Using the laser cutter is nothing new to me, using it a lot in my DT classes in high school really allowed for a great exploration and refinement of ideas. But the problem was a lack of freedom and trust, because I was young, and for some reason they didn’t trust me to use the high powered laser machine that can cut through nearly anything. And this resulted in a very narrow approach to its use and outcomes.
Anyway here I am in university years later, and the laser technology hasn’t changed all that much, but one thing has, the trust to allow me to work independently with it. And so with this trust comes a flurry of ideas and new ways to think about things. Its a very weird thing you start looking around you and so many everyday things appear to use this laser technology, it provides a refined concise way of working that can help achieve accurate and repeatable results each time, so nothing feels out of your reach. Once I received my induction to the laser cutter, I started to think about what I could do with it, and I decided it would be nice to raster (or etch) a design onto one of my journals. So I worked over the weekend to produce a design and laser cut onto the leather on monday. The results were a very crisp, albeit slightly wonky design, and the burnt leather smelt like an old mans back hair, but I was pleased, and I felt like the permanence of the design made it all the more gratifying, almost akin to tattooing.
Incorporating the laser cutter into my project lead to me exploring a few ideas, one of these ideas was edge lighting. And in that how I could use a piece of raster cut clear acrylic to refract an LED’s light to enhance its design.
What was achieved was a very bright and well lit design, if I were to improve I would like to sandblast the edges of the acrylic, to further enhance the lighting on the edge of the piece.
a good example of this would be here:
Next was a dilemma I’d been having for a while as I was researching for my medal project I came upon the problem: How can I colour in a design on clear acrylic with ink? how can I achieve clean black lines? I could use lithography, but thats imprecise and a nearly impossible process the smaller you go.
So the answer finally came, when I had a brief workshop induction in the print room, I was shown many different ways in how printing can be utilised, and what I discovered was there was indeed a technique for what I wanted to achieve.
It involved raster etching a design onto the acrylic and then scraping a thick acrylic or oil based ink across with a piece of card. You would then lightly rub plaster skrim over the top, to remove the ink out of the negative areas.
What I was left with was an overwhelming success! what was most incredible about this technique was the ink created different shades based on the depth of the cut by the laser. leading to a really accurate and rather beautiful interpretation of the design.
The design I chose was a line drawing from artist Alex Konahin. I altered the image a little so it would laser a bit clearer, but it was just so phenomenally detailed, I couldn’t resist.
So these first couple of tests have gone really well, I have been helping friends use the laser and learning about how there designs work to. I know that I will learn to use the laser in more unique ways as I explore further.