I love octopuses and often try to work them into my first projects with any new tool. Recently, I acquired a laser cutter and was able to materialize an idea that I’ve had for a long time; a simple modular lamp that was shaped like an octopus.

To make one of your own, you’ll need the following items

I started with nothing but the concept in my brain and a little bit of knowledge in Autodesks Fusion 360. I’ve been binge watching videos of how to use the software for design and CAM, and picked up a few tricks.

Most notable and useful of the tricks are the “user parameters”.  You can create a user parameter that can be changed at any point. As you’re designing, you can assign this parameter to any dimension, allowing you to change many of them on the fly. This doesn’t sound that exciting but with a design where all the material needs to slot into other pieces, a change in the thickness of the material can completely ruin the design. By making all of the slots adjustable with a single number, I can adapt the design to fit my material.

In the video below, I struggle with how to use Autodesk Fusion360 to layout a job for exporting as a DXF for laser cutting. If you’re a regular user of the software, you may find this video painful. Luckily, Taylor Stein from Autodesk saw this and offered to help me with a better way, which you can see further down below in part 4.

Even though I stumbled through my initial attempts to export a proper, clean, dxf file, my first test cuts came out great. I can’t express how exciting it is when a new tool works as you expect and your design actually fits together.

Here is the correct way to export DXF files for laser cutting. This right here might need a whole article just on its own. I’ve had several people contact me since I put this up, explaining that it answered questions they were having and alleviated some frustrations on their part.

One of the problems I had to solve with this project was how to engrave both sides of the material. I had the option of engraving one side, flipping the material over and attempting to line up everything and engrave the 2nd side before cutting. However, my laser doesn’t have a “spot” for accurate positioning yet, and I thought that sounded like a huge pain. Instead, I took a hint from how machinists make intelligent fixturing. I cut mirrored images of the parts so I could flip them over, lay them back into the already cut holes, and engrave the opposite side. It worked beautifully!

And that’s it! That’s how I designed the modular octopus lamp! I may sell a couple on my etsy shop, but for the most part, this was just a design exercise, and I learned a lot.

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Of course, now that I sit back and look at it, all I see are Khang and Kodos from the Simpsons.

thoh_kang_and_kodos