by Number One | 20161101
You've already started See right through, haven't you, Visitor? If not, run back and work on that one first until I tell you to come over here.
OK, you have your design set, so you know what size each of your cube's faces will be as well as what you want to write on them. Now, it's time to put together a digital design file that you can use to cut those pieces out on the Laser Cutter.
Yep, you're going to be using the Laser now. I know it's exciting, but hang on! You've got a bit of work to do before you get to start burning through things. :-)
First thing, you'll need some software to use for creating your design. If you're already familiar with a digital illustration program and have one on your computer, that's fine. You can use Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, Inkscape, AutoCAD, or similar programs, and since you're familiar with them, you've got a leg up!
If not, don't worry! Since you don't have one, yet, we'll start you off with an industry standard company's program, which they conveniently give away for free. (They make their money on the 3D design program, Solidworks, that we also use.) Head over to Dassault Systems and grab a copy of DraftSight for your machine (they have versions for Windows, OS X, or Linux). Once it's downloaded, you'll need to install it on your computer. It requires activation, which will require your email address.
[If you'd like to go through a bit of tutorial about how to use this program, I've made a short playlist of videos about it that may help. The first three are brief and give you an overview; the 4th one is about an hour long and a is a more thorough introduction.]
Or, if you're using one of the school computers, you can just open the program 2D Design. It'll have to be one of the PC/Windows computers, though; we don't have the software on the Macs.
Got your software squared away? Then it's time to put digital ink to, uh, paper...well, let's just move on.
Next, take a look at this example of what you'll be creating. It's pretty simple:
Six sides, each square, with the text on them. A few points about this diagram:
- The edges are in red and are the smallest lines the program is capable of creating. That's how the Laser Cutter software knows to cut those lines.
- In DraftSight, smallest lines are 0.00 thick; choose this from the drop-down menu
- In 2D Design, smallest lines are "thin"; this is the default and is chosen from the line-thickness pop-up
- In Illustrator, smallest lines are 0.01mm thick - you have to enter this manually, it's not in the drop-down menu
- In Illustrator, the red you need to use is RGB red at 255 (100%). To get this, you'll need to:
- Switch the document mode to the RGB color space
- Define a new swatch of RGB color, with 255 red, 0 green, 0 blue
- While you're doing that, also define a second swatch of RGB color with 0 red, 0 green and 0 blue (this is black).
- The text is in black, which is how the Laser Cutter knows to etch those portions into the material, rather that cut them out.
- Two of those six sides are a bit bigger than the others. That's to accommodate for the thickness of the plastic we'll be using. (Nope, not glass. Plastic. It cuts easier, won't be likely to cut you, and is a lot lighter and safer than glass. But it looks decent.) The material we have is .5cm thick, so your two end-cap squares will need to be 1cm wider and taller than your other squares.
Build a diagram in your program that includes the six sides you'll need, plus the etchings on each side. You'll only need the rectangle tool and the text tool in the program you're using.
Set your lines to the smallest width and pure red; set the text to pure black.
If you need help working out how the program runs, ask Number One or Mr. Ahmed. When you've got it, be sure to save it first, before doing anything else!
Making progress, Visitor. Now, get yourself trained on using the Laser Cutter. See Mr. Ahmed or Number One for that. It'll take about 5-10 minutes.
Once you're trained, bring your design file to the control computer and send it over to the Laser Cutter. Remember, the control computer is not for making design adjustments, it is only for cutting. If you need to make adjustments, even small ones, go use another computer. The Laser Cutter can be slow and this one way we can all help ensure it's available for cutting each person's work.
When you have your pieces, you're ready for the final stage of building the cube, gluing. For plastic, we don't use the kind of glue you're probably familiar with, the thick, sticky stuff? For plastic, we use a really thin (like, thinner than water) fluid that actually dissolves a bit of the plastic and lets it reform as a single piece. It's a bit tricky to use when you're not familiar with it, so be sure to get Mr. Ahmed or Number One to help you the first time. They'll also show you where all the other bits you'll need are stored (mat, clamps, gloves, weights and sandpaper.).
Once you have a completed cube, you're all done here. You're ready to head back to the See Right Through job and finish it up. The password you need to complete that job is sixSides.