This post is the continuation of the DIY Instructables Challenge using the Laser Cutter. One of the common characteristics of makerspaces is the presence of
high technological tools like 3D printers or laser cutters. This post is the record of my first “formal” project with the laser cutter. However, before describing the process of making the toy car, I want to mention that this project helped me not only to learn the different technology tools, but to appreciate the importance of tinkering, not just focusing on the final product but learning in the process, and avoiding the “keychain syndrome” by moving towards more complex projects (Blikstein and Worsley, 2016).
When I downloaded the file of the car from instructables.com, I noticed that I had to recolor the lines to be able to export the file to the laser cutter. That would mean to edit the file in Adobe Illustrator making the lines red, where the laser was going to go all the way through the plywood to make the cut, and black, where the laser would only raster or make a simple pass. The following five images show the original file open in Illustrator showing the lines in green and black. This was apparently a setback but it helped me to explore and learn how to use Illustrator. I also used this opportunity to add a Hello Kitty vector image on the roof and draw a grill in front of the car.
After spending an hour or so in finishing the file in Illustrator, I exported it to the Laser Cutter’s software and noticed that the lines were not in the right color so I had to fix the file in a similar way. It was critical to identify which lines were vectors and which ones were just raster. Turning on the laser was easy. I had to make sure the water pump was on to cool off the laser, the ventilation vacuum was on, and that the laser was placed in the right height not too close to the plywood.
Fortunately I asked another classmate earlier that day about the power level and number of passes for the laser to cut all the way through. I used 100% power and four passes to cut the plywood. The next two images show the laser cutting the pattern. The whole cutting process took around 27 minutes.
For the most part, the car was easy to assemble following the steps in the article of instructables.com. The last step was to connect the four LEDs with wire and to connect them to the batteries. I decided to adventure myself and not just twist the wires together but to do some soldering. I was a little nervous in using such a hot tool with the possibility of ruining the car with melting solder but there were no incidents (see next four images). Unfortunately, when I placed the batteries, there was only one LED, out of the four, that turned on. I would have to remove the solder and test each LED before soldering them all back.
Finally, after many hours the car was done (see three images below). I hope that as Blikstein and Worlsey (2016) pointed out we can create makerspaces available “to all schools [and not] just the most affluent ones” with the culture of learning, literacy, deep projects, and focusing on the making process (11). Blikstein and Worlsey's book chapter really resonate with my desire for equality and access of these technologies for the youth.
Blikstein, P. & Worsley. M. (2016). Children are not Hackers: Building a Culture of Powerful Ideas, Deep Learning, and Equity in the Maker Movement. In Makeology: Makerspaces as Learning Environments (Volume 1). Routledge.