Laser Cutting Computationally Generated Forms


This mini assignment is aimed to give you experience going through a CAD/CAM workflow to fabricate physical objects from your own computationally generated designs. Specifically, you will be laser-cutting designs that you’ve computationally generated using Processing (with Turtle and your L-System from Stringing Along). You will export your forms as SVGs and fabricate them using laser cutting and etching on a medium of your choice. Each fabricated design should at minimum fit on a 5 inch x 5 inch (length x width) piece of material. You may cut something larger (but not smaller!).

GitHub repository:

TASK 1: Generating a Design with Processing and Turtle
For the first task, you will create a custom design in Processing using any of its functions and/or the Turtle library, similar to what you did as part of LA1. You must create your design and use the “noLoop()” function in your setup so that the “draw()” function doesn’t overwrite the output when you generate an SVG file. You can find an example of using the “noLoop()” function and saving SVG output in the course GitHub, within the folder “turtle-demos/saving-output/”. When you are finished creating your design, export it as an SVG and move-on to the next task.

  • Coding: See my GitHub
  • Fabrication process: I decided to use etching for this task because it would look nicer on the material I have available for fabrication. I’ve been saving a mycelium composite board to work on an etching project for about a year now. I expect the etching result to color the surface of the material in black resembling a wood-burning engraving technique.
  • File preparation: After getting the .svg file from processing, I imported it to the Rhinoceros program. There, I cleaned the .svg by using the following commands: Ungroup, Explode, and SelDup. In that way I can select all the duplicate lines are delete them afterwards. Since I planned to etch the whole form, I assigned all lines hairline thickness and one single color. Then the file was ready for fabrication.

TASK 2: Generating a Design with Your L-System
For the second task, use your L-System from LA1 to generate a unique design. Again, the goal here is to be creative with your computational design. As a note, tree-like structures will likely look great when fully cut out, but a design with overlapping elements may be better suited for etching. Export your output as an SVG, similar to what you did in Task 1.

  • Coding: See my GitHub
  • Fabrication process: I decided to use leftover fabric as my base material since I wanted to do engraving and cutting. The engraving would burn the top layer of the fabric leaving a white trace and the cut would support the incorporation of some bioplastics scraps underneath the empty space.
  • File preparation: The workflow was similar to the previous task, however, I set up the file with two colors because I was going to cut and engrave in this job.

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