Hodapp’s laser cut business cards are really cool, but they take ~7 minutes each to etch and cut out. I was curious if perhaps we could instead etch a business card stamp and use that to mass produce some business cards.
I did some research and found out that while Linoleum print blocks would be safe to etch, many cheaper print blocks are no longer made from true Linoleum, instead they are made with a cheaper PVC plastic. With that in mind I stopped at a couple hobby stores and picked up a variety of print blocks.
The first one I tested was the one I was most doubtful of, a greyish flexible substance which looked suspiciously like a PVC plastic. The burn tests were not very conclusive, there was no solid bright green flame, but there were spurts of green flame. It was enough that I did not want to risk it.
The second material tested is pictured above and it came through the burn test without any issues and it looked like pictures I had seen of real linoleum with a glue backing.
Using the B/W gradient pattern that Hodapp created I did several test runs to determine how much power would be needed to get a good depth. I also shamelessly stole the Hive13 logo from his project file.
The first result turned out pretty well except for a couple mundane details:
As you can see I forgot to mirror the image, and the thin line that goes around the 1 & 3 is too thin to survive stamping more than once or twice. It still stamped pretty well though:
For attempt #2 I mirrored the image and used Gimp to beef up the outline. Since I was in a rush I did not really try to make it have a super smooth outline after “growing” the perimeter of the logo. This resulted in a rather pixelated border.
Total cut time per stamp was ~30 minutes, but could probably be sped up by optimizing the cut power // speed. Also I think this stamp a fairly large stamp and smaller ones would obviously be faster to cut out.
Final stamping action:
This idea was shamelessly lifted from another space after Craig showed us a business card cut/etched from cereal box cardboard from them. I think the space in question is in Hawaii. (Update: That space is Maui Makers and Jerry Isdale in particular. Look to the first comment – he posted a link to the card he made that was the inspiration for this.)
Anyhow, no one had yet engraved a bitmap successfully with the laser cutter, so I set out trying to do this (more or less coincidentally – I couldn’t figure out how to export a filled shape from Inkscape in a vector format LaserCut would grok, so I rasterized it).
I tried first on the corrugated cardboard that we have a near-infinite supply of. However, this didn’t engrave well for me – its top layer is too thin and once you’ve burned parts of it off you have only the sparse ridges holding the other parts of it on. Maybe someone else will have better luck with less power. (This is not the first corrugated cardboard issue we’ve had…)
Cereal cardboard, interestingly, both cuts and engraves really well (though in the following photo, I set the power far too high and it visibly burned through). I would have preferred to etch from a vector logo, but it seems easier to get different shades if you start from a raster image and Floyd-Steinberg dither it to a halftone monochrome image, as LaserCut requires monochrome.
The LaserCut file is here: http://hodapple.com/files/hive13%20business%20card.ecp. If anyone wants to make a better-designed variant, please do – I consider this to be just a draft. A faster version might also be good. This one is around 7 – 8 minutes per card, but the speed probably could be cranked up a bit.
P.S. I suffered a cereal-induced sugar headache in the process of making these business cards. You all better be nice to me.
This is a reminder that the 2nd Hive13 Laser class is happening tonight at the hackerspace.
Even if you are currently signed off on using the laser, if you have not attended the class I strongly recommend you do so. Our previous “certification” of just showing each other what we knew was haphazard and incomplete. Each time I talk with another one of the operators it seems that one of us is showing the other one something new about the laser cutter. I think the class would be an excellent time for us to get together and share our individual knowledge.
*Note* For now the class is only open to Hive13 Members and there is no registration page.
Plan for the class is there will be a presentation giving an overview of the laser and how to run it. Then there will be a hands on portion where each person will go through the steps for cutting on a project from turning the laser on to cutting something out.
Each participant in the class will be cutting out the Adafruit spirograph.
What: Hive13 Laser Class
Where: Hive13 Hackerspace
When: 7:30 pm 7/18/2011
Cost: $20, People who helped fund the laser purchase can take the class for free.