make them, this would probably require a cnc as you can’t get dowels long enough from the laser cutter alone).
  • I started cutting a cardboard prototype but the laser burned me on this initial day. It barely cut through cardboard at max power and 4% speed. At least it was at this stage rather than later.
  • 123D Make generated files that are almost laser cutter ready, it adds the handy part numbers which I would have been lost without.
  • I changed the line colour and stroke weight to ITP recommended settings.
  • I split the jobs into 3 per sheet (my acrylic sheets were 12′ by 24′, the same as the laser bed) by grouping and sending the groups I wasn’t cutting to new layers and hiding them. this allowed me to adjust as necessary.
  • Etch the part numbers first (took about 35 mins per sheet)
  • cut each section in 3 separate jobs (grab a coffee as this takes a while)
  • I laid out the parts as they were arranged in the mold on sheets of plywood so that I could find them more easily later.
  • Using acrylic cement, cement parts together. 123D make allows you to go through each part and step for assembly (seen on screen).

Lessons Learned / Thoughts:

The parts 123D make aren’t perfect, especially on this small scale. There were about 3 parts (the jaws with teeth) that I had to take some cuts out of in order to make the parts usable.

I forgot to put in two pieces so the right eye is slightly less fully formed than it should be. Putting together the different pieces is rather “meditative” however as people commented to me while I was assembling them in a trance like state in the shop.

I really like this idea and workflow and will be experimenting with it more in the future.


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  1. Ben Light

    October 13, 2015 / Reply

    For the enclosure project: How is the panel mounted to the box? I like the look of the enclosure. Nice touch with the black grommet for the usb cable hole.


      November 23, 2015 / Reply

      Hi Ben, The joystick is mounted by screws with nuts, the buttons fit snugly enough into their holes that they stay securely mounted. They have this protusion on the base that keeps them in.

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