I completed the orientation to the laser cutter room at the beginning of my mHUB residency, but having never actually used a laser cutter or AutoCAD, I lacked context. I left the session in a cloud of confusion. I set an appointment with the shop manager once I had a vision for my first project. I decided to make a little something for my favorite gubernatorial candidate.
“So, have you used AutoCAD before?” asked Shop Manager John.
Shop Manager John got me up and running. He walked me through the design set up and printing (laser cutting) process. He encouraged me to use the mouse, click here and there, and take ownership of the process. Still, it seemed like he did most of the thinking and I felt like the end results belonged to him.
The end results actually belong to Daniel Biss now, as pictured below.
However, the experience moved me along the learning curve. Enough, at least, to empower me to take the next steps on my own.
I went back to mHUB a couple of days later. It was a lovely summer Saturday. Needless to say, there weren’t many people in the shop. Which is also to say that I was On. My. Own.
This was a good thing. It left me without an easy out. Got a question? Ask Google and figure it out. I was in self-rescuing princess mode.
AutoCAD is not very intuitive. For example, if you want to move an object within your drawing, you can’t simply select it and drag it, you have to do some coordinate based thing, which may not sound complicated, but somehow always leads me to move my object to a spot I hadn’t intended.
At any rate, I managed to sort of replicate my previous design on an appropriate new template as well as:
- place text within it, swapping out fonts as I wished,
- make multiple copies of the design,
- download my design to a flash drive,
- upload my design onto the computer attached to the laser cutter,
- properly boot up the ventilation system, and
- print my design on the laser cutter.
As I celebrate my successes, I need to be clear; the cut did not go as planned. It was something of a hot mess, which reminds me to also celebrate the things I did NOT do:
- break any equipment,
- start a fire (lasers, man!),
- fill the prototyping shop with fumes.
Anyway, back to the hot mess. I had problems sizing and placing the items. The outline did not go deep enough to carve out the object. (A raster, not a cut, in laser cutting parlance.) I suspected the cut lines would be an issue based on the look of the AutoCAD file, but I wanted to print the job anyway to get a sense of how the problem would play out. I used scrap wood, so the only loss was my time, but it was more of an investment at that point because I was moving up on the learning curve.
I signed up for another laser cutter orientation as well as another 1:1 session with the shop manager a few days later. This time, I went in with some level of understanding. Having that context made a big difference.
Update: This post was stuck in draft basically forever. I am now a laser cutting fool (as opposed to being an expert). I figured out a few things, like how to embed a cutout of a star, heart, or dog bone (two hearts connected with two lines!) in the keychains I obsessively cut. Or are they pendants? Maybe Christmas ornaments?
I’m mostly making these whatevers embossed with a positive or affirming message. I sent roughly 200 Houston Strong pendants to a few friends in Texas after Harvey.
And as I see friends mention things on Facebook, like needing to accept imperfection, I ping them. I’ve got just the thing for you. Send me your mailing address!
There’s so much negativity in our country right now, I feel like spreading positive vibes can only be a good thing. I mean, when isn’t it?
That said, this morning, I almost printed a few items with unkind messages about the guy in the White House. But I stopped myself and made these instead. Come visit me at mHUB and I’ll give you one!