Friday, 14 November 2014

Advanced user of lasers

14 November 2014, 9.30am - 4.30pm
Instructor’s name: Sarah Barnes

Ok this workshop was quite a bit to take in, and it doesn't make sense for me to document everything here, so to summarise the first part of the day and the main part of becoming a dedicated user:

  • Access times
  • Starting up - power, compressor, extraction, cooling, safety
  • Run through of each laser machine - each is slightly different
  • Setting up the material in the lasers and focusing
  • Software - ApsEthos - working with different drawings/images and material settings
  • Lots of other little tips picked up through the day - including registration of images
After the introduction we're now to test it all out for ourselves with the aim to make samples of our own work. I used the time to try out a few things using paper as it is something I have not utelised laser cut for yet. First, a set of stamps for the Crimewatch project.

Test piece, tweeking the settings each time to get desired reults
I am using a mix of photographic images and vector drawing. Above the process of multiple test pieces altering the settings in very small steps each time. This process is documented on a sample sheet and pieces are numbered to make comparisons and of course so you don't have to go through that process again when you go too far the wrong way!

The original files placed together - vector lines and photographic images

The original files probably had a bit too much detail in them and this is why quite a lot of experimentation was required to obtain the desired results in the final image. Really it was a case of finding a happy medium between being able to see the text I had placed over the image and the definition in the photographs.

Final set of 4 stamps on Somerset paper
This said I think going through that process and documenting the setting was a really good excercise, I couldn't have had a better set of images to use for the workshop. I'm very pleased with the outcomes so might try some more work on paper.

Next was the Hole book/zine - which was to have a hole cut through the entirety of a 16 page screenprinted book. My original idea was to use a compass/circle cutter to cut the holes before folding the book, but upon folding, the registration of the holes were a bit skewiff, so I thought laser cutting could be more precise option. I wasn't sure how it would work at first but after speaking with Sarah we realised we just needed to have the software set to a normal paper setting, then to take multiple passes at the book, resetting the focus each time.

The file itself was very simple this time, I actually just drew it right in the ApsEthos software instead of bothering to waste time in Illustrator as it is just one circle which needs to cut through the material.

The cut book and the holes by the side. These are supplied with the book.
I'm cutting the book after folding but before trimming the edges, I think this is the best way as the book is kept together and has a lot more strength than after trimming.

So the process is to get the laser cutter registered to the location of the hole, I then focus on the top/first page and set the machine to cut at the lower setting (the aim to cut one or two sheets per pass). Then without moving the book (it's weighed down on one side to help) I remove the cut holes, refocus and repeat the cut, working my way through the book in a total of maybe 3-5 cuts.
Close up of the laser cut hole. Note some soot - as expected - but nice clean cuts
I had originally though the book may catch fire or have more burnt edges, but in keeping on a lower setting and working the way through the book slowly I reduce the risk of burning and unwanted damage. There will be a final set of around 20-30 of these so I need to find an afternoon to complete the set.

This ended up being quite a productive workshop! Lets keep this up now :D