Our View of the Digital Fabrication Classes Organized by FabLabLux
We here at 3dprintingforbeginners do not focus exclusively on 3D printing (although it is undoubtedly our main interest), as we consider that this innovative technology only is a branch of the far larger concept of “digital fabrication process”. We consider ourselves as DIY enthousiasts, tinkerers and makers, hence we try to live and apply the Maker spirit or even the Maker culture in our everyday endeavors. That’s why, from time to time, we do publish articles which may slightly deviate from the core of 3D printing and which will focus more generally on the “making” part. The present article is one of these.
Recently, the FabLab Luxembourg (as you may know, we are Luxembourg-based) has been holding a very interesting series of workshops, called the “Laser Cutting Masterclasses”. These classes are completely free of charge (!) and are open to anybody who is interested to get in touch with these digital fabrication tools. The classes have been organized by the FabLabLux, the Technoport and BUDA::Lab (a Fablab in Kortrijk, Belgium) and have been co-financed by these organisers and PROUD Interreg IVB (People Researchers Organizations Using Design for co-creation and innovation) from the Netherlands.
During these “Laser Cutting Masterclasses”, which are organized each around a very specific theme, participants are not only getting a thorough introduction to laser cutting (for those who don’t know what laser cutting is, we recommend to read this wikipedia article), but can have a hand-on experience with the software for, as well as the hardware of, the lasercutter (have a look at the photo below to get an idea how such a machine looks like). The main idea was to follow the model class developed by other partners of the same project (while the initial idea came from Lancaster & Material Sense). Basically, you hold parallel workshops in two FabLabs on the same theme and see what projects, problems and comments participants would come up with. This exchange and sharing of knowledge and experiences made is actually one of the central themes of the concept of Fabrication Laboratories and the “Laser Cutting Masterclasses” were a perfect example of this innovative concept.
The three themes proposed by the organisers were:
- Surface treatments and Etchings;
- Joinery and Hinges to create 3D products and
- Compliance and Flexibility to create spring and bend in materials.
Class sequences were always the same for each masterclass: after a general introduction on safety and handling procedures as well as explanations on the class objective, participants were free to choose a project (for as long as it touched the main theme of that class) and tinker around, trying to laser-cut different materials, using specific patterns and different techniques or machine settings, etc. Each candidate had around 20 minutes under the supervision of the FabLab manager, to make his project.
During the first class on surface treatments and etchings, we had a lot of different materials to choose from: plywood, acrylic, felt, MDF (medium density fiberboard), foam rubber and even inox. And most of those materials were available in different thicknesses, densities or colors, so that the candidates could work out what would suit their project best. The second class focused more exclusively on the different sorts of hinge systems that one can use with lasercut pieces of wood or acrylic, while the third class dealt with various ways to create bends and flexibility in an otherwise rigid object like a piece of MDF.
The classes were all held and supervised by the great Rodolfo Baïz, FabLabLux’s manager, lab supervisor, CAD and CAM- (computer-aided manufacturing) operator, software programmer, safety supervisor, technician, etc. who put his thorough knowledge, his skills, assistance and a whole lot of patience at the disposal of the participants. I would like to formally thank him for all the incredible work he has been doing (and not only in the Masterclasses). Rodolfo, keep up the good work!
Here are a few photos to illustrate what has been realised during these very interesting sessions (Special thanks to Baptiste who graciously allowed me to publish some of his photos of the first session, as I had forgotten my camera):
1. Surface treatments and Etchings:
I decided to etch a personnalised 3dprintingforbeginners.com mousepad in foam rubber. The result is good and crisp, but the light in the photo does not really render the detail of the etching.
Here are some of the projects realised by the other participants:
2. Joinery and Hinges to create 3D products:
During this class, I decided to lasercut a birdhouse out of an acrylic 3mm sheet. The model of the file came from thingiverse.com (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:11021) :
Some projects created by the other participants:
3. Compliance and Flexibility to create spring and bend in materials:
For this session, I decided to use the knowledge i acquired on hinges and joints during class number 2 and add flexibility to my project. My choice fell on a pen stand/pen holder from Thingiverse (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:52386).
For each class, after their projects were finished, participants from FabLabLux had to present to the participants from BUDA::Lab their finalised items as well as their comments on the real-time stream of the videoconference system. And vice-versa, the participants in the BUDA::Lab sessions presented their items and comments to us. The main idea behind these presentations is to show that you actually had learned something, even if your inital idea or the realisation of your project had uttely failed. The important thing was the knowledge sharing and to make participants understand that there exist many ways to approach a certain problem or theme.
All in all, the Lasercutting Masterclasses by FabLabLux were a real success. Not only did most of the first class participants come back for all of the subsequent classes, but all of them learned a lot in a cutting-edge technology domain. They all managed to realise some of their projects and most of them promised to come back for more. But what amazed everybody was that those classes were offered for free, so special thanks again to the organizers and PROUD Interreg IVB for making this possible. We all hope that there will be some follow-up classes very soon.