EtchedI didn’t really plan using a $20,000 laser cutter on my 17″ Powerbook to etch a 19th-century engraving of a tarsier, a nocturnal mammal related to the lemur (also a book cover image, from O’Reilly), but it seemed like it had to be done. The results are stunning – photos and more…We visited MAKE pals Squid Labs in Emeryville, CA last night. They were recently profile in Wired as a ” design firm that does differential equations, making solar panel driveways, swarming parachutes, a SourceForge for hardware and a comic book series for kid engineers.” We’ll post the video tour we did shortly, but here’s one of the fun things we did: laser-cut a 19th-century engraving (book cover image, from O’Reilly) on to a 17″ Powerbook. The results were stunning.
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The O’Reilly books have these wonderful creatures on all the covers, and for a while, I thought they might make interesting tattoos and Second Life avatars, but since I don’t plan on getting inked, a laser cutter looked like the next best thing.

Tar
Here’s what the image looks like (low res).

Tarsier

The animal featured on the cover of Learning the vi Editor is a tarsier, a nocturnal mammal related to the lemur. Its generic name, Tarsius, is derived from the animal’s very long ankle bone, the tarsus. The tarsier is a native of the East Indies jungles from Sumatra to the Philippines and Sulawesi, where it lives in the trees, leaping from branch to branch with extreme agility and speed. A small animal, the tarsier’s body is only six inches long, followed by a ten-inch tufted tail. It is covered in soft, brown or grey silky fur, has a round face, and huge eyes. Its arms and legs are long and slender, as are its digits, which are tipped with rounded, fleshy pads to improve the tarsier’s grip on trees. Tarsiers are active only at night, hiding during the day in tangles of vines or in the tops of tall trees. They subsist mainly on insects, and, though very curious animals, tend to be loners. Edie Freedman designed the cover of this book, using a 19th-century engraving from the Dover Pictorial Archive.

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Saul from Squid Labs enters the dimensions of the PowerBook and imports the image. The laser cutter uses Corel Draw, which is kinda cute.

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We filmed the process and will post a video soon; the laser is from Epilog.

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Lining up the PowerBook.

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It took about 10 minutes and it turned out great. The metal on the PowerBook reflects light in different ways; depending on the angle, the image looks solid or reversed out.
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Etched Powerbook!

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With the flash or lighting at an angle, the little guy looks like a snowy version and glows.