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In one of my classes, we’re making cell phone pouches recently. On Monday, we looked at some fabric iPod cases on Flickr, and then they made sketch models with paper and tape. Sketch models are a very quick model that allows you to see what the design will be before committing lots of time, expense, and materials to the design. The sketch model allows you to hold the idea in your hand in the fastest turnaround possible. They had about 20 minutes to make theirs, which placed an emphases on speed over perfection, which could come later.

Students next transferred the measurements to the computer and cut the shapes with the laser. On Thursday, some started cutting t-shirt fabric on the laser. A couple of students are sewing with hand but fabric glue is faster. As a finished product, glue probably isn’t the best, but it allows quick feedback on the design’s measurements. One student wanted to photo on to his design, so we managed to raster an image onto the fabric. This weekend, I scored a free sewing machine and associated gear, which should open up some new possibilities.

A few weeks ago, I came across a half dozen or so fabric sample swatch books that look like they came from an upholstery shop. These can be used for smaller cuts. In looking for more formal material, I picked up a thrift store leather jacket that can be parted and used for leather cases. Since the leather will be more scarce, it will be used only on more finished designs.

After working with denser, thicker materials on the laser for years, I am thrilled at the speed of iteration with thin, light materials. Getting students through the cycle of designing, fabricating, and testing so quickly allows for the revisions needed to make a polished final product.

You can see the photos and the project description here.

Chris Connors

Making things is the best way to learn about our world.


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Comments

  1. Just curious – what’s the advantage to using the laser cutter over scissors or other traditional fabric cutting methods?

    1. Anonymous says:

      Can’t see much of an advantage here, too.
      Two other things I’d like to mention are: First, lots of Makeblog articles are written as if laser cutters, 3d printers and cnc machinery were common household items.
      And second, I feel that makers and writers at Make should check much more often if those tools are really necessary.
      I really think you overrate those tools because of their nerdy coolness factor.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Scott Saunders, @AoSpades:
        Today, I posed your questions of what is the advantage of using the lasercutter vs traditional cutting methods to several of my students. They responded that: It’s faster, much more accurate, and pretty awesome. “Because we can” said Marc enthusiastically after school today. I also noted that using computer controlled tools allowed one girl to make three copies of her design during a one hour class in a quest to improve it. As another remarked, “there’s no way I would have been able to cut these designs anywhere near as accurately as this” I looked at his work samples from several classes and found close to a dozen laser cut pieces of paper as he leads up to the ideal design in leather or fabric. Basically, you gain speed, accuracy and repeatability, all of which can help you make a much better final design.

        When you are using the computer to design your physical objects, you can improve it incrementally without having to make an entirely new design for each iteration. If you know the basic shape is right, but you just want to move the hole for the screen, why should you have to cut the basic shape again with scissors?

        Is there something lost in using the computer to design and control the tools for the things you make? Probably. But I think there is much more to be gained. If you grew up in the 80′s, you remember the joys of writing (or avoiding) your term papers on a typewriter. When word processors came around, did people lament the loss of onion skin, carbon paper, eraser pencils and whiteout? Maybe. Did more people start to write their papers on word processors, and find that they could edit and adjust their writing more effectively? I think so. More people write now, but has written language improved? In some ways, yes.

        Does everybody have access to computer controlled tools? I think so. If you can’t afford to buy your own 3D printer, you can probably find somebody or a community organization that will get you access to one. I was fortunate to be able to afford my own, but I also know of two public access devices and several people within an hour’s drive who have 3D printers. The same goes with the laser, the vinyl cutter and the mill. I’ve been using those tools for several years through the generous access of my local Fab Lab in Boston. Only recently did I manage to wrangle a laser into my classroom. As I learn more about how to use these tools, I am happy to share with others how to use them and hope to inspire new projects. If you can’t find access to the tools in your community, there are now online services for your to send your design, which then gets shipped to you for a fee.

        As for software, I strongly believe that all design software should be available for free. By making sure that my classroom has only open source or legitimately free download software, I know that my students can do their work both at school and at home. There shouldn’t be a financial barrier to creativity. This page has more info on the software in my room: http://pemtech.pbworks.com/w/page/PemtechSoftware

        Not everything needs to be made with computer controlled rapid prototyping tools. There is plenty of good experience and skill to be gained from manufacturing things with your own hands. Manufacturing and design have changed, and students need to learn how to leverage all of these great tools.

        Thanks
        Chris Connors

        1. Anonymous says:

          Thanks Chris for this detailed answer.I won’t argue your point, it’s true.

          I just hope that Make will not forget about those hobby makers like me who neither have the contacts nor the money to come even close to computerized machinery.

          1. Anonymous says:

            We celebrate making in all of its’ forms. We love to see what people are doing with whatever tools and materials are available. Send along some photos and descriptions of the projects you’re working on.

  2. I’ll post the same information to my blog, thanks for ideas and great article.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Chris for this detailed answer.I won’t argue your point, it’s true.

    I just hope that Make will not forget about those hobby makers like me who neither have the contacts nor the money to come even close to computerized machinery.